2015 Honoree

Jessica Rodriguez

Executive vp, Univision

“The Hispanic community emphasizes taking care of our aging parents and caring for our extended family, and that’s an issue that I believe we need to attempt to solve for by having a broader paid time off.”

What do you now know about yourself that you wish you knew ten/fifteen/twenty years ago?

If I could tell my 14-year-old self-something that I know about me today, I would look at that young girl growing up in the South Bronx and tell her that whatever fear or nervousness she may have about coming from the inner city and how that would play into having a successful career and a successful life, don’t worry, it is going to be great. Who you are and will be in 20 years will be made better and will seem better because of that unique perspective that you bring to the table of having been a girl from the inner city. It’s not something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s actually going to be such a wonderful plus for you.

Fill in the blank: You can never have enough ___.

Joy and gratitude. We don’t spend enough time being grateful and living in the moment. There will always be a deadline, there will always be challenges, and there will always be a problem to solve, so find time to be grateful, to be joyful, and to be happy. Happiness is a choice, so choose to be happy.

What city best describes your personality?

Florence, Italy. I have been going there for last 20 years. The first time I went there I fell in love with the city. Florence is quietly elegant when it needs to be, and sophisticated with a dash of fun, and that is how I describe my personality.

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?

The social-political women’s issue that I feel most strongly about speaks to paid time off and how we broaden the scope of that definition. So, for women it’s not only about a proper maternity leave policy. Paid time off should also include other life issues that I believe, as a Latina, affect our society, such as allowing for paid time off to take care of elderly parents, or our aunts or uncles, or brothers and sisters. The Hispanic community emphasizes taking care of our aging parents and caring for our extended family, and that’s an issue that I believe we need to attempt to solve for by having a broader paid time off policy. If we want to increase the roster of women in higher positions of power and influence in this country, we need to solve for a variety of issues, including paid time off, which will allow for women to take care of their family without feeling that they will be negatively affected at work by doing so. As for how women are presented fairly in the media, I am encouraged by the great strides made by women in all facets of society, as well their role in the media. We can always do better and we should strive to do better, and that is why, for me, it is so important to be a mentor to younger women rising up through the ranks in the company, as well as just a role model in my community.

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

I would have superhuman endurance, so I could do it all and I can be there professionally and personally for all the things and the people and the causes that matter most to me.

Who inspires you the most?

My nephew Christian. He is autistic. I am reminded to live life to the fullest, to focus on what truly matters, to not sweat the small stuff, to be kind and to be patient.

What gets you through even the toughest days and what are you most grateful for?

My faith gets me through the toughest days and what I am most grateful for is the opportunity every day to have a fresh start and a new beginning. Few things in life are permanent, so it’s the opportunity to renew myself that makes me feel quite grateful.

Although there is supposed to be a separation between Church & State, religion still seems to govern many political decisions regarding women–abortions, birth control, etc.–usually from men. What is the best approach to shift power over women’s bodies to women?

We need to make sure we are supporting, encouraging, and creating opportunities to have women at the table. When we have better representation of women in positions of influence and power, we will start seeing policies change.

What is your best read? Favorite character you would most like to be?

My best read? Sunday morning NY Times at the crack of dawn with a cup of coffee. Favorite book? The four Agreements. Favorite character? Ulyssess, the Greek hero and protagonist of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. I remember as a child watching the animated series based on his adventures and then reading Homer’s work later on and I was always so mesmerized by his valor, but more importantly by his determination and his resounding faith to make his way home to his loved ones. It taught me a huge lesson in never giving up on your dreams, no matter how insurmountable the challenges seem to be.

What will it take for women to be viewed as equal to men? Are sexist jokes problematic, and how do you feel about people’s view that women should just “lighten up” about them?

It all starts with your own self worth. When I walk into a room, I always think I am equal to everyone else in the room, nothing more or nothing less. When you command respect and expect respect, you get that in return. I find that people will most often meet you at the level you expect them to.

What was your best decision to date? Worst decision?

My best decision to date was getting my MBA from Stanford University. It clearly opened incredible doors for me professionally, but personally it changed me because it really allowed me, for the first time in my life, to focus on my dreams and goals and figure out what was truly important and inspiring to me. The palm trees and entrepreneurial spirit of Palo Alto and Silicon Valley are a far cry from my days growing up in the South Bronx, so for me, having attended Stanford was magical and that magical thinking really laid the groundwork for who I am today.

Within the past few years, social media has exploded. How can women use it to market themselves without seeming narcissistic?

I encourage people to think of social media as an extension of themselves. Does your Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook account reflect your personal brand? It should reflect the things, the people, and the causes that you are most passionate about, and it should do so in a way that really speaks in your voice.

Write a fortune you’d like for all women to receive in a fortune cookie.

My mom had a great saying: “Tiempo es Oro…or, Time is Gold, so invest it in what really matters.”