American women are accustomed to being underrepresented in government. Despite making up 50.7% of the population, the United States remains one of the only super powers to not yet elect a woman to its highest office, and women represent only 16.8% of congress. Now, a 12 member "Super Committee" charged with fixing the American debt ceiling crisis has appointed only one female member; or a shockingly low 8% of its appointees.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the only female voice present as the "Super Committee" decides which of the United States programs will be slashed in an effort to trim $1.5 trillion from the federal budget by Thanksgiving. Sen. Murray has been given the position of co-chair and will be strong voice in the committee, but as said in a recent News Outlet report, "when women aren't at the table, programs that disproportionally benefit and employ women - like child care, education, food assistance, and Medicare - are often first to go."
Fifteen per-cent of mothers (between 15-36 years of age) are dependent on food assistance programs in order to feed their families. Women make up 57% of both Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries, and they comprise 71% of beneficiaries of Medicaid due to dependent children and longer life expectancies. Women also dominate careers in education (81.9% of middle and elementary school teachers) and healthcare (92.0% of nurses). It will be these programs amongst others that sit on the congressional chopping block.
Sen. Murray's spokesman, Matt McAlvanah, assures the public that "as the only woman on this committee (Sen. Murray) will certainly be going to bat for the needs of women, working families, and all those who are depending on a balanced solution to this problem." National Organization for Women (NOW) President Terry O'Neill is glad to see Murray on the committee, but says, "I think half the members of the committee should be women. I believe that people whose lives will be impacted by decisions have a right to have their voices heard in those decisions."
Another argument for a stronger female presence was noted in a recent NPR report on Morning Edition that stated; "psychologists have found that when groups are predominately male, individuals tend to act in increasingly aggressive ways...they show off." Vladas Griskevicius, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, found that cities with more men in the decision making process have the highest amount of consumer debt. He believes this is due to men buying expensive things to posture one another.
Views are polarized on whether or not Murray will be able to single-handledly represent over half of the U.S. population. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said "It would have been great to see more women represented...but I am very happy to see Senator Murray as a co-chair." O'Neill isn't quite as optimistic. She warns, "on behalf of women in this country, I think this committee is absolutely terrifying. From where I stand right now, our best hope is they can't agree on anything."
Racial minorities are also underrepresented in the "Super Committee", consisting of only two members; Representative James Clyburn (D-SC) of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA) of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.