Saturday, December 30, 2006

How will things change when women run our institutions?

Want to predict the future? Look at the demographics. And they say that in the future we'll have many, many more women leaders than we do now: women are 57% of college students, USA Today reported in 2005. They're the majority of medical school students and 45% of law school students, too. So, the days of "old white men" running the place are numbered.

Which has caused me to wonder how that may change our lives. Today's New York Times has a small glimpse ("Madam Speaker, After Her First Year of Firsts.") Christine C. Quinn is one year into her term as the first woman Speaker of the New York City Council, an unruly body of fifty-one representatives which has typically been a vocal adversary of the mayor. Here are some notable quotes from the article:

“She has injected more democracy, with a little ‘d,’ into the Council,” said James S. Oddo, the Republican minority leader, who has known Ms. Quinn since they worked for different council members in the early 1990s. “Every single council member has a say in the budget. Every single council member has the ability to fight for their constituents....”
She first indicated her willingness to work with the mayor three weeks into her term, after he called for restrictions on lobbyists in his annual address to the City Council. Instead of rejecting the idea, since it opened the Council’s inner workings to public scrutiny, she embraced it....

In April, she sought to end the bazaar-like process by which members lobbied the speaker for projects to be included in the city’s operating budget. She required that members limit themselves to four written requests that had the support of nine colleagues from three boroughs....
Then she charmed, cajoled and fought the mayor into considering her call for an end to the so-called budget dance....

“I find that if we disagree, she’s very, very clear,” said Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn councilman. “I don’t walk out of the room thinking she said yes but she means no....”
It's dangerous to generalize from one person's experience to an entire gender, but if more women in power means more collaboration, more effective negotiation between opposing parties and more disciplined political processes, then I'm for it.

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