‘How do we achieve the goal of a woman in the White House?’ Nancy Pelosi wants to know.

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has a conversation with WBUR reporter Meghna Chakrabarti during the Women Who Empower Summit in the East Village. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

It’s only a matter of time before we see a woman in the White House, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told an audience of students, staff, and faculty at Northeastern University on Monday. 

“It will happen,” she said, less than a week after Elizabeth Warren, once a frontrunner in the Democratic primaries, dropped out of the race for the U.S. presidency. “It has an inevitability. But our goal in politics and government is always to shorten the distance. What might be inconceivable to some is inevitable to us.”

Pelosi made her remarks during an hour-long conversation with Meghna Chakrabarti, host of “On Point” from WBUR and National Public Radio, as part of a Women Who Empower event hosted by Northeastern. The wide-ranging discussion covered the Democratic presidential race, women in politics, the climate, and health care.

While she declined to say which of the two remaining Democratic candidates she supports in the primaries, Pelosi noted that she “usually always” casts her votes for candidates who are women.

She lauded politicians such as Hillary Clinton for their efforts in advancing the representation of women in politics, and said that she would welcome a president from the other side of the aisle, as long as she shared similar values.

Pelosi also discussed the challenges she has faced in breaking the “marble ceiling,” on her way to becoming the first woman to lead a major party in Congress.

“It took over 200 years of the pecking order, one person after another, all in line,” she said. “And then when I sort of broke into the line, they said, ‘Who said she could run?’”

In response to a question about how she manages to remain “strong and focused” in the face of judgment and criticisms, Pelosi made a reference to an oft-quoted speech by Theodore Roosevelt.

“If you get into that arena, you have to be ready to take a punch,” she said. “You also have to be ready to throw a punch.”

After the event, Pelosi addressed questions from reporters about the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, and the ramifications that the fast-spreading disease has had on the financial market. Addressing these challenges will require a “coordinated government-wide response,” she said.

She also discussed an $8.3 billion spending package Congress recently passed to fight and treat the novel coronavirus. She said that she plans to seek additional legislation to provide financial aid to workers, businesses, families, and the uninsured, and underscored the importance of making available benefits such as unemployment insurance or paid family leave to people who are not able to work because of the coronavirus.

“We’re saying all of America benefits if you allay the concerns of America’s working families, because consumer confidence is the lifeblood of our economy,” Pelosi said.

U.S. Representative Katherine Clark told the reporters that at least $11.65 million of the $8.3 billion emergency funding package would go to local communities in Massachusetts to support research on treatment and vaccine development for COVID-19.

Clark, who is a congresswoman from Massachusetts, was introduced by Diane MacGillivray, Northeastern’s senior vice president for university advancement. Along with Philomena Mantella, MacGillivray created the Women who Empower symposium with the intention of building a network to mentor young women, especially those who have entrepreneurial aspirations.

MacGillivray shared a story about her experience attending an all-girls high school in the 1980s. At the time, she said, women supporting other women was not considered “cool.”   

“I wish I could say that that is a relic of a bygone era, that everything has changed, but current events suggest that we still have a long way to go,” she said. “It’s through platforms like Women Who Empower, through these networks, these forums, that we can unabashedly and enthusiastically cheer on our women and girls.”

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