Executive Vice President, Verizon Wireless
“We need to make sure to find a compromise in the world. I don’t feel like I have a party that I align to. I think we should be fiscally responsible and embrace a world that is better when we care for one another, and I don’t think we have a party that represents that. I feel like out of 320 million people, we could find two better quality candidates.”
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?
I just got done hosting a women’s leadership conference, and I will tell you that I feel most strongly about education and poverty. They are not just women’s issues, but they affect women more directly as they are the primary caretaker. I have a daughter that’s an educator for middle school that is in an area of the east bay that’s very poor. It’s an area that lacks very basic necessity. I think about how we can make sure that people have the basics in life–which are food, shelter, and clothing–and they have the opportunity in education. What I like about our business is the access to information and to the internet, so there’s social mobility that gives us a platform that can be a great equality. What we’re talking about in the media today is the result of those issues, as opposed to the cause of those problems. Such as Milwaukee and the violence there, it’s not so much about the police brutality there as much as it’s an economic issue that’s gone awry without food and education. With that, we have an incredible disruption in the communities that we live.
What specific aspect of women’s rights in the U.S. could we change to set an example to the world? What will it take (apart from time) for women to be viewed as equal to men?
I think it’s an age old issue of wanting to be paid as much as my male counterpart. When I think about the opportunities in the U.S., we’ve done a lot of improvement, as well as the rest of the world, in providing equality and compensation. What I love about our company, Verizon, is that 29% of VP positions and above our women. Four out of the thirteen board members are women. In fact, our lead board member is a woman. We’re also acknowledging that it’s 27% women right now and how do we make it 50%? I think that we’re taking action against those issues. It needs to become a conversation amongst leaders, rather than a conversation amongst women. Men are part of the solution. They have a daughter, and they are part of the process to equality.
Do you feel the extreme left and right wings of U.S. politics are destroying the United in United States, or is it just healthy debate? Should the financing of political campaigns be the controlled by an independent authority?
I will give you the Tami Erwin answer, which is a personal answer vs. a political answer as a business. We need to make sure to find a compromise in the world. I don’t feel like I have a party that I align to. I think we should be fiscally responsible and embrace a world that is better when we care for one another, and I don’t think we have a party that represents that. I feel like out of 320 million people, we could find two better quality candidates. We need to focus conversations on how we can agree on issues that allow us to move the agenda of our people forward and I don’t think we are affectively doing that today.
What do you now know about yourself that you wish you knew ten/fifteen/twenty years ago? Do today’s young people face a bigger challenge than you did?
I would tell my ten-year-old self to enjoy the journey. I think it’s too easy to look forward to when I’m going to finish school. Just enjoy the journey. I think women are often too self-critical, and I put myself in this category. I would take more time to enjoy the journey.
Can you tell us about one of the biggest challenges in your life that you think helped you become the person you are today? What was your best decision to date? Worst decision?
When I started my career, I remember I was intimidated by public speaking, even in front ten to 20 people. Now I’m the opposite, and make sure that I’m the listener, rather than the talker. Having the confidence and the ability, I overcame that fear of speaking and learned all of the elements of communication.
Who inspires you the most? If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My family without question. It’s the core of everything that I do. It would be my dad for sure. I lost him about five years ago. He was so wise, loving, and compassionate. In fact, he still made house calls.
Favorite: Book/writer? Song/singer? Movie/actor? Cuisine/dish?
Favorite Book: “To kill a Mockingbird” is my favorite book as it speaks so much to social, political, and women issues, as well as to the poverty in our country. It’s a call for change that we need to inspire into our world.
Favorite Song: You got a friend by Carol King. I think everyone in the world needs a friend and the importance of the people in our lives.
Cuisine: Salmon is one my favorite things. I was traveling one time and I said, “Hey do you have wild salmon or not?…We have free range salmon.” I think we live in the world where we have access to so many great foods.
If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
I struggle with that one. I don’t know if I have a good answer. It’s not about your control or capability, it’s about the mark you make on the world. It’s having a sense of humanity. The ability to be a servant leader is not about what we can accomplish, the power of humility, and what we can learn from others.