By Willie Sawyers
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Robert Redford may have been on to something when he said during the recent government shutdown that women and young people are the answer to solving gridlock in Washington.
He said women and young people must save the country from men “behaving stupidly.”
“Give them the reins,” Redford said on CNN. “I think they can do better than we (men) have.”
His assumption came to mind last week while I was sitting in a two-day retreat to plot short and long-term strategy for Leadership Tri-County. I looked around the large conference table at Cumberland College and noticed most the chairs were filled by women. There are several men on the LTC board, but only two of us were present. I was the only male in a group photo taken at the end of the retreat.
Our chairman and vice chairman are both female, which is fine by me because the board is in good hands and things will get done. We came up with some great plans to ensure LTC’s success for the next 25 years, led mostly by professional, accomplished women who know how to work together to do great things.
For the last several years, all the department heads at both my newspapers have been women. That’s just the way it’s worked out, but again, it’s fine by me because all of them do their jobs very well.
Oh, I’ve had many male department heads over the years that have done a great job, and probably will have some in the future. But I have great faith in the women that lead my departments. I just give them the support and tools they need and then get out of their way.
Perhaps we need to give women the reins in Washington, like Redford said, because they can’t do any worse. The approval ratings for Congress are in the low single digits.
And I’m not talking about strange women like Michelle Bachmann, Nancy Pelosi or Sarah Palin who, when it comes to posturing themselves politically, act a lot like the men who’ve brought Washington to a standstill.
I’m talking more like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who navigated the debt crisis with competence and authority. She has immense popularity and has led her country to become the economic beacon of Europe.
In an October commentary on CNN during the middle of the government shutdown, author Hanna Rosin explained the leadership crisis succinctly. She said men dither while women rule the world.
“This has not been a shining week for the patriarchy,” she wrote. “The men in suits dither, posture, plan negotiation sessions, then cancel them, and employ copious military metaphors —‘wage battle,’ ‘refuse to surrender,’ — to no effect. Increasingly, they become associated in the minds of the American people with verbs normally used to describe toddlers, such as ‘tantrum’ or ‘throw a fit.’”
Competence, meanwhile, belongs to the women, Rosin said. She cited successful women in leadership positions such as Merkel, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde, Federal Reserve nominee Janet Yellen and the women who took over Iceland and brought it out of recession while its men dithered.
Rosin also wrote, “And this moment of female triumph extends beyond mere competence to unfathomable bravery. The hero of the moment — the person who has been shot at, nearly killed and is still not afraid to talk — is a heroine: 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize and who told Jon Stewart this week that if she were faced with a Taliban gunman such as the one who shot her last year she would, once again, explain to him how important education is for girls. (In response Stewart asked if he could adopt her.)”
So, while John Boehner, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz stand on the Capitol yard and see which one can pee the farthest, we should put our faith, trust and authority behind women who don’t feel the need to mark their territory.
I’m talking about women such as Republican Senator Susan Collins, who put together a bipartisan group of women to help break the political impasse and end the government shutdown.
“What I find is with all due deference to our male colleagues, that women’s styles tend to be more collaborative,” Senator Collins said in an ABC News interview after the vote to end the stalemate.
I certainly can vouch for the collaborative styles of women in the workplace and in civic and community endeavors.
More women in charge in Washington will work just as well.