Buried in a Washington Post article about Resident Trump’s meeting with Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi this past week was this nugget:
At one point, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross asked, “What exactly does the president get out of this deal?” As Pelosi, the only woman at the table of 11, tried to make her point — that the president gets the cooperation of the Democrats, which he will likely need on a host of issues — the men in the room began talking over her and one another.
“Do the women get to talk around here?” Pelosi interjected, according to two people familiar with the exchange.
There was, at last, silence, and she was not interrupted again.
This exchange with one of the most powerful women in the country and one of the most effective Democratic Leaders in my lifetime will come as no surprise to most women, particularly those who operate in male-dominated environments. Despite the gains women have made in our American society over the past few decades, the fact remains that, in order to be heard, women – even powerful women like Leader Pelosi – have to go to extraordinary lengths. Even in the administration of President Obama, it was a problem:
At the beginning of President Obama’s first term in 2009, about two-thirds of his top staffers were men, and women staffers often felt their voices were not being included or straight up ignored. “It’s not pleasant to have to appeal to a man to say, ‘Include me in that meeting,’” national security adviser Susan Rice told The Washington Post, explaining how women in the Obama administration sometimes had to force their way into important meetings. Eventually, to make sure their voices were being heard female staffers came up with a strategy called “amplification.” This method, as explained by the Post, worked like this: Once a woman in the room made a key point “other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.”
Since the election of Donald Trump, women have been getting off the sidelines and demanding to be heard. Most #resistance groups like those formed around the Indivisible Guide are led by women, for example, and most of the people active in them are women. Not only that, women are stepping up to run for office in unprecedented levels. Here in Michigan we have women running in at least four seats currently held by male Republicans: Fayrouz Saad and Haley Stevens in MI-11. Elissa Slotkin in MI-08. Gretchen Driskell in MI-07. The leading Democratic contender for governor is Gretchen Whitmer. And, of course, Debbie Dingell and Brenda Lawrence are already in Congress with Debbie Stabenow in the Senate.
And it’s not just Michigan. Here are some jaw-dropping facts:
- Since the election, more than 15,000 people have joined the She Should Run community and in the three months following the election, 8,100 women indicated their interest in running for office by registering for She Should Run’s online incubator program.
- IGNITE has had inquiries from 500 women across the country who want to start college chapters and a similar number of educators who want to bring IGNITE programming into their schools.
- Emerge America has seen applications jump by 87 percent.
- Since the election, more than 16,000 women have reached out to EMILY’s List to inquire about running for office.
What Leader Pelosi experienced in her meeting with Trump this week is still all too common, unfortunately. But this new surge of women candidates is an important part of changing this retrograde cultural “norm”.
And our country will be better for it.