Drawing on their natural instinct to protect and defend, women are gaining clout in the male-dominated sphere of security policymaking, bringing unique problem-solving tools to tackle complex issues, Wilson Center President, Director, and CEO Jane Harman says.   

“Women are lionesses in protecting our families, and that fierceness to protect helps to inform our security policymaking roles,” Harman said on the panel Security Is Women’s Work!, part of last week’s Women in the World Summit in New York. “More often than not, women are the caretakers and security providers in the household,” are less prone to be drawn into military conflicts, and are oriented to solve—rather than aggravate—problems. These qualifications give them a unique edge in tackling complex security problems, she said.

Women Lawmakers Poised To Make Meaningful Advances

Boasting a new “critical mass” in Congress, female Members are ready to make a deep mark across the gamut of law and policymaking, said Jane Harman, during the second panel Women World Leaders: Force Multipliers. “Now we have critical mass in Congress and that makes a difference,” she noted.

Harman stressed that women have a unique approach to problem-solving—one that emphasizes connection with other women. “Women bond together, they network, they mentor,” she said, citing the mentoring and scholars programs of The Wilson Center’s Council of Women World Leaders. Harman also stressed that women who have shattered the proverbial glass ceiling must help their juniors. “It’s a moral obligation that if you break through that glass ceiling that you bring along talented young people,” she said.

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On a separate appearance on MSNBC, Harman also acknowledged the role of “enlightened men” in protecting women and girls from sexual exploitation, citing Secretary Leon Panetta and the Defense Department’s efforts to close epidemic rates of assault and rape in the U.S. military. Interviewed by Andrea Mitchell as part of International Women’s Day, Harman also emphasized that women must have a strong duty to help one another—especially those who have already shattered the proverbial “glass ceiling.” “(We need) to help the women coming after us and not roll up the ladder,” she said.