Introducing the new co-chairwomen of the Congressional Women's Caucus

Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.)
Time in office: Two years
Age: 54
Hair color: Blond
Height: 5-foot-6
 Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
Time in office: 10 years
Age: 64
Hair color: Brown with golden highlights
Height: 5-foot-4
• Familial roots: Western European

• Top priority as co-chairwoman: To bring women together in Congress to work on issues that we can find common ground on and to build bipartisan support that can improve and make a difference in the lives of women and families.

• Greatest female role model: I always liked the style of [former British] Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She spoke with authority, she was able to bring people to together, but yet she was highly respected among her peers and was able to lead her country through some great initiatives and always did it with class and dignity.

• Philosophy on women’s rights: I basically have a philosophy that all humans have the same rights, no matter your race, class, culture. I have a belief in the biblical verse that all men and women are created equal.

• Discrimination experiences: I remember running for Congress, a close friend of mine used to make little jokes. He would say, “Congress is a very serious job, it’s not a beauty contest, it’s not about cutting ribbons and shaking hands.” Every time he said that, the crowd would be more favorable toward me. It was demeaning to women … I think the general public sees through that.

• Opinion of Michelle Obama: I have not had the opportunity to meet the first lady, and yet she seems to be a woman who speaks her mind, who has a love for her family, who is very strong-willed, and who has accomplished many things in her life. She seems to support her husband and takes her role very seriously. I admire her and respect her for the role she has taken for her nation. I may not agree on all her political stances, but I have respect for her and wish her the best.

• Opinion of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: I’ve had the opportunity to meet her several times. She first came to Oklahoma as first lady after our tragedy with the Murrah building bombing. She’s a very hardworking lady. I thought she was a very good selection for secretary of State. I respect her for what she has had to deal with, both personally and professionally.

• Opinion of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: I had the opportunity to meet with Sarah Palin last summer when I went to Alaska with other congressmen meeting about energy issues. From the moment I met her, she seemed like a very vivacious, outgoing, intelligent woman who had a strong passion for her family and love for her country. During her run for vice president, we saw a lot of her strengths come out, because it’s not easy to run for national office. Any time a woman puts herself out for public scrutiny, it’s a tough road to walk.

• Finish this sentence: The greatest thing about women is … We’re good multi-taskers. We’re passionate about many of the causes and issues we tackle and believe in, and we can balance many different things at many different times. That is what makes us good legislators. We’re used to taking care of children, a family, a home and also a career.

• What do you think the general difference is between men and women? When it comes to public service, sometimes women are stereotyped that we’re only interested in working on certain issues, but I’ve worked on issues that have crossed genders. We have women in Congress who are very skilled in issues like national defense, healthcare, transportation. Also, maybe women have a little bit more of the common sense when it comes to family issues, and that’s not to take anything away from men at all. It’s just that as women, we have that mothering spirit within us.

• What’s your definition of femininity? When I think of myself in a feminine attitude, I guess I think of a woman who should care about her family, about being the best she can be, about looking her best, about being respectful of herself. If you want someone to respect you as a woman, you have to be respectful as a woman.

• Dream vacation: Time with my children and loved ones. Travel around the world. Right now it’s a little chilly in Oklahoma, so a day at the beach would sound good, too.

• Favorite designer: St. John’s suits. They’re a little pricy, but if I can find one on a deep sale, then I like St. John’s suits … I’m a regular person. I’m always looking for a bargain. I have two children, and I’ve been single for about 10 years, so I’m always watching my money. So I would say most of my clothes come from department stores.

• Color most prevalent in your closet: Red. My first campaign I had red signs, I had a red car and I wore red suits. It became the Mary Fallin Red.

• Style of home: Traditional. I like a nice view and beautiful landscaping.

• Greatest indulgence: One thing I like to indulge in that is not very good for my waistline is chips and salsa.
• Familial roots: Eastern Europe — Ukraine, Russia

• Top priority as co-chairwoman: Women’s health.

• Greatest female role model: [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.]. She is absolutely the perfect combination of behind-the-scenes organizer and a great role model for all women in the country and the world. She’s tough and yet feminine. She’s focused and goal-oriented, effective and fearless.

• Philosophy on women’s rights: I have worked all my adult life for equal rights for women, but a large part of that is helping women to know their power. That is a phrase that Nancy Pelosi uses all the time when she speaks to our caucus. Part of my mission is to talk to young women and encourage them to take leadership roles … to not shrink and to go for power.

• Discrimination experiences: When I was first running for office, I was in a primary with two men. I did get a pat on the head from a union leader who said it just wasn’t my time yet. I said, “Well, I hope after the primary you’ll be with me,” which he was.

• Opinion of Michelle Obama: I’ve known Michelle Obama for a long time and I consider her a friend. Women of all ages and backgrounds are attracted to Michelle Obama for being such a sensible, down-to-earth Chicago woman, middle-class values. I’m just thrilled that she is our first lady.

• Opinion of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: What a strong and accomplished woman as the chief face of America around the world … It speaks so well of the United States to have her there.

• Opinion of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: I see what people see in Sarah Palin. She is exciting and charismatic, but I think that she doesn’t have a clue about the major issues affecting our country. In this time of huge challenges, I don’t think she has any basis on how to meet those challenges and to move our country forward.

• Finish this sentence: The greatest thing about women is … Women have their priorities straighter than men most of the time, and that centers around family, settling conflicts and stability.

• What do you think the general difference is between men and women? Men are socialized to believe that they can be leaders. They more easily dust themselves off and pick themselves up and put failure behind them. I try to tell young women to have more confidence in themselves … that they know enough, that they are smart enough to compete on equal footing with men. When women run, they win just as much as men.

• What’s your definition of femininity? If women were more dominant, then we would live in a more peaceful world. Women tend to be better listeners; women are better as peacemakers and negotiators. These are feminine qualities that are more adaptive, in the Darwinian sense, than the more combative nature that is part of the hard drive of men’s DNA. The qualities needed to make this planet prosper very often are female qualities.

• Dream vacation: I’m trying to plan right now for my 65th birthday. I know it involves a beach somewhere and warmth and family and really feeling like we’re getting away.

• Favorite designer: I’m so not into labels. I have a credit card for JCPenney. I love it. There’s a wonderful outlet mall just across the border in Indiana where they sell terrific Casper suits for a real good price.

• Color most prevalent in your closet: I have quite a bit of red in my closet. All my coats are red.

• Style of home: Prairie style, architectural landmark in Evanston. Built in 1911.

• Greatest indulgence: Watching DVD’s of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” If I have a bad day, I have six seasons of it. I come home and watch one of these and I laugh and feel much better.