Exclusive: On Women's Day, WWE's Stephanie McMahon's advice to women, 'Grab the moment, don't let it intimidate you'
The Chief Brand Officer also reminisces her most challenging moment from the ring, the tag match against Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 34
Stephanie McMahon has donned several roles within the WWE universe. Although she was one of the key characters in the ring during the late ‘90s, today she plays a bigger and a major role as the Chief Brand Officer (CBO) of the WWE. A role that’s demanding in both creative as well as managerial aspects. Earlier this week, when Stephanie invited a group of women journalists from across the globe to interact with her over a Zoom meeting ahead of the International Women’s Day, it did come as an exciting opportunity, considering the CBO’s tight schedule.
It’s not just her professional commitments that keep her busy, as a mother of three, Stephanie also has to fulfil her family commitments. This was a reason why our interaction with the businesswoman, leader and mother seemed all the more important, it took us behind the scenes and gave a glimpse into Stephanie’s life, away from the razzmatazz of the ring. Excerpts:
It’s the International Women’s Day, where do you think this need to awaken women comes from? What’s your message to women?
I believe in fighting for what’s right and fighting for equality. I have had many opportunities in my life, I have also had lot of challenges, because of my gender. This shouldn’t be a barrier to anything you want to accomplish. I have three daughters; I am fighting for them and for women all over the world. We should be able to do what we want to do, as long as we work hard like everyone else in the room, never give up and fight for what we believe in. Everyday should be International Women’s Day because we fight for equality every day. It’s important to have a voice and to be proud of who you are and to have confidence in yourself. To know that you belong, no matter what anybody tells you. To never give up or back down, and work very hard.
How is WWE changing the landscape of women’s wrestling globally?
WWE continues with the women’s evolution that started a long time ago but it became a part of the movement in 2015. The hashtag #givedivasachance trended worldwide for three days calling for more character development, better storylines, longer matches and more athleticism and we rebranded the diva’s division as women’s division, we also unveiled new championships. Our women who were showcased in the main event at WrestleMania 35 – Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch – broke the entertainment revenue record at the MetLife stadium. The opportunities in NXT, SmackDown and RAW just shows how we have evolved – the ethnicities and body types – the representation of women of all types is being included.
In corporate meetings, have you ever felt like your voice or opinion hasn’t been heard, considering you may have been the only woman in those meetings?
I have been the only woman in very large groups of male-dominated meetings, many times. I do have the advantage of being the boss’ daughter but there have been times when I felt my voice didn’t matter as much. In those situations, you just have to speak louder. You have to grab the moment; you can’t let it intimidate you. If you want to make a point that really matters, you just make it. You have to use your voice and have the confidence to do it.
Why do you think at times women don’t believe in themselves?
We are born fearless. My own children were not born that way. But I do think there’s some shift when we start growing up, we second guess ourselves. Even I can be extremely insecure and second guess everything. It’s almost detrimental, I can be hard on myself. It’s not the best way for me. I had a situation earlier this week. I had a big decision to make, I didn’t see the writing on the wall, so I was really beating myself up for not being able to see it sooner. It was playing out all day and night in my mind. I was actually sitting with my girls (daughters) just before they were going to bed and they were wondering why I wasn’t paying attention, and I told them, ‘I am sorry, mommy made a big mistake at work, and I am focusing on it, trying to fix it’. I had the option to go grab a big bowl of cereal and chocolate chips, eat it and wallow to have my little pity party, or I could just learn from it, and fix it. There’s nothing wrong with eating the big bowl of cereal, I ate it the next night, but I had the opportunity to show my children at that moment, how to handle a situation like this. I owned the mistake, learnt from it and I thought of six different ways to change it for the future. So, I don’t know why women are hard on themselves, but honestly, we shouldn’t be.
Speaking about WWE women superstars, there’s only Asuka who represents Asia. But will there be a wider representation of talent from this region, including India? What’s the plan ahead?
Of course, yes! During pre-Covid days we were doing trials all over the world. We are always looking for the best – both men and women. Right now, we have women from 14 different countries and we are really proud about that. We have women from Australia, Canada, Chile, the UK, India, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Moldova, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales and China. We have Xia Li from China who has a Chinese dynasty-type storyline. She has a fascinating backstory too, her parents didn’t support her to come to the USA to be part of the WWE. We see big things for her in the future. From India we have Kavita Devi, but we are certainly looking for more talent from the country. We will continue to grow the roster with a particular focus on women.
Looking at your journey with the WWE which do you think was your most challenging moment?
Facing Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 34 was one of my big challenges personally and professionally. She’s so amazing that I had to train myself to just be able to showcase her because it was her debut in WWE. She was the first women’s champion in the UFC, the first female fighter to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and she was the first American woman to earn an Olympics medal in judo. She was an incredible person with a great backstory, but she was tough. It was her debut, and it was a tag match. She teamed with Kurt Angle who is another medallist, against me and my husband Triple H who is an iconic star. The only one who didn’t belong to this professional athlete circle was me. I had to train three times a day for three months. On top of this, I was also a mom by then and I was competing with my husband, I didn’t want him to look bad or my father to look bad who had created WrestleMania, it was a huge challenge. I learnt so much about myself even though I was so scared. Actually, my oldest daughter reminded me of a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘To do something you are afraid of every day,’ I still follow it. So back then I chose to go for the match because it was a privilege that not many people have.
WrestleMania 37 is scheduled to take place in April. What can we expect from the WWE women’s division?
One of the big matches that has already been announced is between Bianca Belair who won the Royal Rumble 2021 and Sasha Banks. Bianca is challenging Sasha for the SmackDown Women’s championship. It is going to be an excellent showcase of their athleticism. Personally, also it’s going to be so interesting with their back stories. WrestleMania 37 is the showcase of the immortals and we can’t wait to showcase these two women and others.