Dr. C. Nicole Mason is the president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), a leading organization conducting research on pay equity, economic policies, and issues impacting women. She is the youngest person currently leading one of the major inside-the-Beltway think tanks in Washington, D.C., and one of few women of color.
Dr. Mason is the author of Born Bright: A Young Girl’s Journey from Nothing to Something in America and has written hundreds of articles on community development, women, poverty, and economic security. Her writing and commentary have been featured in The New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, CBS, Real Clear Politics, The Nation, The Washington Post, Marie Claire, The Progressive, ESSENCE, Bustle, BIG THINK, Miami Herald, Democracy Now, and numerous NPR affiliates, among others. Here's how she finds her power...
I feel most powerful when…
"I feel most powerful when I am thinking creatively about how to solve pressing social problems like poverty, gender, and social inequality. I love big ideas and the excitement that comes with dreaming up a better way to connect to others and build a more just world. We know the problems — many have existed for generations. It’s time to push for the solutions and strategies that will bring about real change, even if they make us uncomfortable."
Power to me means….
"Power to me means making a way for others to lead and to step more fully into their power. People along my path opened doors for me, and I feel it’s my duty to do the same. It’s also about using the power or advantages you have in life to help the most vulnerable among us. What good is power if all you’re doing is hoarding it?"
What do you do when you feelpowerless?
"I have two go-to strategies when I feel powerless: My first strategy is to take a nap or go to bed — everything always seems a bit clearer in the morning or after I’ve had time to reflect. The other strategy I use when I’m feeling powerless is to surround myself with the support and love of friends and family. In tough and uncertain times, they always feel like home base."
What’s your power anthem?
"'Just Fine' by Mary J. Blige. She’s one of my all-time favorite artists and has overcome so much in her life. The song makes me happy and reminds me to keep my head up, even when things may not be going my way. It’s also great to dance to in the mirror while getting ready for a power meeting or a night out with friends."
Who’s your power icon?
"I admire many powerful women, from Nancy Pelosi to Michelle Obama, but Anna Wintour is my power icon. She’s inspiring, self-possessed, and driven by her own vision and internal compass. She also has high standards for herself and others but doesn’t impose them; rather, she invites people to step into their power and to raise the bar for what they are able to accomplish and create. It’s really quite magical."
What do you wear when you want to feel powerful?
"A pantsuit. In my early 20s, I used to attend these meetings in New York City with a group of power feminists — Marie Wilson, former president of the Ms. Foundation for Women and founder of the White House Project; Ellie Smeal, founder of the Feminist Majority; leading intersectional theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw; and Faye Wattleton, the youngest president ever elected of Planned Parenthood, among many others. In those meetings, I would search to find the common denominator among all of the women so that I could try to emulate it, because I too wanted to be a power feminist. And it was the pantsuit. When I have a big meeting or interview, or want to feel powerful, that’s what I wear."
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