In what ways do you strengthen your community through the above role/position?
Every day I work hard to represent my district. I work to modernize financial service lase and regulations, strengthen consumer protections, and institute more vigilant oversight of the safety and soundness of our nation’s banking industry so all of us can feel more financially secure. I worked for 15 years to secure permanent healthcare for the first responders of 9/11, upholding our promise to Never Forget. I fight tirelessly for women’s rights and protections, passing legislation to provide annual mammograms for women on Medicare, combat sex trafficking, increase funding for law enforcement to process DNA rape kits, and create Women’s Health Offices in five Federal Agencies.
I have brought over $7 billion in federal aid to NYC in just the last 10 years, including funding for the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access. I’m working to improve high speed rail, and secured 85% of the funding to rebuild the Kosciusko bridge.
I am also working on two issues in particular that will affect women across the country; establishing a national museum of women’s history, and passing the Equal Rights Amendment. Many people take for granted that equal rights between men and women are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, but that isn’t the case. The right to vote is the only area in which discrimination on the basis of sex is prohibited. Even though women’s rights have made incredible progress, judicial attitudes can shift, and Congress can repeal existing laws that protect women. We have seen efforts to roll back women’s rights in education, health, employment, and even domestic violence. The ERA is a constitutional amendment which would prohibit denying or abridging equal rights under law by the United States or any state on account of sex. In addition, new language would ensure that women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. With an ERA we can ensure true equality, and only once we all have equal rights can our democracy truly thrive. A women’s history museum is part of this quest for equality. We have museums in Washington for stamps, for spies, and for many great American men, but no museum that documents the contributions and achievements of the women who helped make this country great. Too often, women’s accomplishments and involvement in historical events are overlooked or forgotten and this museum will help us gain a greater understanding of our own history. The museums and memorials in our nation’s capital demonstrate what we value, and this institution would make clear that women have been essential players in the development of our nation. All Americans deserve the chance to be inspired by the amazing women who came before us.
Are there any obstacles you struggle(d) to overcome, specific to being a woman in your role?
It’s certainly gotten better, but when I first started in politics, there weren’t too many women. When I was running for office, people were telling me not to do it. I didn’t listen, and I’ve never lost an election, but I’ve faced plenty of opposition.
I was the first woman to represent my Congressional District. I was the first woman to represent my Council District when I was in the New York City Council, and while I was there I was the first woman to give birth while in office. I am the first woman to Chair the Joint Economic Committee, and one of only 18 women in history to Chair a Congressional committee.
One of the incidents that first inspired me to run for office was actually when I personally faced discrimination as a woman. I was pregnant with my first daughter, and I was working for the New York State Legislature for the Democratic leader. I asked about the family leave policy, and what options I had for maternity leave. I was told that there wasn’t a policy, that women just left after getting pregnant. That wasn’t going to work for me. They told me I could apply for disability leave, but I didn’t want to do that either since I don’t consider pregnancy a disability.
Now, more than 30 years later I’m still fighting to pass paid family leave. I’m still fighting for women’s rights, women’s healthcare, and women’s equality. It’s certainly gotten better, there are more women in office now than when I was first elected. But it’s still an uphill battle, and we’re nowhere near done fighting.
What is the best (most rewarding, empowering, FUN) part of what you do?
Every single day is the best part of my job! I love my work. It’s hard and the hours are long, but it is such a fulfilling job. I love to interact with my constituents and talk to them about their concerns and their dreams for our country. I love when my staff tells me that we’ve helped a family secure their visas, or helped a new constituent become a citizen. I love voting in Washington and fighting for what I believe is right. Being a member of Congress is a chance to be a part of history, a chance to help shape this country into what we want it to be. I don’t think there is any job more amazing than that.
Do you have any advice for women and girls who may look to follow in your footsteps or pursue a course in a similar field?
First, you have to have a real reason for running. It can’t just be because you think it will be fun. A lot of the time it isn’t fun. It’s a lot of hard work and you have to have a real reason, a real passion, for why you want to be in office. Next you need to gain experience. Volunteer in an office or take an internship. Learn the nuts and bolts of what it means to be an elected official. It isn’t glamorous or easy, it’s a lot of long hours and taking care of other people’s problems and putting the needs of the district above your own needs. Third, you should take a long, hard look at yourself and see if you really have it in you to face the kind of opposition that will come your way. It won’t just be from an opponent during a race, it will be constant, especially now with social media. And finally I would say try and find a mentor; someone who has been through the process and can give you guidance and advice. It’s important to have people around you that you can trust.