McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

October 15, 2010

Governor’s race to be milestone for women

Advocates hope election will encourage greater female representation in government

OKLAHOMA CITY — This November, Oklahoma will elect it's first woman governor.

Republican Mary Fallin and Democrat Jari Askins guaranteed the state would elect its first female governor when they won their respective party’s gubernatorial nomination. To date, Oklahoma has selected 26 consecutive men to be the state’s chief executive.

Advocates wanting women to have a greater role in government hope the historic election will help close the gender gap that exists in Oklahoma politics.

Women make up 11.4 percent of Oklahoma’s state legislature, which is the second lowest female representation in the country. Sara Jane Rose, who is president of Sally’s List, a new group working to recruit woman to seek office in Oklahoma, said she is optimistic the election will encourage more woman to seek elected office.

“It is very significant that we have two qualified woman that have accomplished so much,” she said. “Regardless of party, they are role models now for women looking to get interested in politics.”

Cassi Peters, 25, said as the president of the Oklahoma Young Democrats she obviously is pulling for an Askins win on Nov. 2. But she said she still will feel inspired and encouraged to see a woman break through a new barrier regardless of the election’s outcome.

“As a young woman, I feel like it provides more access to what has been a male-dominated field,” she said. “I feel like it helps push stereotypes aside, and I feel like it's another crack in the glass ceiling, just like what Hillary (Clinton) did in the presidential race.”

Both Askins and Fallin are familiar with breaking new ground in roles traditionally held by men. Askins was the first chairwoman of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and the first woman to serve as the state’s Democratic House leader. Fallin became the first woman to be elected lieutenant governor in 1995 and the second Oklahoman woman to be elected to Congress in 2005.

Askins and Fallin agreed their success has the ability to inspire the next generation to realize the options available to them.

“I think it is great honor and opportunity to show other young girls, and frankly young boys for that matter, that they can be anything they want to be if get a good education, work hard, dream big and never give up,” Fallin said.

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