Outnumbered Overtime Anchor, Harris Faulkner on Raising Confident Young Women
Harris Faulkner may be Outnumbered but she’s succeeding. The first black woman at Fox to host her own weekday daytime show, the journalist and mom has some strong words about being confident, being heard in the world and what she tells her daughters when it comes to both.
You are the first black woman at Fox anchoring her own daytime news program. What does that mean to you and to others who want to be you?
I am in fact, the first at Fox black woman with her own weekday daytime show and I was the first woman in prime time for our network, too. Just in terms of Fox’s progress in the area of diversity but also a mom and wife, it is gratifying to see a lot of hard work and barrier busting come true.
My rise is more though than just a statistic and it’s not just about me and my own ambitions. Having a black woman sit alone on a set designed for her show is necessary, powerful and emblematic of real change. And I would not be in that anchor seat at Fox News if I didn’t feel celebrated. Diversity is not just about what you will tolerate but, rather what you celebrate.
For others who want to be in my shoes: Your work ethic, your dedication, your courage your determination, your vision for yourself and for what you want to impart on viewers and how you want to do that and the kind of platform you’ll need… are all up to you. There is no one who’s going to sit and hold your hand and say, “Well you know if you do these 25 things it’s going to be perfect.” It is never going to be perfect, but it can be really amazing, which is what my journey has been. I’ve got a No.1 show at 1 p.m. Eastern on all of cable. I’m doing primetime specials like my franchise, “Town Hall America with Harris Faulkner” for which I travel all over from Arizona to Iowa on all sorts of issues Just this season alone, I was in Iowa with an audience of people from both sides of the political aisle. That’s a big thing with me. I get really bored when everybody says the same thing, and I figure if I’m bored everybody else must be bored too.
Being a breaking news anchor, how are you able to stay positive when talking to your children about what’s going on in the world
I’m able to stay positive when talking to my kids about what’s going on in the world by treating topics on a need-to-know basis. It simply is not necessary for my 10- and 12-year-old daughters to know everything that’s going on in the world. Current events in school are one thing, but at home we keep it simple. Recently, one of my daughters had a terrorism drill at school and she came home and asked, “Has something happened that they would do this?” And I encouraged her to talk about what she had learned. I gave a couple of recent examples in the news and made sure we reviewed what to do if, say, a gunman comes into the school. I wanted to take all of her questions. It was an opportunity to talk about something very important because there wasn’t a crisis at the moment but bad things do happen in this world. And you know my parents talked to me about stranger danger, and with the digital age it’s even a bigger conversation to have with your children. If they can achieve texting or calling, you need to have that conversation. So those are some of the ways that I tackle it.
Being in a highly competitive field, you know the importance of having thick skin. That being said, is there anything that you’ve learned that you will or have already shared with your kids when it comes to the importance of not letting everything get to you or not letting the haters get to you?
Well, there are bullies everywhere. A lot of times that competitive, self-esteem driven type of behaviour leads mean girls and boys to believe they can fix what hurts them by hurting others. And so, what I like to tell my girls is, “yes, it’s key to treat others the way you want to be treated. But, when people are crazy mean and out of bounds with what they do and say, walk away.” Children are microcosms of the world that they live in at home and they’re bringing a whole lot to school that we don’t know about. I do encourage my girls to report bully behaviour to a teacher or a principal or a counsellor. But, I understand that tattling can sometimes feel awkward so, as a parent, being available to listen no matter what the situation, if key.
You cohost “Outnumbered,” which encourages individual opinion. That being said, how important do you think it is for women and women of colour to voice their opinions in today’s society?
Man or woman, our talk show Outnumbered is an open place where one moment you can fiercely debate each other or be in agreement. There are some boundaries:
Name calling. Disrespect. I don’t tolerate that. And there have been times when on the show we’ve gone to commercial because I tend to handle anything like that in private unless I think it needs it right then and there. As the only original co-host of Outnumbered five years running, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to diffuse situations and how to help people to feel heard and that they can speak out and carry their opinions into the conversation.
I’m also bolstered by how many people at the top who are women at our very own network. Suzanne Scott CEO is strong. She listens. And takes action with confidence. Why do I think it’s important when it comes to encouraging young girls to become confident women? Because our differences in the way we lead as women, can lead to the difference we can make in the world. I teach my daughters to celebrate themselves as biracial young girls and young women. And I encourage my own daughters and other young girls and women who might see. To think of themselves as an incredibly important piece of every puzzle they walk into. Wherever women find themselves, you are part of the answer. You are part of the solution. Find ways to create value for yourself, which will build confidence. And it isn’t always something someone’s going to tell you. You know we’ve learned over the years that if you want that bigger paycheque, go in there and tell them why you should get it. I’m not a big fan of asking for what I know truly is the right thing. I tell people why it’s the right thing.
With both you and your husband working in the industry, how do you balance work and family life?
There is no secret or magic potion to balancing life—it’s about just finding the right answers every single day. I married a guy who does it with me so well. But some days we don’t have the answers. We just figure it out together and get through that day.
Being raised in a military family, I’m very organized so, that helps.
Your daughter will soon be entering teenage years. What scares you most about raising a teenage girl?
Well, nothing really scares me because unconditional love and having a plan are a powerful combination. However, after a heavy news day, I’m reminded that the world can be a dangerous place. I don’t approach it with fear. I approach it with the knowledge that I’m going to have to lean in and work harder to keep my kids’ attention. I now have to get creative in my parenting style and skill and not be afraid to sound like a broken record because in that moment of making a decision that could literally be life or death, I want my children to hear that nagging voice that scratches the inside of their brain that says, “Think about what you’re about to do and everything I’ve taught you. Does this reflect the values that we hold as a family? Is this really who we are?”
What are you most looking forward to about this new stage of life?
I just probably have more stages than most people because I’m embracing change non-stop. In high school, I had a teacher who said every 10 years you should write down your goals—for me it’s like every six months.
For moms about to embark on teenagehood. Yeah. Find the humour as often as you can. When your child messes up talk about the inevitability of making mistakes and then find a way to make it funny. I mean look at my weekend hair, clearly both God and I have a sense of humour!