The XX Factor

Do Women Make Better Congressmen?

Fascinating new research from Stanford and the University of Chicago demonstrates that female legislators are more effective on average than male ones . They bring more money to their districts, introduce more legislation, get more co-sponsors for their bills, and require a shorter period of time to warm up to the job and start getting work done. According to Politico, the researchers suggest that since women have to overcome more obstacles than men in order to obtain their spots, that might work as a filter that only allows the best to emerge.

And once you look at some of the male Congress critters-newly famous Joe Wilson comes to mind-it’s hard not to agree with this assessment. Or take our recent nightmare President Bush into consideration, and you really start to see how having white male privilege often means that you can get pretty far in this world while epitomizing mediocrity. Or really, just take the fact that so many men drift through life incorrectly thinking their jokes are funny, because they’re so used to indulgent laughter, and you really begin to see how a lot of men don’t have to be as good to get the same rewards.

It’s also likely that women are just conditioned to take on more work. Many women I’ve known have gone through the experience of proving your competence in a workplace and then slowly being burdened with ever more responsibilities, because the powers-that-be know that your conditioning (and fears of being judged harshly) make it harder for you to say no. That’s why Peggy Olson is such a popular character on Mad Men . How many of us recognize ourselves in her, with her willingness to show up early, stay late, and always do twice as much for half the recognition?

All that said, sadly, there really aren’t enough female politicians out there to make a fair comparison. Maybe when women make up 1/3 or even 1/2 of Congress, the sample size will be large enough to make legitimate judgments.

Photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.