‘We Can Do It!’: Women and Bipartisanship
This year, we’re celebrating Rosie the Riveter’s 76th birthday. Since her debut in 1943, Rosie and the thousands of women she represents who joined the workforce and the war effort have inspired confidence in generations of women. Her “We Can Do It!” message continues to be a rallying cry for women everywhere, including the women in Congress.
This year, a record-breaking number of women were sworn into the House of Representatives and joined the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus. What started in 1977 with 15 congresswomen as an advocacy group for women and the issues we care about, has grown into a powerful force at the forefront of landmark legislation including the Violence Against Women Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Studies suggest female leaders rank highest in their ability to take initiative and drive results – in other words, that female leaders embody Rosie’s “We Can Do It!” motto. The work of the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus is proof.
Throughout the 115th Congress, as Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus, we held meetings for the women of Congress to connect with each other and meet top administration officials to address critical priorities in their districts. We discussed how to serve and protect our women veterans with former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin; the importance of uplifting women-owned businesses with Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon; and protecting global human rights with Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Nguke.
When the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus first heard from Olympic gymnasts about their harrowing experiences of sexual assault at the hands of coaches, doctors and trainers they trusted, we knew we had to do something.
Thanks to the brave gymnasts who came forward, we championed the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act with the leadership of Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), to ensure future young athletes can live out their dreams without fearing abuse. It was signed into law on Feb. 14, 2018.
But, as we all know, sexual harassment and assault are all too common, and the #MeToo movement has brought so many stories and survivors out of the shadows. The Bipartisan Women’s Caucus hosted three hearings with survivors of sexual harassment in the workplace, from Silicon Valley to the factory floor.
We heard from Marie, a waitress who suffers through unwanted groping from customers because she relies on tips to pay her rent. We met Rachel, a tech entrepreneur, who experienced lewd sexual advances from investors while raising money for her start-up, and Hannah, a welder, who was called sexually explicit names by co-workers and fired for causing “too much drama” when she complained.
Their leadership has inspired people across the country to end harassment and discrimination everywhere, and their testimony gave us even more urgency to find solutions that promote safety and dignity. Members from both sides of the aisle are meeting with industry leaders, introducing bills to address combat workplace harassment, and championing change within the halls of Congress.
This is hard work, and it’s far from done. This new Congress brings new challenges and new opportunities but, with new voices and more women, we believe that once again, “We Can Do It!”
Frankel and Brooks are the outgoing chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues the House.