How a record number of Republican women will, and won't, change Congress

But while many people believe that women in political leadership positions are more compassionate and better at building compromise, it’s a relatively open question whether that actually happens in Congress. Women in Congress report spending more time engaging in across-party coalitions than men, and studies suggest that women in Congress are more collegial, but their legislative activity (such as cosponsoring bills) is actually pretty similar to men’s. It seems clear that the growing partisan divide in the U.S. has created fairly strong disincentives for engaging in bipartisan compromise for men — and women. So will electing more women to Congress help curb the polarization between the two parties?

The most likely answer is: No. Take the studies that have found that, women in both parties tend to prioritize issues related to women, children and families once in office. These areas could be a real opportunity for bipartisanship, but an analysis of Senate bill cosponsorship found that these issues are no longer core to the Republican Party and, as a result, Republican women in the Senate did not really advocate for these policies, while Democratic women did. In other words, today’s GOP women and Democratic women might simply view their roles in Congress very differently due to their party allegiance, so they champion very different causes as a result.