US - Women politicians as collaborators

Some reflections on women as political collaborators - the analysis falls apart somewhat in discussing the role of the Queen and Margaret Thatcher:

For women leaders, the typical perception is that they have reached the top alone.

When the rumors began to circulate over Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick, Elizabeth Warren, the popular, progressive senator from Massachusetts, was labeled a highly unlikely choice. Even the possibility that they would meet to discuss the idea was dismissed, with some pundits sniffing that, well, two strong women simply could not work together. 

For women leaders, the typical perception is that they have reached the top alone.

It’s hard to find examples of two high-level women collaborators, said Betsy Polk, a Chapel Hill, N.C., consultant on leadership. She co-wrote the 2014 book, Power Through Partnership; How Women Lead Better Together.

‘It’s more likely when you ask about partnerships, people will say Ben and Jerry,’ she said, of audiences who come to hear her and her collaborator Maggie Ellis Chotas talk about their book. 

Women collaborators are scarce enough that it was a challenge to find subjects for their book, said Polk and Chotas, who are long-standing business partners. The pair spent months trying to track down examples of women in those roles. They built up a list and interviewed 125 women who were part of business duos, mostly entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

As far as visible female duos are concerned, politics is similar to the executive suite. There are – and have been – women governors, such as Bev Perdue in North Carolina, Jan Brewer in Arizona, and currently Nikki Haley in South Carolina. They stand out as the sole, or nearly the sole, woman in every photo. Occasionally, women have run together in a pair to become governor and lieutenant governor. But each of the five duos who have tried it over the past two decades have failed to be elected, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Even so, it’s often an uphill climb for most women working as a team. Polk and Chotas say that women can suffer from the perception that if they team up with another woman, ‘they are not willing or able to do the work alone.’

‘There is so much scrutiny for strong women leaders who are solo,’ said Chotas, ‘and, gosh, there’s even more scrutiny for two women who collaborate.’

But she highly recommends such collaborations, noting that two women tackling an issue can diffuse the spotlight and ‘can provide enough cover for each partner to do what she does best.’