Are you “embracing risk to change the world?” Many podcasters are. Becoming A Dangerous Woman Author Pat Mitchell joins Christine for this week’s episode of Podcast Coaching. Mitchell is the Editorial Director of TEDWomen and the chair of the Sundance Institute Board. In this week’s episode we talk about her experience with power in the media. The importance of understanding your finances and pushing the boundaries of societal normals and expectations to achieve our full potential.
Connect with Pat:
Pat Mitchell: “Your power is based on how close you are to the people who have real power um and you can get caught up in that and people do and it’s um it’s destructive.”
Welcome to podcast coaching with Christine. I’m your host Christine O’Donnell. I’m an Emmy-nominated tv journalist and podcast coach each week I interview someone who has an exceptional story and talent to help independent podcasters grow their shows.
Hello and Welcome back to another episode. Today I am interviewing a pioneer for women in media she is a glass ceiling breaker and someone who has bravely used her voice to make an impact for women and girls time and time again she’s an Emmy award winner an Oscar nominee a journalist a war correspondent the former president of CNN productions she is currently the editorial director of ted women and the chair of the Sundance institute and the author of becoming a dangerous woman embracing risk to change the world Pat Mitchell thank you so much for being on my show how are you i’m good you have done some huge groundbreaking things i mean actually before like right before we jumped on the call like i was shaking because i was so nervous to talk with you and i was like oh my gosh i need to get out of my head right because you’ve just you’ve done so much that i just i i almost felt like just out of my out of my element in a way that made me like oh i don’t i don’t deserve to interview her and that is not and that’s not what you’re about you’re a hundred percent about empowering women and girls to step into who they are stepping into their power and going places that no one has gone before and anyway i just need to stop growing so hard so i can look at you well i must say at my age fan girls are all welcome believe me no i i i adore um your straightforwardness christine your enthusiasm it’s it’s infectious and thank you for it very much but you know what you were saying at the beginning about being um feeling fear about talking to me is really the opposite of what i mean by dangerous and sometimes i feel like i need to explain that because when we think dangerous as a concept we do think someone to be feared and there are millions of women living in desperate fear for their safety and their well-being all over the world so i considered using that word very carefully because of the negative connotations and definitions of dangerous but what i want the takeaway to be from any conversation with me but certainly from reading the book is the concept that dangerous is about stepping into your own power using it for the good of other people and sharing it and for me that’s what women are especially good at so that’s why in the book i also profile a lot of other women who have been on that dangerous journey and who have uh reached a pla place where they have huge impact on other people’s lives and i i have read your book it’s amazing um and something that you know one of your chapters uh like really struck i mean gosh so many did uh but it you open with falling forward and you talk about you know some of some of the things that you went through growing up and um you know with your pregnancy early on um and and then balancing becoming a mom with your ambition and trying to do the best both places while also like feeding that like need inside of yourself to do something purposeful um what uh i mean what would you say to women today who are trying to balance all of those things as well
i think balance is one of those concepts that just we’re never going to get it absolutely right and so we’re always struggling to get it right but i don’t know that balance is possible and i’ve come to believe now that i don’t even want it i mean i actually i like being as my family likes to describe over-engaged overactive i much prefer that to being sitting on the sidelines somewhere right um so when i you know unexpectedly found myself becoming a mother at age 22. i didn’t have any concept of what that would mean to the pursuit of my own life at 22 what do you know about what you want and need i realize now my son and i grew up together we really did and i didn’t do a lot of things right and i certainly did not have balance we didn’t have nannies you know we just ran home to try and do everything all at one time and that is the trap we all get caught in is trying to do everything be everything all at the same time because we are not given the option as women often the and it is an option men have more often and that is to stage their lives you know they can focus on the work at one time in the day or their lives and women are trying to focus on everything all at one time because we have those varied responsibilities what i had wished i had and i wish now for you and all the other young women listening um is to be kinder to myself i wish i had just realized that this balance i was going for feeling like i was a good mother and i was pursuing my work with my full capacity and capabilities that i had been kinder about realizing what i was struggling and what i was doing right because it’s um it’s a guilt that you feel you’re never in the right place at the right time and that is not healthy for anyone it doesn’t uh it doesn’t improve the lives of our children it certainly doesn’t improve our lives i did have this wonderfully wise woman who had five children and who was also the first woman editor of a major a major newspaper in this country and she took the job at 60 and i remember saying to her it’s kind of laughable now that i’m 78 that i thought she was old but i remember saying to her wow taking this kind of big job at this age and at five children and she you know she said to me that wonderful thing women need to think of our bodies and our lives as seasons we have seasons men men have sort of one season uh primarily and that’s not being entirely fair to men but but women do have real seasons reasons of seasons of giving birth and then not in menopause and all the other things that we go through to see them all as just places on the journey and no we can’t be in all those places on the journey all at one time and that would have put my ambitions or aspirations or dreams um into a different context and it would have allowed me to be i think more joyful about being a mother as well so such a i mean such a great point because there is this guilt factor that i think that i mean i personally try to overcome it um the other day i was talking him like about ambition literally last night actually i was talking about the word ambition like it was a bad thing for a woman to be because i’m ambitious and a lot of the women that i surround myself by are super ambitious and i was like why do i have this stuck in my head that this is a bad thing like why does that make me evil like the bad guy in a [ __ ] like a show and i was like is it my cruella like like what’s going on right like it’s almost a socialization that i like i have to untrain myself because i don’t believe it but then i find myself falling back into that like trap where i like oh don’t use that a word well it there are a lot of those words that uh dog us all the way through our lives because they’re words that we didn’t put all those connotations around it but society and culture has and it’s you know different in different cultures and places but um we have to own those words and own those concepts in a different way and it’s not it’s definitely not easy and you don’t you can’t just wake up one morning and say i’m gonna be okay about being ambitious i’m gonna be okay about not being home at five o’clock or not preparing the best dinner or not all the knots and the nose um because we we have the the power again using that word to change all of the ways in which we have been socialized and culture has taught us to compete with each other to compare ourselves to each other to always feel that we haven’t quite measured up there’s so many sociological studies that prove how this has held us back from achieving our own dreams and full potential so it is something though that we need to be aware of just as um black and brown communities have to be aware constantly of the stereotypes and the culturalizations that are put on top of their lives the narrative that they have to push back and struggle against all the time so do women of all colors shapes sizes and everywhere in the world because there isn’t anywhere in the world christine where we are truly equal nowhere there are countries where we are closer to it a lot closer the u.s is not one of them by the way we’re like 52 on that gender index where other so that means a lot of countries are far better places to be a woman than than the us but even with all the progress we’ve made here and other places we’re still not fully equal in the sun in the eyes of the law which matters in the eyes of constitutions which matter and in the eyes of the uh of the cultural narrative that has been created around us and about us but not often enough by us so that is where the that’s the lever for change and that’s where we have to focus our energies our positive thoughts on um on changing this changing the narrative because we have the power to do that you know i i agree with you and i think it’s about getting out of our own heads and that’s such a push that’s a and people we don’t like change nobody does i don’t i mean i do because i try to remind myself it’s the only thing that i can count on is change so i really should just enjoy it um but then we get comfortable and then we forget that we’re supposed to enjoy at least i’m projecting here but we forget that we’re supposed to enjoy change um speaking of i i googled top top countries to be a woman and i was thinking in the back of my head oh those vikings they knew they knew what was up those women were fierce and that’s it those are the top countries right there denmark yeah and and they and the nordic countries and a few other island countries um but it’s also important to remember that in indigenous communities all over the world that was not the narrative about women women were not only fully equal they were in charge yeah and in indigenous cultures today all over the world in costa rica and uh in many of the island countries in this country there are still indigenous communities where they’re matriarchal and i love the ones that in the northeast united states those tribes the women not only ran everything the women were the only ones who could vote they elected the [ __ ] the chiefs i mean they were the men were chiefs but they were elected by the women and what you know i’m not by the way this sounds like i’m you know uh playing into that game of if women women when men lose not true that that is the game that has kept us on the sidelines way too long but this is for me just a recognition that we’re different that we bring different skills attributes qualities even values and certainly we bring live different lived experiences to every decision making table so some societies chose to put women at those decision-making tables because they valued the uh certain attributes that women brought to decision-making so i’d just like to see more of that around the world not at the expense of men not being there too but just for the purpose of fully realizing all of the capacity of women and all of the capacity of men to work together toward problem solving absolutely and i want to be because you you have kind of touched on this this theme here um that you you reminded me of you know your your show woman to woman so this i mean you were working with women to produce a show for women that had never been done before and this was before oprah this is this is the oprah before oprah show like pat like it’s an amazing story what you had done there and and anyone listening please please becoming a dangerous woman it is an amazing book and one of the things that you talk about that i think is so valuable is that power struggle like once once people wanted to come in and kind of take this amazing thing
and and it was like do we fund it how do we fund it what do we what do we do and i think something you mentioned is like i i would have done it differently had i known more and i felt like it was such like i was so like lucky to read this book because now i have like your lived experience in my mind like think thank goodness every woman who’s in media should read this book to understand like the power dynamics and what it takes to pitch yourself to people and to get funding for these projects and and to work with other women in the way that you did i mean do you want to talk about that experience and i i also think podcasters could totally learn from that as well well yeah i i really appreciate your bringing that particular story forward and by the way it’s worth mentioning that this is the way women learn and the way we connect and the way that we move forward is by excuse me it’s by sharing our stories because in our stories we see all the commonalities of the struggles and of the challenges so i shared that story among others in the book because i think it’s apocryphal um here we were my partner myself another woman who i worked with we had a big idea let’s produce a television show for women that is produced by women by the way and hosted by a woman um in this case me and uh everybody went that’s crazy women aren’t going to watch that women will not watch a show called woman to woman and i’m like what no women only want their game shows with their their smiley white male hosts and soap operas well nobody had ever asked them they just didn’t have any options at that in the early 80s so we would go to try and sell the show to a male general manager of a television network and he would say no no nobody will watch a show women don’t want that kind of television and i’d say take it home to your wife let her take a look at it or your girlfriend or you say any woman in your life just show it to her and every time they did that he would come back and go you know you’re right they loved it they saw themselves there they said well that’s me that’s my story so the show not only went on the air it won the emmy as the best daytime television show we had a huge audience of women grateful that there was an hour every day where they could actually hear other women telling their stories and sharing their life experiences their challenges as well as their accomplishments oprah winfrey at the time was a local television show in chicago we were the national show and she was she would be the lead end to our show so that’s how we got to know each other as she was promoting my show and i was promoting her in chicago but the thing we didn’t do right we did everything else right we got it on the air we sold the show we had a staff of 80 women half of whom had babies we had onsite daycare because i wanted them to be with their children and not be separated we had everything going except we didn’t figure out the financial possibilities and the financial part of our lives was managed by a group of men who did understand what the opportunity was so they sold the show they sold the company out from under us and we had less than a month to try and refinance and keep the program on the air and neither mary nor myself knew enough about what our deal was knew enough about what our opportunities were what our choices and options were and therefore we made a quick and easy decision easy meaning it could happen right away to sell the the show back to nbc network where we had both worked before but in doing so we gave up all the rights to everything so for people who are starting out in business women entrepreneurs in particular so much you are all so much better informed and i’m so much better informed now but it’s a you have to know every part of your business every every part you can’t delegate something to to someone else it’s really important to be to feel informed and to feel in charge so there’s much more i could say about that but um but the lesson for me there was the next time you set up your own company you’re going to know you’re going to do it with financing that you arrange me and um and you’ll be much more in control of the future of what happens to it that story didn’t turn out badly because oprah then took our time slots uh that we had and became the oprah winfrey show nationally and made television history which so that’s a good thing and then i went on to have a really interesting career as an executive too so um i’ve got i’m not reliving the past because i regret anything i’m reliving the story because there are lessons there for other people who are starting out in their own businesses um absolutely and i feel like and something that i just connect to so much here is because like i identify as a journalist i identify as a storyteller i want to support other women um and and so as i i was reading about this and then like this heavy like idea of understanding the financial background of my business and like getting funding for different projects like it’s such an uncomfortable place for me to go because i don’t understand it and part of me just doesn’t want to understand it and i think that that’s not fair to me i’m not giving myself enough credit where i can absolutely understand it i just when i’m putting it off yeah well here here’s the point christian we can’t be experts in everything i will never be a financial expert i will never play the market i won’t i mean it’s just not of interest enough to me frankly um but give yourself you know some so find the right people people that you trust just it’s part of surrounding ourselves with people that we trust i do think that finance is sort of the last frontier of feminism you know we really do have to kind of conquer that complete understanding or need enough understanding uh to be in as much um control of that part of our lives as we are and all in all and we know women aren’t because uh they’re so uh still facing the challenge of financial uh inequity everywhere in almost every situation but i’ll just tell you a funny other story i got invited to be on the bank of america board my first corporate board the bank of america the largest bank in the in this country maybe the world at that point and i said to the ceo who wanted me to be on the board because i was the president of pbs and he wanted a media person and a media person beyond reproach you know pbs and i said i don’t know the first thing about banking and i even told him my story about woman to woman and he said well i’ll get you a financial tutor and he did so for the whole time i was on the bank of america board i had a financial tutor who sat with me every week or so and would go through all the materials that i needed to understand now he didn’t teach me how to be a banker that wasn’t the point he taught me how to know enough to make the right decisions as a board member so there are ways you know for us to conquer these fears that don’t have to do with uh making ourselves feel badly because we don’t get it all totally there’s that other great thing about women is when we apply for a job we think we have to tick every single box oh well i only have three years experience not five so i better not apply do you know that men never ever think about that according to all the studies that have been done among job recruiting organizations men don’t look at the boxes because they assume whatever the boxes indicate they can learn it they can do it so the more the thing i encourage us all as women to do more of is to learn by doing to just say no i don’t know how to do a podcast company i don’t know how to interview p you know all the things that are the nose in front of you push them aside and know that you can learn anything you need to know how to do except maybe brain surgery i mean i i wouldn’t want you to learn by doing there but we can learn by doing yeah and uh and that’s the risk taking that is necessary if we’re going to move forward that risk taking so i so i love this idea where we’re going because i feel like so many podcasters when they step into hey and that i’m gonna i’m gonna produce a podcast and i’m gonna put it out there in the world and and maybe it’ll be something that can make me money someday or or maybe it’ll change somebody’s life if they hear it or maybe i’ll actually make an impact by sharing my story and and then they tell somebody and their family or their friends and they’re like a podcast what’s a podcast is that really like the smartest thing for you to do and and then and then that can make somebody doubt themselves and and think oh wait maybe this isn’t a smart risk um for me and and i do believe that every podcast should have some you know strategy like behind it to understand like that’s paired with your why are you doing it this and what is your strategy for it however i also believe that everyone can podcast it’s just figuring out the why and what the strategy is so what are your thoughts on someone who who’s starting to maybe doubt whether or not doing something with purpose or doing something to hopefully make an impact in someone else’s life like is that a valuable use of someone’s time i can’t think of anything more useful than pursuing with passion something you feel so strongly about you want to sit down and do it every day or every opportunity you get and to pursue that kind of passionate interest our commitment and then to do that with a purpose which is the way i’ve always thought about podcast you know podcasts are at their best great conversations they just you want to drop in you want to eavesdrop and you want to hear every word and that’s what makes podcasts special they are also often informative and some podcasts you go to directly for real concrete specific information i’ve done that a lot during this pandemic to get from experts but then there’s some podcast i go to just because it’s a great story there i know i’m going to hear interesting stories and there’s nothing more compelling day in and day out than good storytelling so podcasts take for me the best of the the format of storytelling because they allow for relaxed intimate conversation one to one and to be able to hear someone’s thoughts and ideas and reflections in that kind of intimate environment but to do it with sometimes more than the purpose of just sharing a story although that’s a good enough purpose as far as i’m concerned but to do it with the purpose of sharing information or guiding someone somewhere or you know in their own life’s journey uh it’s it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do i always loved radio christine and i worked in radio in my early days in media and even though i had this big television job people would say to me why are you going over there to that dinky little radio station and doing drive time radio when you you have this big television job and i was like yeah but i love that radio environment because i felt more intimate it felt more like uh i was being listened to you are being listened to uh and what a what a great thing that is to be able to communicate information and storytelling in that way so what has been one of your favorite podcasts to listen to in the pandemic oh dear i know you’re going to ask me that and i never remember the names of podcasts i mean i listened to to the daily like everybody else in the world are many people in the world because i find that he he always takes a subject and good dives very deep uh into it in ways that um i enjoy and i’ve listened to oh what is it called see i i can’t think of any of the names of them now that you’ve asked me especially not with today with my scrambled mind but um and and then there’s a podcast out of london with the scientists that my husband and i both admire a lot um and so we listen to him on a regular basis um i keep npr on in my car and in my uh bathroom constantly when i’m doing things around the house so that’s whatever podcaster i’m just i subscribe to all of them so something that you mentioned in your book and it’s when you’re interviewing christian amanpour and i know you recently re interviewed her again for your new show yes yeah digital was the first one to do the fintech series with me yes um something you guys talk about is journalists getting too involved
and if that’s really a thing
how it’s the difference between daring enough to be truthful rather than neutral and and the quote goes on to say um our profession’s golden rule of objectivity does not mean drawing a false moral equivalent equivalence between aggressor and victim yeah yeah a christian to type into that yeah yeah but it’s it’s a very um it’s a very important point actually about journalists and in particular today when there doesn’t seem to be anything that’s close to objectivity because journalism has become like everything else sort of politicized in ways that are toxic and negative are our journalists have become advocates for points of view but i think what christine christiana is christianity christiane is referring to there is when she reported on the bosnian war with such passion and as she revealed to the world for the first time the atrocities of that war she wasn’t being objective she was saying this is horrific what is happening here and she did it with a kind of passion that some people interpreted i think is advocacy for one side of the other and uh criticized her for not being objective um i’m just remembering this was part of what she talked to me about then because we were working together at that time so um but i don’t think she’s saying i don’t think she’s saying that it’s okay for journalists to be partisan that’s not the same as being engaged and passionate and truthful and truth is the big word here what she’s saying is if telling the truth is what’s important not not the importance of of being or seeming to be objective about the truth truth isn’t subjective you know truth we forgot that during the four years of our last president uh truth actually is an absolute yeah so so i don’t want to speak for christiane and how she might be thinking about that because she says it so beautifully there but i do remember the early days of her reporting from the front lines of war and i ran into it constantly in my reporting i was always told oh you’re playing the women’s card you’re always speaking up and advocating for women and yes i was because often their points of view were not being presented without some sort of fervent advocacy um but but there was truth too and what i wanted to report about them yeah i just i think that’s such an important point and it is so like murky it’s such a murky area that it’s like hard to talk about um i i find myself having conversations with people about like journalism and objectivity and and what happens if a journalist gets too close to a story so much that they have a feeling about it because i would also argue is it are you aren’t we human like humanity is such a huge part of storytelling and of journalism so maybe it’s more truthful to be truthful about how you’re feeling about what you’re talking about yeah whether like so being honest about your feelings while also sharing the truth of the story it’s like this weird balance that i think that we’re uncovering we’re in a really weird time i think for journalists and and i would actually argue that a lot of local journalists try really hard to be as objective as possible with their storytelling where it becomes way more political um the higher up you go and and you do make that yeah that national stage yeah it it is a difficult time for journalism because as i said we’ve lost respect for the truth uh truth has become uh out of the mouths of which partisan is saying it uh all you have to do is look at the fact that 70 of the republicans in this country right now don’t believe we have a legitimate president who still believe the election was unfair um well you know there’s just facts about that that and facts are you know are a kind of truth uh so uh and for journalists who are trying to cover things object yes they they do there’s a difference too between being objective and giving all sides of a story and it isn’t two sides there are all kinds of sides to a story so it is a journalist’s responsibility in my opinion to give as much of the full 360 degree view on any subject or issue or situation but to do it without emotion and maybe this is what christiana is getting at um that that’s first of all not possible because we all do have emotional responses um to things uh and rightly so um so it it it is a very thin line and it again comes back to that word balance doesn’t it and we have been out of balance on that side particularly in the news media which had has become so partisan and so political that it is hard to find fact and truth in all of that um so i think it’s it’s a it’s an issue worthy of several other podcasts yeah speaking of you know politics you worked in washington dc and you’ve got a chapter in your book playing the power game um and i i feel like i learned like i just i learned from listening to the different power dynamics that you experienced showing up in these rooms that um where people may have wanted something from you and and it’s really easy to like want to be like oh i’m here because i’m so amazing and people love me and i’m on a tv show like at least i’ve i’ve felt that way before being a tv news reporter in Los Angeles and all of a sudden people treat you like more special and you think oh wow maybe like there is something more special about me but wait why was i really invited to this party right and i love how you ask those questions of yourself like so important in Washington uh Christine you have to really ask yourself that question constantly about power because everything in that city is so motivated by what power someone has and whether it’s real or perceived and half the time it isn’t real but there is real power there too you know elected people have real power and the press has real power um so hosting a show that was also a news and information program yeah i had a sphere of influence did i have power to make things change or happen uh i i did struggle with that concept because it is a town where everything is focused on power so is Los Angeles as i mentioned in in the book too because i moved from dc to la and i found the similarities astonishing that just it’s a different power base but both towns are one industry towns Washington politics la film and entertainment business but they’re based on how close you are your power is based on how close you are to the people who have real power and you can get caught up in that and people do and it’s um it’s destructive and it’s it’s deceptive too because it can it can make you feel that you you know you have a kind of influence you don’t have but it can also make you feel that you’re not are our lead you to diminish the influence that you actually do have so power is is like everything else we’re talking about a tricky balance but it’s so important to recognize that we all have it that every person in every room has a certain degree of it and that how we use it is what matters it isn’t how much we have or how close we are to the source of power in that room or in that city or town it’s what are we doing with the influence that we do have yeah more looking within instead of who we’re standing next to yes exactly yeah that’s yeah that is powerful i think once you even just start thinking about that right um and time is powerful in our lives and i’m running out of it i’m so sorry that i am going to have to to close this in just a few minutes and it’s so hard to do because i’m really enjoying a very thought-provoking conversation which is the very best thing that podcasts can do too um when i listen to one i always say am i am i still thinking an hour so later uh or maybe the next day and i often am and sometimes as you’ve noticed i can’t even tell you what particular podcast it was but it was something i heard and there is still for me something about hearing it as opposed to the visual thing of seeing and hearing which i also of course uh won in my life but i am a big believer in uh in these kind of intimate conversations whether they’re only on audio or whether you have the opportunity to have both but we need more of this we need more of this now probably more than ever because we’re all navigating through the end of this unprecedented time to what’s next and what’s next by the way uh is the theme for this year’s ted women so i should just mention that we thought what can we do at ted women that will kind of give us will give us a platform for looking at what’s next in our lives what’s next in technology what’s next in podcast and television and film and writing and politics and uh what science discovery so i’ll have to come back and talk about that at another time podcasters out there for sure would love to be a speaker at ted women at tedx at any ted event if there’s a podcaster listening who’s like how do i do that pat do you have advice for them well there is a place on the ted.com website where you can self-nominate yourself and those names do go in to the pool of considerations the ted conferences have several different sets of curators so depending on where the idea sort of fits that group of curators will look at it um and then there you know for ted women we specifically focus on women as you know um and i’m happy to to review or at least center i don’t do this by myself there are 10 curators um but the best thing is to either self numb or get someone to go in ted.com and and nominate you say this is my favorite podcaster or i think i want to hear more from this um host or person yeah that’s a that’s a great yeah an amazing number of people end up on the stage who have self-nominated or been nominated because it’s really about the uniqueness of the idea before you nominate yourself or have someone nominate you just think this what will be the takeaway of my 10 minutes or 12 minutes on stage what will my ted talk really be about and that’s because that’s what the ted team will ask what will the audience be left with what will they walk away from this ted talk thinking believing feeling thinking about uh it’s the impact of the talk absolutely pat thank you for making such an impact on this podcast on me thank you for being a part of this show and i wish you luck with whatever you have next today i know you’ve got a lot of big stuff happening so uh thank you again for being on my show thank you for understanding and since i think i have a couple of minutes i didn’t use you just we’ll just add them on to the next one i hope for sure we will okay thank you christine and that’s a wrap thank you for listening to another episode of podcast coaching with christine for more information on this week’s episode be sure to check the show notes you can also find more information on my website christine o’donnell.com there’s a bunch of resources over there as well and more information about my community if you would like to join it again that’s christine o’donnell.com if this podcast helped you in any way please let me know you can always screenshot that you’ve listened to this episode and then share it in your stories and tag me on instagram i am happy to re-share your story and and let more people know about what you’re doing your podcast thank you again for listening and i will see you next time