Posted on October 17, 2013 · Posted in Frank Friday, P-cubed News

Americans, and probably the rest of the world, will breathe a little easier now that that the federal shutdown has been lifted and the debt ceiling has been raised. Late on Wednesday night, just hours before the country would have gone into default, the Republicans agreed to fund the federal government until January 15th, 2014 and raise the debt ceiling until February 15th, 2014. Economists have yet to put a full value on the costs of the closure, but estimates are already in the billions, which will no doubt have an impact on unemployment numbers, growth, corporate earnings, and other measures.

Partisan gridlock in Washington has been in full view over the last two weeks as Democrats refused to concede to any contractions to Obamacare in exchange for Republican support for raising the debt ceiling. As talks floundered and stop-gap bills failed, female lawmakers across the aisle emerged as a bipartisan group eager to get beyond the political impasse and reach a compromise quickly. Of the 13 senators on a bipartisan committee to reach a solution, about half were women.

Although these bipartisan women have been credited as the force that ended the 2013 federal shutdown, their numbers remain small in the current Congress. The 113th United States Congress is currently 18% women — 78 women in the House, and 20 women in the Senate. While this might be regarded as a watershed moment in terms of women and leadership in political office, there is still a long way to go to achieve gender parity at the highest levels of political office in our country.

At a recent public program at Roosevelt House, Women Legislators & Public Policy: Setting a Bipartisan Agenda, four New York State Assembly women, Republicans and Democrats, discussed leadership opportunities, their commitment to issues relating to families and communities, and the strategies that they use to build coalitions and support across the political divide (read a recap of the event here). Their work together on smaller bills, informal networking, and maintaining friendly relations helps them work collaboratively on larger and more contentious issues. A central message from the Assemblywomen was that women’s political leadership was urgently required at all levels, not just to reach gender parity at the highest levels, but also in order to bring greater bipartisan negotiating skills to the table.

Without a robust pipeline of qualified women ready to take up political office, equity levels in leadership is hard to imagine in the near future. As several speakers reiterated at the Roosevelt House event, women need support, training and encouragement to run for office. The Washington Post summed up our collective thoughts on the shutdown by posing a succinct question: Would more women in Congress have prevented the shutdown? Perhaps our politics might still have a chance to look different.

Join the discussion on the fallout of the federal government shutdown. What did we learn? How do we avert this kind of political brinkmanship again?

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All good wishes,