WASHINGTON —Most Americans of a certain age grew up hearing the adage: “Behind every great man is a great woman,” or some variation thereof.
Today, as women excel in education and assume positions of power, we might flip the expression — but not too hastily. For even now, it is hard not to notice that the Senate solution to the government shutdown is credited primarily to men, behind whom were a handful of women who got the ball rolling.
As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the bipartisan deal, the women hit the talk shows to discuss their collaborative efforts. They included Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
It is natural, of course, that the Senate leaders should plug the victory. Thus Reid and McConnell grabbed the headlines. But the sidebar is really the lead story, as Arizona Sen. John McCain noted: “Leadership, I must fully admit, was provided primarily by women in the Senate.”
Before the applause subsides and the status quo grabs the wheel again, we might give this episode greater, sustained attention. We are, after all, trudging toward a repeat early in 2014.
That women were able to come together and hammer out a workable solution, if only temporarily, is little surprise to women (or to men who pay attention) and speaks to women's unique abilities to communicate and collaborate without the requisite territorial marksmanship that often interferes with men's better intentions.
Sounds stereotypical? Welcome to Nature.
We needn't revisit the cave dwellings of primitive man to remind ourselves that male and female are physically equipped quite differently but also are endowed with unique skills consistent with their survival tasks. Our cultural evolution may have accelerated in recent history, but our hard-wiring is still busy fighting saber-tooths and nursing the young.
As much as ever, we need both packages even as we move toward less-defined roles. And much as we try to dismiss these differences — and even fight madly to pretend they are irrelevant to present-day environs and templates — nature has a way of prevailing.