Northrup: Women needed in Congress
By ALISON HEINZ
Although there is not a strong sense of exclusion among members of Congress, women still face challenges when contributing to public policy, said Rep. Ann Northup, R-Ky., during an interactive video conference Wednesday. Northup led the discussion titled, "A Women's Place in Congress."
A self-proclaimed "soccer mom" and 1969 Saint Mary's College graduate, Northup addressed issues women in politics still face, even as their representation increases. Currently, women comprise 9 percent of the Senate with about 13 percent total female representation in all of Congress.
"It's hard being a woman in Congress because the people that have been there the longest are now the chair people, and they are men who are used to dealing with men," said Northup.
"A lot of public policy has to do with informal arrangements such as going for a beer after work," said Northup, also noting that the segregation of Congress' workout facilities contributes to the exclusion of women.
"Every day at work it's not unusual for the first 30 minutes or so to be spent discussing the business deals that took place at the gym yesterday," said Northup.
Northup does feel, however, that being a woman in Congress is sometimes an advantage because it makes her unique. When a female perspective is wanted on an issue, Northup feels the odds are in her favor because she is one of only 19.
"And when they want a conservative viewpoint, the odds are really in my favor — about one in three," said Northup.
Although female representation in politics is increasing, Northup does not think that the numbers are as high as they could be. Northup feels that the electorate is ready and willing to elect women, so she questions the small number of female elected officials.
"So few women are mainstream," said Northup, suggesting an explanation. Women tend to be supported by very liberal organizations and are sometimes so extreme that they do not succeed beyond the primaries.
Northup advised women who have an interest in public policy to become bolder. Typically, women sit back and wait to be asked to run.
"If you wait to be invited, you'll never run," said Northup.
Overall, Northup said that everybody should be involved — men and women of all races.
"Everybody should run," said Northup. "We always need the best minds at the table."
The video conference is part of the Hanley Lecture Series Program.
All News Stories for Thursday, October 14, 1999