Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke in Gaston Hall on March 5 in an event co-sponsored by GU Politics and Sirius XM Radio. Pelosi discussed current challenges for women in politics and the continued legacy of the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote in 1920.
A century later, Pelosi now serves as the first female Speaker of the House.
With that perspective, Pelosi described the continuing underrepresentation of women in American elected offices. “I thought that we’d have a woman president long before we’d have a woman Speaker of the House, because if you want to talk about a glass ceiling, I’ll tell you about a marble ceiling,” she said.
Even after a record number of female candidates ran for and won congressional seats in 2018, women are far underrepresented in the U.S. government compared to the national average. The United States ranks 77th out of 193 countries in terms of female representation in national legislatures.
One of the ways Pelosi thinks women can achieve more is by advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would prohibit sex-based discrimination by the government. “People think [the ERA] is already in the Constitution, but it’s not. When I say it’s an organizing tool, what’s really important is the outside mobilization,” she stressed, saying that the ERA inspired many people to advocate for women’s equality.
She indicated that women face an uphill battle establishing credibility with voters, particularly on security issues. “There are some people who just won’t vote for a woman, they don’t believe a woman can be commander-in-chief,” she said.
Pelosi maintained that the Democratic Party is best equipped to advance women’s rights. “Every issue is a woman’s issue. Women, take ownership of it all, because that’s what it takes to be president of the United States.”
Pelosi, 79, also said there are different standards for female and male politicians regarding age, citing comments directed at herself. “What’s funny to me is, I’m the same age as Bernie, and they’ll be like, ‘You’re so old,’” she said. “Is there a little bit of misogyny in all this?”
Pelosi took the opportunity to criticize President Trump at the event. When asked, for example, about a high-profile moment at this year’s State of the Union Address when she tore up her copy of the president’s speech, Pelosi said, “When I tore up the speech, I was cleaning my desk up from a pack of lies.”
“We keep our engines going, so we can win the House again, win the Senate, win the White House, win state elections,” she said. “We will have a woman president, I know we will.”