Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for Donald Trump, said on Wednesday she wouldn't want a role in the White House because it would get in the way of her being a mother of four.
She made the comments during POLITICO's Women Rule Summit in Washington, DC.
Conway said there are increasing opportunities for women in politics, but motherhood is still an issue.
We still have to make choices. There are limits.
She said other senior campaign members will ask her why she doesn't want a position, saying "I know you have four kids, but--"
And I say, 'There's nothing that comes after the 'but' that makes any sense to me, so don't even try.' What is the 'but?' 'But' they'll eat Cheerios for the rest of the day? Nobody will brush their teeth again until I get home? What is the 'but?'
Conway said she has told these men the question is not if they, the men, would want to take a big job in the White House. Instead, she tells them the question is if they would want their wife to take that job.
'Would you want the mother of your children to?' You really see their entire visage change. It's like, 'Oh, no.' They wouldn't want their wife to take that job. But it's, it's all good.
Valerie Jarrett, who has served as senior advisor to President Barack Obama for the past eight years, disagreed with Conway's assessment of mothers' role in the White House.
During a Women Rule session later in the day, Jarrett said she spoke to Conway backstage and encouraged her to try a role in the White House. Jarrett said,
First of all, because the experience inside the White House, working with somebody you respect and know as well as she does the president-elect, is unique.
Jarrett acknowledged it was different for her than Conway as she has a daughter, but her daughter is 31 years old.
However, Jarrett said,
I also know there are a lot of women [...] who did raise young children in the White House.
I think tone starts at the top. If you have a relationship with your boss such as she can say, 'Look, this is a top priority, there's nothing more important to me than being a good mom, but I think I can be a good mom and have the flexibility enough to do this job well.' I encouraged her to try.
Jarrett went on to give advice to any bosses trying to create an environment where working mothers and fathers can be comfortable. She said it's up to the boss to say workplace flexibility and working families are priorities.
But from there, they also have to "walk the walk." For example, at the Obama White House, there is a three-month maternity and paternity leave and top members are encouraged to take advantage of those.
For her part, Conway said women of all marital statuses are welcome in the Trump White House (hip-hip-hooray), but this is her personal choice. She said,
I think the most important thing for all is to realize you have to make the decision and be comfortable with it. Every woman should be respected for making her own choice.