2016 Honoree

Debbie Presser

Director of Sales, PIX11

“Today’s young people have challenges. I fear the use of technology to communicate thoughts and ideas, versus in-person conversations, may lead to a generation that hasn’t built interpersonal skills or created lasting relationships.”

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?

I feel women are often judged on appearance. There is a rise in body shaming and the pressure to be “perfect,” and the growth of social media creates more challenges, as our culture is increasingly consumed with celebrity and the idealization of perfection. As the mother of two daughters, this something I worry about, and always strive to instill a positive body image in my girls. In our household, we focus on being healthy rather than confirming to a certain ideal.

What specific aspect of women’s rights in the U.S. could we change to set an example to the world?

Equal pay for equal work.

What will it take (apart from time) for women to be viewed as equal to men?

More women need to serve in positions of leadership and decision-making in major corporations.

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?

A strong, passionate woman in a position of power can sometimes be perceived as a threat, which may lead to self-editing or the fear of ostracism. Women need to support each other, both professionally and personally, to help change the perception.

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?

There has been an extreme divide in our country and I feel we need political leaders that promote unity within our country.

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?

I wish my younger self knew that having drive and valuing hard work would be hard, but it will pay off, even when it looks like there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, perseverance always wins. I have always has a strong drive and sense of determination, even at an age when it wasn’t the “popular” way of thinking. My strong drive has served me well. Growing up as a first generation American with divorced parents, this reinforced my desire to succeed, to prove to myself that I can accomplish any goal I set my mind to and have a thriving career and a family. When asked how I do it all–balancing raising two strong, loving daughters, a wonderfully supportive husband, and a demanding career–I say you just do it. If it’s important enough to you, you’ll find a way and persevere. Today’s young people have challenges. I fear the use of technology to communicate thoughts and ideas, versus in person conversations, may lead to a generation that hasn’t built interpersonal skills or created lasting relationships.

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

For me personally, my religion is important as it ties me to my family and our heritage and traditions.

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?

As a child of divorce parents, I moved several times. Rather than view this as a challenge, I used it as an opportunity to always make new friends, to make the best of a situation and to embrace change. In college, I used these skills to establish a sorority (SDT) on campus (Adelphi University in NY), and later in life used these skills to start a career in sales.

Best decision was to return to Tribune to lead the sales team. This role came with some difficult challenges, and I have since realized this role wasn’t the right fit for me. It took me away from my family and away from dealing directly with clients, my favorite part of working in sales. I was able to recognize this and transfer into another position within the company, which is focused on client relationships.

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

My daughters inspire me. They are open-minded in their views and accepting of others. They are growing up in an era where everything is public and they navigate their social presence with class and dignity. My mom, who moved to the U.S. at a young age and built a life for her family, inspires me to dream and to achieve my goals, no matter how difficult. My female friendships nurture and inspire me.

If I could have dinner with anyone–Princess Diana, Oprah, JLO, Madonna, Beyoncé–all powerful women who overcame adversity to rise to the top of their industries. Plus, Madonna, JLo, and Beyoncé would make for a great dance party!

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

My superpower would be to share tolerance, which in turn would lead to the acceptance of all people, leading to the demise of terrorism and the culture of fear.

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

Book: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
Movie actor: Matthew McConahaughey, Jennifer Anniston.
Favorite cuisine: Greek/Mediterranean.
Favorite singer: Billy Joel, U2, Rihanna/Drake.

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