A record number of women were elected last week to the U.S. House of
Representatives and the Senate. When the new Congress convenes in
January, there will be about 80 female members of the House, and 20
female members of the Senate - most of them Democrats.
House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi held a news conference on Wednesday,
where she stood surrounded by a large group of women - current and newly
elected members of the House. She pointed out that for the first time in
history of the House, Democratic women and minorities outnumber their
white male counterparts.
"The most diverse caucus in the history of the world - the first time
that a parliamentary body would have a party who had a majority of women
and minorities," Pelosi said.
Pelosi said the fact that so many Democratic women won seats in the
November elections was a factor in her decision on whether to step down
as Democratic leader, which she announced surrounded by colleagues she
called her "sisters."
"And I have made a decision to submit my name, to my colleagues, to once
again serve as the House Democratic Leader," she said.
Pelosi served two terms as speaker of the House, the first woman in the
United States to serve as speaker, and she oversaw passage of President
Barack Obama's health care reform legislation.
In the new Senate, 20 percent of the 100 lawmakers will be women - 16
Democrats and four Republicans. And once all of the ballots are counted,
as many as 19 Republican women could be sworn in into the House in
One of the newly elected members of the House, Democrat Lois Frankel of
Florida says she believes women govern differently than men because of
their role as the primary caregivers for children and elderly parents.
"I think we do bring a different perspective because, for many of us
like myself, we have raised our family and mixed it with work," she
McIntosh is a spokesperson for Emily's List, an organization that works
to elect Democratic women to Congress. She says studies show that women
in positions of power are more likely to compromise, which could be
crucial with a potential budget crisis facing the United States.
"In this time when politics is so polarizing and it is so hard to find
consensus, I think having women who tend to be really good collaborators
in the legislature is only going to be a good thing for the country,"
Political scientist Jennifer Lawless of American University in
Washington says she is happy that women are being empowered in Congress.
But she says there is room for progress because women make up 50 percent
of the population and are still under-represented in federal elective