Women step up in House GOP leadership. Why that's just a start.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers rises to the No. 4 position in the House GOP leadership, which saw a net add of one woman to its roster. But the party lags badly in having women among its ranks in Congress.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Following the House GOP leadership election, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) of Washington, speaks to reporters after the House Republicans voted for her to head the Republican Conference for the next session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington claimed the fourth-ranking position in the House GOP Wednesday.

But even as her ascent up the leadership ladder showed Republicans realize they need to improve their standing with female voters, it was also the exception that proves the rule that Democrats have done far more to reach out to women, including by electing them to Congress.

With the backing of House Speaker John Boehner, among others, Representative McMorris Rodgers defeated Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, a former chairman of the largest House conservative caucus who had the backing of former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, in the race for the GOP’s conference chairman.

That news was welcomed in many GOP circles as a good sign for a party that endured a yawning gender gap in the 2012 election cycle, where Democrats won women’s votes by an 11 percent margin over their Republican foes.

“She is a firebrand for conservative women, and electing her to the chairmanship is the first step in a much-needed transformation of the GOP party,” said Sabrina Schaeffer, the executive director of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, in a statement. “The party – still viewed by many as too old, too white, and too male – needed a shakeup, and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers is the right person for the job.”

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) of North Carolina, one of 20 women among House conservatives, was likewise pleased.

“I'm proud to see the progress that is being made within our party and the growing role of women in our leadership,” Representative Ellmers said in a statement.

The number of women in the GOP leadership increased by one versus the last cycle – while Rep. Kristi Noem (R) of South Dakota stepped away, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R) of Kansas and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R) of North Carolina both joined the leadership team.

McMorris Rodgers isn’t a token lawmaker – she was Mitt Romney’s congressional liaison and was already in party leadership during the last Congress. Moreover, she defeated a man who has deep respect in the conference for his knowledge of policy issues, particularly on health care.

But compared with the level to which women have come to help define the Democratic party in Congress, McMorris Rodgers and Co. have a long, long way to go.

One need only look to earlier in the day, when House minority leader Nancy Pelosi showed the potency and breadth of women’s power in her party. There was Representative Pelosi, standing shoulder to shoulder with many of the nearly 60 House Democratic women at a press conference announcing that she, the first-ever female speaker of the House, would stay on as leader of her caucus for another two years.

That’s a nearly three-to-one advantage for Democrats in terms of female representation in the House. In the Senate, where liberal heartthrobs like Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts and Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin (D) of Wisconsin will join the party in 2013, Democrats will have 16 women senators to the Republicans’ four.

Overall, that’s the most women in the Senate ever – and it’s a four-to-one advantage for Democrats.

While there isn’t a one-to-one connection between lawmakers and gender support, the results of the 2012 election are unambiguous: Exit polls showed women breaking for President Obama and Democrats by double-digit margins in many states.

“I come here with my sisters,” said Pelosi, noting that when she came to Congress a quarter of a century earlier there were only 23 total women in the House, split relatively evenly between right and left.

“Today, we have over 60 House Democratic women,” she said as her members applauded. “Very good. Not enough. We want more.”

In the Republican event unveiling the party’s new leadership, women – even with three of them on stage – went with nary a mention.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Women step up in House GOP leadership. Why that's just a start.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today