UC President Janet Napolitano and former U.S. senator from California Barbara Boxer joined Politico’s Women Rule summit Tuesday in Los Angeles to speak about their experiences working in the public sphere.
The summit, which was launched by Politico in 2013, features influential women who work toward female empowerment and is “devoted to expanding leadership opportunities for all women,” according to Politico’s website.
Boxer said the year 1976 was her defining moment, as it was when she realized the country was divided and decided to run for a seat on the Marin County Board of Supervisors. She stated that a setback should not discourage anyone — even though she lost her first election, she subsequently won 11 elections.
Napolitano spoke about when she ran for governor of Arizona as a Democrat. She had been asked by a local newspaper if she intended to run for the highest offices in the state “as a woman.”
“Think about that question,” Napolitano said to the audience.
Boxer said she experienced something similarly bizarre, recalling a woman who refused to vote for her. The woman justified her decision by saying Boxer was “neglecting (her) three children” if she got elected. Boxer said she responded that, as a matter of fact, she has only two children — and encouraging women to enter the workforce without neglecting their children is part of her political program. Prejudices have always been prevalent among men and women alike, according to Boxer.
With regard to how women are perceived in higher office positions, Napolitano mentioned a hostage situation in a prison that happened while she was governor of Arizona. Right-wing media accused the state government under her leadership of being “too weak to storm the place,” according to Napolitano.
Napolitano eventually agreed to the demands and had steaks and beer delivered by a robot to the prison. When the hostages were freed, one of the guards grabbed Napolitano’s hand and thanked her for not storming the prison, claiming such thinking had saved his life.
Boxer said her time in Congress gave her insight into how women work effectively with one another, especially in a predominantly male field. Boxer also said the best way to deal with offensive comments is to consider them as an expression of admiration. She referred to a comment in which she was insulted by a conservative commentator.
“Once, I asked my assistant to download everything bad that has been said about me,” Boxer said, “and Ann Coulter said about me, ‘Barbara Boxer is a great candidate for the Democratic Party: female and learning disabled.’ ”
At the end of the panel, Boxer and Napolitano agreed that women should not lose their passion or let other people shut them down.
Contact Jan Schuermann at [email protected].