2014 Honoree

Krystal Ball

Democratic strategist, co-host, MSNBC’s The Cycle

“We’ve got to keep pushing and keep asking uncomfortable questions about why women aren’t at the table.”

Who inspires you the most?

I’m inspired most by women who are working tough jobs, raising their kids, and trying to balance it all in a still difficult and precarious economy. I don’t know how they keep it all together day-to-day.

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

That I can survive failure! The idea of failing at anything used to be so terrifying to me that I couldn’t stomach taking any real risks. I can’t say I’ve totally overcome those demons but I’ve made major progress!

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


What City best describes your personality?

Pittsburgh! Pittsburgh still has a negative connotation as a dirty and depressed steel town but it’s actually an artsy, tech-y, beautiful, but still blue collar city. In that way Pittsburgh is unexpected and I think I might be a bit unexpected once you get past the odd name! It’s also just a friendly, real, place that loves good food! I think that fits me pretty well.

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

That’s an easy one. I know that no matter how badly I screw up my husband and beautiful children will love me anyway!

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?

Economic fairness. Not only do women need to be paid what they’re worth but we’ve got to have better protections for low-wage earners who are disproportionately women. That means lifting the minimum wage and it means restoring some of the labor rights that have been lost over the years that give workers power. I don’t feel like women are typically presented fairly in the media. There’s still an incredible double-standard where the same actions taken by a man and a woman are viewed completely differently. Just look at how Janet Yellen was described as lacking gravitas or how Jill Abramson was portrayed as “brusque” and “belligerent.” There also continues to be an obsession with women’s clothes and appearance. That may seem trivial but studies show this focus on appearance undermines women’s credibility.

Despite separation between Church & State, religion still seems to govern decisions regarding women – abortions, birth control, etc. How do we shift power over women’s bodies to women?

That’s the question isn’t it?? The only answer is we’ve got to get more people to vote and to vote in all elections. The overwhelming majority of new restrictions on women’s bodies are coming from the state level. We’ve got to realize how high the stakes are in state and local elections and we’ve got to get more women to run for office!!!

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

I know this is a tired and predictable answer but I really did find Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century to be incredibly important. It explained the trends of inequality and disparity that we’d all been feeling but hadn’t quite been quantified. As for the character I’d most like to be, I love Jasper Fforde’s heroine Thursday Next. She’s a normal woman caught up in extraordinary events who responds in courageous fashion and she’s super funny to boot! I hope I have the strength to respond gracefully to whatever life throws at me.

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

It’s going to take making people uncomfortable. Calling out gender bias and sexism wherever you find it on the left and the right and everywhere in between. I think women are feeling their power on social media in particular and figuring out how they can pressure everyone from Lululemon to the NFL to Governor Bob McDonnell. We’ve got to keep pushing and keep asking uncomfortable questions about why women aren’t at the table.

What was your best decision to date? Worst decision?

Best decision BY FAR was to marry my husband Jonathan who believes in me even when I don’t! Worst decision is tough. I feel so blessed to be where I am and with the family and the life that I have that it’s hard to have many regrets. Every decision that I’ve made has in some way contributed to the now that I have so I don’t want to change them.

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

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I do a great job at this. I do think women struggle with self promotion AND I think that women are judged differently than men when they DO self promote. All that being said, having a cadre of allies around you who can promote what you do and vice versa is a great way to go. Build a stable of validators with social media clout who are in the space that you’re in.

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

Nothing is harder to be, or better to be, than totally and completely you!

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

I’m really overthinking this one. It’d be nice to be able to wear any shoe all day with no blisters or pain so I guess I’m going to go with that!

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