In mid-October, Marie Claire hosted a conference with some of America’s most powerful women — and it began at 30,000 feet in the air. For the third year of its “Power Trip” event, the magazine chartered a plane and sent 100 of America’s most powerful women on a whirlwind, 36-hour journey to San Francisco. I was lucky enough to get to go along.
To be honest, an event like this wouldn’t normally interest me — “boss lady” language has always made me cringe — but I spent every one of those 36 hours enthralled. The women I met were fascinating, vulnerable, and funny. The power in the group was palpable: I heard two women make a partnership deal as they sat next to each other during a panel discussion, and watched a young woman pitch her new app to the founder of a highly successful fitness chain. On the flight home, we stuffed our faces with fried-chicken sandwiches and talked about the perils of male bosses and being hungover at work. By the time I got back to my apartment, my jaw was sore from talking and laughing so much. Below, four Power Trippers explain how they get it done.
Ellen Pao, investor and founder of Project Include
On mornings: I don’t sleep that much, so often I get up at 5. First thing in the morning, I’m online. And then I try to wake up my daughter to get her to school and I’m in mom mood for an hour and a half and then back to work.
On vetting pitches: I’m investing but not super-actively, so I might get three or four pitches a week and I’ll only usually look at one and … it really has to hit my sweet spot, which is an underrepresented person of color or a woman or nonbinary founder or an area targeted some kind of major problem that I think needs work. They’re the ones most interesting to me. I’m investing my personal money so I’m trying to be a little bit more selective.
On choosing who to work with: I’m very selective in who I work with. So I only wanna work with CEOs who already understand that there is a problem in Silicon Valley and want to try to help solve it. There’s this whole conversation happening right now about “how do we redeem these people who are bad actors,” and I think it’s fine for people to work on them but I don’t wanna spend my energy on that.
On feeling powerful, and powerless: I wish I were more powerful, because I would change things so much. If there was one billion-dollar fund that just focused on women, people of color, and especially women of color, it would make a difference in tech. I don’t see anybody doing that. I don’t feel powerful when I see all the change that needs to be done, and I know that there are people who can help, but won’t. I’ve met people who say, “I’ve read your book and it was so meaningful to me.” That doesn’t make me feel powerful, but it does give me a sense of relief that what I’m doing is having an impact.
Kate Bolduan, host of CNN’s “At This Hour”
On how she consumes news: With a lot of the stuff I cover, I’ve been following the topic for a while already. So most of the time I only need to read the first three grafs of the stories, and then I move onto the next one. I don’t need all the background. If the new information is not in the first three grafs, you’ve written your article wrong and I am not reading the rest of it.
On staying awake: That’s been a huge evolution. I used to be a major coffee person and then after my second kid I became a decaf coffee person. It is really weird. I have not needed to go back on caffeine. I don’t understand it but I’m not going to push it.
On on-camera disasters: Once, I completely leaked through one of my shirts when I was still breastfeeding, and I needed to get off camera quickly. I remember I was interviewing a congressman. I forgot my breast pads that day, and breast pads are the key to avoiding exactly that kind of situation.
On asking for what she wants: I’m really specific about my hair and makeup. I used to call it my armor. The makeup tends to be heavier when you’re on TV, for a good reason. The way our cameras are now, viewers can see everything. I like my hair obviously extremely straight. If it is curving on the end, I am just going to tell the hair person that it’s time to fix it. I have found that everyone in this industry prefers you just speak up and be clear about what you want.
I do all of my own wardrobe. We buy all of our own clothes (we don’t take any handouts or anything). Deciding which outfit to wear is a major stress of my day. I know how to do news, but when it comes to fashion, I am not good at it at all. I just always want to look good and feel good. I have one red dress, this Michael Kors dress, that I basically had to retire because I wore it in every press photo, that makes me feel amazing. And I’ve got these Stella McCartney riding pants and they fit like a glove and they squeeze it all in in the right places. Put me black blazer and a T-shirt, and I’ll go anywhere.
Jen Rubio, co-founder of Away Travel
On how to stay calm at an airport: I think you have to be very even-keeled. Something always goes wrong no matter what. I just pretend that it’s the first time they’ve ever left their house. If I’m behind someone awful in the TSA line and they don’t know what to do, I’m like, “That’s okay. It’s their first time.” It just makes me feel better. When I traveled less, I was very very high-strung and very impatient. I honestly think I thought I was going to have a brain aneurysm from being so mad all of the time.
On her travel secrets: When you’re boarding, either board first or board last. If you can board first, do it, you can sit on the plane and get settled in while everyone else boards. I’ve personally never checked a bag, but have respect for people who do. There are things I bring with me to make flights more enjoyable. I love Master Dynamic Noise canceling headphones. I have a silk sleep mask from Slip. I always bring a face mist, I just get so dry (Cap Beauty makes a really good one). I bring a Ziploc of almonds with me too, but I secretly really like airplane food.
On the perks of being a frequent flier: My claim to fame this year is I’m the, except for United, I’m the highest status possible on three different airlines. I’m a million-miler on Delta, and if I have a layover, they’ll pick me up from the jet bridge. Someone will be standing there, with a sign with my name on it. Then, there’s a Porsche to take me to my next gate. It’s insane. It’s also kind of useless, but it’s amazing. The first time it happened to me — because they don’t tell you it’s going to happen — I literally thought someone had died or that I was in trouble. Because there’s just a very official person on the jet bridge standing there with my name. I was like, “What did I do?”
On her secret to email: There’s this amazing app called “Superhuman.” It’s invite-only and there’ a long waiting list. It basically shuts out everything and gives you a really simple email interface. A lot of keyboard shortcuts and it has prewritten emails that you’ve written. It lets you bang out responses.
On her biggest indulgence: I’m very lucky to have a beautiful loft in Noho. It’s away from the street. It’s like my retreat, totally. My guilty pleasure, not even, just my pleasure is I just love massages. So, I use Zeel. It’s an app with a monthly massage membership. The masseuses come to you. If you sign up for a year, you get a free massage table. So, I have a massage table folded up under my bed. I have my favorite people that always come. It’s been life-changing.
On her fantasy vacation: Honestly, just to any Aman. Getting to Amangiri requires like a private plane or a really long drive, but I just think that once you’re there it’s the most amazing experience. But in reality, on the day-to-day, any flight upgraded to business class with a lie-flat seat, food’s really good, you get a warm chocolate chip cookie in the middle of the flight.
Charlotte Cho, founder of SokoGlam.com and Then I Met You
On learning about skin care from her husband: I grew up as a typical American girl in California, sunbathing and I didn’t care about sunscreen. But my husband and co-founder, Dave, knew about skin care from a very young age. His Korean mom taught him to wear sunscreen, to moisturize, to exfoliate. He was in the military, and when he was serving in Iraq he’d put on sunscreen, and all the people there would make fun of him for that.
On the difference between Korean and American skin-care routines: In the U.S. everything is focused on astringents to dry out any excess oil, very strong acids that will dry out your skin. In Korea, they’re about supplementing your skin hydration to get a glow. That’s why they’re sheet masking, misting, doing a lot of these products to just add layers of hydration.
On her messy bathroom: I test every single product we sell on Soko Glam. mean, I have bags and bags of skin-care products just spilling out everywhere at my house. I have stuff all over my counter, in the bathroom, so, maybe like 200 products.
On why she tests all her products first: I always look at the ingredient list first, because that’s what really largely determines effectiveness. And I think, for a long time, cosmetic companies preyed on the fact that you didn’t know how to read that label, but people are so much more informed. And so, I will ask brands, specifically, “Can you send me your INCI sheet?” Which means, in product language, that is really the step-by-step percentages of the formula, and most companies, normal companies, will not share that, because that’s their secret sauce, that’s their formula. But they trust me and so they’re willing to share that information.