Washington will swallow your soul if you let it. It’s a place where many moral compasses go to die. So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the vice president of the United States is ridiculed when it’s reported that he’s spent his time in office choosing to live his life differently from the DC status quo.
Since a Washington Post profile of Karen Pence, the vice president’s wife, appeared last week, critics have obsessed over a single line which reported that, as of 2002, the vice president doesn’t dine alone with women other than his wife. At the Atlantic, the New Yorker and other venues, writers have argued that Pence’s preference amounts to a discriminatory policy against women employees, leading to them being left out of important meetings that could boost their careers.
But it’s not true. And I would know: I’m a woman, and I worked for Pence while he served in Congress.
Pence’s personal decision to not dine alone with female staffers was never a hindrance to my ability to do my job well, and never kept me from reaping the rewards of my work. In fact, I excelled at my job because of the work environment created from the top down, and my personal determination to succeed.
I engaged in senior staff meetings and strategy sessions side-by-side with the congressman and my colleagues, and I never felt sidelined because of my gender. My proposals and suggestions were always valued as equal with those of my male counterparts.
As time went on, I was able to prove that I could handle increased responsibilities, and so more responsibilities were provided to me. My gender never factored into how my work was evaluated, or whether my responsibilities were expanded. In fact, the congressman would sometimes send me to GOP leadership communication meetings to represent his voice — and more often than not, I was the only woman in the room.