U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., visited Auraria Aug. 30 to take part in a women’s business forum hosted by Metro.
The all-female forum was host to seven prominent local business owners and leaders in addition to the congresswomen. A wide range of industries, from childcare to engineering, were represented on the panel, held in St.Cajetan’s Center.
The diversity of the panel mirrored that of the audience, which was made up of a majority of women from numerous backgrounds who seemed excited by the high-profile visit of Pelosi.
Pelosi received a standing ovation during her timely visit. The 91st anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, which established women’s right to vote, was celebrated just four days earlier on Aug. 26. An air of possibility and motivation seemed to carry over from the historic anniversary into the event.
“I congratulate these women for their success… for their courage, for their optimism and for strengthening our economy by being job creators,” Pelosi said. ”I am going to listen very attentively to what they have to say, and bring back what I hear here today to my colleagues.”
The audience listened attentively and responded with applause while the members of the forum addressed their various concerns, challenges, needs and goals.
“What I need… from our congress people is — do no more harm. We need to have the confidence, and my daughter needs to have the confidence that we can grow jobs, and that’s very difficult right now,” said Gail Lindley, owner of Denver Bookbinding.
Members of the forum said they were also concerned with the unequal representation of women in leadership roles in the corporate world.
“According to the Catalyst, a non-profit women’s research group, only 11 chief executives of Fortune 500 companies are women, and this number has decreased since 2010, when only 15 executives were women,” said Purnima Voria, president of the National U.S. Indian Chamber of Commerce.
Pelosi and DeGette said they came to listen, not do the talking.
“The leader and I agreed we really don’t want to hear each other. With all due respect we hear each other every day when we’re in Washington” Degette said. “What we really would like to do, is hear from our businesses today.”
DeGette warmed the crowd by injecting humor into her responses while reflecting on what she saw as the main themes of the forum: access to capital, regulatory reform, organizing effective networking opportunities and dealing with taxes.
“If we’re going to do tax relief, my view is we really need to do it targeted at the businesses that need it the most, and not the very largest corporations in this country,” Degette said.
Pelosi and DeGette took a few questions from the media and the minority leader signed copies of her book at the end of the event. Time was limited for the congresswomen as they made their way to other events.
“I’m asked to be on these panels a lot, most of the time I turn them down, but when it’s talking about how to get other people jobs I always show up” said Diana Gadison, owner of Early Success Academy. “That’s what I am about trying to show people you can have a job and if there is not a job out there you better create one for yourself.”