Nancy Pelosi Blasts Media Sexism: “What was the day any of you said, ‘Aren’t you getting a little old, Mitch?’”

THURSDAY, NOV 13, 2014 11:20 AM PST

The House minority leader called out a reporter for perpetuating a double standard for women in positions of power.

As the Democratic caucus decides on congressional leadership positions on Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi faces no contest for her post — but that hasn’t stopped speculation about whether she’ll remain in the role. During her weekly press conference, Pelosi fired back at a reporter who asked about any plans to step down from her leadership position, questioning whether Sen. Mitch McConnell would ever be asked the same question.

“What was the day that any of you said to Mitch McConnell when they lost the Senate three times in a row … ‘Aren’t you getting a little old, Mitch? Shouldn’t you step aside?’” Pelosi asked. “Have you ever asked him that question?” She went on:

I don’t understand why that question should even come up. I’m here as long as my members want me to be here, as long as there’s a reason to be here. I’m not here on a schedule, or anything except a a mission to get a job done. … It just is interesting, as a woman, to see how many times that question is asked of a woman, and how many times that question is never asked of Mitch McConnell.

Pelosi added that she feels she “has a mission for women” and addressed several other notable disparities in the media’s response to her leadership, as opposed to that of McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner. As an example, she cited coverage following the 2006 midterms, when she became the first and only woman ever to be elected speaker of the House.

“I was never on the front of Time magazine, even though I was the first woman to be [speaker],” Pelosi said. “Isn’t that a curiosity, that the Republicans win and Boehner is on the front of Time magazine? Mitch McConnell wins and he is on the front of Time magazine. Is there a pattern here? As a woman … Is there a message here? Is there something that we’re missing?”

Watch the clip from Pelosi’s press conference below:

Jenny KutnerJenny Kutner is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on sex, gender and feminism. Follow @jennykutner or email

Thanks for Being a Feminist

Ms. Foundation President and CEO Teresa C. Younger

Ms. Foundation President and CEO Teresa C. Younger

As Thanksgiving nears, I am reminded of how grateful I am for women who paved the way for me. From Sojourner Truth to Gloria Steinem, I appreciate the blood, sweat and tears our foremothers sacrificed in their fight for women’s rights. I also appreciate the friendship and mentoring that has helped me every step of the way on my path.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “Sometimes, idealistic people are put off the whole business of networking as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantage. But virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven. To succeed in this world you have to be known to people.”

I couldn’t agree more. One of my early mentors told me that I have an obligation to introduce two people to each other each day. That’s because she knew that networking is essential – not only to our success as individuals, but also to further our cause for women’s empowerment collectively. We need to expand our networks, mentor other women and constantly create new circles of collaboration to build the strength we need to be successful.

Networking is part of my listening tour. During a recent trip to Pittsburgh, I was able to meet with a host of women leaders, including the heads of women’s funds there and some of their grantees. Thanks to Ms. Foundation board chair Heather Arnet and board member Cathy Raphael, we were able to strengthen our ties to allies there. By making those connections in Pittsburgh, we’re going to be more effective as we continue our work for women throughout the country. Forging stronger relationships with women’s state and local funds will enable us to coordinate on campaigns and initiatives where our issues intersect, maximizing both resources and impact.

At a recent forum in New York, more than 200 people, mostly women, packed the room to learn about each other and workplace trends for women. While the forum was a venue to share information about the barriers women face at work, it also was an important opportunity to network. The crowd was a mix of people, and it gave the attendees a chance to make new connections to expand their personal networks. One thing I noticed was that while some of the women in attendance were keen to introduce themselves to new people, many did not. They hung back and listened – but they didn’t “work the room.”

My advice to all women: Make as many connections as possible. Build your personal network of contacts, friends and mentors. Do your bit to help another woman. All of us have something to offer; mentoring is not only for executives. After your first weeks on a job, there is always someone coming up behind you. Reach out and help her – even if it’s only to offer small bits of advice or information.

Don’t confine your networking to work. Whether you’re at the grocery store, a basketball game, community meeting or doctor’s appointment, don’t miss the opportunity to make connections. Be sure to use your connections to help the causes and organizations that you support.

Women account for a little more than half of the population. Imagine what we could accomplish if we all worked together. This month, try to make one new contact or mentor someone. Sisterhood truly is powerful – but only if we commit to helping our sisters.

The mission of the Ms. Foundation for Women is to build women’s collective power to realize a nation of justice for all.

Ms. Foundation for Women
© 2014 All rights reserved.

Amanda Schroeder: Union Official Couldn’t Get Leave OK’d Before Cancer Surgery

By Mike Francis |
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on November 14, 2014

Amanda Schroeder in June, as she was receiving treatments following her cancer surgery. It took the intervention of a Congressperson to get her leave approved. (Mike Francis / The Oregonian)

Amanda Schroeder in June, as she was receiving treatments following her cancer surgery. It took the intervention of a Congressperson to get her leave approved. (Mike Francis / The Oregonian)

Amanda Schroeder, an Army veteran who is classified as disabled, has had a difficult year. The ratings specialist in the VA’s Portland Regional Benefits Office was diagnosed with breast cancer last November, started chemotherapy in December and underwent a double mastectomy the day after Memorial Day this year. Post-surgery, she underwent a series of radiation treatments.

Her experience with the VA made a bad situation worse, said the wife and mother of two children.

First, she used up her paid leave, which was extended when coworkers donated additional hours of their own leave to her. But how much? She says still hasn’t been told, despite repeated requests for an accounting. Her best clue is the approximately $5,000 the agency deposited in her account in January. That amount represented some portion of the donated leave.

Then, she said, she received a last-minute demand for additional medical documentation on the Friday before the Memorial Day holiday. The agency said it couldn’t grant her leave from her job until it was received.

After her surgery, with her employment status still unsettled, the office of Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., intervened. Only then did the VA grant her unpaid leave, Amanda Schroeder said. She went without pay, except for two smaller payments related to donated leave, until she returned to work in September when her radiation treatments were finished.

Worst of all, Schroeder spent most of the year believing she had lost her private life insurance because of the agency’s negligence.

When the agency stopped paying her, the premiums that had been automatically deducted from her paycheck stopped. She thought her coverage lapsed and she was furious.

“I will never get life insurance again,” she said this summer. “I’m a 37-year-old woman with breast cancer.”

Schroeder, who’s now 38, got a pleasant surprise late last month. She learned that a benefactor in her union had picked up her premiums when the VA stopped paying them. Contrary to what she understood since before her surgery, her coverage didn’t lapse.

“I’m really emotional,” she said in an email Halloween morning after getting off the phone with her insurance carrier. “I am still covered (by) insurance, no thanks to the agency, but great, great thanks to my union.”

Here’s the other thing that makes Schroeder’s case exceptional: She is president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents about 3,300 VA employees. As union representative, she has represented employees in equal-opportunity actions against VA managers, participated in audits with schedulers and publicly criticized the agency’s personnel policies. Google her name and you’ll see that she has criticized the agency for burning out its employees. She also wrote a blog post just before her surgery in which she called the agency “cruel” and “non-caring.”

Her treatment by her own human relations department during her leave for cancer treatments, she says, was “totally retaliatory.”

Schroeder says others in her office also are veterans who have asked for accommodations for their disabilities, from different job duties to altered seating arrangements. But at least some requests, she said, were met with “a punitive reaction.” Over time, she said, disabled veteran coworkers have quit in frustration.

“They’re burning out at an unconscionable rate,” she said. At the same time, “one of the biggest things we need is more staff. We don’t have enough people.”

Chris Marshall, the director of the Portland VA Regional Office, which handles veterans’ benefits claims, noted that more than 60 percent of the office’s employees are military veterans and many have service-connected disabilities, the result of a conscious effort to hire more disabled veterans.

“When any of our employees experience a health problem or other personal hardship, we support them to the greatest extent possible through our existing programs.,” he said through a spokesman. “The Portland VA Regional Office is committed to the mission of serving veterans.  This can only be achieved through a workforce that receives the same care and compassion that we provide to the veterans we serve.”

Marshall said the office can’t discuss employees’ personal matters, but “we will continue to work hard to resolve concerns.”

-Mike Francis