WASHINGTON — As one of 20 women in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has embraced her role as a force to advance women's standing in politics — even in her literature selections.
In a BuzzFeed Brews interview on Tuesday, Gillibrand said she read The Hunger Games as "a women's rights book" — but was "really disappointed in the ending" when Katniss, the protagonist, ended up tending to a garden instead of, say, going into politics.
Gillibrand has chosen a different path for herself. "When I first entered the Senate, I thought, what can I do to move this ball?" she said.
"I want to create a Rosie the Riveter for our generation," Gillibrand added.
Although women have made progress penetrating the notoriously male-dominated halls of Congress, Gillibrand is hoping for a better ratio yet: A legislative branch composed of at least 51% women.
"I think when you have male and female voices at the table, you're just going to have better outcome," she said.
President Barack Obama apparently agrees and offered to host a quarterly dinner at the White House for female senators. Gillibrand accepted and is trying to firm up the engagement.
Gillibrand also acknowledged the unique professional and personal challenges those female voices in Congress must grapple with, including balancing their family lives and children with their legislative duties.
"When you have children, you need to make them lunch," she laughed. She added, "I try to make sure their teeth are brushed, because no one wants to smell their teeth in the car."
She also tries to keep her schedule as flexible as possible, and open from 5 to 7 p.m. to pick her children up from school. As a senator, it's not always easy.
But Gillibrand says she tries to channel her experiences as a mother toward understanding and advocating for a range of other policy issues — from equal pay for women to gun control, particularly in light of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
"There's not a parent in the world who didn't look at Sandy Hook and fear for the safety of their own children," Gillibrand said. "The intensity of that issue and the severity of what happened has really brought it home to me that we really have to do much better."