Interview with Prolific Journalist in India, Shaili Chopra

INDIA—  Shaili Chopra is a prolific journalist and one of India’s top television editor-presenters. Prior to founding two startups, ShethePeople.TV, the biggest storytelling platform for women achievers in India. She worked a number of years in financial journalism, including interviewing prominent subjects such as Warren Buffett, George Soros, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, Tiger Woods, just to name a few. Recently, Shaili was named one of India’s Top 50 Most Influential Women in Media, Marketing, and Advertising by IMPACT Magazine. In an interview with  Lean In Women of Color, she describes how she's overcome working in a mostly male industry and how she managed to flourish in male-dominated society.

Lean In Women of Color: You were named one of India's 50 most influential women in media, marketing and advertising by Impact Magazine. You are also an award-winning journalist, former primetime anchor of NDTV Profit and ETNOW. You have interviewed subjects such as Warren Buffett, George Soros, and Christine Lagarde. In your opinion, what sort of personality traits is necessary to thrive in this media?

Shaili Chopra: The ability to take risks. I believe media like tech is an ever evolving space, looking change and transform what and how we consume news and information. For me the onset of digital was a game changer. In 2012, when I quit mainstream television, I realized an earthquake of sorts was going to break, and rebuild the media story. In 2002, when I joined television, I felt the same for the screen. I think one has to be able to sense the change, stay humble, take leap of belief and experiment if one wants to thrive in this media. It’s easy to stay glum and glued to your position of strength. Challenging it, is what takes you to the next level.
Lean In Women of Color: Broadcasting and media is a competitive field. Who or what has been instrumental in your professional development?

Shaili Chopra: My media career was driven by one single minded principle. Focus on ideas and people you learn from. Some of the milestones of my journalistic career also shaped where I went – I was the first woman to report from the Taj terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008, an assignment that fell accidentally in my lap because I was the only female reporter (along with a male colleague) in the region before the curfew went off  in the city. I reported on some of the biggest cross border deals India did and therefore saw the economic cycle transform. I also wrote India’s first book on Politics and Social Media called The Big Connect on how politicians worked social media for themselves.
Lean In Women of Color: What sort of tools should be made available to get more women involved in decision-making roles in broadcasting?
Shaili Chopra: I think media has been more progressive in terms of giving women opportunities but these can expand at the top level. We need women in decision making posts so they can not only become inspiration for others but also identify more women to lead.

Lean In Women of Color: The Lean In Women of Color campaign is features success stories about women of color in leadership while bringing to the forefront some of the unique challenges one might face due to unconscious biases.  Can you tell us about an obstacle you’ve had to overcome and how your strategized moving forward?
Shaili Chopra: I have not faced any discrimination on basis of my color, but indeed gender biases are so steeped in patriarchal societies that they remain an overhang. We have situations where men are handicapped to understand that women are ambitious, go-getters and seek their rise. Media may have a lot of women but it’s an industry where biases are prevalent and men can be very opportunistic and patronizing in their behavior with women. I have had some horrible bosses but I have been able to call out their bluff. I have seen some men in media who are obsessed with designations and not being doers. These are part of a larger shake up and we need to have much more dialogue to sort out such weeds from the system.

Lean In Women of Color: You founded SheThePeople.TV. What led to your decision to leave a successful career to launching your own enterprise?
Shaili Chopra: To showcase to the world that India doesn’t have ten but half a billion women achievers. That women who are in the same rich lists are not emblematic of India’s female strength. That we have real stories, successes and struggles. Today it is India’s biggest powerhouse of inspirational stories of women achievers.
Lean In Women of Color: You are also a golfing expert and founded golfingindian.com. How is this innovation contributing to women?
Shaili Chopra: Thanks for asking this. Golf like the world over is a male dominated sport. India is no different but improving given that it’s picking up here. Not only was I among the few to break the glass ceiling by becoming a golf entrepreneur – and getting special honour by India’s biggest golf club – but I think my platform is instrumental in putting the spotlight on golf in a big way for women. With our young female golfers now playing LPGA, Ladies European Tour and The Olympic Games – there is a tremendous effort to change the past precedence.
Lean In Women of Color: What sort of advice would you offer your younger self at the start of your career?
Shaili Chopra: Take a chance on yourself and always surround yourself with people who you can learn from.

Contributed by Lean In Women of Color | Interviewed by Julene Allen
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A Day Without A Woman

On March 8th, International Women's Day, Women For Action will join millions of other organizations around the world to commemorate "A Day Without A Woman".

Locally our Executive Director, Julene Allen has partnered with the Women's March on Washington Ohio for festivities and programming and will be speaking to promote more women and women of color in leadership and having a place at the decision-making table.

Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, in one or all of the following ways:

1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman

For more info visit the following link:

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Introduction to Straight Talk

Listen to "Introduction to Straight Talk".
Introducing Straight Talk, No Chaser, a weekly broadcast featuring independent reporting and genuine conversations with women innovators. Subscribe to Straight Talk by visiting http://straighttalk.womenforaction.org.
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Interview with Justice Yvette McGee Brown

"If you are going to be a woman who goes to the top, you have to be fearless."


Justice Yvette McGee Brown is the first African-American woman to serve as a justice of the highest court in the state of Ohio and is now Partner-in-Charge of Diversity, Inclusion & Advancement for the Jones Day Firm. In this key mission, she chairs the firmwide diversity committee and works with colleagues around the globe on diversity and retention efforts. McGee also advocates legal career opportunities for people of color and mentors women of color to make sure they climb. In our interview, she discloses the rewards of leaning in and being fearless!

Lean In Ohio: You are the first African-American woman to serve as a justice on the state of Ohio's highest court. How did it feel to reach such a landmark achievement?

Justice Yvette McGee Brown: I still remember the day I was sworn in- it was one of the coldest days of January and actually the same day that Gabby Giffords was shot because a couple congress members literally ran out of my ceremony. However, witnessing the Martin Luther King Auditorium overflowing with people was humbling--Some had arrived from Cleveland, many had taken charter buses down.  

Growing up, I never imagined being on the Supreme Court or having such a great career but in that moment when I raised my hand, I could not help but think of my grandmother and those whose shoulders I stand on; their sacrifices allowed me to stand in that place. It's a shame that it took until 2011. When I was appointed to the court it had been 37 years since a person of color had been on the court. I find that objectionable  in a state that is as rich and diverse as Ohio. We should not have a supreme court that lacks any diversity. I hope that it does not take another 37 years before we have a person of color on the court again.

Lean In Ohio: LEAN IN states that the pathway to success is much more like climbing a jungle gym and less like climbing a ladder.

Justice Yvette McGee Brown: That's exactly right. Early on, I could not have imagined this career. You have to be open to opportunities and you have to look for inspiration in mentors, sometimes in non-traditional places. If you look at my career, I have done just about everything you could do with a law degree. I have always been willing to raise my hand for the extra work or for the difficult assignments. I think when you have confidence in your ability to move forward even when there are setbacks and disappointments, it allows you to be fearless. If you are going to be a woman who goes to the top, you have to be fearless.

Lean In Ohio: Additionally, you are no longer serving on Ohio’s  Supreme Court and joined the Columbus office of Jones Day as a partner practicing business and tort litigation. What led to the decision to make these particular career changes?

Justice Yvette McGee Brown: What changed were the voters. Ohio elects Supreme Court justices. The year that I ran which was 2012, there were six of us on the ballot. Only two of us were highly recommended by the State Bar Association and every major newspaper in the state. We’re the two that lost.. I loved being on the court even though I was the only democrat. I had great relationships with my colleagues. I enjoyed being part of the third branch of government and debating the law, working through how the law should apply, it was a great experience. I will never forget it.
The day after the election, I remember looking at my husband and saying, "So, what's next?" I never doubted that I could pick myself up and move forward. Within a week, three law firms contacted me. A headhunter reached out to me for a position as a dean at a law school, another headhunter approached me for a position as CEO of  a nonprofit.

Lean In Ohio:  You also gained honorary doctorate degrees from Ohio Dominican University, Wilberforce University, Central State University and Urbana University and received multiple merits. What personal characteristic or trait do you feel has contributed to your tremendous success?

Justice Yvette McGee Brown: I approached every job with integrity and wanting to make a difference. I always approached every role with the idea that, “I do not know how long I will be here but I have to work as hard as I know how to work and I have to leave something behind. I have to make a difference for the people coming behind me and for the people that I am serving. I have always felt it was necessary to go beyond the demands of the job.  

When I was judge, I volunteered quite a bit in the evenings for organizations, non-profits, giving speeches, attending banquets, speaking at schools, etc. Part of our responsibility as public servants is being visible so that kids grow up knowing that there is an opportunity for them too.

Lean In Ohio:  In your bio, it states, that you are also” Partner-in-Charge of Diversity, Inclusion & Advancement for the Jones Day Firm. In this role, you chair the firmwide diversity committee and work with your colleagues around the globe on diversity and retention efforts.” Can you provide an example of how your firm is fulfilling a mission of diversity and retention?

Justice Yvette McGee Brown: We focus on recruiting, inclusion, and retention. The   legal profession is the least diverse profession. We have not done a good job as a profession to broaden the tent.  If you look at where most black and brown children are in the urban core, most urban school districts are offering magnet programs for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Yet, we still need students who can read the classics, students to take philosophy, students who can write well and think well. With the focus going towards stem education, we are finding fewer diverse students choosing the legal field as a profession. We need to grow the pipeline and encourage black and brown children to consider a career in the law.  In our offices across the country (18), we have lawyers who work with students in public education, and students in college and law school to help them maximize their opportunities for a career in the legal field.,    We also work with  several pipeline organizations who have demonstrated success with students of color. A couple good examples are the Student Educational Opportunity (SEO) Organization and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.  

Lean In Ohio:  A new initiative by the name of LEAN IN Women of Color plans to bridge the gap between LEAN IN resources and Women of Color. Additionally, it has a mission to aid companies with its retention of women of color. Given your experience in this area, what sort of advice would you lend to companies and leaders who state that they have a low percentage of women of color because they are unable to acquire and retain the talent?  

Justice Yvette McGee Brown: I can speak primarily from the legal field. When people who look like me go to law school, we are thinking about providing justice, we are thinking about being in the public arena at court and having that Law and Order moment. What we have to do for women of color is to show them the broad ways that they can have an impact because I believe that you have to have a seat at the table in order to make  change.

As a leadership team, we have to demonstrate change not just through our words and websites but through our actions that we are an open and inclusive environment. That means recruiting women of color, making sure they are connected with other people that look like them who are succeeding in the law firm and the company so they can see that success is possible for them and giving them opportunities to have professional connections with organizations outside of their companies. Most industries have a women of color organization that one can join. We must support and sponsor their involvement in that, give them a platform to lead in their communities and have the companies stand behind them, encouraging them to participate on boards or lead a community initiative. What the company or law firm gets in return is a more satisfied leader who has developed skills outside the company that ultimately benefit the company.

Aside from my profession, I have to feel that I am connected to my community and I am doing something that is purposeful beyond representing my clients. I think that's how we not only attract women but retain them. Women have to see it's possible. Visible examples throughout the leadership tier of any company are going to be encouraging to women of color as they start their climb.

Lean In Ohio: How do you feel your work has helped women?

Justice Yvette McGee Brown: I'm always available as a sounding board. I think if you were to come to my community, you would find someone who would say that I was their mentor and you would think that it's not humanly possible to mentor all those people. However, I’m always available by email and I’m accessible by phone.  I spend time with women lawyers and other women professionals, helping them navigate what could sometimes be a tricky work environment. I lead by example and I will not ask anyone to do something I would not be willing to do. If you were to speak with young women in our firm, they would tell you that I will give tough love sometimes. Meaning, if you want to be successful in any work environment, you have to be all in.

Sometimes, I think my generation may have led people to believe that you can have it all. The reality is that you can have it all but you can't have it all at the same time. We have to be willing to give ourselves a break. We strive to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother and the perfect lawyer. You cannot be all those things perfectly at the same time. We have to focus on the task at hand.

There are times I fed my children fast food. There are many nights my husband put the kids to bed. Yet, there were nights I put them to bed too. There’s no such thing as being a superwoman. However, the most important thing we (women) have to understand is that if we want to aim for the c-suite, we will make some sacrifices. It doesn't mean that we aren’t good mothers; it doesn't mean we will not be there for our kids during the big and small moment. But it does mean that we probably will not be there for every moment. We have to be okay with that.

Lean In Ohio: Looking back, what advice would you lend to your younger self at the start of your legal career?

Justice Yvette McGee Brown: I would probably tell my younger self to enjoy the journey more. When I first started off as a young lawyer, I remember sitting in the attorney general’s office and I kept thinking, “How am I going to be successful? What am I going to be? What is it going to look like?" I was always pushing for that next promotion or that next thing. If I could have a conversation with my younger self, of course knowing how it’s going turn out right? I would say, “Relax a little. Enjoy where you are a little more. The future is going to take care of itself.”


Contributed by Lean In Ohio | Interviewed by Julene Allen
Julene Allen Julene Allen Author

The Future is Women

Unknown Figure wearing a Pussy Hat at the Women's March on Washington in DC

Now that millions of people galvanized around the world for a global Women's March, it is clear that the future is women and girls. As stakeholders in the movement for equality, many marginalized groups marched in solidarity on January 21st. 

Let's keep the momentum going.  

"Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights." - Hillary Rodham Clinton

What should you do next? Take action!

Join us and sign the petition for the first federal holiday for women

And join us to sign the petition to vet four viable women for the U.S. Supreme Court.
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