2014 Honoree

Kate O’Brian

President, Al Jazeera America

“…there seems to be a lingering habit in some media of describing women by superficial adjectives. Who cares what a woman wears as long as she is getting the job done!”

Who inspires you the most?

I’m inspired by anyone who is working toward a goal and putting her/his entire heart into it. It can be someone working to better the world, or an artist giving up everything to focus on her art, or a child striving to learn something new. I am inspired on a daily basis by my colleagues at work and by my family.

What do you know about yourself that you wish you knew XXX years ago?

For years I worried that being a deadline person was somehow a negative mark of procrastination and that it diminished my work. I have found out that, in fact, I think much more clearly and am much more focused when I am on a deadline. That understanding taught me that accepting who you are is the foundation of being successful.

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

…news. And chocolate.

What city describes your personality?

I have New York energy and a Roman love of life.

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

My family—-for both questions. I am endlessly grateful for my husband. His support for every facet of my life gives me the freedom to do what I have to do every day. And my daughters’ health and happiness in their own lives delights and sustains me.

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

“The media” is a broad and deep category, and I think women are presented differently depending on what “media” you are accessing, from serious news to entertainment media. In general, issues facing women, like issues of income disparity or domestic violence, are not as prevalent as they should be in mass media. And even with women in positions of power, there seems to be a lingering habit in some media of describing women by superficial adjectives. Who cares what a woman wears as long as she is getting the job done? At Al Jazeera America, we are focusing on presenting issues of importance to and about women around the globe.

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

Since I am immersed in hard news all day, all week, I tend to read novels for relaxation. I like historical novels and mystery books. I’d like to be either Elizabeth Bennett or Nancy Drew–independent and curious females, unbowed by convention.

What will it take for women to be viewed as equal to men?

Viewed by whom? I think women today already view fellow women as equal to men. And, the more opportunities there are for women in positions of authority to be seen and heard—- women at any level, in any field–the more the need to ask the question will diminish.

What was your best decision to date? Worst decision?

My best decision was actually a series of decisions: to accept new, and occasionally scary, challenges when they presented themselves, rather than stay where I was comfortable. My bad decisions came when I stayed in a place too long. 

Social media has exploded. How can women use it to market themselves without seeming narcissistic?

I think if someone is using social media responsibly it is not narcissistic. 

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

Determine your own success. Don’t let others define you. 

If you were a super hero what would your superpower be?

I’d like to time-travel. It would be instructive to go back in history to see how societies worked, how great leaders made their decisions, how pivotal moments played out. I would like to peek into the future, too, but not too much–I like surprises! 

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