Oklahoma State Senate
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: January
House Speaker Susan Winchester and Senator Debbe Leftwich
Lawmakers Plan Women’s Caucus
State Senator Debbe
Leftwich, D-OKC, and House Speaker Pro Tempore Susan
Winchester, R-Chickasha, have announced plans to form a caucus
for women serving in the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives.
Sen. Leftwich, a former chair of the Oklahoma Commission on the
Status of Women, said she was excited about having a legislative
coalition for women to focus on issues important to Oklahoma families.
“As a past chair of the Commission, I know when it comes to
issues that directly impact women and children, there’s more
that unites women legislators than divides us, regardless of whether
you are a Democrat or Republican,” Sen. Leftwich said. “Issues
like child care, domestic violence and access to health care are
things we all understand and can agree are important to the State
Rep. Winchester is the first woman in the history of the state to
serve as Speaker Pro Tempore. She said she hopes to focus attention
on encouraging women to take on more leadership roles in the state.
“Over the last several years I’ve worked with many leadership
organizations like Leadership Oklahoma and OU’s NEW Leadership
program, as have Sen. Angela Monson and Rep. Jari Askins. We all
share a commitment to growing the numbers of women in leadership
roles in the state,” Winchester said.
Oklahoma saw slight improvements in the numbers of women serving
in the legislature as a result of the 2004 elections. Women now
make up 14.8 percent of the legislature.
“We picked up five seats giving us a total of 22 women serving
in the legislature. That’s the good news. The bad news is
we’re still pretty low in comparison to other states. According
to the Center for American Women and Politics we’re 43rd in
the nation but it is changing and that’s important for Oklahoma,”
Winchester said. “As wives and mothers, we bring a unique
perspective to the table. We need that voice in public policy debate.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislature’s,
17 states have Women’s Caucuses that meet regularly and determine
legislative priorities. Another 15 have Women’s Caucuses that
meet infrequently and are more focused on networking or socializing—that
number includes the Women’s Caucus of Oklahoma’s House
of Representatives. Leftwich said women serving in the State Senate
have not had such an organization in the past.
“Creating a formal Women’s Caucus is an excellent way
for us to find that common ground and pursue legislation that is
not only important to women, but to all Oklahomans,” Leftwich
Winchester said while the emphasis of the caucus would be to serve
as a resource for women lawmakers, it could have other benefits
in the future.
“By raising the profile of women serving in the Legislature,
I think we may encourage more women to consider running for public
office. Ultimately, I think that’s going to benefit the entire
state,” Winchester said.
Senate Communications Office - (405) 521-5774