Health & Spirit

Are Women in Politics More Honest?

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

When fellow guest Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, jokingly asked whether the group might include the Sarah Palin, Wasserman Schultz did not waver.

"I would argue that even if Sarah Palin were in the room, ... we could find a way to get to yes," she replied, "because that's usually women's goal,"

That's not an outlandish thought, considering the best-sellers as varied as Deborah Tannen's "You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation" and John Gray's "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" that have been written about such gender differences. Men want to get the last word, experts say; women want to get a mutual agreement.

Yet I don't want to over-generalize. The very notion that women are geared toward reason, compromise and agreement can be the kiss of death in today's polarized Washington. Nevertheless, having been denied access to power for so long, numerous women legislators have worked diligently to make up for lost time.

"Gender isn't an absolute predictor of political behavior," cautioned Rebecca Sive, a Chicago public affairs strategist and author of "Every Day Is Election Day: A Woman's Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House."

"Women win office the same way men do," she told me in an email exchange. "They get more votes than the other guy. Once there, they bring a different perspective to the decision-making table."

As examples, Sive mentioned the Paycheck Fairness Act that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) introduced this year and the Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D., N.Y.) recent bill to improve sexual assault prosecutions in the military.

Republican women are stepping up, too. After House Republicans forced a partial government shutdown in a failed attempt to repeal President Barack Obama's health care plan, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, significantly broke ranks to suggest a practical compromise: a "pause" in Obamacare's implementation so a bipartisan group could try to fix its problems.

Nice tries like that may help explain why women have been falling behind the guys in corruption scandals. They're too busy trying to get things done.


E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@tribune.com.



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