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Women In Illinois Senate Form A Caucus For A Greater Voice

Jaclyn Driscoll
Flanked by other women Illinois Senators, State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, speaks at a news conference Thursday announcing the formation of a women's caucus in the legislature's upper chamber.

Women in the Illinois Senate plan to advance their voices in leadership with the creation of their own caucus. Women on both sides of the aisle say they’ve had a significant role in crafting policy, but may not always get the credit they deserve. 

Credit ilga.gov
Illinois State Senators Kimberly Lightford, left, and Toi Hutchinson

“I think the style of women is very different," says State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood. "We don’t have to have the pissing contest.”

Maywood said that women focus on getting things done despite differences within the Republican or Democratic parties. Meeting informally to discuss policy is something Illinois female senators say they’ve been doing for quite some time, but they say this caucus helps solidify that their leadership is strong and necessary. 

“I think we get skipped over often in this environment,” Maywood said, "so, hopefully, this caucus can stand together and encourage our leadership to appoint more women in leadership as they become available."

The creation of the bipartisan caucus comes as sexual harassment and misconduct have become hot topics in the statehouse. Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, says this will be at the top of their agenda in their first meeting in January.

“Our very first order of business, obviously, is what’s consumed conversation over the last few days," she said. "We want to make sure the task forces are real and there’s real input on legislation about us that cannot be done without us.”

Meanwhile, an attempt to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto on a measure that aimed to close the women’s pay gap failed in the Senate.

Jaclyn has an MA in Journalism from DePaul University and a BS in History form Monmouth College. Prior to reporting, Jaclyn was a social science teacher and department chair at Greenfield High School. Previously, Jaclyn reported for WICS Newschannel 20 where she covered a variety of assignments including courts, politics, and breaking news. She also reported at Siouxland News in Sioux City Iowa, the shared CBS/Fox television newsroom. Her internships included WGN and Comcast SportsNet in Chicago.