Shortly after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election to Donald Trump, CNN’s Dana Bash, producer Abigail Crutchfield and Rachel Smolkin, the executive editor of CNN Politics, had a rare sit-down lunch and the topic of women in politics came up.
The trio wondered if the country would ever elect a female president. As the group continued to chat, they began listing trailblazing women in Washington, D.C., and soon, they realized the importance of highlighting these politicians.
“There are so many women who I have covered for years, decades really, in Washington who are badass, and who overcame barriers…and are fighting the odds and are doing things to help their constituents, if they’re members of Congress, with their political ideas and ideals..so many of them,” Bash told WWD.
The network’s chief political correspondent began putting together a list of women to highlight for a seven-part series dubbed “Badass Women of Washington,” which premieres today on CNN’s network and web site.
The show, which covers the struggles women face in politics, government and business, include sexual harassment and work/ life balance, among other topics. Profiled women include Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), who discusses how Harvey Milk’s assassination impacted her career; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), who discusses if a woman can run for office and still have a family, and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R., Wash)., on untraditional gender roles in raising a family with a stay-at-home dad.
Other segments include Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the first Asian-American woman to serve in a president’s cabinet; Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.), the first Latina to ever be elected to the U.S. Senate; Ronna Romney McDaniel, the first woman to run the Republican National Convention in three decades, and Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the Army’s surgeon general.
Bash recounted her interview with Feinstein, in which she asked the senator if she ever considered running for president.
“She said, ‘I don’t know. Look what happened to Hillary,’ just really candidly,” Bash said. ‘She said, ‘It’s hard.’ I said, ‘But you do hard.’ She said, ‘Yeah, but I like the Senate.'”
“The fact that her gut reaction was ‘look what happened Hillary,’ made me think, ugh, you know?” Bash said. “We’ve come a long way but there’s still a long way to go. A really long way to go…we’re not up to the roof yet, not even close.”
Bash also addressed CNN’s focus on growing its business digitally in light of the audience migration away from TV, and noted that the new series is an example of that.
“TV has changed, there’s no question and I am a full embracer of the digital revolution,” she said. “The reality is that as much as I watch CNN on TV and my peers watch CNN on TV, I like the idea of being able to pull up a video on your phone or Apple TV or however you watch it.”
CNN Politics’ Smolkin, who joined the company in 2014, echoed Bash, adding that there’s a
growing push to really change the thinking at the network to become a “24/7 multimedia network.” Much of the focus is on mobile.
According to ComScore data in April, CNN logged 109 million unique views, a 17 percent increase from the prior year. On mobile, CNN amassed 86 million unique visitors, up more than 30 percent the prior year.
“I think technology has changed the way people get their news and their expectations of how to get their news,” she said. “There’s real creativity and momentum here.”