Tina Tchen, a former assistant to President Barack Obama and former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, says she welcomes Ivanka Trump’s focus on women’s issues — but don’t look for the pair to team up anytime soon.
“Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I guess that’s where I would start,” Tchen, former executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, tells POLITICO’s Carrie Budoff Brown in the latest episode of the “Women Rule” podcast. “It’s good that they’re talking about these issues, but then I think we have to be very vigilant.”
Tchen won’t rule out working with the first daughter, who has been criticized by some Democratic women for failing to speak up forcefully against policy proposals that they say will harm women.
“I wouldn’t say I’m never going to work with her just because she’s Ivanka Trump in the White House,” Tchen says. She considers it “a mark of how far we have come that this Republican White House feels compelled to talk about women’s empowerment and women’s entrepreneurship and to do some things in support of that.”
Tchen, who spent much of her time in the executive branch focused on issues like paid family leave and affordable child care, explains more of her thinking on Ivanka Trump in this episode of “Women Rule.” She also discusses her experience as a working single mother, reflects on how Michelle Obama was as a boss, and offers what she calls “controversial” insight into how professional women should conduct themselves.
You can find highlights of the interview with Tchen below:
1:40 Tchen, who introduces herself as “unemployed” these days, describes her guiltiest pleasures now that she no longer works in the White House.
2:20 Tchen tells the story of how her father was in denial for three days after she was born that she was a girl.
“So there’s a G-rated version, and there’s a not-so-G-rated version. So this is a podcast. I guess I can do like the full-on version,” the former White House adviser jokes.
5:57 Tchen discusses how she balanced the pressures of being a working single mother as a corporate lawyer and later as a staffer in the White House.
“It’s not easy,” Tchen recalls. “And so I think it’s important to tell the truth about this stuff and not make it look like, this is like, ‘Oh, you could have it all. It’s really easy.’”
That experience, she notes, informed the White House’s policy priorities, especially when it came to their dedication to “working family issues.”
10:55 Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff gives an inside look at what it was like in the East Wing of the White House, detailing how the former first lady was — and wasn’t — a “tough” boss.
12:54 Tchen answers the question: “What was your toughest day working in the White House?”
14:39 What’s next for the former first family? Tchen says the Obamas have “some things on their agenda already,” including books to write and a daughter to send off to college.
But as for any future policy work they may be involved in, Tchen is keeping mum. “I think they’re both going to be deliberate in thinking about how to act,” she says.
16:11 Tchen weighs in on how she’s avoided keeping up with every twist and turn of the new Republican administration. “There’s so much happening,” she notes. “I have missed things.”
But of the Trump administration and Republican efforts to roll back Barack Obama’s legacy, Tchen says, “we — more than anybody — know that elections have consequences. Some of what’s happening is what we said would happen.”
19:49 Tchen discusses her current advisory role with Empowering a Billion Women by 2020 and the United State of Women, which she bills as a “grass-roots megaphone for the women’s movement.”
23:54 The former Obama staffer, who says she’s “never met Ivanka Trump,” gives credit to the elder Trump daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, “for taking seriously the responsibility and the opportunity that they have to serve the American public as well, even though they weren’t elected.”
Despite some controversy over Ivanka Trump and her proposals for women’s empowerment, Tchen expressed some openness to cooperating with her. But she follows that up with the caveat that “whether there’s a potential collaboration to me, it’s all based on what you’re actually doing, not just what you’re saying.”
29:29 Tchen discusses her former role as executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
31:39 Would the former White House staffer ever run for office? “No,” Tchen says definitively.
She weighs in on the obstacles women face in running for office and offers up advice for professional women on being confident in their abilities.
Tchen also gives “controversial” insight into how women should dress in the office: “I’m going to say appearances actually kind of matter. … As a woman, you get a hard-enough time getting attention paid to you. And the last thing I think you need to add to that is to come in jeans and a T-shirt to a business meeting, even if it is on a Saturday.”
42:25 Tchen discusses what it was like to fly out of Andrews Air Force Base on the last plane ride with the Obamas.