2017 Honoree

Dana Bash

Journalist & Anchorwomen, CNN

“To be a Power woman is just to be fierce, in every sense of the word. That means to not back down, to not let”no”– which I think women hear a lot–stand in your way, brushing yourself off and picking yourself up again. And being relentless in every part of your life.”

What qualities make a Power Woman?

To be a power woman is just to be fierce, in every sense of the word. That means to not back down, to not let “no”–which I think women hear a lot-—stand in your way, brushing yourself off and picking yourself up again. And being relentless in every part of your life.

How do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality?

I think it’s about passion for doing the right thing. For me personally, as I’ve gotten older I have tried to—-sometimes even in an unsolicited way—-mentor the younger people who I work with and who I know, offering them advice on things that end up being in the category of gender equality. I think with this issue, just like with many others, it starts locally, with the people that you know and the people you can have an impact with. Like I said, as I’ve gotten older I’ve been more in a position to be more of the elder statesmen, big sister, however you want to put it. I take that role very seriously and I think it’s very important to pay it forward just like people did for me.

If you could have anyone else’s job for a day, who would that be and why?

The real answer to this question is that I would be a rock and roll star, like Belina Carlisle or Joan Jett. That’s my fantasy answer to that question. My more practical answer to that question would be to do something with children, to try to make children’s lives better. My son and I recently went and volunteered at the children’s hospital here in Washington. Actually, Ryan Seacrest put in this studio that is amazing where you can do kind of a radio show, or do Q&A, or play music and the kids can watch from their room. My son and I–he’s only six-—we loved it. And, it kind of crystallized the idea that people need guidance and mentors and help in various ways.

Why do you think women’s reproductive rights are always under attack? What do you feel should be done?

The best way for women to be represented is for women to be elected as their leaders. Things have changed dramatically, even just getting 21 senators in the Senate. And I say that just because that is only 21% of the Senate. But, it made a huge difference in terms of basic policies-—policies that govern women’s lives, but also the approach to governing. The United States is actually pretty far beyond. There are countries around the world that have done a pretty good job of electing and empowering female leaders, and I think that makes a big, big difference in female citizenry and having a voice and being represented by their government.

Are you involved in politics, and why? What do you feel could work to empower more women in society?

I’m not involved in terms of being advocate of politics just because of what I do for a living. That being said, I’m in the political arena with what I do, covering politicians. So, I obviously come at it from a very different perspective. I’ve done a lot of reporting on [what women can do] and I’ve done a lot of questioning female politicians and there’s this question–and I’m painting this with a broad brush because that’s how it was painted for me: in the female sensibility, historically, women have not felt ready to run or ready to be in a position or they don’t want to do something until they feel they’ve checked every box to be qualified. Rather than, quite frankly, men who feel qualified with less experience than the women have. It’s taken, on both sides of the aisle, a lot of effort for women in leadership positions to convince young women, “even if you feel 60 or 70% ready, you are 120% ready and you can do this.” A lot of it is communication and the need to convince women to take a leap of faith for themselves, even if that might not come naturally for women.

What issues in the workplace contribute most to the gender pay gap?

It’s a great question. I think it’s super basic and it’s communication. I’m not saying this is going to overcome everything, but it’s a start. As women, we don’t talk about how much we make with each other, and I feel like guys are much more open about it with each other. I think the more open we are with one another the more we can get a sense of whether or not we are on the right track in terms of pay scale. Now, some industries are more transparent in terms of salary than others. But, I think the first step is to be more open with each other and communicate with each other, and to not be afraid to talk about salary. Historically, it’s been–like politics and everything else–we don’t talk about salary. But, we’ve got to talk about salary because we don’t know the context of what everybody else is thinking.

Do you feel that you’ve had a personal experience with this?

Not in that way. But, I have been more focused recently, frankly, on being communicative with younger women and encouraging them to be more communicative about what they’re making and what they’re next step is going to be and if what they’re being offered is related to the job that they take.

Do you feel there’s been any changes in the political landscape for women in the past few years?

Oh yeah, there have been tremendous changes. Let’s just start with the obvious: we had the first female nominee of a major political party and the first female to win the popular vote for president. That was huge. And, just anecdotally since then, I’ve heard from people involved with recruiting women on both sides of the aisle to run, the response has been unbelievable. The numbers have been astronomical compared to before with regard to women interested in running and helping other women run. I think there has been a change, a big change. And women feel more empowered. Now, I’m not sure if we asked every single woman I just talked about if it was because of Hillary Clinton if they would say yes. Maybe, maybe not. But, I do feel there is a shift. It’s been gradual, but it has been kicked up many, many notches in the past year.

What do you feel was your defining experience in your life that led you to where you are today?

I’ll answer this on the professional side. There was a story that I broke, kind of the first big story that I broke and the first big award that I got. It was after 9/11. The story was that the NSA had intercepts that they pulled down on the 10th of September and they didn’t translate until the 12th of September that said something along the lines of “tomorrow at zero hours, the match is tomorrow,” basically indicating that something big was going to happen on the 11th. That was the first big story I got and I do think it changed my professional life dramatically because it was after that–I was a producer at the time—-that I started doing some on-camera stuff and became an on-camera reporter. Instead of being a producer, which I love, I became an on-air correspondent. It really did change everything.

What do you feel is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

It was probably from my dad, or both my parents, when I was younger which was: “You’ve got to know how to write.” Both of my parents are great writers, and I wasn’t the most conscientious student in high school. I think I was a late bloomer and got more into my academics in college. But they always said to me, “No matter what you do in your life, you’re going to have to write.” My dad is a journalist, but in whatever career you’re going to have to know how to write. In my particular career, it matters a lot. I have to know how to write in different ways. I write text pieces, I write TV scripts, which are very, very different. And I love it.

Many studies support the presence of females in the boardroom that increase the bottom line. What is your opinion in that space?

First of all, that statistic is amazing. Let’s be clear: particularly in boardrooms it’s all about the bottom line, as it should be. So, I feel that, first of all, every male in a boardroom should have that stat at their fingertips. And, I think the more that women are in high-profile positions, whether it’s in my arena of TV news, or politics, or business, the less of an issue it’s going to be. It’s going to be just kind of shoulder-shrugging, which would be nice. And I think we’ll get there.

Who do you admire most and why?

My parents. Definitely my parents, my mom and my dad. I think, like most of us, we don’t realize as we’re growing up what we’re getting from our parents. And now, especially because I’m a parent, they taught me just how to be a good person and (this is corny) but to be your best self, just to be nice to other people, to be good, to do good. Especially in our business–like I said, my dad is an editor of TV news, I’ve actually worked with a lot of people who’ve worked with him, and a lot of people have always said, “he’s so nice.” And the same thing with my mom. The first thing people say to me who meet my mom is how kind she is, how thoughtful she is. I definitely admire both of them for that reason.

Do you have a favorite book that you love to read?

I have to say that because it’s related to what I do and because one of my best friends wrote the trilogy…Nicolle Wallace wrote this trilogy about a female president before Hillary Clinton could actually happen. 18 Acres was the first one and the last one was Madame President. It’s just a really good trilogy and I love it. I can really relate to the characters because she was a White House communications director and I was a reporter covering the Bush White House, so I recognize a lot of it, in addition to the fact that later we became really, really close friends. And then non-fiction, as a Jersey girl, I have to say Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography. It’s so good.

What’s your favorite place on Earth?

This is cheesy, but I don’t care, it’s true. It’s any place my son is. And then in terms of a physical place that I love to go, Nantucket. That’s my happy place.

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