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A Conversation on Women at the Seat of Power and Activism with Emily Tisch Sussman

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Women’s empowerment and family policy advocate, leading democratic political strategist, host of the popular She Pivots podcast, contributing editor to Marie Claire and mother of three (phew!) — we’re thrilled to welcome Emily Tisch Sussman to the Bene Blog. 

We spoke with Emily about the inspiring stories she shares on her award-winning podcast and about the pivoting moments women face that she celebrates every day. After over a decade in DC politics, Emily made her own pivot when she left her fast-paced job and redefined her own idea of success. Read more about our encouraging conversation with her below. XO Nina

Nina Westbrook: With over 250 appearances as a political commentator on MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, HLN and CBS, how has working with global media outlets impacted your current podcast path?

Emily Tisch Sussman: My initial decision to get involved in podcasting was seeing the lack of women’s voices in traditional media outlets. Too often, women were overlooked as experts around policy issues, which led me to launch Your Political Playlist, a podcast designed to center women experts. As I continued to learn from the women in my life, I realized there was a space to talk about how women’s career paths are often driven by personal decisions—which led to She Pivots.

NW: When you left your position as Vice President of Campaigns for the largest democratic think tank in DC, how did your definition of traditional success shift? 

ETS: As Vice President of Campaigns at the Center for American Progress, I felt like I was at the height of my career. In other words, I had “made it.” But, having three kids in three years and keeping my career in politics became unsustainable, and I had to relearn what I considered success. It’s an ongoing process, but I’m proud to have created something new in She Pivots that helps other women redefine their own ideas of success. 

NW: How soon after leaving the political field did you decide to start your podcast, She Pivots? What has been your biggest learning lesson in starting a new career on a different platform? 

ETS: Leaving my political career was not an overnight decision or process—in fact, it’s still challenging for me to remain completely disengaged with politics. This past fall I helped with my local election and the year prior worked as a Senior Advisory to help get a comprehensive paid leave plan signed into law. So my pivot is not perfect, but that’s exactly what I want to celebrate with this show – unconventional paths that are driven by our personal experiences. 

She Pivots is still growing and changing, just like the women on it. 

NW: Of all the diverse positions you’ve had, what do you consider your most fulfilling career role to date, and why? 

ETS: Honestly, it’s my current role as host of She Pivots. Through this podcast, I’ve been able to build community with incredible women who are challenging traditional paths to success, and I am continually inspired by our guests. 

NW: As a woman who specializes in many things (hosting, advocacy, politics, editing and motherhood) which area do you consider to be the greatest challenge?

ETS: As my fellow moms know, motherhood can be incredibly challenging. I like to say that my kids killed my career—and while that has now led to my new success, it was challenging to accept that. Kids bring new challenges every day—but I wouldn’t change that for the world.

NW: You’ve interviewed countless women leaders — Kamala Harris, Allyson Felix, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Kristin Cavallari, Sophia Bush and more! — what has been your biggest takeaway about their professional vs. personal journeys? Are there specific issues you see as a common thread among the women you interview for your Pivot podcast?

ETS: My conversations with our guests on She Pivots have challenged the idea that our professional and personal lives are separate. Whether it’s due to the birth of children, a painful divorce, reuniting with a long-lost sibling, or dealing with health challenges, our guests are living proof that very personal circumstances affect our professional paths. I think recognizing—and even embracing that—can change how we all approach our careers and what it means to be successful.

NW: What are you most excited about, and what is on the horizon for your podcast and/or your career journey?

ETS: With Season 2 of She Pivots just launching, I can’t wait for everyone to hear the new season, filled with some of my biggest idols—from Vice President Kamala Harris to Allyson Felix. It has certainly been a whirlwind creating Season 2 with some of my idols, but ultimately I want to change the conversation women have around what it means to be successful. So I’m excited to keep exploring new paths and conversations that help spark that cultural change.

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