2016 was a year of firsts for women in politics. Though she ultimately suffered a crushing loss to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton will nonetheless go down in history as the first female presidential nominee for a major party. On the other side of the aisle, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway earned her place as the first woman to run a winning presidential bid.
Though they fought on opposite sides in the election, Conway tells TIME now that she has great respect for Clinton’s presidential campaign — and that she shared that sentiment with her three elementary-school-aged daughters when she explained why she wasn’t supporting the history-making Democratic nominee.
“In explaining how I feel about one thing that Donald Trump said or did to my daughters, I would be remiss in not revealing the full conversation, which is also why Mommy, who’s a woman, did not support the first female presidential candidate for a major party,” Trump’s campaign manager turned White House counselor said in an interview for TIME’s new Firsts video series profiling groundbreaking women.
“I would tell them that I respect very much that Secretary Clinton was running for president, and it showed that in this country, anybody can do anything if they set their mind to it,” recalled Conway, who has four young children — three daughters and a son — with her husband, New York lawyer George T. Conway III. “At the same time, I tried to explain to them that you could be excited for someone with whom you disagree, and share in that moment in history as a proud American.”
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In the interview, Conway also discussed how she first made a name for herself as a Republican pollster — despite what she described as “an immediate source of curiosity” about her gender from many members of the GOP.
“In Republican politics, particularly 20 some years ago, there were few women. There were few women consultants, there were few women candidates, there were certainly few women congressmen and office-holders,” she said. “I’d walk into the RNC and I’d walk into other Republican political situations, which I have described as walking into the men’s locker room at the Elks Club holding a bachelor party.
“My comfort level came in learning how to think like a man and to behave like a lady,” Conway added.
Her strategy seems to have worked with Trump.
“I’m so pleased that I have his ear and his trust as campaign manager,” she said, “and now as I take on this role as counselor to the president — the highest ranking non-relative female in his White House.”