Money and power aren’t everything, says a burnt-out Arianna Huffington. Ruby Warrington asks the media mogul about her campaign to start the third women’s revolution, and speaks to some of those caught up in it
Media mogul Arianna Huffington on striving for a work/life balance and superpreneurs.
Friday lunchtime in Manhattan, and the gigantic, open-plan expanse of Arianna Huffington’s SoHo loft is buzzing with activity. The author and media mogul is in the kitchen being photographed, Oprahstyle, for the cover of her own magazine, The Huffington (a weekly distillation of online news site The Huffington Post, which launched for iPad last year), while a pair of J Crew-clad assistants field calls and fire off emails as they look on from the wings. Behind me a woman in overalls is meticulously polishing a set of faux rococo chairs. The general vibe isWarhol’s Factory meets Gossip Girl.
“They’re for the conference,” says Huffington, gliding over to introduce herself and gesturing at the newly varnished chairs. She is surprisingly statuesque, her Wintour-blonde hair blow-dried into a perfect, shimmering wave. “It’s ridiculous, I only just moved in, but already I am putting my furniture in storage,” she says, her Athens accent as thick and creamy as honeyed Greek yogurt.
At the time of our meeting she was preparing for the June 6 event she called The ThirdMetric: Redefining Success BeyondMoney and Power. A think tank of sorts, the summit brought together experts in the fields of leadership, wellness and self-development to discuss the fact that the way we work isn’t working, and that the time has come for women in power to do something about it. Why women? “At the moment we are still competing on men’s terms, which means working as hard as we can until we burn out,” says Huffington.
We settle on a pink velvet sofa as she swiftly unpacks her agenda, “Corporate success is measured on two things – money and power. But it’s time for a third metric, one founded on well-being, wisdom and our desire and ability to give back.” These are topics that are currently mushrooming over our news feeds and which The Huffington Post expounds on daily under the rubric ‘Less stress, more living’.”
She reels off some statistics: “Women in stressful jobs have a nearly 40 per cent increased risk of heart disease and a 60 per cent increased risk of diabetes. The fact is, we’re used to men having heart attacks in their fifties, but it shouldn’t be happening to anyone.”
She has also spoken in response to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s book Leaning Back To Lean In. “We need to ask ourselves, what is the nature of the world women are leaning into?”
Women helping women has become a big theme recently. Think for example of playwright and activist Eve Ensler’s V-Day campaign to stop violence against women and girls, or fashion designer Tory Burch’s mentoring foundation, which aims to empower women economically. Huffington also co-hostsWomen: Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) symposiums, which aim to provide a platform for women leaders to inspire and empower the next generation.
Huffington makes a fitting figurehead for the movement. She turns 63 in July, making her old enough, as she puts it, “to have suffered more than enough lessons to learn from”.
Best known for her online publishing juggernaut, her career has also been politically charged. She even ran for governor of California against Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.
But despite the thrusting media persona, in the flesh she exudes a nurturing, almost maternal femininity.
Is it possible to stress less?
The idea for the conference came from a conversation with a friend, Mika Brzezinski, an MSNBC morning news presenter, whose new book, Obsessed, details her battles with an eating disorder, and who has joined in our chat. Although blonde and beautiful, Brzezinski’s working life of 3.30am alarm calls and early shifts is etched in her face. “I confided to Arianna that I had been on sleep medication for I don’t know how long,” she says. “She looked at me and just said, ‘No’.”
Huffington later describes it as an intervention, and says the pair were soon treading that familiar territory: “Was there