2021 Honoree

Laurie Segall

Anchor, Producer, 60 Minutes+, CBS

“It’s not just about having a position for a woman so you can check off your list. This actually impacts your business bottom line.”

In your opinion, what qualities make a power woman?

Well the first thing I was going to say is resilience. I think women who are powerful are resilient. I think it is easier than ever these days to look at women in the news and look at female role models and think oh that’s great or that came easy or anything like that, but I think it’s the complete opposite. I think women who are powerful are women who fight for other women. Women who are scrappy behind the scenes, Who are willing two take it bit by bit and keep going. I think it’s the kind of people when one door shuts they keep going. So I think the word resilience really comes to mind when I think about being powerful and being a woman today.

Do you believe that there is any gender specific role for women to play in the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe that the response to COVID-19 pandemic highlights and emphasizes the natural resilience women have?

Yeah, I mean look how much further New Zealand and their cases. I think I certainly think we’ve begun to see theirs when you don’t have female leaders who have a voice at the top and have the ability to make decisions, and real ability to make decisions that play out and policies that play out and can have a detrimental impact on humanity. So I’ll take this from a tech standpoint and then I’ll go back to Covid, I think I look at a lot of my career through the lens of technology. And I look at some of the issues we say like miss information on Facebook, trust and privacy from these tech companies. And I always thought to myself and I’ve covered this quite a bit. If there had been more diverse leadership and more women in positions of power at many of these companies, we wouldn’t have had some of these issues that statistically impacts humanity. Because I think women inherently, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but women are inherently more empathetic and can understand. And they’re nurturers. And I think right now with COVID-19 and understanding some of these policies and when you look at some of the different policies and you see who succeeded and who hasn’t succeeded, it’s a no-brainer that there probably should be more women helping make these decisions. And also a lot of the incredible female leaders that over this time were able even with the past current leadership are able to step out and speak out and do certain things. I think having a humanitarian issue like COVID-19 provides leadership that is human. And I think we have to make even more room for it.

Do you think there should be a global approach or very specific to areas where you’re passionate about changes that should take place? Should it be a pursuit that is acted globally or more specific?

I think both to be quite honest with you. I think we need better representation on every level you know, again, I think a lot about technology and I would love for there to be a larger approach and a better approach to dealing with some of these issues especially since they have such an enormous impact on us. I specifically am passionate about, you know, certain types of equality right. I’m very passionate about the stuff I have a deep knowledge of which is the fact that there isn’t there just isn’t enough representation in the tech community. And I’m very familiar with that because if you don’t have enough representation, if you don’t have diversity and gender equality, you were going to have some of these major issues a player in the societal way right? And that you can’t really anticipate. So I would love to see changes on the local level. I would love to see changes at the companies but I would also love to see these changes coming from the top. You know it’s kind of hard to say we should have, especially for the stuff I’m really passionate about, what would be that global approach? But I think it’s such a complicated and nuanced problem that I think there should be many approaches. There should be more support from people with a better understanding of these issues at the top.

Have you ever felt or do you have a short story to share about an account where you feel because of your gender, you were blocked?

Oh sure. I mean what woman hasn’t? You know I think some of them are easier to define and some of them are harder to define. I remember when I–because I was a young reporter covering technology and silicon valley before Silicon Valley filmed. When there was a lot of money and a lot of parties and people going out late. I’ll never forget I have two instances that stand out. One is more personal to me and then one is someone I work with. But I’ll never forget being at one of these tech parties where everybody went and we all went and we are all journalists. This is where you go in your source and meet people. We were all young at the time and I remember a big tech founder commenting on a friend of mine who was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal at the time. Who is brilliant by the way, she is brilliant. And he said, “I think she’s provocative”. And I remember saying well why? And he said to me “well she stays at all these parties late and this and that”. and I remember saying to myself wow what a double standard. All the other male journalists stayed at these parties late and I remember challenging him. I mean it doesn’t hurt that his company failed or anything. But I just remember challenging him on it and I’ll never forget I had a source meeting and I think it was the same trip, it was a sexism source meeting but I remember I had a source meeting with an entrepreneur and I got a message from a venture capitalist who texted me. It was incoherent and he was drunk and he must’ve just been at some party and he said to me, he used the same word provocative, he said “I hear you have a meeting with so and so. Are you going to sleep with that person?”. Or somethings so inappropriate and by the way I’ve always been completely professional with everything that I’ve done and I just said that is incredibly inappropriate. And I remember him saying you know you never talk about your personal life, it’s provocative. And it was just, I was a younger reporter then and I was scared if I called him out publicly that it would impact other stories and my connections in Silicon Valley and I think back to it and I think how many other women did you harass? How long did he and how many other people did he make feel uncomfortable? And even to this day it enrages me. And it enrages me that the woman I was speaking about, she’s no longer a journalist. She’s gone on to start her own company which is incredible and I just think to myself the double standards are huge. And they’re not great and I think we as women even in the media we take it at certain points.

What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high profile positions?

It’s not just about having a position for a woman so you can check off your list. This actually impacts your business bottom line….There have been so many studies that show this right? And we’ve seen so many blindspots and missed so many opportunities because there’s not enough representation on the board. So I think first and foremost we’ve got to get past the list. I think we’re off the point where everyone has the tagline of diversity and gender equality is very important. And then I do think there should be…a certain number of board seats reserved for different types of people besides white men. And that’s not to just fill in this quota, I think that’s going to help the business bottom line….I think we’ve got to make room for messy conversations because I think we will be if there is an already, there’s a backlash in a way that I hate with the #MeToo movement for there to be resentment.

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today?

When I was at CNN I remember I was at CNN business at the time and basically I had one job but there was another job that I really wanted to do which was to cover start ups and no one was covering startups and I basically created it and I didn’t have a job title for it right. I always think a job is kind of like the placeholder for a job you really want, especially earlier in your career. And I remember I was working night and day and I was beginning to cover startups that were bought and sold and I remember…I was just doing this in my free time. I basically had an 8 to 4 job as a production assistant at CNN at the time but yet in my free time I was doing all these things… And I remember there was a woman named Susan Grant who was running all CNN digital at the time… and I was so shocked when she came and sat down with me because she was such an important person at the company and I was such a minnow at the company, and I remember she had this conversation with me and she said well what do you think? And I said I think we should have a start up feed and someone who writes stories about these emergent companies and also can produce on cameras and digital and it’s going to come together in an interesting way and it shouldn’t just be one or the other and I remember her looking at me and saying write it up. And I was like ‘write up my own job position?’And she was like ‘Yep, write it up.’ Write your own job position and then pitch it… And I was like can I do that? And immediately in my head I was like no I can’t do that but you know she was like the head at CNN at the time and she basically told me at the time to write up my own job position and that’s how I got my job. I wrote up my own job position and not what was a box that I fit into but I created my own box and I became the first multimedia reporter at CNN because I said you need to have a multimedia reporter eventually. And so I think that really defined me professionally.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Ask for what you want. Just ask. It does sound so simple but you’d be so surprised how hard it is to just say what you want. That’s all.

What is your favorite book?

God I have so many. I love “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”. This was a book that for me when I was in college it just changed everything. It’s a collection of essays by Joan Didion but her writing style and what she wrote about and how she kept so much humanity and the people in the topics that she wrote about was I think changed the course of my career and what I wanted to do and how I wanted to describe people so I definitely that certainly up there as one of my favorite books and authors.

What do you most value in friends and friendship?

I think for me, kindness.

What trait are you most uncomfortable with about yourself? What do you most hate about yourself?

Oh God, how much time do you have left? Isn’t like being neurotic and self-hating part of the Jewish identity? I think self-doubt. I think I do suffer from self-doubt.

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