Thursday, June 13, 2013

women in Congress

Women are more numerous and more powerful in the 113th Congress than ever before. Nearly 1 in every 5 members are female, forcing the Senate to expand its women's restroom just outside the chamber. A woman chairs the appropriations committee [Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD] and several panel leaders now want to be called "chairwoman" rather than "Madame Chairman."

The growing number of women in Congress should be kept in mind when pundits complain that the number of members with prior military service is dropping -- from over 75% in 1971  to only 20% today. Those numbers were driven by the draft for two major wars. The all volunteer force since 1972 and the increased number of women -- who were never drafted and who volunteer in far smaller numbers -- has shrunk the population with military service. Nevertheless, Congress has a larger share of veterans than their proportion of the total population.

Over the years, women have forced their male colleagues to pay more attention to issues their often overlooked -- spousal needs, family benefits, housing and education, and now sexual harassment. These are positive developments, worth cheering about.

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