Nancy Pelosi on How Women Can Succeed in Politics & Business
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s advice to women aspiring to succeed in politics or the workplace is simple: Know your motivation, and don’t be afraid to throw a punch.
The California Democrat, the first woman to serve as House speaker and one of a few in history to hold the position twice, was interviewed by Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief Emma Tucker at WSJ’s Women in the Workplace Forum on Tuesday evening at Lincoln Center in New York.
“Just have so much confidence,” she told women in attendance. “Difference of opinion is a very big strength, that’s why we need more women at the table.”
Mrs. Pelosi served as speaker twice—from 2007 to 2011 and from 2019 to early 2023, and continues to serve in the House representing her San Francisco district. She was the first speaker to lose and regain the gavel in more than 60 years.
When Mrs. Pelosi first arrived in Congress in 1987, there were 23 women in the House. In 2019, when she assumed the speakership for the second time, the number of women topped 100. Mrs. Pelosi is credited with recruiting and fundraising for many of the Democratic women.
In her remarks Tuesday, she said women’s ambitions can benefit from both solid preparation and embracing the reason they are pursuing a job or higher office.
“Know your why. Why do you want to undertake this. To be in Congress. To be in the news business, to be in entertainment, to be in the corporate world…why should you be the one that has that particular position at that time.”
For her, as a mother of five children, she said she was focused on improving the lives of children nationwide, struck by a statistic that more than one in five children in the U.S. live in poverty.
When asked why anyone would want to pursue a career in politics, Mrs. Pelosi referred to Theodore Roosevelt. “When you’re in the arena, you have to be prepared to take a punch, it’s rough in the arena, and you have to be prepared to throw a punch, for the children,” she said.
Last year, Mrs. Pelosi ended a two-decade run as one of the nation’s most powerful political figures after her party lost control of the House in the midterms and shortly after her husband was seriously injured by a man who entered their home. She left her post as the Democratic Party leader and was succeeded by New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the first Black lawmaker to serve in the position.
During her tenure as leader, Mrs. Pelosi played a central role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the two impeachments of former Republican President Donald Trump and the congressional response to the Covid-19 pandemic.