Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL (F-GIRL) series features Lori Sokol, PhD, Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief of Women’s eNews. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Women’s eNews, to be celebrated on May 4 at their annual Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Awards.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
I entered the media industry immediately after graduating from college, but looking back I should have gone straight to graduate school instead. I didn’t become a graduate student until nine years later, when I was already pregnant with my first child. As a result, I had to attend graduate school part-time while becoming a new mother, and running my own media business simultaneously. It took me twelves years of attending grad school at night to earn my PhD.
2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?
My current greatest professional challenge is to continue to build a news organization in a society beset by popular distrust of the media, all media, even when the content we provide is completely factual and transparent. At the same time, however, I believe this is the most important time for journalism. As Toni Morrison once said, “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
3. What inspires you most about your work?
I believe the work I am doing is what I was always meant to do – bringing the news that most crucially impact women and girls out to the public. As someone who grew up in an extreme patriarchal family, I understand the importance of telling women’s stories of survival and success to help encourage and empower others.
4. How does your gender identity inform your work?
Since I identify as gay, it has opened me up to a greater understanding of the challenges people of all marginalized groups face. What has surprised me is that even in the LGBT community, women are viewed as the ‘other’ and less powerful just like in the heterosexual community. We need to create greater intersectionality among all marginalized groups. Through Women’s eNews, I have made it a priority to continually include content about the challenges all marginalized groups face, particularly the transgender community, which is suffering significantly under the current presidential administration.
5. Do you think your gender identity has affected your career?
Since I didn’t come out gay until I was 49 years old, I would have to say no, since my career was already in full gear by that time. I do find it interesting, however, how so many men in business respond to me when I tell them I am gay. “That’s not fair,” and “What a waste,” have often been said to me in response. Talk about male entitlement!
6. How can philanthropy support gender equality?
What’s been especially positive is that the private wealth held by women grew from$34 million to $51 million from 2010 to 2015. That’s in only five years, and women are more apt to contribute to women’s causes, particularly those that are socially and environmentally responsible. In fact women, give almost twice as much of their wealth away as men.
I would now like to see more men supporting gender equality. It has been shown time and time again in other countries where there is greater gender equality that those countries prosper financially, socially and environmentally. Also, those countries are less apt to go to war. What could possibly be more important than saving the lives of innocent people?
7. Tell us about your upcoming book, She is Me: How Women Will Save The World.
I decided to write this book for many of the reasons I stated above. For the first time in history,more women are serving as leaders of countries, companies and communities than ever before. Yet the tools they are using to build peace, increase profits and empower others are not those that have been always considered most effective. Instead, they are using more ‘feminine’ qualities like compassion, sensitivity and empathy to build success.
These traits, which have been overwhelmingly viewed as ‘soft’ and ‘weak’ in patriarchal-based societies are actually proving more effective in assuring security, growth, and protection while reinstituting national dignity, as in the case with the Prime Minister of New Zealand in her response to the Christchurch massacre. Through my interviews with thirty women from diverse backgrounds, ages, and experiences, I show how each of these women uses these qualities to empower the lives of others. The larger purpose of the book is to show that these are qualities we all possess, whether women or men, and how it is important to ignore society’s pressures to be limited by one’s gender. Yes, “She Is Me!”
9. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Women’s eNews. Tell us about the mission and ongoing work.
Women’s eNews mission will remain the same in one way, as our logo reads: Covering Women’s Issues: Changing Women’s Lives. Yet, the issues impacting women today, and in the future, will continue to evolve. In too many cases, laws that have been in effect to protect women for decades are now being turned back (i.e. women’s reproductive choice). The Violence Against Women Act was also allowed to expire.
We need to continue to expose how new legislation being proposed and passed by this current administration is will not only hurt women, but everyone, including children, men, families, communities, our country and the planet. Women’s issues do not only impact women, but impact everyone, in every way. As a non-profit organization, and as one that is not beholden to any corporate interests (we do not accept any advertising) Women’s eNews will continue to report on those issues with the truth and transparency our readers have come to expect for the past twenty years, and on into the future.
To learn more about Women’s Enews, visit the website.