I’m at a Business Chicks breakfast, waiting to hear Arianna Huffington speak. And, I must admit, I’m feeling a little vexed. After all, this is the 52nd most powerful woman in the world, according to Forbes; a groundbreaker in old and new media; and the author of an (eminently sensible) book called Thrive, redefining what it means to be successful.
But she’s also a political weathervane; an editor who refuses to pay bloggers; and a commentator who once wrote that the achievement of total liberation would, “transform only the lives of women with lesbian tendencies”.
So, here follows, the 10 things I learned from Arianna Huffington today:
She has a strong Greek accent – and a wicked sense of humour. “The final present I got from my husband was a really passive-aggressive one. It was a dialect coach. She followed me around for two weeks. At the end I wanted to divorce him.”
She wrote her book Thrive after falling over from exhaustion and fracturing her cheekbone: “When you’re lying on the floor of your office in a pool of blood, you’re not successful. Get over it.”
OK, this is the definition of irony. The woman who made US$21m by selling her stake in new media phenomenon, Huffington Post, is lauding those who eschew social media. “Put down your devices,” she exhorts. “Multi-tasking is an illusion. It doesn’t really exist.”
However, accessibility is important to Arianna. She gives out her email address – email@example.com – to anyone who wants to write for her. (No mention of payment, however….) The Huffington Post is opening an office in Australia.
She talks about the need for restructuring the workplace: “We want to change the world. It’s not working for women. And it’s not working for men. We need to find the joy in what we’re doing.”
Arianna talks a lot about “sleeping” her way to the top: literally. “Start by getting 30 more minutes sleep a night. Get a sleep sponsor, or a sleep buddy… to talk you down,” she recommends. (But, how do we wind down after spending all that time reading stories on HuffPost Women…?)
I’m starting to think I should have called this column, Arianna’s Aphorisms. Here’s another one: “Take one minute to set your intention for the day. You don’t create from your inbox.”
She channels the Dalai Lama: “Bring gratitude into your lives. Create a cycle of positive experience.” Then, a flight attendant: “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” Finally, a funeral director: “Eulogies have nothing to do with our resumes. You don’t hear, ‘George increased our market share’!”
I kinda like the picture she paints of the modern workplace: “The companies that thrive in the future will make their employees take vacation time. And turn off their emails outside work hours.”
“Onward, upward and inward.” This is Arianna’s motto. Or the contortionists’ creed. Not quite sure which.
The conclusion? Arianna is a charismatic, funny, wise woman, who’s a leading light in new media. But the Huffington Post – while it pays staff writers – still doesn’t pay its bloggers, most of whom are women. So I stand up, in front of a thousand women, and ask this:
“My name is Tracey Spicer. I’m a writer and journalist. While I recognise that sites like the Huffington Post give voice to those are not often heard in the mainstream media, I believe all bloggers should be paid for their work. Will Huffington Post Australia pay its writers?”
And so, Arianna-the-unflappable launches into a staunch defence of unpaid work: “You have to understand the principal of platforms,” she answers. “These bloggers want a wide distribution for their thoughts and ideas. No one is being forced to do it.”
Then, she compares writing columns to watching TV. “When you sit there watching TV, you enjoy it! You don’t ask to be paid to do it. Self-expression is the new entertainment. That’s part of the magic of the internet.”
I’ll take that as a “no”.