Actor, Author, Painter & Founder, Hope Village For Children
In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?
Having a vision. A purpose. A mission.
Having something to say. And the courage to say it.
Live in the land of possibility.
And NEVER take no for an answer.
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?
The specific real-life issues women deal with every minute of every day go far beyond the buzz words we see and hear in the media and (hopefully) discuss around dinner tables with our families and amongst our friends and peers. Decries of “equal pay” and “affirmative action” are a call to stand up, but on a global level. Until the issue becomes one of equality between PEOPLE, as opposed to one of equality between GENDERS, the destructive cycle that exists between the well-intentioned and the ill-informed will continue.
If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?
Anyone who defines themselves or could be defined by others as an “Influencer.” Graydon Carter comes immediately to mind. I find the magazine world fascinating. Editors and writers alike, whose professional purpose is singularly to make people think and those that use the platform available to them to do just that.
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.
When have they NOT been under attack? The reality is that archaic patriarchal belief systems still exist. Everywhere. And, there is a cyclical backlash that is continually happening in every culture around the world. Throughout history, whenever X, Y, or Z happens, people will go to what’s easy and familiar–and there’s nothing easier than a deflective attack on what one doesn’t like or understand.
Having a child, biologically speaking, is the one thing a man cannot do on his own. One aggressive response to not being able to understand something is the need/want to control it. Anything a woman can do or provide for herself–a job, a family, financial stability–is a direct threat to that patriarchal system. The fear-based need by males to suppress the feminine is still in evidence in the most horrific ways, be it genital mutilation, clothing requirements, or access to education to name only a few in an ever-growing list of atrocities. Women are not more vulnerable than ever… they’ve been vulnerable forever.
Are you involved in politics at the local or national level? No Why or why not?
I’ve found that my voice serves most by speaking for those that can’t speak for themselves, which is why children and their rights have been my most prominent focus. That’s one of the many reasons why I founded Hope Village for Children in my home state of Mississippi in 2000. And, I’ve spent time in Washington, D.C. and at the state level lobbying for funding on behalf of the kids we care for. Hope Village is a safe haven where abused and neglected kids are loved and cared for and given a stable environment. Children must know–they must be shown–that their future does not have to be pre-determined by their present circumstance.
In terms of women’s power and equality, the most important thing we can focus on is the future–all children, who can see that no matter what, a woman is always going to fight for them. And, the number one action we can take is to educate them. Boys and girls. The only way to break a cyclical problem is to not let the cycle start in the first place.
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?
There’s nothing nefarious about it. And, it’s the same answer no matter what the question or scenario. Patriarchy. Men are viewed as the more powerful, smarter, stronger, more capable sex. Women are seen as weaker, not as smart, oh, and yeah–we menstruate. That gets ‘em every time. It’s something to point at. It’s something to blame. Emotions are a symptom of weakness and dysfunction. Emotions are a chink in the armor. It’s either that or men are just terrified, because anything that bleeds for 5-7 days and doesn’t die is a hell of a lot more powerful than any man would ever be willing to admit.
Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the work place and what you did about it?
There was a situation in which I wanted to be heard. To be acknowledged, understood, and valued regarding a genuine, human need. And the men in charge listened, but heard nothing. So…I went to a woman. And got heard.
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?
You can see it all across television, but not in real life. I’m waiting for the world to catch up.
Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?
Having the courage at age 20 to leave the only world I knew in Mississippi, because I felt there was a bigger one out there for me and heading to New York City.
Do you believe that open access to porn (including violent video games, social media etc.) contributes to gender inequality and violence against women?
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
It came when I least expected it over a glass of wine the first time I met Gary Sinise. “I’m just a grateful guy,” he said. And it’s all I’ve tried to be since.
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?
Gloria Steinem. Who she says she is and how she shows up in the world are one in the same. She is Conscious. She is Courageous. And she lives by her Convictions.
What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?
Of the moment: “You Are Not Your Brain” by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding.
What is your favorite place on earth? Why?
Anywhere my kids are.