In the last days of 2013, male House Republicans acknowledged publicly that their party needs an attitude adjustment when it comes to including and embracing women in politics and policymaking. Now, some will be joining the Republican Women's Policy Committee, which was relaunched several months ago by Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, as the group seeks to boost its clout heading into 2014.
The RWPC laid out a series of objectives for the next year in its annual report — unveiled last week and obtained by 218 — including a plan to admit men to the group.
The male lawmakers will join as "associate members," playing a "secondary role" to those of the 19 Republican women. There are a few boons to having Republican men involved, of course. With so few women in the GOP, extra bodies will be on hand to be stewards for the cause of raising the profile of the RWPC. And the new male associates will still have to pay dues, an important component for a fledgling group looking to spread its wings.
Several Republican men have already committed to joining next year, according to the report.
The plan could keep the heat on GOP men to remember the hard-earned gender lessons of the past year. Ellmers at one point had confronted GOP leaders over a photo op with an all-male negotiating team during the government shutdown, with Speaker John A. Boehner acknowledging the party had made a mistake by doing so.
Other groups, such as the Congressional Black Caucus, have long struggled with the question of whether to allow others to join. The CBC at one point allowed white lawmakers to join as associate members before dropping the practice. In 2007, the CBC refused to allow Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., to join.
The RWPC's plan also includes several other initiatives aimed at building momentum.
It's bringing in Michele Woodward as an "executive coach" to assist in messaging and strategy, as well as in facilitating meetings and briefings with the high-profile associates with whom she has worked. Woodward is the president of Ripple Communications and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan administration. In a volunteer — non-paid — capacity, she will "[give] tips or [answer] questions about how to have executive status, build stature [and] execute on vision."
The RWPC also will be partnering with the American Enterprise Institute, forming an alliance with the distinguished conservative think tank a la the Republican Study Committee and The Heritage Foundation. Roll Call recently reported on this arrangement as part of a profile of AEI President Arthur Brooks.
And to facilitate a stronger community of GOP women on Capitol Hill, the RWPC hopes to host weekly discussion groups with female staffers. Working titles include "Heels on the Hill" and "Coffee With the Congresswoman."
The larger goals of the group are to "appeal to female voters," "create/change positive view of GOP" and "make females more influential and in more leadership positions within the party." The group, the report continues, "needs to be cool, motivating, fresh, interesting, uplifting [and] inspirational."
"Most of all," the report states, "this committee needs to be responsible and respected."