Applying Lessons From Politics’ Most Prominent Women
By Ryan Velez
These days,following political news is more likely to give you a headache than any sort of meaningful lesson, but despite the current climate, there are still many people hard at work in the nation’s halls of power that we can look up to. In fact, it is in this kind of time, where things seem to be at their most hostile, that we can stand to learn from many of these figures. Black Enterprise recently profiled several women.
The primary example here comes from Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who inadvertently garnered viral attention during the House Financial Services Committee hearing last Thursday. When Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin attempted to stonewall her questions about Donald Trump’s financial ties to Russia by complimenting her, she quickly shut down his attempts.
“We don’t want to take my time up with how great I am,” she said. The refrain of “reclaiming my time” would counter following attempts by Mnuchin to avoid giving direct answers to her questions. At one point, she told him, “You’re on my time and I can reclaim it.” On top of the humorous side that caught fire online, Waters' conduct struck a chord with many women and people of color, who many find themselves having to stand up for themselves or refuse to concede to stubborn colleagues.
In another example, we need to look to earlier this summer, where Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tried to circumvent questions from U.S Sen. Kamala Harris about the probe into President Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. Harris would not be deterred, continuing to demand direct answers. It would be Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr who silenced her by saying that she was not showing enough “courtesy” in her line of questioning. This would lead to a show of support for Harris from many women, who shared their own stories of being silenced at work, sometimes for behavior that a male colleague would be able to get away with, if not be rewarded for.
A similar example happened earlier this year as well, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren was silenced when she was giving a floor speech during debate over the nomination of Jeff Sessions to attorney general. To make a point about Sessions’ history of disenfranchising black voters, Warren read a letter by Coretta Scott King. In response, Sen. Steve Daines ruled that she violated Rule 19 of the standing rules of the Senate. Mitch McConnell would also condemn her for her persistence, but his statement that “she persisted” would end up becoming a motto for other women who feel like they are fighting an uphill battle for equal treatment in the workplace.