Woman senator makes history; it’s time to start paying attention

Sarah Ladd

Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois did more than make history in the senate Thursday, April 19; she broke an exhausted barrier that has separated men and women in the workplace for too long.

On Thursday, Sen. Duckworth became the first senator to vote with her infant in her arms. Earlier in April, she became the first senator to give birth while still in office. Because of this, the Senate passed a new ordinance allowing senators to bring their children under one onto the senate floor, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, April 18.

Sensational videos show the senator bringing her baby into the chamber in her arms, all smiles. While her victory no doubt has made her journey as a mother for the second time more convenient, her win in this senate ruling is much bigger than that. 

For so long, women have suffered in their attempts to be successful career women. Our college classrooms are packed with women, but jobs are dominated by men. Why do so many women disappear after college? 

The New York Times reported in May of 2017 that the wage gap that afflicts women is largely caused by childbirth. We’ve all seen this, whether it be our mothers or aunts or friends. A woman enters a field and is successful, but she wants to be a mother. NYT correspondent Claire Cain Miller wrote, “Children are particularly damaging to careers.” 

Why is that? 

Our society has for so long frowned on all things motherhood. Nursing in public is taboo. “I have to pick up my kid from school” is inconvenient. And, worst yet, maternity leave is a major hit to a woman’s career. The woman, even when the father is in the picture, is the one who takes the hit in pay and break in experience.

Women are strong and powerful and both qualities make us phenomenal in our respective careers. Yet, we come back to the paradox. In the past, it seemed if a woman wished to be a mother, she needed to choose between a successful career and motherhood.

Sen. Duckworth took the first steps to change this, not just for senators, but for every woman. Not only did she give birth while a sitting senator, she helped change the rules and allow more babies onto the senate floor. While having children around will hopefully mellow some tired politicians and encourage more empathy from our leaders, this move has also made a statement about female empowerment that cannot be ignored.

This much is clear from this week’s events: when our leaders at this level recognize the beauty of a career woman who is also a mother, it sets the stage for companies across the world to normalize career mothers. It screams of the strength, beauty and success that women contain.