Politics

In Congress, Women Over 50 Reign

   

UNITED STATES - MARCH 3: Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., right, and Mimi Rogers, R-Calif., are interviewed about women in the workforce issues by CQ Roll Call in the Capitol, March 3, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., right, and Mimi Walters, R-Calif., talk about life after 50. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

For women older than 50, finding a job is getting harder and harder, recent studies have found. But women in Congress are just hitting their stride at that age.  

Of the 108 women in the House and Senate, more than 80 percent are older than 50, and many of them won their seats after they hit the half-century mark.  

“I think when you’re in your 50s, you’re more wise and you usually have a lot more confidence,” said Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., 53, who was first elected in 2014. “I love being in my 50s, I think it’s fantastic.”  

“I say we’re seasoned,” added Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., 62, who was also elected in 2014. “I think we bring real life experience and we’re not trying to be president of the United States, well maybe you are," she said to Walters, "I’m not. I think we’re more willing to say it as it is, to bring common sense.”  

Presidential hopefully Hillary Clinton is 68-years-old—six years younger than her primary opponent Sen. Bernard J. Sanders, I-Vt., and one year younger than GOP front-runner Donald Trump—and has been questioned if she is too old to be president.  

As Congress celebrates Women's History Month in March, Dingell and Walters sat down with Roll Call for a wide-ranging conversation about women over 50.  

“It’s liberating to be able to say what’s on your mind and not feel as if you’re worried about what people are going to think of you,” Walters said of being over 50. “I’m very blunt and very honest.”  

“You don’t have to read into my words and try to know what I think. What I say is what I mean,” Dingell said.  

Walters was an investment bank executive and shipping company sales representative before running for Laguna Niguel City Council in 1997. She said she worked right out of college, got married, had three of her four children, decided to stay home, and then created her political career.  

Dingell was a nonprofit executive, lobbyist and college student services assistant. She knows the life of a lawmaker from her husband, John D. Dingell, D-Mich., whom she succeeded in 2014 when he retired.  

“I hate it when women talk to me about women’s issues and they always try to make it about one issue," Dingell said. "I think women care about all the same issues that men do. What I don’t like is the way that for decades people try to frame women’s issues as single issues. And that’s just not right, it’s not fair.”  

Walters said she couldn’t have said it better. “I look at being a mom of four kids where my biggest concern is making sure my kids have a bright future,” she said.  

“The women are the ball jugglers, we gotta do everything,” Dingell said.  

“Anybody who wants to run for office — regardless of your age as a woman — I believe you can have it all,” Walters added.  

This is the first in a series of stories about women in Congress during Women's History Month. Contact Gangitano at AlexGangitano@cqrollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @AlexGangitano .

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Topics: women