2016 Honoree

Christine Duffy

President, Carnival

“I believe there is a bias by the media in putting women in front of the camera who fit a certain model that seems to be focused on youth and physical attractiveness. This does not necessarily represent the broader population and this expectation seems to apply much more toward women than men. While we hear women in Hollywood speaking to this issue, we don’t hear much about this bias for women in business.”

What socio-political women’s issue do you care about the most? Do you feel that women are typically presented fairly in the media? Why or why not?

While the number of women in the C-suite continues to grow, there are still opportunities for women to be better represented. I see a heightened sense of awareness around the importance and benefit of diversity in corporations around the world and while we have made progress there is more to be done in this area. There are still far too few women serving on public company boards and not enough women serving in C-Suite positions in major corporations, which is how we will ultimately see more women move into CEO positions.

I believe there is a bias by media in putting women in front of the camera who fit a certain model that seems to be focused on youth and physical attractiveness. This does not necessarily represent the broader population and this expectation seems to apply much more toward women than men. While we hear women in Hollywood speaking to this issue, we don’t hear much about this bias for women in business. Does the same expectation hold true in corporate America, or are we truly focused on talent and impact? Let’s hope the latter is true.

What specific aspect of women’s rights in the U.S. could we change to set an example to the world? What will it take (apart from time) for women to be viewed as equal to men?

We’ve made tremendous progress in the U.S. and each year are seeing more and more women in prominent roles once the exclusive domain of men. There are more women today in politics, in the boardroom, in judicial roles, and many other areas of U.S. society. There are more women pursuing college and advanced degrees than men. There are also greater numbers of women who earn more than their spouses. As more women take on key executive roles within public and private companies and government institutions–and use their voices in these roles–we will ultimately be viewed and treated as equals.

Whatever profession you choose, do men see women as either a female rival with independence and strength, or someone inexperienced that needs to be managed, never as an equal? How do you show your male colleagues that you are an equal without stepping on their toes?

I see women as strong and independent leaders and an important asset within any organization. I feel fortunate to be part of a corporation where diversity is embraced, encouraged, and demonstrated by action. Bringing leaders from different backgrounds and genders together helps drive innovation and effect the change necessary to grow our business. The cruise industry is clearly recognizing the value of female leadership and we are seeing an increased number of women sitting in the senior executive chair at a number of companies. The travel industry has always drawn women in greater numbers, but we didn’t always see women rise to the most senior level positions. That is changing and the cruise industry really stands out in that area.

Do you feel the extreme left and right wings of U.S. politics are destroying the United in United States, or is it just healthy debate? Should the financing of political campaigns be the controlled by an independent authority?

The United States allows for freedom of expression. The ability to have an opinion and share it without persecution is priceless. It is extremely important, though, that opinions do not encroach on the civil liberties of others or foster hate, and it seems that we are struggling with how to disagree on issues without personalizing and attacking those that may have a different view.

What do you now know about yourself that you wish you knew ten/fifteen/twenty years ago? Do today’s young people face a bigger challenge than you did?

With the wisdom of hindsight, I’m not sure that I would have changed much as all my experiences including my mistakes led me to where I am today. I wish I would have spent less time worrying about what might happen that ultimately never did. I don’t know that today’s young people face a bigger challenge than those of us in business ten or twenty years ago, but I certainly believe they have different challenges than I did when I was starting my career. And, that is likely to be consistent for the next generation entering the workforce.

Do you feel that religion is on the decline in the Western world? Will it have an effect on US society? If so, will it be good or bad?

Religion today may have a broader definition than in the past. It’s fair to say, though, that throughout history, religion has served as a source of inspiration, guidance, and comfort for many, as well as the root of extreme conflict. I believe many people across the globe continue to be very spiritual. It is unfortunate that religion continues to be such a lightning rod in politics and society overall and that we have not been able to evolve beyond it.

Can you tell us about one of the biggest challenges in your life that you think helped you become the person you are today? What was your best decision to date? Worst decision?

My best decision was to pursue my passion for travel and to stick with it. Also, understanding that we must often take a step backward to move forward has served me well in my career.

Biggest challenge that helped shape me: My parents divorced when I was 15 and my mother was left to raise two teenage daughters on her own. My father did not support us and my mother, being a first generation American, had no family in this country. Together we figured it out, but those years were not easy. None of my friend’s parents were divorced and it was a difficult time. I remember deciding and telling my mother that I would never be reliant on a man or anyone else. I was determined to succeed on my own and be independent. It also made me more committed to finding a partner that would be supportive of a wife who had a career. My husband and I have been married for 35 years and have two wonderful children and that was definitely the best decision I made. Sticking with things even when times are tough has been a gift learned the hard way.

My worst decision? Not sure as there have been many, but again, they’ve led me to where I am today. I’ve been very blessed and am grateful and amazed every day by the journey.

Who inspires you the most? If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

This is such tough question. Oprah Winfrey inspires me by the people she has touched and the difference she has made in so many lives. I would love to have dinner with her especially now that she’s taken a step back from the day to day.

If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

My superpower would be that I could eat whatever I want and not gain weight. I love to eat and have struggled with my weight for years. At my 40th birthday party my son was handed a microphone to “talk about his mother”…the first thing he said was, “she’s always on a diet, but never loses any weight.” He was right, but I do try really hard…

Favorite: Book/writer? Song/singer? Movie/actor? Cuisine/dish?

Favorite book: Untethered Soul; Michael Singer.
Favorite Song: Louis Armstrong A Wonderful World.
Favorite Movie: A Wonderful Life…it truly is and we all make a difference.
Favorite Cuisine: Italian.
Favorite dish: Anything with truffles.

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