Watch the full interview with Fair Play writer, editor and director Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Après CEO Stacey Delo here >>

Jennifer Siebel Newsom Interview Transcript

Stacey Delo 0:01
Okay, is this very exciting? Live and I am going to Hello Hi there, this is so exciting. We’re live, I’m going to call in our guests

And while I do that she gets into the picture here, I am going to start by saying hello, and kind of lead with this thought that an hour spent holding your child’s hand at the doctor’s office. Hi, Jen, how are you? I’m good. I’m so nice to see you, too. Um, I am going to tell everyone that Eve’s not joining us. She had a bit of an emergency at one of our kids schools. But you know what? We understand that here? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I was just getting started with this concept that an hour spent holding your child’s hand at the pediatricians office is as valuable as an hour spent in the boardroom. Right. And that’s really the basis of our conversation today. And for all of you who are watching to think about with your partners, your families, for yourself and for your organizations about how you can assign more value to the time that we spend caregiving and how we can more equally distribute that mental load the time that it takes to raise children and run a household how we can distribute that mental load more equally, and then ultimately, advance more women in the workplace. So kind of a big, a big broad topic, but you’ve just produced an entire documentary on this, this topic, so I know we something that you are very able to advise us on here. So really quickly, I’m Stacey Delo. I’m the CEO of a pray a career resource for women returning to work or pivoting, usually after caregiving. I’m also the co author of Your Turn: Careers, Kids and Comebacks — A Working Mother’s Guide. And this event is part of our Your Turn Conversation Series, where we talk about what is it your turn to do. And believe me, there is something very important for all of you out there. It is your turn to do and you will have lots of I think ideas, especially after this conversation today. I’m beyond honored to welcome Jennifer Siebel Newsom, to talk with me today. Jen is not only the filmmaker and founder of the representation project as a mother of four, she is the first partner of California, my state during a time that is so important to our state and to our society. She is a very active partner in this role. And I just I thank you so much for all that you do really for for the state as well, Jen, it’s just a it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve been a big fan for a long time. And thank you so much for being here today.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 3:30
Oh, thanks so much for having me. And thanks for everything you do. I really appreciate it.

Stacey Delo 3:34
So let’s get going. Again, I want to mention Eve who the documentary that Jen produced fair play with Eve Brodsky was going to join us today she did have a family emergency but I’ll I’ll show her book there Eve as the best selling author of fair play, and really has started a movement around getting people to think about care in a different way. She’s She’s the founder of the Fair Play Institute, which is brought together thought leaders. So we’re sorry that she can’t be here today. But she’s here in spirit and obviously in the the work that you both have done in this film. So you know, Jen, you have produced a number of documentaries through the years really, that address various gender stereotypes, and I’m curious why this was an important topic for you to tackle next and how you connected with Eve.

Fair Play Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Your Turn host Stacey Delo

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 4:34
Yeah, sure. So my first documentary misrepresentation that I wrote, directed and produced looks at the under representation of women in positions of power and influence. And the media is limiting portrayal of what it means to be a powerful woman. And then I turned the lens on boys and men and looked at the boy crisis in America and how we were failing our boys and men with this sort of rigid notion of toxic masculinity. And then I started to get into supposed to be masked But it was sort of looking at the systemic impact of toxic masculinity is in this gendered hierarchy. And the documentary is called the Great American lie. In the middle of production, we had to pivot the 2016 election happened, and Donald Trump became our president. And we just made a lot of sort of rapid decisions to pivot. And that film, which really looks at, again, our values as a nation, and how we have to recognize our common humanity and come back together and that budgets are a reflection of our values. That film didn’t dive deep enough into the care economy, a place that I wanted to go. And it was just I couldn’t find the right character at the time, we sort of pivoted on the film. But it’s a really powerful film. And I think actually, people will understand that film, even better, having watched fair play. But so when Eve approached me and February of 2020, to make a documentary that was inspired by her book, it’s not based on the book. So I really want to encourage people, if you like books, read the book, but you also the film is different. So I recommend that you do both. If you’re super committed to this topic, the film is also an invitation to men in a way that men aren’t necessarily going to pick up the book even though they showed and they’d benefit from it. But the film is, I was brought in largely because she loved his representation, and thought of me as the filmmaker. And, you know, so again, put together a pitch deck. And we put together a pitch deck for Procter and Gamble. And, you know, we’re off, right. So we made the documentary, my team, kind of assembled, just 202 to three of us, depending one of my colleagues had to move out of the state. So she was less involved at one point. But basically, the representation project helped, or I wrote, directed and produced fairplay with my colleague, Gretchen Miller, and Jessica Condon was involved at one point. And then we had the support, obviously, of Hello, sunshine. And, you know, and then, but we were making the film in the middle of a pandemic.

Stacey Delo 7:15
Right. And that was one of them. Well, that was one of the things I wanted to ask you about, because the the film is very different than the book. And one of the reasons is because you actually, it’s actually brings visuals and real story, real life that we get to see in the stories that you’ve shared. And it really struck me as how, how vulnerable people were. And particularly because I think a lot of it was probably shut remotely is that

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 7:47
it was a combination. Yes. But it was a combination. I you know, early on, I did a lot of in person interviews. In California, I was able to do some but a lot of shoots would get shut down because of because of COVID and also family spheres of kids being exposed and what have you, we took all precautions. Hello Sunshine was fabulous. So really honestly, when I read the book to get to know Eve and Eve is friends with one of my close with one of my best friends so I knew like this is a special person. But when when I read the book, I fell in love with Eve. And then I Eve had conducted some research of a bunch of families and I wanted to really kind of portray American portray different stages of this cycle of sort of the the fairplay journey. And so the next process that I went through with the was really kind of or not with the but like separate was like mining, all these people should kind of represent it or shared with us to see if any of them worked. And I went down and there were a lot of rabbit holes, because fathers in particular got nervous and didn’t want to expose themselves or their family. So, you know, I really fell in love with Emily and Neil Hayes and felt like their story was so representative of so many of us. Communication is like at the heart of I think the big challenge for a lot of couples. Obviously, I love Liana and Christian. From the get go as well. They moved a lot. So it was hard to kind of track them down and she had a baby in the middle of production that was also kind of challenging, had a lot of kind of COVID scares and had to pivot on shoots there. And then I found Lizbeth and Christian in through a network up here in Sacramento because I really wanted to tell more of a story related to care and caregiving and I really wanted to follow a Latino combo couple and look at the systemic issues that are confronting so many Americans in that families don’t have paid family leave paid sick leave equal pay, you know, pick have random hours, right? So that was an important story for me to tell as well.

Stacey Delo 10:00
Yes, and, and I appreciated that a lot when watching the film, interestingly enough, we work with Emily. And so when I saw her in the film, I couldn’t believe she, I hadn’t didn’t, no idea that she was going to be featured so prominently. And all of the stories have these really heartwarming portions to them. And, you know, particularly watching the men come along, like you’re talking about, you know, the film opens with most of the men saying, Oh, I do the majority of the work around the house, or at least a lot more than then they think they do a lot more than they really do. And then by the end, you know, kind of this, this recognition that, oh, gosh, there’s a lot more than I wasn’t really thinking about here. But you know, I cried along with Emily and get like this, there’s, that’s, that’s what I think you’ve done such a magical job of is really taking a topic that, that that’s difficult for people to, I think, be vulnerable about because it says there’s, you know, there’s something happening in my house that’s also affecting my professional life. And it’s difficult to get people to come forward and share those stories. So I really appreciate how brave everybody was.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 11:22
Oh, they were good. They’re so brave. And that’s really important. To me, it’s a documentary filmmaker is building trust and a place and a sense of safety. You know, it’s hard to set didn’t want to do the interview. And so I spent some time with that before and just connecting and sort of building his trust. And I’m so grateful to him, because I really wanted to show, you know, a man who has sort of presumed success, you know, be vulnerable, and also show the transformation of maybe ignorance to sort of commitment, right. And then I obviously, I love each son so much. And oh, yes, yeah, to share, say both boys are so committed to doing their fair share, and they’re so proud of their mom, and I’ve just, she’s done a wonderful job, or they’ve done a wonderful job raising them. And it was just important, I think, because, you know, care starts has to start early, and it really should be modeled in the home. But also, we shouldn’t relegate care to our daughters. You know, I have two daughters and two sons. And my boys have to do chores related to caring for the animals and caring by taking responsibility in the home for their things. And, you know, and even caring for their younger siblings. It can’t just be something that we just, you know,

Stacey Delo 12:43
Relegate to the girl. Two girls. Yeah. 100%. And, and in some cases, and you make sure you pay them the same, you know, like, yeah, the pay needs to be the same. Yeah, um, I, I was thinking about Zack her son, and how he even says, I think my dad might some version of I think my dad has learned from the work that I’m doing around the house

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 13:10
is so powerful, you know, and even for our girls, like, my daughter, Brooklyn, who’s nine, now she’s in between two boys, and then has an older sister, and brookies such a peacemaker. And so wanting to please and such a caregiver and so responsible, and am I was a prick, you don’t have to do you don’t have to do that for your brother. He’s fully capable of doing that. So I think even early on socializing our girls to set boundaries. Yeah. And, you know, and set also the expectation with their brother that they’re just not going to, they’re not going to fill in for them all the time. Yes, in an emergency, but not when it’s something their brothers are fully capable of doing,

Stacey Delo 13:46
Of course. So let’s talk a little bit about so our audience, again, is largely women who are going back to work, potentially after years of being at home for caregiving or you know, looking to find something more meaningful move to a different position. But I think there’s a challenge that people who either haven’t been being paid for their work correct or or make less than their partners there’s a really that’s these are difficult conversations to have in the household. Did you find in doing this phone that there was anything that any strategy or any kind of one conversation or system that you found that was really valuable to people that they can learn from an employee in their own homes?

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 14:43
Well 100% is communications and that’s why it was so important to me to anchor both Emily nails story and Christian and Liana because they’re, they’re in different places in their journey. Emily and Neil, we’re starting that journey of recognizing that communications hadn’t been modeled or role model for them. And that, you know, they were playing out despite her being a working mom, they were, there was a, you know, role playing going on in terms of gender stereotypes, and just a lack of awareness on his part of how much she was caring, because she was capable of so much, which I think I’m older than Emily, but our my generation was taught, we could be Wonder Women and have it all do it all, etc. And that’s, you know, not fair, that’s too much pressure that we put on ourselves and that people put on us. And so I think it was important to emphasize the communications piece, because, and Christian, and Leanna were for me, you know, again, we’re, they’re a couple, they have their moments and their struggles, and she was adding a fifth child to their, or they were adding a fifth child to their home and moving across the country in the middle of the shoot. But really showing what’s possible when you communicate and you prioritize the family. So that that’s why, you know, for me, the daily communications, the 10 minutes, and, again, making sure you’re putting it into your partner’s listening, I have to remind myself, and I’m not always good at it to be soft with my husband, because I’m strong. And I can be facing connection. You know, sometimes, sometimes I’ll match his strength with my own, and he just doesn’t do well with that, right? Because, you know, he gets out in the world all the time. And so I gotta kind of like, remind myself to soften, which I’m also right. There’s the Yin and Yang and all of us, and so that I think communication is really, really important, obviously, finding the right time to have that communication. But but then we’re really, you know, just some things that that we do, I don’t not everyone does it, but I think date night is super essential. My husband last night reminded me he’s been trying to get me to come into the office to have conversations related to calendaring and stuff during lunch. And we’re always on different schedules in the office. And like today, he’s in San Jose, and I’m working from home and then have to go, you know, we’re kind of passing shifts a little bit. So it’s a little bit of a logistical nightmare. But I can only imagine, yeah, finding time. And in fact, I don’t know how many people have the luxury of lunch at the you know, but I think that’s probably a good time. Not, you know, maybe maybe first thing in the morning to after the kids are off at school if you have a few minutes. But the communication piece is everything. So whatever that is, whatever works. You know, I love it, Eve and Seth go for walks. And I, unfortunately, we don’t, because my husband has security around them all the time. I do too. And it’s not he doesn’t feel like it’s private. But we’ll go up and sit outside in these chairs and, you know, kind of go through things there. But I just think that regular commitment to connecting and communicating and is essential for partnership to work.

Stacey Delo 17:49
Yeah, I said to my husband, it’s almost like we have to work it in like, like, like you brush your teeth every day, right? Like it’s so becomes a part of a system, because it’s too easy to get distracted, to not be able to connect about those things. And then, and then someone’s left holding the bag. So I’m curious, you know, the film? Well, well, first of all, before I get into organizations and companies, I think one thing also and maybe maybe you have some insight into this, but I wouldn’t you know that I opened with that line of an hour spent holding your child’s hand in the pediatricians office is as valuable as an hour spent in the boardroom. And it really takes you as the individual record recognizing that value and being very comfortable with that with that, right. I think that a lot of people might hear that. And it might be a little bit of an aha moment to go, Oh, yes, they are equal, because you are you’re advancing, you’re advancing people forward in society when you are helping to get them to the doctor’s office, or wherever it is that they’re going. But how do you are there any tips that you would have for people to really settle into that kind of confidence for themselves?

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 19:10
Yeah, I mean, I, obviously some women are, you know, fully focused on work and don’t really recognize that that value of you know, that time that time with their children and because they’ve had the means to like outsource childcare. But look, childcare time with our children, that’s our humanity. Those are our memories, our children’s memories. That’s how we build bridges. And I think, but I think we have to do more work as a society. It’s why I’m so proud of the work that we do at the representation project. It’s because we’re in the business of like awakening consciousness and shifting hearts and minds, attitudes and behaviors around these issues. So part of that entails helping men reminding men that on their own deathbed, what’s most important that spreadsheet or that, you know, at that moment that memory of like, being with their daughter when she like scraped her knee and putting that bandaid on, or being with her when she had her tonsils taken out, or, you know, being there, you know, just for the little, you know, to cook dinner with her when mom was at a work conference and putting her to bed and reading with her and just laying down. I mean, my, you know, my kids are super, obviously, I think the pandemic taught all of us, it gave us time back in a way. I mean, that’s the only gift if there’s a gift, right? It helped us to recognize the value of care. And it also gave us time in a way that we didn’t have it. I mean, I would argue maybe my husband didn’t really have time, because it was 24/7 at you know, state. And also for essential workers, they didn’t have time, so forgive me, for my not trying to make the statement that everybody had time. But but those of us who had the privilege to work from home, and weren’t essential workers, there was a little bit more time. And sometimes it crept into more work. But But in other ways that my husband will say he was home for dinner, whereas he hadn’t been before, right. So I think, cherishing those moments knowing that that’s our humanity, that’s what life is all about. And again, that’s the kind of work we’re doing with the representation project. And I imagine we’ll keep doing with even team just as we try to, obviously, there’s the policy piece, but really, I’m really interested in the hearts and minds piece we’ll get and shifting attitudes and behaviors. So again, you know, I’m part of that I do through making documentaries. And part of that is through education and curricula. And that’s one of the things that we do, we’re actually building out a program that we, you know, we’ve been sort of in and out of this program over the years, but it’s really about socializing kids to value care at the earliest of ages, and having older kids. So high school kids, mentor, middle school kids and college kids, mentor high school kids, to try normalize it more in younger generations, so that when they are caregivers, it’s normal for the father to take paternity leave. It’s normal for a father to be at back to school nights and school activities, which we’re seeing, right, but but to see to have more of that snowball effect, and to see more men step into care, even if they’re, you know, the CEO, or, you know, of a fortune 500 company,

Stacey Delo 22:23
Right. Right now, we always like to see the heads of companies, you know, modeling that they’re, they’re taking time to be with their families, and either calendaring it publicly or sending in a newsletter that they’re going to be offline for a couple days, or what have you sort of leading in that quiet but loud way really, that tells people Oh, you know, this, the leadership is, is acting this way, as well. Well, I want to be cognizant of your time, the last, you know, I think, kind of coming out of the pandemic, and we have learned so much, and we there was value, you know, for the most part and having everybody kind of see the caregiving, like, peeling back that onion, right, and letting people more people see the caregiving that goes on at home. While we’re working. I’m curious if you’ve give if you’ve thought you’ve done some work around equal pay. But I think organizations are still struggling a little bit in terms of, especially for folks that are either being called back to an office, or considering how to structure hybrid roles where people are in the office, some days and some days are not, you know, kind of where all this goes the lessons that you’ve learned from fair play and where that goes for companies in these next, really, you know, months and then obviously,

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 23:56
years. Yeah, so so we need equal pay. So as first partner my two focus areas, there’s a broader, broadly focused on the environment and California volunteers, but specifically gender equity and child wellbeing. And what within gender equity, we have equal pay California and obviously, you know, corporations across the board should be paying equitably California has the strongest pay laws in the nation. We’re trying to have the smallest pay gap. But we still know even if we’re ahead of the nation, we still pay mothers 77 cents on the dollar that we paid fathers, and we still pay black women, Latino women and Native American women so much less than we pay Asian women or white women. So it’s it’s tricky, right? We have a lot of ways to go on equal pay, and companies need to be transparent and they need to make a concerted effort to pay women equitably to promote them equitably and to give them those opportunities simultaneously. Paid family leave and sick leave is critical. The government government’s doing its part. The federal government needs to do more. But state can only do so much but state’s doing a lot. At least in this day. I And then same with sick leave. universal childcare or subsidized childcare would be a wonderful thing, if a big and a large enough company or a sort of assemblage of companies could come together and figure out sort of a, you know, a subsidized childcare pool or partnership model, you know, maybe that’s something that can be done in, in the meanwhile, what am I missing, there’s just, you know, flexibility. And again, parenting out loud at work, all the cultural stuff is really important. And, you know, obviously, this, this this about public private partnership, yep. And, and then again, it’s what goes on at home, right? Because if men are practicing more fairness at home, so we know that if men do 40% of the Child Care and domestic work 40% or 50, more minutes a day, if they do that, not only will men be happier, and less likely to be on prescription meds and antidepressants, but they’ll have greater, they’ll have better sex lives, and greater longevity. Now, we know that women, if men do 40% of the childcare in domestic work, will have less anxiety and depression, they will have be able to pursue their passions or careers, their marriages, obviously will be healthier. And for children, we know that they will have better cognitive development, fewer behavioral behavioral problems, and healthier long term relationships, if their fathers do 40% of the childcare, domestic work. So it’s a win win. So really thought if people practice it at home, and this isn’t same sex couples, and in single parent households is obviously a lot harder. It’s about that village of like, who in your village can help really hold the full, you know, you know, cognitive labor, mental load, right, and responsibility through execution, seeing it that, you know, that’s critical. But we know, again, that what happens at home those values, those practices are carried in the workforce, but they’re also part of the leadership mindset. So if the leader knows that, that these, all of these women at work, have responsibilities, they have lives outside of work, and these fathers at work, have responsibilities outside of work, then the leadership really needs to model, you know, this recognition through policies at work. And then we create a culture in a society that’s livable, and doable, and we don’t have women on the brink burning out, and marriages doing this, because that’s, that’s a lot of what we’re seeing out of it a pandemic, ironically, is a lot of tension separation, divorce, as people, you know, some some people, some families got closer and some went this way. Right,

Stacey Delo 27:44
right. Right. Right. It illuminated both ways. Well, I would suggest that employers show this film to their employees as a first step toward getting more men and women on board with understanding the the caregiving load, and as and as we said, at the beginning, assigning value to it. Because I think that this will then help organizations re re look at how they, how they assign work, how work is distributed, and that this will all help toward really, you know, retaining more women in the workforce, as opposed to pushing them out against the backdrop of all of the policy work that needs to be done. But corporations can play a big role, I think, grown,

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 28:41
big rolls forward to and frankly, don’t we all want to consume products from right companies that value that value and value women and value the family? Gag if we can move the needle in that regard, where, you know, who, where, where we sort of celebrate the companies that value women, families, men playing a role in care and caregiving. And if we can, you know, if there’s a concerted sort of consumer effort, or movement, even just support those companies through buying their products, and not those of companies that are fully ignorant of the fact that people have these lives outside of work. I mean, I think we can create a healthier culture, where we’ll also be creating healthier home lives. And, you know, again, if we’re going to address one thing coming out of the pandemic, it’s everyone’s mental health. And this is one way that we can address people’s mental health is by valuing care and slowing down as a society enough to recognize that care is our humanity. It’s what makes us tick. It’s ultimately what we all are connected to and at the end of the day,

Stacey Delo 29:57
and that actually makes you better and you’re job. Have more empathy. Yes. More. Any anyway, I can go on?

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 30:07
Yeah. Right. It’s about long term values versus the short termism. That’s so an outcome of this unfettered capitalist patriarchal society that we live in, right. And that’s why you need more of the feminine, you need more women in leadership and sitting at the tables of power, which is another thing we have been championing at the state level through our work on women and corporate boards is you have that the different perspectives, the different values, the different priorities around tables of power, making really important decisions, when you give space for women and allow them the time and space and create the culture where they can thrive and where they can participate.

Stacey Delo 30:46
Well, I hate to ask, because I think you’ve already mentioned a million things that you’re working on in such you’re doing such important work, but I like to end on what is it your turn to do? Is there one thing kind of one burning thing in your head that you know, is what you’re going to tackle next?

Jennifer Siebel Newsom 31:05
So I’m going to make misrepresentation too. Because I have Yeah, cuz misrepresentation kind of came out before social media was what it is today. And so I’m working on that. And my daughter’s actually helping me it’s really cute. And then also a film on sort of the feminine and the environment.

Stacey Delo 31:22
Wonderful. Well, what what a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much for taking the time today. I encourage everyone to watch this, this film. It’s really it. It will serve you and your families and hopefully your organization’s. That’s right. Thank you so much. Thanks so much. Nice to see you.

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