Interview with Susan Molinari

Interview with Susan Molinari

Former Congresswoman Susan Molinari is the vice president of public policy and government relations for Google in the Americas.

She served on the New York City Council before her election to Congress in 1990. From 1990 to 1997, she represented Staten Island, New York in the United States House of Representatives. While in Congress, she was elected to the House GOP majority leadership, making her the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress. Molinari gave the keynote speech at the 1996 Republican National Convention, but left Congress in June 1997 to take a job as a television journalist for CBS. Molinari continues to be a guest commentator on major political talk shows.

After several years on television news, Molinari began her lobbying career. She served as chair and chief executive officer of Ketchum Inc.’s lobbying firm, The Washington Group. In 2008, Molinari joined the government relations, advocacy and strategy section of Bracewell LLP as a senior principal. She also founded and chaired Susan Molinari Strategies LLC, a government affairs consulting firm.

Molinari received her B.A. and M.A., from the State University of New York at Albany.

Molinari married to former Congressman Bill Paxon. They live in the Washington, DC area with their two daughters, Susan Ruby and Katherine.

People could say you have politics in your blood, given that you are the granddaughter of Republican politician S. Robert Molinari and the daughter of Guy Molinari, whose House seat you won when he retired. What drew you to pursue a career in politics?

Politics and “causes” were always part of the discussion at our house.  We would even elect a President from our family for Sunday, to determine what we do on that day.  (We learned to build coalitions at an early age.)  My father was tremendously inspired and satisfied with public service and he took that term – public service – very seriously and literally.  I also got to witness very early on that one person can make a difference.

The 2012 election ushered in more female Members of Congress than ever before, but women still make up only 20% of the Senate and just over 18% of the House. What do you think accounts for the still relatively low number of women in federal office in this country and what do you think can be done to increase our numbers?

Of course it is very exciting to see more women get elected to office. As a mother of two young daughters, it is important to me that they see these role models.  Women need to be comfortable in the often rough and tumble world of politics.  I think each generation feels more comfortable running for and seizing the gavel.

After your time in elected office, you held high-profile positions in television journalism and political consulting, and you currently head Google’s Washington office. What have you learned along the way about taking risks and trying new things?

Believe it or not, I am extremely risk averse.  I have had to push myself every time that I stepped outside my comfort zone.  I do believe that trying and failing is so much more glorious than not trying at all.  (I refer all readers to Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man (or Woman) in the Arena” speech.  It is an articulate vison of what separates the critics in this world from the people who “dare”.)  Perhaps because my generation of women were not as involved in team sports, we didn’t experience the ephemeral nature of “failing.”  We somehow thought that our failures would define us more than our successes.  I sincerely hope that younger generations of women have course-corrected for us.

At the end of your speech at the 1996 Republication National Convention you said, “At the end of the day, when I’m rocking my daughter Susan Ruby to sleep, I look down and wonder what her life will be like.” Can you tell us a little bit about what it has been like raising two daughters?

I always saw myself as a feminist growing up…and then I had 2 daughters so now I am truly a feminist!  I can see the world through their eyes.  There are so many improvements in education numbers and super role models for them in just about every occupation.  I do continue to mourn the women and girls who are growing up in countries that value their daughters so little.  I have been given the gift at Google to work on the issue of sex trafficking of young people.  The number of underage girls who are allowed to “disappear” and be abused around the world and in a lot of neighborhoods in the U.S. keeps me up at night.  I know this sounds so trite, but we have come so very far and yet have so much further to go.

As you know, we always ask our Mentors to share three top tips for success with young women who are in the early stages of their careers. What are your tips?

1.   Get an attitude!  Be sensitive to others, but stand up for yourself.

2.   Have fun.

3.   Try not to live with regrets. Every day is a new day.

By the way, I have to look myself in the mirror every day and repeat these tips…Life is a journey!

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