In political terms, it was a good year for American women. Female voters were a decisive factor in the presidential race, with 55 percent casting ballots for President Barack Obama, vs. 44 percent for Mitt Romney; the only year the spread was higher was in 1996, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. A record number of female candidates ran for national office—18 for the Senate, up from the 2010 high of 14, and 166 for the House of Representatives, vs. 141 in 2004—which means the 113th Congress will have at least 98 female members, the most ever, including a record 20 Senators. “We hope that this 20 percent will make a difference in the macaroni-and-cheese issues that we want to focus on, along with the macro issues,” Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) told the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 8.
Mikulski and her colleagues have reason to celebrate the female power surge, but those hard-won electoral victories should be kept in perspective. While the sweep of women into office is encouraging to anyone who believes that Washington is badly in need of fresh ideas, not to mention a political class that better reflects the population at large, there’s one area where it’s unlikely to make a difference, at least in the near future: the workplace.