Tanya Elena Balsky
Congress Fails the Middle Class… but Congresswomen Don’t
I wish I could make it up to Seneca Falls to see Melina Mara's photo exhibit "Changing the Face of Power: Women in the U.S. Senate". In the process of creating the exhibit and accompanying book, Mara got to know most of the United States' 14 female Senators. After the project was complete, she said of her work that "Besides documenting their unique governing styles on Capitol Hill, I focus on several themes, including the tools women politicians effectively use, the tightly knit bipartisan relationships they share, their isolation as a minority in the Senate, the loosening grip of the 'old boys' network in the Senate..." She, like many, believes that female legislators have substantially different strengths and challenges than their male counterparts- but does this translate to real changes in outcome?
The latest edition of the Drum Major Institute's middle-class scorecard, "Congress at the Midterm: Their 2005 Middle-Class Record", suggests that the answer is "yes"- at least when it comes to supporting the middle class. While only 16% of the House is female, 32% of those who scored A's on the 2005 Scorecard were women- and, astonishingly, 40% of women in the House got A's, compared to just 16% of men. In the Senate, which is only 14% female, 22% of Senators who scored A's were women, and 14% of female senators got A's, compared to 8% of male senators.
Congresswomen still aren't doing well enough. The average grade that congresswomen earned in both the House and the Senate was just a "C"- but that's still a significant improvement on the congressmen and Congress as a whole, whose overall average was an "F".