Slideshow

What’s It Like to Be a Woman on Capitol Hill?

The Hill isn’t your average office, but it’s an office nonetheless.

May 14, 2015, 4:05 p.m.

This spring, Na­tion­al Journ­al an­onym­ously sur­veyed wo­men staffers about what it’s like to be a wo­man on the Hill. We asked more than 500 of them to share wheth­er—and how—gender plays a role in their work.

We re­ceived dozens of re­sponses, from chiefs and deputy chiefs of staff, le­gis­lat­ive and com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­ors, le­gis­lat­ive as­sist­ants and press sec­ret­ar­ies, in the House and Sen­ate, work­ing for both parties. The young­est was 23, the old­est 60. Their per­son­al stor­ies—as­ton­ish­ingly hon­est and pain­fully re­lat­able—con­firmed that be­ing a wo­man on the Hill is a tricky bal­an­cing act.

Many wo­men re­por­ted care­fully walk­ing a line between peace­maker and power broker. One wo­man said she gently ex­plains to her con­gress­man why his mes­saging on “wo­men’s is­sues” might not work. An­oth­er said she dis­covered her new job would pay her ex­actly 76 cents to the dol­lar of what the man who pre­vi­ously had it earned.

Their ex­per­i­ences are con­fined to Cap­it­ol Hill, but they may speak to a great­er Amer­ic­an ex­per­i­ence. If sex­ism per­sists with­in the halls of Con­gress, what is it like for wo­men out­side of them?

Re­sponses have been lightly ed­ited for gram­mar and clar­ity.

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