16 April 2008

The Interview: Joanne Bamberger, a.k.a. PunditMom

The original purpose of this blog is to examine discussions about issues and ideas online, and the best way to do that, I think, is to ask questions of some of the people leading and influencing those discussions across multiple online communities. These people are actually quite rare - they bridge cultures and communities, and they serve as the backbone of diverse coalitions that actually move ideas into action. I have a couple of these interviews lined up, and I'm looking for more.

The first interview is with Joanne Bamberger, known as PunditMom. She's a freelance writer who has been published in the Washington Post, Legal Times, and on MSN.com, among other places. She's a contributing editor for politics at BlogHer. She contributes to a number of blogs. She's a former Deputy Director of Communications at the Securities Exchange Commission. As anyone who reads her blog knows, she's also a loving mom to "PunditGirl."

As for online communities, she's a leading voice for people who talk about politics, and a leading voice for people who talk about parenting. She's also very astute on adoption issues. I know of many other political moms, but I thought of her for this interview when I learned she'd be talking with a group of advocates at the National Women's Law Center about social media.

So here's the first of what I hope will be many interviews with online opinion leaders.

Q: Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging after a freelance job writing op-eds for The Washington Examiner came to an end. Through that job, I discovered just how much I enjoy that form of writing and wanted to keep my hand in it until I could find another opinion column opportunity. So I started PunditMom as a way to work on my writing skills. I never really thought people would begin to read my blog! In a few days, PunditMom will have it's two-year anniversary. I still don't have a paying opinion gig for a newspaper, but I have been able to join several blogging communities and was invited to be a Contributing Editor for Politics & News at BlogHer!

Q: You spoke recently to the National Women's Law Center about social media. How can social media empower women to be more effective advocates?

For women to be able to reach out to others in various social media forms is empowering. Most of the women I spoke with at the NWLC were not attorneys, but work for a variety of non-profit organizations that advocate for women's and children's issues. I spoke with them about ways to reach out to bloggers who write about family issues as a way of raising the profile for their organizations and their missions. Also, I encouraged them not to be afraid to start blogs for their own organizations as a way to reach out and find a bigger audience for their messages.

Q: You spend a lot of time discussing political issues as they pertain to candidates. Are you as interested in political issues as they pertain to companies?

I would love to see family-friendly companies take an interest in the issues that are important to women and mothers, such as the environment and things that impact the health and welfare of our children, such as the safety of plastics that our children use from the time they are infants -- baby bottles, sippy cups, plastic plates. It would be great if more companies could find ways to engage in becoming better corporate citizens and finding issues to advocate for that are consistent with their businesses. For example, schools are complaining right now that they do not have enough money in their budgets to buy healthy food for school lunches, and are cutting back on things, including milk. What if companies stepped up and helped make sure that children, especially low-income children, kept getting the healthiest food possible in their school lunches. You can bet "mommybloggers" would beat a path to support the products or services of a company like that.

Q: Plenty of bloggers criticize businesses, but unlike many political bloggers, you have consistently tried to focus on positive and constructive solutions. Are there any companies you think have done a good job addressing the issues you care about most? What are they doing?

Another issue I'd like to see businesses address in a better way is leveling the employment playing field for mothers. There are so many issues connected with that -- maternal profiling, flexible hours, paid leave. As a practical matter, women are more adversely effected by these policies, or lack thereof, than men, since women are still the primary caregivers for children in our country. I would love to see more businesses realize that the more they support mothers, the better it will be for the business. One example of a company who that has really stepped up in embracing and addressing the challenges of working mothers today is PricewaterhouseCoopers. Not surprisingly, it took a bunch of accountants to sit down and figure out how much money they lose if they don't help working mothers, both in flexible hours and by providing ongoing training and networking opportunities for them while they are out of the paying workforce.

Q: What's next? How will political women lead the way on social media and advocacy?

I have said jokingly to some others that women bloggers will achieve political domination by 2012! Seriously, the amount and level of political conversation among women bloggers is increasing everyday. I believe that as we become more comfortable trying on our political voices and making arguments about the issues we care about, our presence will grow and we'll start taking our action offline, into our communities.

1 comment:

PunditMom said...

Thanks for inviting me to be your first interview!