When Women Lead

By Jon Alexander
The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho.

When the heat is on, have a woman take charge.

That’s the thrust of a growing heap of research, which concludes women make safer — often better — decisions when under stress.

In one joint study conducted by cognitive neuroscientists at Duke University and University of Southern California, women greatly outperformed men, when under the proverbial gun.

As first reported last week by New York Times columnist Therese Huston, researchers created a few gambling games, where taking risks could either result in a massive payoff or total failure.

Male and female subjects performed equally, when not under stress. But, when the subjects had to play the games with their hands immersed in 35-degree water, men overwhelmingly tended to adopt the “go big or go home” approach, often losing it all. Women, however, kept their cool, played it safe and fared substantially better.

It’s a fascinating little Darwinian reality that’s now rearing its head in First World politics.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., recently made headlines when she argued congressional gridlock would be a thing of the past if more women held legislative seats. When men get their hackles up, Gillibrand said, it’s often the women doing the real work of bipartisan consensus building. The growing pile of data, including the aforementioned gambling study, lends some credence to Gillibrand’s claim.

Personally, my three favorite politicians all just happen to be female.

I’ve known Gillibrand for years, covering her as an unknown freshman in Congress, who happened to oust an entrenched Republican in historically GOP turf. She rocketed to power when Hillary Clinton was appointed secretary of state and Gillibrand was plucked to fill Clinton’s vacated Senate seat. She’s reasoned and willing to make deals, a New York Democrat with a solid NRA rating, which costs her significant support in New York City.

My list of political favorites also includes Maine’s former senior Sen. Olympia Snowe, a solid Republican who last year gave up on politics because her party’s uncompromising pivot to the right-flank. Snowe was the face of reason in the aristocratic upper house. She’d broker deals with anyone, if it got the job done. She was interested in solutions to problems, not burying the other party. That alone made her toxic to the GOP’s freshly empowered puritanical wing.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel rounds out my trio of top-notch female political powers. She has almost single-handedly held the foundering Eurozone afloat, even as Greece and Spain flirt with depression and the United Kingdom does all it can to stay out of it.

Yet, Idaho’s venerable state Rep. Maxine Bell, a Jerome Republican who co-chairs the powerful Joint Finance-Appropriation Committee, might require me to expand my list.

Bell is a blunt, intelligent force, a woman who male colleagues tend to rally around at public gatherings. If Bell nods in approval, everyone else follows. If she grimaces at something said, the influential throng on her flanks react accordingly. Put plainly, Bell rocks. Bell, for example, rightly opposed the terrible bit of NRA pandering that is the guns on campus policy without worry of backlash. And she’s gained all this power in a state that doesn’t fair incredibly well in most metrics of female equality.

Bell is quickly expanding my list of favorites to four.

And, it just so happens she’s a woman.
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I wonder if that has anything to do with it.

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