Speaking of the way some men in the media mocked Hillary Clinton saying they crossed their legs when they see her, Gloria Steinem said, “These serious men –”
Nancy Pelosi interrupted, “They weren’t that serious.”
It was that kind of panel.
A panel of kick butt women rocked the DC Working Families Summit, with refreshing candor. It was moderated by Mika Brzenzinski, and included Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Dr. Judith Rodin, Katherine Phillips, Debra Lee and Gloria Steinem.
A rather unchained Mika listed many of the things that President Obama has done for women, starting with the first piece of legislation he chose to sign (the Lily Ledbetter Act). This was Mika at her best, the way we don’t get to see her on Morning Joe. (Note to MSNBC: many women and men would enjoy a show just like this panel led by the brilliant Ms. Brzenzinski.)
The panel debated how to get more women at the table. Nancy Pelosi answered that if we got money out of politics and the debate were more civil we would be able to elect more women to Congress. The audience of mostly women responded very enthusiastically to this, suggesting that at least some women do feel isolated from running for political office by the ugliness and rudeness exhibited in our political debate.
Pelosi said we need more women in office not because women are better than men, but that the balance is important and would create a more wholesome environment.
“When women vote, women win,” the former Speaker of the House told the audience. The fact of the matter is that too many women don’t vote.
“Companies with women on the boards are actually more productive, and we look at Europe where the rate of diverse boards is more productive, I think it’s double,” Gloria Steinem offered, noting that women contribute a lot in societies where they are at the table. She joked, “We do have some things to teach, what to do wrong, for one thing.”
Steinem pointed out that we need to focus on state legislatures if we want progress. “We can all see from the retrograde legislation and the anti-abortion legislation that some of them are totally unrepresentative of their states because we haven’t paid attention and then they redistrict themselves into perpetuity. That’s why we get members in the House that don’t represent their own states. And we have to do that, we have to focus on that. If each of you take ten people and each of you take one guy and monitor him all of the time, and you demonstrate outside of his house, we could change the nature of state legislature.”
Steinem reminded women to be careful of what they model themselves after — in other words, it’s not that women want to behave like those folks who aren’t being egalitarian to others. She reminded everyone we need to let some folks know that the huge salaries that some are making in this economy is ridiculous.
Speaking about women’s negotiating behaviors, Mika pointed out that the White House made an app for women so they can see what others make. She urged women to get out and learn to talk, saying that speaking live makes her sweat bullets but she does it anyway. She told women that we worry about people liking us, but, “They will like you. After they respect you.”
Mika gave the women a tip to forge their own way, “Don’t act like Joe. Joe can act like Joe.”
Pelosi pointed out that Obamacare gives women a big chance at independence, it gives women an equal chance at being entrepreneurs because they aren’t locked into a healthcare plan for their kids. This is the kind of freedom our founders fought for.
An audience member shouted out, “Thank you Nancy for the ACA!” The audience clapped and Pelosi blushed happily. Pelosi always has a very focused direction. She said she wanted to take this idea that when women succeed, America succeeds, to Congress. Pelosi said it’s not just about getting women into office because not every woman supports other women.
These women were on fire today — unchained. This is the sort of dialogue that should be mainstream, and if it were, would model for young girls that being a strong woman might not be easy, but it’s worth it.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.