She Works: The Only Woman In The Room

Apr 28, 2013
Originally published on May 10, 2013 6:01 pm

Over the next few weeks we'll be asking NPR women about their careers — and inviting you to join the conversation. This question goes to Nina Totenberg, NPR's intrepid legal affairs correspondent.

Question: When have you been the only woman in the room?

Nina Totenberg: "When have I been the only woman in the room, are you kidding me? Like the first 20 years of my career. I was always the only woman in the room. Almost every place I went whether I was covering Capitol Hill, or covering the Supreme Court, or the White House, or on a campaign trip I was, if not the only woman, there might have been one or two others. And that just simply isn't true anymore. Just look around, and there are lots of us.

"If you do find yourself the only woman in the room, first of all try to get another woman in there with you. And take as your example Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who when she found herself the only woman on the Supreme Court after Justice O'Connor retired, kept saying, not very subtly: I'm the only woman here; I sometimes get treated in a way I haven't been treated in years; people go around the table and I have something to say, and nobody reacts, and then a half-hour later some man says the same thing and everybody says, 'Oh what a good idea.' Finally now there are three women on the court. So my first piece of advice is get another woman in the room. And my second is demand respect. You should get it. You don't have to be a man to get it. You don't have to be a flirt to get it. Just be yourself and if it's not working for some reason, just say so."

When have you been the only woman in the room? Join the conversation in the comments section below.

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