Since the late September debut of Megyn Kelly’s Today Show, we’ve seen her discuss Stephen Curry’s favorite dish with the basketball star’s wife (it’s chicken parm), rub elbows with the female cast of SNL, hang out with a police dog, and dish on whether or not it’s possible to pull off Mom Jeans. For anyone who’s paid attention to the mega-watt TV star’s career over the last decade, you could practically hear this screeching, 180-degree pivot from her not-so-distant biting journalism days.
Oh yes, Kelly’s sharp tongue has certainly been dulled, and according to a recent in-depth interview between her and Elle Magazine reporter, Mattie Kahn, Kelly is delighted to be sitting in the warm-and-fuzzy inducing Today show chair.
“I'm not trying to orchestrate anything one way or another over here. I'm just trying to help people live better lives and talk about issues that I care about...in a way that's smart and compelling and dynamic and, at times, provocative and surprising and, at times, just pure fun,” Kelly stated in the interview.
When asked about whether the “extra joy” Kelly had found in her new gig surprised her, and whether she was “itching to let this all out” while at Fox, she got real honest. Yes to all the above, she said, adding that she “hadn’t felt joy for a long time.”
“When you live in a world full of vitriol and combat, you get used to it,” Kelly told Kahn. “It just turns into a slow burn of unhappiness. It seemed like there was one crisis to the next for a while there, which burned up a lot of emotional real estate at work and at home… I'm really good at compartmentalizing. If something is going bad at the office, I don't bring it home with me. I developed that skill as a lawyer. But it was starting to seep over. Compartmentalization wasn't as effective as it had once been because it had just reached such a huge magnitude.”
For Kelly, removing herself from that figurative journalistic combat zone — and “the darkness of politics” — has been a blessing. She’s admittedly happier, and honestly, who wouldn’t be happier cuddling up to police dogs, hanging out with Morgan Freeman, and telling inspirational, feel-good stories? Especially when on the other side of the fence you’ve got a snarling president and fiery, palpable hate coming at you from every direction.
Sometimes, for some people — for at least a portion of their lives — the grass truly is greener elsewhere and it’s OK to break out the lawn chair.
Megyn Kelly. Photo courtesy of Business Insider
“If you didn't know her before Donald Trump unleashed his Twitter account on her, you knew her after. I think that may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Megyn Kelly is a very smart woman. She knows journalism and was not going to be swayed into going down the Donald Trump rabbit hole,” said media expert Christina Nicholson, a former TV reporter and anchor who covered news in NYC, Miami, and Fort Myers, Fla. “People go nuts if you have a political disagreement — no matter how minor. On morning and daytime TV, things just aren't that serious. I think she is looking for something a little easier, less stressful, and new.”
This transition will certainly be a challenge, and it will be interesting to see how Kelly fares in the apolitical spotlight. We’ve seen a little bit of clashing already.
For example, her questioning Jane Fonda about her plastic surgery, and Fonda’s immediate bristling; and her lack of excitement over the eclipse compared to the eagerness of co-stars Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer.
“Even though we knew her before her new role, she is a whole new brand now. She's going from serious coverage to lifestyle; from an audience mostly made up of men to women,” said Nicholson. “It's a challenge.
It's a challenge because it's almost like starting over again. There's no doubt she is good at what she does, but she is in a new niche, with a new audience.
In that sense, the “get to know you, like you, and trust you game” is essentially starting all over again for Kelly, only she has a “past life,” if you will, that may make it more difficult to win people over.
Many people try to reinvent themselves, said Nicholson, but rebranding doesn’t always work out as seamlessly as you’d like.
“For example, the Kardashians are a hit, but Kris Jenner's talk show was not. It was a different demographic,” she said. “When you change your fan base, you're taking a risk. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't.”
For Megyn Kelly, the fence hop may work. We’ll just have to wait and see whether the audience is willing to get to know this new, friendlier side of her, and, more importantly, whether they like it.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.