“You have to tell your story,” Valerie Jarrett told the audience at The Wing. “We have to be willing to open up and tell people who you are. I have to care about you to invest in you.”
Jarrett spoke to the audience at The Wing during a discussion of her book, “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward. During the talk Jarrett covered her years in the office of mayors Harold Washington and Richard M. Daley, as well as her time in the Obama White House.
It was the first of two events hosted at The Wing on Saturday. The Wing, a women-focused co-working space, will officially open on Thursday, April 11, at 811 W. Fulton Market.
Jarrett said her daughter, Laura, was a great motivator for her after she divorced her husband, Robert Jarrett.
“I can’t wallow because she’s counting on me,” she said. “Lauren made me realize I had to be my own person.”
Jarrett said that “in life, you will stumble and fall. And when there is a choice, choose the magic and adventure of life.”
“Life is going to be full of multiple chapters. You get multiple chances,” she said.
Jarrett spoke about women in the workplace, economic policies that affect women and the pay gap. One of the things Jarrett said she was proud of was her work as the chair the White House Council on Women and Girls. She said one of the aims of the Council was to find out “what we could do to make it a little bit easier on them.” She said there is still a huge pay gap.
“Once you discover it, close it,” she said. Jarrett said there needs to be more workplace flexibility.
“We have to speak up even when we’re alone,” she said. “You have to speak up because how are the guys going to understand if you don’t explain it.”
Jarrett called for a paid maternity leave policy.
“If you do those things you improve the opportunity for women and children thriving,” she said.
Jarrett spoke about her time in the White House and how President Obama hosted a dinner with the women staffers to hear their concerns.
“He wanted to send a message, he wanted to hear them,” she said. “He said, “your voice is important to my decision-making process. It just changed the dynamic.”
Jarrett said after that she began to invite the women to dinner. “As we spent time together, our trust grew,” she said. “Make relationships with the people in your office.”
Jarrett talked about The United State of Women, a national organization for women that Jarrett started, and When We All Vote, a national non-partisan, non-profit organization.
She advised the presidential candidates to be authentic.
Jarrett said there are things women can do in their own communities to make a difference.
“Mentor a young person in school. You’ll be surprised how inspirational you can be,” she said.
Jarrett encouraged the audience to get involved and go to events.
“Ask questions, be curious, find out what’s going on,” she said. “Change doesn’t start in Washington. Sustainable change starts with you.”