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BBC’s Katty Kay offers global perspective on politics, women

Katty Kay
Katty Kay

International journalist Katty Kay brings her big-picture view of politics along today as she visits Minneapolis to speak at a womenwinning: Minnesota Women’s Campaign Fund event.

In her 20-year career, Kay’s reporting extends from interviewing soldiers still shaking from the impact of a plane slamming into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, to covering apartheid in South Africa and the war in Iraq. The daughter of a British diplomat, she grew up in the Middle East and studied at Oxford University, the beginnings of a world view she brings to global issues.

As Washington correspondent for BBC World News America and co-presenter of BBC World news bulletins, her reports are available to 254 million households worldwide. She came to talk about her global perspective on women’s leadership and women leaders’ impact on public policy at the womenwinning: Minnesota Women’s Campaign Fund‘s 26th annual luncheon. The organization has promoted 1,000-plus women candidates across party lines and directed more than $1.5 million to their campaigns.

MinnPost caught up with Katty Kay to plumb her thoughts on political questions on our minds.

MinnPost: How do you see women elected to public office changing the tone of politics in this country?

Katty Kay: There’s a new book out by Dee Dee Meyers, former White House [press] secretary for the Clintons, titled “Why Women Should Rule the World.” It makes a good case that women in charge would mean fewer wars, a different management style and more embracing of other people’s views. But in the business and personal world, it’s not that women are better than men. It’s that they bring different perspectives and skills.

MP: In light of your global perspective, how does women’s influence on politics in America compare with other countries around the world?

In Rwanda, which has gone through a devastating civil war and has a per-capita income of $16 per year, half of members of Parliament are women. But in most countries, including the United States, there’s a paucity of women in public office. There are a lot of problems for women running for office. In the United States, the first is money. No other country demands the fundraising capacity required here. In this presidential election, candidates’ campaigns will cost $1 billion. Compare that to Great Britain’s, which is $73 million. And the fundraising process is harder for women, who don’t have the same networks as men do. They don’t play golf with wealthy CEOs. That’s why women need networks.

MP: To what extent do you believe Hillary Clinton’s gender is influencing voters’ choices in caucuses and primaries across the country?

KK: This is an election of so many firsts. Polls have said race and gender aren’t important, but I suspect people aren’t answering honestly. Race is being talked about an awful lot. I’d say gender is also an important factor. Add to that the fact it’s harder for a woman to run. And a woman has to look good. One report said Hillary Clinton spends an hour and a half on her hair, makeup and clothes every morning. Barack Obama probably spends 10 minutes.

MP: What price do you think the Democrats will pay in the November primary as a result of the heated and unrelenting race between Obama and Clinton?

I’m not sure we know yet that there will be a price. I see pros and cons. People argue that Obama has been toughened up, become a sharper speaker and honed his arguments, partly thanks to Sen. Clinton. Other people say there’s dissatisfaction among Democrats. The number of people who say they won’t vote for the other candidate is alarming. But we have six months to go. I expect Democrats will rally around their leader in the way Republicans who supported Romney will rally around McCain.

MP: What can the next U.S. president do that will restore America’s image in a more positive light?

I think a lot has to do with tone and diplomacy. The reasons America isn’t liked in various countries isn’t uniform. The reasons can be different. I think all three candidates realize that anti-American sentiments have risen around the world and that’s not a good thing. I’m often asked if this is a permanent condition. I don’t think it is.

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