The current congressional debates over the debt ceiling are arguably some of the most important issues with which this Congress has had to deal. In a decision-making process with so much potential for impacting every-day Americans, one would hope that the decision-makers were those best-equipped people to solve the problem and well-representative of the American people. In her NPR story, “If Women Ruled the World, Would Debt be Less?” Michel Martin comments on the striking fact that so few women have been involved in national efforts to alleviate the debt crisis and even fewer are involved in current discussion over the debt ceiling.
“Sure,” Martin states in the article, “House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi was there on Sunday night. But is that really enough? Half the population gets to be represented by one voice?” Martin makes a valid point. While a meager 17% of Congress is composed of women, only one is in a top leadership position.
Martin additionally discusses the “coincidence that in this financial crisis, as in past ones, women were often the people sounding the alarm before anyone else was. First there was Sherron Watkins, who tried to blow the whistle on the shady accounting practices at Enron…there was former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. head Sheila Bair, who raised questions about subprime mortgages when few others did. Or women like June O’Neill, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office.” Observations by these female experts were largely overlooked until the men in the industries decided it was time to act.
It is difficult to say whether women would make economic and political decisions any more successfully than their male counterparts. Martin considers whether or not women really are better at negotiations and whether or not they are more willing to “sublimate their own egos for the sake of the greater good.” However, if Europe serves as an example, it is interesting to note that the countries in the deepest debt are also the ones with the fewest female decision makers in government. The fate of the U.S. does not look much more promising: as President Obama stated over the weekend concerning social security benefits, “ I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3 if we haven’t resolved this issue, because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.” Although women may not be able to resolve the issue either, it would seem that female perspectives could do little to further harm the situation and may actually be able to provide the wisdom this country needs.
Regardless of political affiliation, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Nancy Pelosi have at least one thing right: They all see the importance of female voices in government and realize that the only way to increase female influence in this arena is to speak out and become involved in politics themselves.