Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle gathered at the Newseum on Wednesday evening to celebrate the fifth anniversary of All In Together (AIT), a group focused on increasing women’s participation in political life.
CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash emceed the gala, where Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) spoke in their capacity as senatorial co-chairwomen of the event. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif) and Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) participated in a panel discussion with Bash.
“Everyone in this room knows that women make the world work. We lead in the boardroom, we run small businesses, and we serve in Congress in record numbers,” Fischer said. “Women have made great progress, but we do have more work to do. We need to encourage other women to step up — it’s not just step forward, it’s step up — to get involved in the political process.”
During her speech, Smith called for greater engagement in civic life.
“I want you to know that democracy only works if we participate. Democracy on autopilot goes in the ditch,” Smith said. “Your country and your community needs you in any way that you choose to serve that role, that most precious role of democracy, which is to participate.”
Lauren Leader, the group’s co-founder and CEO, highlighted the wave of women elected during the 2018 midterms and the female activists who helped send them to Congress, calling it a sign of progress over the course of AIT’s first five years.
Leader told The Hill that when the organization launched, “it was a different world when it came to women’s political participation.”
“We could never have imagined some of the highs and lows over the last five years in terms of women’s leadership,” Leader said. “Like all women’s organizations, we dream of closing some of these big gender gaps.”
She cited figures showing the U.S. is 98th in the world in terms of women’s political participation.
“We were 54th when we started, and we’d like to see those numbers climb back up,” Leader said.
She added that Congress, where each chamber is only 25 percent female, has yet to take up many of the most important issues that affect women.
“I’d like to see more issues that matter to a plurality of women actually progress — things like family leave and child care and equal pay, issues that are not partisan but have not progressed,” Leader said.
Bash said that having more women in Congress might lead to greater bipartisanship and cooperation in order to take action on the issues that matter to women.
“In my experience, just watching and reporting on the women [in Congress], it is amazing how much more women can get done,” Bash said. “We’re multitaskers, and we don’t have time to deal with you-know-what. We sit down, roll up our sleeves, and get stuff done.”
Fischer echoed the bipartisan aspect.
“I think it’s always important to support other women,” Fischer said in an interview with The Hill. “I think it’s important to show that we do work in a bipartisan way.”