Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi Discuss COVID-19's Setbacks for Women: "There’s a Lot of Making Up That Needs to Happen"

Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Amanda Gorman and Chrissy Teigen
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In a conversation moderated by Amanda Gorman, the current House speaker and former secretary of state also talked about how to bring more women into politics and navigating male-dominated work environments: "We have to have each other's backs."

Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi discussed how to bring more women into politics and reverse COVID-19's deleterious effect on women in the workplace in a conversation moderated by Amanda Gorman on International Women's Day on Monday.

Answering questions from an audience that numbered over 6,000, Pelosi and Clinton additionally talked about how they got into politics, the hardest moments in their careers, their biggest regrets and how they handle expressing themselves in male-dominated workplaces during a fundraiser event for Clinton's Onward Together PAC and Pelosi's PAC to the Future that was introduced by Chrissy Teigen. "Women have to remember though it's not a zero-sum game if some women succeed. It doesn't mean it's at the expense of others. We have to have each other's backs, we have to be there together," Pelosi said at the beginning of the conversation, setting the tone for a discussion that frequently focused on women supporting one another in politics and in the office.

First-ever National Youth Poet Laureate Gorman — who has expressed her own political ambitions — kicked off the question-and-answer portion of the event by noting “we received so many inquiries from our guests who are women who are thinking of running for office and don’t know where to begin." In response, Pelosi urged women to have confidence and consider their unique contributions: "There’s nobody like the authentic you. I know we all have people we admire and that’s nice. But be you," she said. She also encouraged viewers to consider their "why" for running and channel that passion in their efforts to run for public life.

Clinton, for her part, said that political aspirants who know their passions and their goals should be prepared for opportunities that can suddenly arise: "You have to be on your toes for an opportunity that presents itself," she said.

Asked about the hardest moments in their careers, Clinton said that 9/11 posed a distinct challenge for her as a new senator, while Pelosi cited the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6: "That was a very, very hard day. It continues to be," she said. Their biggest regrets? Clinton said voting for the Iraq War, which she added "was described and explained to me [in a way] that made it seem as though that vote would have given President George W. Bush the authority and backing to go to the United Nations to force Saddam Hussein to reveal whether or not he really had weapons of mass destruction or not." She noted that that's not what happened.

The pair also discussed tips for being heard in male-dominated work environments, with Pelosi noting that a leadership position in the Democratic party facilitated her being heard and Clinton urging women to amplify what other women say by repeating their points, as well as selectively using "humor and deadpan looks" in response to points they don't agree with.

Pointing out that it's been 25 years since Clinton's Beijing speech that asserted "women's rights are human rights," Gorman asked the former Secretary of State what she thought about the international progress of women's rights since 1995. "We were making progress until COVID," Clinton responding, citing lower maternal mortality rates, more widespread education for women and more election of women to political office. During the pandemic, however, "women have lost jobs, they’ve lost access to childcare and their children are not in school" in the U.S., while globally, she said women are leaving the workplace and are seeing an uptick in domestic violence. "There’s a lot of making up that needs to happen," she said.

At the end of the conversation, Pelosi and Clinton discussed politics being a "contact sport" that required dealing with negativity. Clinton, as she frequently has in the past, quoted Eleanor Roosevelt's line about developing skin like a rhinoceros' to withstand public life. "Well, she didn't even know about social media, back when she said it a century ago," Clinton said. "So yeah, it’s not an easy road, but it is so rewarding.”