Congress and state legislatures represent the people – all the people. They don’t do that well when their members aren’t as diverse as the people.

This is particularly the case when these legislative bodies underrepresent women, who are more than 50 percent of the population. If women were better represented in Congress, do you think our country would be separating immigrant children from their parents, holding hundreds of children in internment camps and tent cities and babies and toddlers in “tender age” shelters with no procedures in place for their eventual reunification with their parents?

Women’s votes make a difference. With increased numbers of women members, legislative bodies vote with more compassion. For example, in the 2017 election for the Virginia Legislature, 15 Democratic legislators – 11 of whom are women – replaced 15 Republican male legislators. After four consecutive years in which legislators voted down Medicaid expansion, they voted to expand Medicaid to 400,000 uninsured Virginia residents. Moderate Republican men broke ranks with hardliners and voted with the women.

Women are also not afraid to speak out. Sen. Susan Collins frequently speaks out with compassion when many of her Republican male colleagues remain silent, most recently against the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.

Famously, another Maine senator spoke out when her male colleagues remained silent. In 1950, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith – the only woman in the U.S. Senate – gave her “Declaration of Conscience” speech in opposition to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s persecution of anyone suspected of links to the Communist Party. It would be four more years before her male colleagues would censure him.

We need good people representing us, and more of them need to be women.

Paula N. Singer