The Origins of Different Committee Styles
Jane Maroney and Liane Sorenson were once seatmates in the Delaware House of Representatives, and they now chair important legislative committees. But their legislative careers are hardly carbon copies. For one thing, Jane Maroney was first elected in 1978 and Liane Sorenson won her first election in 1992. Much like bookends, the careers of Jane Maroney and Liane Sorenson mark how much and how little things have changed over three decades for women in legislatures. They do share the characteristics of older age when first elected, family background, and community commitments that define the legislative careers of women committee chairs generally and are associated with integrative leadership styles. These characteristics also represent the differences that distinguish the careers of women and men committee chairs and create social distance among presumed equals.
Jane Maroney had an early career in corporate public relations and a stint with the Central Intelligence Agency, but she spent her middle years organizing her life around her children and husband. Married to a pediatrician who built a practice in the days of house calls, Maroney ruled out a two-career household while her children were at home. Instead she served as a hospital volunteer, charity organizer and fund raiser, and museum docent. After her two children left for college, Representative Maroney felt unfulfilled by bridge, gardening, and charity work. At the age of fifty-six, she turned to politics and ran successfully for the legislature.
If political ambition had been her goal, age and no small amount of male chauvinism stood as obstacles. Representative Maroney requested but did not get appointments to the House's most powerful committees; instead, she found herself on the House Human Needs Committee, where few men wanted to