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Nina Totenberg (from left), Linda Wertheimer and Cokie Roberts at NPR headquarters around 1979. (NPR)

She Works: How Do You Get Support?

May 12, 2013

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For our series on the Changing Lives of Women, we're asking NPR women about their careers — and inviting you to join the conversation. This question goes to Cokie Roberts, who was NPR's longtime congressional correspondent.

Question: How do you get support?

Cokie Roberts: "That question always takes me back to the years when my kids were young and I was filing stories for All Things Considered and Morning Edition every day, sometimes several times a day. My whole body tenses up and I'm right back there in those tough years. Shoot, even thinking about it now, I'm getting a knot in my stomach.

"There's no way I could have gotten through those years without my female friends. We had — and have — each others' backs. I know many women feel that way — I see it now with my daughter and her friends covering kid care for each other.

"My big advantage was that my best friends were right there with me at NPR, so we could support each other professionally as well as personally. Let's start with the fact that Linda Wertheimer and Nina Totenberg lobbied (that's the polite term) the powers-that-were to get me hired in the first place. Later, when the three of us had desks together (two NPR homes ago), one of our male colleagues dubbed our corner 'the fallopian jungle.' He is long gone. We are not.

"For a good while, Linda and I had the same job. We reported on Congress and politics together for NPR, while hosting a show on PBS. We covered for each other all the time. I would sneak out for a parent-teacher conference (in those days that's what one did), and she would staff the 'stake out' where I was supposed to be. She would leave for a TV 'standup' and I would check on the committee she was following. If Nina had a hot scoop she was unsure about, she'd run it by one of us first, knowing we had her interest in mind as well as the story.

"And we all were there for each other — and will continue to be — through hard times in our lives. At some point, we realized that what we were learning in doctor's visits was rough stuff, and we needed a best friend with a notebook and an inquiring mind to hear what whichever one of us was the patient or the patient's spouse might not be able to absorb.

"Best of all, we've been there through the many happy times. As much as our own sisterhood has meant to us, we 'fallopian jungle'-dwellers are really proud of the fact that we go to bat (and sometimes almost use a bat) for some of the other women at NPR. In the end, no one has ever been sorry that we did."

How do you get support? Join the conversation in the comments section below.

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