Washington — If women are to protect the gains they have made, they must reach out to and support other women, says Andrea Mitchell, the chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC television news.
“It’s really important to stick together, to encourage diversity, to try to inspire those with whom you work, and to always try to be as nurturing as you can to each other,” Mitchell said.
The veteran journalist spoke March 21 to an auditorium filled with U.S. State Department employees as part of the commemoration of Women’s History Month.
Mitchell acknowledged that given their responsibilities to home and family, it is much harder for women to succeed professionally. “We are judged much more harshly,” she said. “We have to be especially sensitive to the challenges that many of us face in our general lives.”
Mitchell recalled how, early in her career, she was willing to volunteer for any task, take any assignment and sacrifice her holidays and free time to succeed at her profession — a tactic she does not recommend to young people starting their careers today.
“I didn’t know when I could relax and ask for help,” she said. “I think probably a lot of minorities and young people striving to compete feel this way. You have to know when you are in over your head.”
She told of her first overseas assignment, which was reporting on the 1978 carnage in Jonestown, Guyana, where more than 900 members of a cult founded in the United States committed mass suicide. The experience was emotionally draining, Mitchell said, and it was only years later that she learned that others with experiences like hers voluntarily sought counseling to help them cope with the horrible things they saw. She had not sought help for what is now dubbed post-traumatic stress, she said, because she didn’t know she could or should.
Mitchell has covered five U.S. presidents and has conducted exclusive interviews over the years with leaders such as Fidel Castro of Cuba and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Her work for NBC has taken her to North Korea, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Bosnia, Kosovo, Pakistan and Haiti.
Recounting some of the missteps she made in her career and bosses who had been unhappy with her, she urged women to remember: “Even when you really screw up, there are second chances.”
Mitchell said professional opportunities are improving for women, noting the inspiring success of Madeleine Albright, the first woman to become U.S. secretary of state, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other women in powerful positions.