Political Commentator, CNN
In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?
Self-confidence, knowledge, strength, preparation, opportunity, intelligence, self-awareness, and awareness of the world around you.
With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? Is it a global approach or a specific issue that you are passionate about?
I don’t think any group or any subgroup should be defined by one issue. Women are not one homogeneous group certainly. I went to an all-girls school and was taught by Sacred Heart nuns. All the good things I know in life I was taught by nuns; all the bad things I know in life I’ve been taught by politicians. It’s just something that came naturally to me. Funny enough, in my entire student life I went to an all-girls school. And, when you go to an all-girls school, you’re taught to be a very fulfilled woman and be compelled to action. But, the gender thing, ironically enough, when you’re going to an all-girls school and being raised by Sacred Heart nuns, the gender issue is not discussed because it’s part of your daily life. And that’s how I still feel: it’s part of my daily life.
If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?
I’d like to be the Pope. I think it’s high-time for there to be a woman Pope. I could only do it for one day though.
Why do you think women's reproductive rights are under attack? Globally it seems women's health and security are under such attack; from religion, to cultural attitudes, to lax government protection, women are more vulnerable than ever. What policies would you propose that he US government pursue (or change) to alter this.
The less government intervenes with judicial decisions, the better. The reproductive rights issue is one where there’s a lot of passion on both sides, and there really has not been much change on the percentage of people who feel one way or the other. For example, if you compare it to gay rights or marriage equality, that’s an issue that has changed so rapidly as far as support. Reproductive rights have not. It divides people, it divides communities, and people feel very very passionate about it. Obviously there is now a Republican administration in the United States. This is an important issue for the Republican base and that’s why I think some of the pro-choice people may feel under attack. I suspect that, under a different administration, pro-life people have felt under attack. It’s an issue that is so emotional and cuts through to not just emotion and gender, but religion, culture, and politics. It’s a complicated issue and we’re not getting to common ground.
Are you involved in politics at the local or national level? No Why or why not?
I’ve been involved in politics in the local, state, and national level on a campaign. I’m engaged. I organize events, I contribute money, and I’m on TV commentating on politics. I think it’s important to see people who look like you on TV to know that they have a platform. I hope that maybe some little girl watching grows up and thinks, “I can do this too.” I hope it serves as an inspiration. Sometimes I get stopped at airports and stuff like that by other women who tell me how important it is to hear a women’s voice in a male-dominated field of political commentary.
What issues in the workplace contribute most to the gender pay gap: accessibility? unconscious biast (including questions about previous salary requirements)? economic? reproductive? or some other nefarious reason. Why do you think these are still challenges we face?
It’s not just one thing. It’s a lot of things. Sometimes it’s because of the weight in the home, the responsibility in the homes that women often carry. Sometimes it’s because women are too timid to ask for pay raises and demand equal pay. I think that’s lesser of the case now than it certainly was at a point. I think it’s career choices, life choices. I think we leave the workplace to have a child and come back and then have lost a year or two or three or whatever it may be. I think it’s many different reasons.
Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the work place and what you did about it?
Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? NY State recently outlawed this practice. Should we push for a nationwide ban?
Have you seen any changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?
Yes. We’ve had our first female presidential candidate. We have more women elected in office than before. We have women running campaigns. We’ve just had two women senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who practically single-handedly held off the Republican repeal of the Healthcare Act despite being bullied by the President and his administration. I think you’re seeing women have a much higher profile, achieve office much more, and have much more influence once in office.
Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?
I don’t think there is one. But, I have to say the most influential experience that led me to be politically engaged was fleeing my homeland, Nicaragua, in 1980. I was 8 years old. There had been a Communist revolution, which was then followed by a decade of civil war. Many people died, many families were separated. I left my country and became an immigrant and then became an American. As a young child, you become a political exile and you quickly realize that being involved and being engaged matters, that elections matter, that democracies matter. You don’t take freedom for granted. That experience has shaped where I am today.
Do you believe that open access to porn (including violent video games, social media etc.) contributes to gender inequality and violence against women?
I believe in personal freedom. I believe in individual responsibility and choices. I’m not Ted Cruz. I think if you want to watch porn as an adult, go right ahead. But, I think our children are being exposed to too much violence and too much sex and too much gender discrimination and exploitation of women in their formative years and I think that has an effect on the adults they grow up to be.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Decide what kind of life you want to live and then make choices based on that—make career choices, make romantic choices, make geographical choice, based on that. But first decide what kind of life you want to live.
There are many studies that support the idea that a female presence in the board room increases the bottom line and leads to healthier work environments. What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high profile positions.
Whom do you most admire? Why?
John McCain because he has served his country since he was 17 years old. He has tried to be true to himself. He knows his flaws and he doesn’t pretend to be perfect because he has fought valiantly all his life, whether it was in a Vietnamese prison or against brain cancer. He had to fight early on in life to make a difference and he has. And, also because he’s always surrounded himself with powerful women.
What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?
I guess I can’t say the Fifty Shades trilogy. Haha. As I kid, I loved all the books-—and would continuously re-read them–by Pearl S. Buck. The Good Earth, that series of books. There are so many books I love. I hate to be asked that. Favorite books depend on the mood and stages of life.
What is your favorite place on earth? Why?
I absolutely love Madrid. I try to go there every year, multiple times a year. I love the people, I love the food, I love the architecture. I love the food, the history-—and I love the wine. Everything about Madrid is fantastic.