It was women that ended the 2013 federal government shutdown. Led by Republican Susan Collins, they were responsible for coming up with a starting point that brought both sides back to the table. Not only is this notable because it ended the shutdown, but it’s a clear example of how important it is to have women in elected office.
Women approach legislative negotiations differently. People think of negotiation as two sides trying to get the most out of the other, but this isn’t the only way. Women shift the perspective from competitive bargaining to a more collaborative, solution-driven way.
In this era of bitter partisanship, we are never far away from a shutdown, whether it’s at the state or federal level. The public is so used to a competitive approach to policy making that collaborative solutions that work seem impossible.
But they’re not. Research has shown that women actually do negotiate policies differently than men. In 2016, Rutger’s Center for American Women and Politics found that women in Congress are more collaborative and more focused on consensus building than their male colleagues.
Does this mean that all female legislators have collaborative negotiation styles? No. Does this mean that female legislators aren’t influenced primarily by their party? No. What it means is that when we have more women in office, other styles of policy making have a chance to be heard. I think we’d all want to avoid the next shutdown by encouraging their different styles at the negotiation table.