Kellyanne Conway’s appointment Thursday as counselor to the president elevates a woman to a key position of power in an administration that’s faced criticism over being too white and male.
Out of 26 named White House staff or cabinet members thus far, only six, including Conway, are women. She remains the only woman in a top-level staff position in the Trump White House, joining chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon.
In announcing her new role, the Trump administration heralded her as having “shattered the glass ceiling for women” by being the first female presidential campaign manager to win a general election. And the longtime GOP strategist, who rose to prominence in Republican politics in part as a pollster specializing on Republican women, has never been shy about addressing her gender.
“I’m a female consultant in the Republican Party, which means when I walk into a meeting at the RNC or somewhere I always feel like I’m walking into a bachelor party in the locker room of the Elks club,” she once told the New Yorker.
But last week Conway seemed to acknowledge that the flip side of being a woman in politics — having to juggle a nonstop, high-stress job with the demands of parenting four young children — could’ve kept her out of the White House entirely.
"I do politely mention to them the question isn’t would you take the job, the male sitting across from me who’s going to take a big job in the White House. The question is, ‘Would you want your wife to?’” she noted at an event hosted by Politico. “Would you want the mother of children to? You really see their entire visage change. It’s like, ‘Oh, no, they wouldn’t want their wife to take that job.’"
On Thursday, however, she insisted there would be room for both her family and her job in the Trump White House.
“[President-elect Trump] is gracious, he’s a gentleman, and he’s all about family, and he means that with other people’s families. So I’m not worried about the family-friendliness of the Trump White House,” she said on Fox News’ podcast.
And Conway’s years of parenting four children may indeed have contributed to her success during the campaign, and helped make her such an integral part of Trump’s inner circle. She became known as the “Trump Whisperer” for her ability to reign in and guide an unpredictable and often uncontrollable candidate prone to damaging outbursts.
In an October interview with New York Magazine, she memorably described her strategy for dealing with Trump’s penchant for controversial tweets in terms of curbing a child’s sweet tooth.
"You had these people saying, 'Delete the app! Stop tweeting!'" Conway said. "I would say, 'Here are a couple of cool things we should tweet today.' It's like saying to someone, 'How about having two brownies instead of six?'"
From her telling, Conway’s White House role will be a little bit of everything — "whatever the President wants it to be," she said on CNN Thursday.
"It is likely to include communications, and is likely to include data and strategy," she said.
But she’ll have the time to do it all — parent, strategize inside and outside the White House — precisely because, she said Thursday, she’s not a man in politics. Turning the stereotype of the working mother unable to juggle multiple responsibilities on its head, Conway said on Fox Business News that unlike many men, she doesn’t spend her free time on unnecessary distractions.
“I would say that I don’t play golf, I don’t have a mistress. So, I have a lot of time that these other men don’t. I see people on the weekend, they spend an awful lot of time on their golf games and that’s their right, but the kids, they’ll be with me,” she said.