Since 2017, Politico’s “Women Rule” podcast has empowered women at all points in their careers. In interviews lasting 30 minutes or less, successful, civic-minded leaders in business and politics reflect on their professional lives and on the evolving role of women in the workplace. If you are frustrated with job-hunting, switching career paths or you enjoy learning about female leaders, “Women Rule” is the podcast for you.
The episodes featuring Lolwah Al-Khater, Susan Rice, Katie Porter and Chrissy Houlahan are representative of how “Women Rule” presents diverse perspectives on mentorship, confidence and empowerment.
After leaving her job as an engineer, Lolwah Al-Khater challenged herself and traditional Arab gender norms by becoming the official spokesperson for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry. As the face of her country’s diplomacy, her position is an example of Qatar’s recent advances in gender equality. Today, Qatari women enjoy equal pay and make up 60% of higher education graduates and 52% of the labor market.
Because Al-Khater never envisioned herself speaking about politics for a living, being a spokeswoman poses a significant learning curve. However, Al-Khater’s cautious approach to communication is her greatest strength.
By being prepared, she is better able to speak with tact and accuracy on the fly than someone who is overconfident. Similarly, having grown up skeptical of politicians, journalists and media anchors, Al-Khater has gained an appreciation for their work since entering the political realm.
She explains, “It’s very, very easy, very easy to criticize from a distance. But once you’re in their position, it becomes a very different case. If you have to bear the consequences, it becomes a very different formula for you.”
When she was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Susan Rice had a reputation for being driven, hard-charging and occasionally insensitive. The Cabinet member in question is Richard Holbrooke, who had been “insulting and demeaning” toward Rice during a meeting with State Department senior staff.
In her “Women Rule” interview, Rice highlights the double standard of what is considered professional behavior for women in the workplace; aggression of this variety in men is more or less acceptable, while women who express their anger or assert their authority are likely to be labeled as shrill or shrewd.
Nevertheless, her abrasiveness was not always warranted. Rice recalls how her lack of patience nearly destroyed her office relationships, and how softening her management style encouraged a more collaborative environment. Additionally, Rice pushed for a leadership culture where family can be put first. As important as her job was, it still allowed her the flexibility to take care of her children and ill parents, and she believes that everyone should be given the same freedom.
Katie Porter, a Democrat representing California’s historically conservative 45th Congressional District, was elected in 2018, contributing to a record number of new female representatives. Two years prior, when she was a UCI law professor, many of her conversations following the presidential election concerned her lost opportunities to influence policy.
Porter decided to run for Congress when a friend finally asked her why she was waiting for someone else to provide an opportunity. Soon, she had the support of mentors like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, who, like Porter, had transformed from a professor into a leader.
Her advice to women in the workplace is to “go for the long shot,” something she would tell many of her female students when they would come to her office for career advice. Often, they would have several backup positions lined up, doubting their ability to land their dream jobs or to maintain them should they decide to start a family.
Like all the guests on “Women Rule,” Katie Porter believes that wanting a family should not have to get in the way of other life goals. Further, by being open about her past experiences with domestic violence, Porter proved that family troubles do not have to be a barrier to success.
Chrissy Houlahan, also a new congresswoman, had a less traditional career path. She came from a military family, entered the Air Force as an engineer, worked at a friend’s T-shirt startup and then joined Teach For America.
Leaving the military for entrepreneurship was the uncomfortable, boundary-pushing experience for which Houlahan was looking. But teaching high school chemistry in a disadvantaged neighborhood, she said to “Women Rule,” was her most difficult gig by far. Out of concern for how little America invested in teachers and students, as well as the wellbeing of her LGBTQ+ daughter, Houlahan decided to run for Congress in 2016.
Her background in education informed her on the systemic issues in the public school system, her engineering skills helped her research and analyze political data and her stint as an entrepreneur prepared her for the chaos of the campaign trail. Raising money was hard, but she found camaraderie with her fellow running veterans, with whom she shared donors and fundraising efforts.
Houlahan advises women to constantly challenge themselves and to support others by sharing resources and ideas — because, as she says, no one is an island. “Women Rule” champions that idea by bringing diverse, down-to-earth leaders together to share their experiences with listeners.