'I was even a better role model for my male students.'
Elizabeth Warren is convinced that a woman would govern differently as President than a man.
“I think women are more sensitive to the question of how does it work for everyone or at least a larger part,” Warren told me in an interview in late 2014 for my book, “Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works.”
At the time, as she does today, Warren said she had no designs on the Oval Office. But she hoped that a woman would soon occupy it.
“You know I used to think when I taught classes that I was a good role model for women students but I was even a better role model for my male students. It was good for them to sit there and say, ‘Wow this woman is tough and she is gonna put up with no nonsense,’” Warren said. “These things feed on each other. I hope more people see this, the possibility of a woman governor and possibility of a woman president as something that’s real.”
Warren then mused on the barriers women face to executive office, particularly demonstrating their toughness to command—something that men rarely have to prove. “I am not sure tough enough is the right question. I think you should fight for what you believe in,” Warren said. “I am not convinced that the question of leadership is synonymous with sex or toughness. There has to be a certain persistent and effectiveness. It starts with values.”
Read More: Elizabeth Warren Wants You to Run For Office
On the whole, Warren felt that Democrats in the Senate had reached critical mass—somewhere between 20 percent and 30 percent of a body when women begin to really impact change. “You see a commitment to speak for those who don’t have voices, to make sure that they are represented and so in that sense I do think within the Democratic caucus, my feeling is we have reached critical mass,” she said.
But Warren worried that the Senate would take a step back in terms of women’s voices when Republicans took control in 2015. “What you’re really gonna notice the Democrats have women leadership,” Warren said proudly. “But by definition when you switch over now when you switch parties, the legislation is not going to be led by women.”
Warren’s fears were not unfounded.
Under Democratic control in the 113th Session, seven of the 16 female Democrats chaired nine of the Senate’s 20 committees. Under Republican control in the 114th, women chair two committees, though Republicans expanded their net numbers in 2014 from four to five female Senators.
This is an excerpt from TIME Magazine correspondent Jay Newton-Small’s new book “Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works,” out January 5 and available here on Amazon. The book looks at the areas in the workforce where women are reaching critical mass—typically between 20-30 percent—and how they’re changing the way we govern, manage, adjudicate and command.