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Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

A select group of Alliance leaders exchanged views last week with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) concerning a wide variety of issues, including sexual assault in the military, women’s pay equity, patent trolling, and above all, the state of the U.S. Congress and how she gets things done in spite of it.

In a gathering at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square, Cambridge, Senator Shaheen fielded questions from CEO’s, investors, and business innovators convened by the Alliance.  Gridlock in Congress garnered the most attention, as the Senator shared her coping methods: “The way I deal with it is by finding partners.” Putting that into practice by partnering with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), she succeeded in introducing the first energy bill to come to the Senate floor since 2007, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act.  The bill would save $59 billion and create 159,000 jobs between now and 2030 by revamping building codes and encouraging development of energy efficient technology. Although the bipartisan team brought the bill to the floor, consideration was postponed due to the government shutdown. The partners plan to reintroduce the bill this week. 

Tim Rowe (CEO, Cambridge Innovation Center), Diane Hessan (former CEO, Communispace), Sen. Shaheen

Tim Rowe (CEO, Cambridge Innovation Center), Diane Hessan (former CEO, Communispace), Sen. Shaheen

Senator Shaheen pointed to the recently passed appropriations bill as another example of successful partnership.  The chairs of the Senate budget and appropriations committees are women, which the senator felt sure was a contributing factor to the bill’s successful passage.  She noted with pride that New Hampshire is the only state to have elected an all-female delegation to Congress, not to mention a female governor.  The Speaker of her state’s House and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are women, as well; the Granite State sets a very high bar when it comes to gender parity in government.

The senator shared her concern with and the work she has undertaken to root our sexual assault in the military. While some change has occurred, it’s incremental, and the problem remains. “We need to do something dramatic” to bring the necessary attention to bear, she said, “but we may not get there this year.” Taking the adjudication of sexual assault charges out of the chain of command will be a crucial step.  Senator Shaheen pointed out that numerically, there are more male victims of sexual assault  in the military than female: “This is not only a women’s issue.”

Sen. Shaheen, Tim Rowe, entrepreneur Michelle Darby

Sen. Shaheen, Tim Rowe, entrepreneur Michelle Darby

Tim Rowe, CEO of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), took Senator Shaheen on a tour, explaining the advantages of the idea- and entrepreneur-dense environment created by the office-sharing strategy of the CIC. The senator learned about entrepreneur CIC member Michelle Darby’s startup, Roomzilla,  which is aimed at energy efficiency in heating and lighting, a perfect fit with Senator Shaheen’s legislative priorities.

Alliance leaders were pleased to cement a relationship with Senator Shaheen which will likely lead to productive collaboration in the future towards creating a more just and sustainable society.

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Michelle Darby, founder/CEO of Roomzilla, Sen. Shaheen