Chief Brand Officer, Discovery & Factual, Discovery Inc.
“When any group feels their rights are being threatened in a significant way, activism begins to bubble up and individuals start banging on doors for their opportunity. It is empowering, exciting, and extremely important that we all feel we have the voice and the power to make changes.”
In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?
A power woman has a clear vision and builds a team around her to work side-by-side on execution of that vision, listening to her team and remaining flexible as ideas change and evolve. She supports and protects teams through risk, learns from failures, and celebrates with those around her in success. Most importantly, a power woman realizes the importance of those before her and gives others a runway to succeed.
With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? Is it a global approach or a specific issue that you are passionate about?
I look at this in a very micro way as I feel the micro inevitably informs the macro. Doing something as simple as asking a young female colleague to take a seat at the table–I mean literally at the table, making room for her ideas to be heard–it signals to her that her voice is important. It empowers her to express her ideas, fueling her self-worth, which over time will make the best leader, female or otherwise.
Do you believe that there is any gender specific role for women to play in the Climate Change debate?
We are seeing first-hand the effects our behaviors over the years have had on our precious Planet Earth. Armed with current scientific knowledge, we all need to embrace ways we can inform others, regardless of gender. I think it is important for women to be part of the team, leading the debate. Our ideas and personal experiences illustrate the many complicated factors involved in the debate. Men and women each bring different attributes to problem-solving and activism, and it is important that all who can be involved to enable change are given the power to do so.
Do you believe industry and commerce (and government) should factor into a ten year plan the costs involved in mitigating the effects of Climate Change? (According to an Oxford University supported survey, the total global economic cost would be €200-350 billion per year by 2030. This is less than one percent of the forecasted global GDP in 2030.)
The public and private sector each have a responsibility to help mitigate the effects of climate change. What is important is funding programs to educate citizens so they can understand the effects and make choices with how they will live their daily lives today and moving forward.
If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?
I would love to be a rock star for one day! How amazing would it be to do what you love, writing and creating music, and then having a devoted following who comes to hear you perform? It is the ultimate positive creative feedback loop. I would also need some sort of personality transplant to do this, as I am very introverted and have a hard time standing up in front of crowds!
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I am in awe of George Washington. I read his biography by Ron Chernow, and though he was a flawed character and very much a man of his times, I think his story is one of the greatest lessons in leadership. After leading a revolution to success in battle, then becoming the president of a new country, he knew he had to set the tone. He surrounded himself with contrary points of view (Jefferson vs. Hamilton) and remained grounded, calm, and aware that he was making history with every move he made. Stepping down after two terms–ceding power when he was at the highest heights–he didn’t let his ego get in the way, knowing they were at risk for falling into a modern monarchy if he didn’t leave office and let others lead. To be clear, I do not think I am any sort of George Washington, but I do take lessons of his leadership style, listening to different points of view, letting those points of view grow and thrive and exist together, not letting ego get in the way, staying calm and grounded through it all…those are traits I try to identify with.
Are you involved in politics at the local or national level? Why or why not? In what way do you work for women’s power and equality? What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take (e.g. affirmative action)?
Other than financially supporting causes and candidates I agree with, I am not politically active. The number one action we, as a society, can take is to look for and try to understand different points of view. Do not live in a bubble. Do not just listen to those who say what you want to hear, or to those who look, sound, and live like you. Seek out other places, faces, and news sources to gain a greater understanding to the issues out there.
What issues in the workplace contribute most to the gender pay gap: Accessibility? Unconscious bias? Economic? Reproductive? Or some other nefarious reason.
I don’t think it is just one thing. If it was, it would be an easier issue to solve. We need people to reframe their thinking of how good work can be accomplished. I think we can all agree that diverse voices are important, but it is also important for the status quo to look at how welcoming they are to diverse employees and working styles.
Why do you think these are still challenges we face in 2019?
Change takes time, and history often informs the present. There are some who want and push for change, and there are others that will pull back against any change. It is a constant push and pull, and little-by-little, the push forward is a little more than the pull back. But, it is painful…and we have to keep pushing. While it is important to take note of the small victories (look how far women have come in the last 100 years!) we can’t get complacent.
Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the work place and what you did about it?
There have been times in my career when I have been asked to take a step back, when I’ve been told the job is too much and I need help. It is a blow when you feel you are not living up to your potential or your boss’s expectation. But, each time this has happened, I’ve licked my wounds, put my head down, and did the job in front of me–and did it well–and then went on to get even bigger opportunities.
Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? NY State recently outlawed this practice. Should we push for a nationwide ban?
It is quite possible that salary questions could have contributed to pay gap over the years. It is an uncomfortable question for anyone, and one that likely will set up your pay for the next several years if you are taking a big job. I do think that there should be a range a job should pay, and depending on the experience and background of the candidate, they should fall somewhere within that range. It should not be based upon their previous salary. It should be based upon the job at hand.
Have you seen any changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?
All we need to do is look to the most recent mid-terms and we can see that political landscape has changed. When any group feels their rights are being threatened in a significant way, activism begins to bubble up and individuals start banging on doors for their opportunity. It is empowering, exciting, and extremely important that we all feel we have the voice and the power to make changes.
Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?
I came to Los Angeles as a teenager and absolutely fell in love with the TV business and with the city itself. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to live in LA and work in the industry.
Do you believe that open access to porn (including violent video games, social media etc.) contributes to the objectification of women, gender inequality, and violence against women?
The answer is yes. Important to note that if there was less consumption, there would be less created. I also think that audiences have a responsibility around what they choose to consume, and to identify fantasy vs. reality and act responsibly. And, undoubtedly, context is important around every piece of content. As a parent, I worry about the easy access to pornography, etc., and I feel a responsibility to talk to my boys about what is out there, what they may see, and to understand it is not reflective of real life and real relationships.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I’ve been given a lot of amazing advice throughout my career, but as I’ve emerged into more leadership positions and struggled with my own introverted tendencies, one of my mentors told me to not try to be like anyone else…to find my own authentic style and lead in the way that works for me. It seems like simple advice, but it was revelatory for me and almost like a sigh of relief to be okay with who I am and not try to imitate anyone else.
There are many studies that support the idea that a female presence boardrooms increases the bottom line and leads to healthier work environments. What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high profile positions?
With all the talk about female roles in the workplace, we are in an exciting time to capture a trend and change behaviors. Women should always have a presence in the board room, we are half the population and our thoughts and values should be represented when decisions are being made. As someone whose job is to make television for the masses, juggling multiple demographics and desires, it is important that we see diversity. I’ve been fortunate to work in a company that doesn’t really take gender into account for leadership roles, but it is up to everyone, male or female, to provide these opportunities to mentor those female executives, giving them the opportunity and access to tools for success. As a female leader, I stand on the shoulders of those before me, and I am happy to be the base for those to come.
Is “Education, education and education” one of the top three responsibilities of a civilized society? If so, why is it prohibitively expensive? If not, why not?
We know the stats that early education is an important foundation for success in life. I believe laying the groundwork for education helps establish people for the future, and that education doesn’t always have to be expensive. As people move on with their lives, their educational direction changes, and it doesn’t have to be the most expensive. I don’t see it as one size fits all.
What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?
The aforementioned biography of George Washington by Ron Chernow.
What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty, unconditional support, and humor because laughter helps keeps us humble when we are succeeding and keeps our spirits when things are tough.
Which trait do you most deplore in yourself? In others?
In myself: laziness. In others: laziness.