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The Numbers Don’t Lie: Women Make More Effective Legislators Than Men

A new startup by two Harvard seniors finds that women have been considerably more likely than their male counterparts to get bills through, and to achieve that near-unicorn of modern Washington: bipartisan agreement.
Women senators (seated in circle from left to right) Sen Susan Collins (R-Maine) Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA); Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); Sen Barbara Boxer (D-California) Sen Patty Murray (D- Washington) Sen Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Incoming Sen Amy Klobuchar(D-Minn) Sen Olympia Snowe R-Maine); Sen Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) Sen Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) Sen Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) and Sen Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich) in Sen Mikulski's office at the US Capitol Washington, D.C. , Tuesday,November 14, 2006. Photographer:David Scull/BloombergNews

Women senators (seated in circle from left to right) Sen Susan Collins (R-Maine) Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA); Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); Sen Barbara Boxer (D-California) Sen Patty Murray (D- Washington) Sen Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Incoming Sen Amy Klobuchar(D-Minn) Sen Olympia Snowe R-Maine); Sen Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) Sen Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) Sen Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) and Sen Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich) in Sen Mikulski's office at the US Capitol Washington, D.C. , Tuesday,November 14, 2006. Photographer:David Scull/BloombergNews

Photographer: David Scull

Everyone knows that Congress does very, very little. The Washington Post crunched the numbers last year and found that, mathematically, “no Congress in 40 years has been paid more to pass less legislation.” It’s also a fact that Congress is heavily male. The current, 114th Congress has a record 104 women—but that's 104 of 535 lawmakers in all. (And somehow we're supposed to cheer.) But what if these things are connected—that men are less likely to introduce legislation and cut deals than women? It turns out that women have been considerably more likely than their male counterparts to get bills through, and to achieve that near-unicorn of modern Washington: bipartisan agreement. 

The numbers, as published Thursday by a new startup called Quorum, founded not a month ago by two Harvard seniors, seem to bear this out. Over the last seven years, in the Senate, the ‘average’ female senator has introduced 96.31 bills, while the ‘average’ male introduced 70.72. In the House, compare 29.65 for women, and 27.2 for men. And women were more likely to gain cosponsorship: In the Senate, women had an average of 9.10 cosponsors,  and men 5.94. In the House, the difference was smaller—but women still proved better, or more interested, in sponsoring together: Female Representatives averaged 16.84 cosponsors, and men 14.64.