We were so fortunate this morning to have Representative Nancy Pelosi stop by The Huffington Post office to speak to 30 or so female members of our editorial staff. Pelosi kicked off the round table discussion with the story of the first time she met Arianna Huffington (then Stassinopoulos), when Arianna stopped by Pelosi's house in California over twenty years ago. While dazzled by her guest, Pelosi said, she couldn't stop thinking about the bedraggled state of a white duck sofa in her kitchen that her five young children had all but destroyed.
Pelosi and Huffington shared a laugh over the story before Pelosi reflected back on her years as both a politician and mother, both careers she's not abandoning anytime soon. Besides her day-to-day work in Congress, she was on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart last night [see the video above] and had just come from a visit to her grandchildren's kindergarten with her daughter, Alexandra.
Pelosi spoke to our editorial staff about being a mother of five (and grandmother of eight!), why she doesn't think mothers have to be perfect, what women bring to the table in politics, and what she sees as the single biggest hurdle for women who want to get ahead -- and how women can band together to overcome it.
Here are ten pieces of advice Rep. Pelosi shared with us this morning -- about getting into politics and just being better at life:
1. "Know your power."
"Don't model yourself after anybody," said Pelosi. "You are the authentic you."
2. Don't be afraid to ask other people to invest in you
One of the biggest deterrents she sees to women entering politics is their reluctance to ask for money in order to run for office. "If you believe in yourself and your knowledge and your judgment on issues ... people will be attracted to you, the funds will come," Pelosi advised.
3. "You can lose the election but win the campaign."
Even if you lose the race, Pelosi said, if you've run, you've asserted yourself as a member of the community willing to serve and lead.
4. "They go after your strengths."
As a woman who's broken many barriers -- before she became the first female speaker of the House of Representatives in 2007, Pelosi was the first woman appointed Democratic leader, meaning that she was the first women to lead a major political party -- she's learned that it's not your weaknesses your opponents will go after, but your strengths. Which is why, she said, "Women need to watch each other's backs."
5. Women manage time better.
"Women are better listeners and are time-oriented; we have things to come home to .. so we come to the table to make decisions," she said.
6. "Want to lead? Trust your gut."
Trusting your intuition is crucial to leadership, she said, though she cautioned that you have to back up that intuition with information. Do your homework.
7. Childcare is the missing link.
Given all of the gains women have made, Pelosi identified a lack of "quality childcare" as "one of the biggest impediments" to finally achieving equality. "Knowing our kids are taken care of, that's the biggest liberator for women," she said.
8. The best you can is good enough.
Pelosi had five children in six years, and told the audience,"Some days I didn't even wash my face. I couldn’t have the privacy of closing my door." When asked to evaluate her job as a parent, she said she tells reporters: "I did the best I could -- it wasn't necessarily the best I knew how. Other factors intervened, like free will on the part of the children," she smiled. "They say 'LOVE' is an acronym for 'Let Other Versions Exist!'"
9. You don't have to have a plan.
Pelosi called her rise in politics "serendipitous," and says she wrote her book, "Know Your Power: A Message To America's Daughters," in part to correct rumors that she had wanted to be Speaker since age five. "I was a teen in the 50s -- I just wanted to rock around the clock!" she joked.
A stay-at-home mom, Pelosi didn't run for office until her youngest daughter, Alexandra (who happened to be in the audience today) left for college. She said she had five teenagers when she was first approached about running for Congress, and made a choice to be at home with them.
10. Remember that whenever you take a leadership role, you are representing other women.
If more women enter politics, it shows other women "there is someone representing me who shares my experience," Pelosi said.
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