Do you consider yourself a trailblazer?
Yes. I am the fifth generation descendant of pioneers who travelled West on the Oregon Trail in search of a better life.
I am first in my family to graduate from college.
I was the 200th woman ever elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Just under 11,000 men and women have now served in the House, and only 289 women).
I am the fifth woman to give birth while serving in Congress, and the first to do it twice and then three times.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
If feminism is the ability to choose what you want to do regardless of your gender, yes.
How do you do it being the only woman to ever give birth three times while serving in Congress and serving as #4 in House Republican leadership?
Parenting is the hardest and best thing ever. Becoming a mom has made me a better person and a better legislator (people are more important than things). I face similar challenges to any working mom in America. We all get 24 hours each day. Embrace each day as a gift from God.
How did you rise to the top in a male-dominated field?
By earning it, working hard, being prepared, building trust, believing in myself (that took some time), persevering. I want to be judged based upon results. I am passionate, committed and driven by a desire to make a difference for everyone. My path has been one step at a time. You can’t be afraid to take a step.
Did you ever imagine you would give the response to the President’s State of the Union?
Never. When Speaker John Boehner called to ask me to do it, I had just given birth to Brynn. She was less than a month old. I remember him saying, “Cathy, don’t overthink it. Just be yourself.” In that moment, I remembered all the times I thought I needed to be a little different in some way, yet he was saying, be yourself! I pray that God will be as original with me as He has been with others.
What’s a routine day?
There are no routine days. Every day is full of different people, issues and demands. The schedule is jam-packed between getting kids off to school, carving out time for family and Brian, and serving in a high profile position in Congress. I also represent one of the largest districts in landmass in the country and one farthest away from Washington D.C. I’ve become an early bird. The earlier I start the day, the better the day seems to go.
How do you handle the demands?
I recognize that I can’t do it on my own or with my own strength. I depend on the amazing support of my husband, Brian, and the kids, as well as my extended family, the dedication of my talented staff, and the support of hundreds and thousands of people who stand by me in a variety of big and small ways. I’m humbled and especially grateful for the prayers of many.
How do you overcome your fears?
I pray every day that God’s purpose over my life will be more deeply rooted in my heart. It’s God that has given a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. Boldness comes as we are more interested in what God thinks than what other people think.
Is there a double standard for women?
Whether you're man or woman, nobody gets any favors. Leaders put themselves in uncomfortable positions. It’s common for people to cast doubt and attempt to push a woman out of the way. Women are often trailblazers for even sitting at the table. Believe in yourself and don’t allow the critics to paralyze you. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, your heart, and your values.
How do we encourage more women to run for office?
Women need to see other women in leadership roles and say, “She’s cool. That’s what I want to do.” Women often never consider running for office until someone taps them on the shoulder and then we are quick to identify why we are not prepared or it’s not the right time. Some have been hesitant to get involved because of the hostile environment and others are focused on their family, career, and community involvement. Women are often our own worst critic. Women need to be bold and when the opportunity presents itself, seize it. Women are at the center fabric of our society and where fabric is torn, women feel it most.
Do women bring unique qualities to politics?
Yes. Not only do women bring unique perspectives to the table, but according to focus groups, they naturally bring the leadership qualities people are seeking in their elected representatives: good listeners, trustworthy, problem solvers, and willing to work across the aisle to get things done.
Do women support other women politically?
Not enough. Historically, women give to a cause; men give to gain access. In the non-profit world, 70% of the contributions come from women. In the political world, 30% of the contributions come from women. (6% of women give to political campaigns.) More needs to be done to speak and tailor messaging to connect the importance of political involvement to women.
What were some of your favorite parts of Lean In by Cheryl Sandberg?
“Sit at the Table,”
“Make your partner a real partner" and
"The myth of doing it all.”
Bottom line, don't hold yourself to unattainable standards
Do Republicans support fairness for women?
Absolutely. Republicans believe in empowering everyone to make their own decisions and protecting freedom and opportunity to dream big dreams. Republicans believe in life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness as written in the Declaration of Independence. Republicans trust people to make the best decisions for themselves rather than a government that decides for you.
What are some of your practical tips for women?
Walk with purpose.
Take care of yourself — only you can do that.
Drink enough water.
Get more sleep.
What are some of your favorite quotes?
"If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”
“If I could give you information of my life it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God in strange and unaccustomed paths to do in His service what He has done in her. And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing. I have worked hard, very hard, that is all; and I have never refused God anything.”
"I have embarrassed myself again and again, and I have failed again and again. Eventually, that gives you strength of character.”