Politics 12 April 2019
Ahead of the 2020 elections, Harris Faulkner is using her role as a journalist to address some of the recent and recurring topics polarizing the Democratic and Republican parties. This Sunday, Faulkner leads her second town hall in Iowa to source perspectives from the American people on some of these trending topics, which continue to increase in relevancy ahead of 2020.
"When things start to grow across the nation, it becomes more than just a topic you cover," says Faulkner on her daily responsibility of reporting in the current political climate. “It becomes the fabric of what people will take with them when they go to the polls."
The FOX News anchor of Outnumbered Overtime, expects her second town hall to tackle the impact of the #MeToo movement on the 2020 election, the Democratic Party and the rise of socialism, yet she is also open to discussions based on what people have to say.
“We need to gather how they see it because that's all that matters," Faulkner shares. “It's not a matter of for or against, but rather the principles within these topics that both parties need to be aware of."
We had the chance to chat with Faulkner ahead of her town hall (airing at 8pm/ET on Sunday, April 14) about the impact of town halls, importance of listening, and the significance of the media ahead of the elections.
Tell me more about the town hall.
Town Hall America is something that my team and I fashioned last year. We wanted to pick issues affecting people all around America, and actually listen to them. If we're covering the border, we need to go to a border state. That's why I want to go to Iowa, not just once but three times in 30 days—we know the world will be focused on them as they begin to caucus. I've positioned myself as a keynote to hear from so many people, particularly women, and I want the few questions that I ask at the town hall to reflect that they're being heard.
What do town halls mean to you?
It's important that we talk and listen to each other. The one thing my mom used to say that resonates with me everyday is, 'Don't talk when other women talk.' We tend to be active listeners and say 'uh huh' but then we miss a lot, so try to be silent when you listen. She wasn't a political lady, but she was a big believer in people working together.
What is the layout of this town hall?
This talk will be in a barn but in round style so people will be able to see each other; I love that people can make eye contact. To me, that causes accountability, a richness of discussion, of possibility and opportunity to say, 'I don't agree with that, here's my perspective' or to say, 'You know what, we're nothing alike but wow, listen to that.' I like to gather before and after a town hall to make myself available to those conversations. I will be covering this through the next election and I want to start with openness.
Why do you think it's important to have these conversations?
We have such an interesting conversation going on right now with the #MeToo movement—who would have thought that anything could have competed with health care?
The situation with former Vice President Joe Biden is just one of the conversations that's lit up in the past few weeks, but it's important that we come at these issues with more than just emotion.
The current president has done something for the elector—to build that political energy on both sides of the isle. If people don't vote, how can they approach making their lives better? I've seen more HR departments put out notices to not talk about politics in the office. I've never seen that before—everyone is talking and feels like they want to be informed.
What do you think are the most important topics facing women for 2020?
The #MeToo movement and healthcare.
Also, being able to take advantage of where we are with the number of jobs available. It's one thing to go out and get one of those numerous jobs but if you talk about injecting women into the work force in a meaningful way, it includes all of us being able to reach up and pull up to hold positions in a higher place—and to be able to continue to reach. If we are going to change the parameters of how women are treated in and out of the work force we need to have more women at the top.
What do you want to tell female voters or women looking to get more involved in these topics?
My speech is less on politics and more on how we see ourselves rising. One of my principles is to be picky with who we are around—our 'squad goals.' We probably all need to fire some people in our inner circle who don't want us to do our best.
To segway that into politics, women vote in higher numbers per capita than men; we have a lot of power at the polls. We cannot be marginalized. We each have our own life perspective.
I'm a mom, I'm a black mom, I'm a wife, I'm working and balancing, not perfectly, but with all my heart and all my passion. I am not the same woman as someone who has the blessing of more children than I do and is choosing to homeschool those kids. We are different but in one way we are the same; we are powerful and when we go to vote, we are everything. That's why it's important to hear from all walks of life.
What should the media be doing more of in lead up to the presidential elections? What about less of?
I think that we should be doing less pontificating and more reporting. I know this is the day and age of quick bait on Twitter, but let's concede the fact that people will read your Tweet if they are following you because they are your followers—let's just concede that and go after the actual facts. We [journalists] play a role in America that is special, not only constitutionally special, but it's important because people are living their life at such fast speed that they may miss something—so we have a service.
America is a special place but we have to protect it. So when you ask me what should we be doing: drive hard in the lane of news and journalism—political news is a part of that—get in your lane and drive hard.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.