credibility and not give them a reason to replace me. It's more important for me to be there in the long run to fight the battles." 87
An Ohio committee chair identified the simple frustrations of being the only woman among many men. When she served on the county commission, she often found it frustrating that the other commissioners (all men) would continue to discuss county business in the restroom during meeting breaks. She attributed the incidents to benign insensitivity more than overt exclusion, but with eight women in the forty-member Ohio Senate, she added:
"Now we kid the guys that we're going to take a bathroom break. When we recently organized a luncheon for all of the women, some of the men got worried about what we were up to. I think it was quite unsettling for some of them." 88
Representative Maxine Berman, author of a book about her experiences in the Michigan Legislature, 89 articulates a more critical view of women's continuing marginality in state legislatures. Representative Berman chronicles a long list of offenses against what she calls the male legislative "comitatus," a modern-day version of the Anglo-Saxon, nobleman-warrior ruling fraternity that excludes women. She concludes:
"Because our common background is inevitably one of being an outsider and because so many elected men attempt to perpetuate that once we're in office, we remain both insider and outsider forever. Few women ever forget that, no matter how powerful they become." 90
Women committee chairs share many characteristics with their male colleagues; nonetheless, important and unique public-private dimensions separate women and men in politics. First, women serving as committee chairs on average defer their public commitments in favor of private responsibilities. Sue Thomas wrote in How Women Legislate:
Trends in marriage rates and number and ages of children illuminate the difficulty women have had in maintaining professional and private careers. Because women were responsible for home and hearth, political careers for them have often been an either-or choice--or, at least, a life cycle-dependent choice. 91
Nothing in these data suggests a resolution of women's struggle with these choices.
For the most part, female committee chairs are women who already have established their families, negotiated marriage and major career choices, and invested heavily in community life. When they turn to politics, they often make a full-time commitment that focuses on issues of family, community, and well-being.