Women still hold less than 20 percent of the seats in Congress, yet their efforts produce more legislation than the men’s do. Tony Dokoupil reports that a new study in the American Journal of Political Science finds that women are more effective legislators than their male counterparts:
Women sponsored more bills (an average of three more per Congress), co-sponsored more bills (an average of 26 more per Congress), and attracted a greater number of co-sponsors than their colleagues who use the other restroom.
They also bring home more bacon:
Between 1984 and 2004, women won their home districts an average of $49 million more per year than their male counterparts (a finding that held regardless of party, geography, committee position, tenure in office, or margin of victory). The spending jump was found within districts, too, when women moved into seats previously occupied by men, and the cash was for projects across the spectrum, not just “women’s issues.”
The study concludes that women are more skilled at “logrolling, agenda-setting, coalition building, and other deal-making activities.”
So are women just innately better politicians? Probably not. More likely, say [the authors of the study], female politicians are better than men because, as in other fields, they simply have to be. More than 90 years after the first woman was elected to Congress, female politicians still hold less than a fifth of all national seats, and do only slightly better at the state level. In order to overcome lingering bias against women in leadership positions, those women must work that much harder to be seen as equals.
At first their findings might seem like a paradox. If women are, as a matter of fact, the country’s most persuasive and productive politicians, why do more than one in five Americans still openly admit they wouldn’t vote for a female president, or would do so only with reservations? But in fact, says Berry, the two trends fit together handily. “If it’s harder for women to succeed in politics,” he says, “then those that do succeed are likely to be the most talented and hard working.”
Last year’s loss of seats held by women in the House—the number in the Senate remained unchanged—is not only a setback for diversity and women’s equality. It’s a loss for the nation.