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Female Disruptors: Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fort Worth, Texas’s Mayor Mattie Parker.

Mattie Parker was elected in June 2021 as the 45th Mayor of Fort Worth. Leading one of the fastest growing large cities in the nation, Parker has set her focus on key issues that move Fort Worth forward, including economic development growth, innovative transportation and mobility solutions, quality education opportunities for every student, and building safer, more prosperous communities.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Mayor Parker! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I have always loved being behind the scenes in policy-making. Over the past two decades, I’ve worked for several influential leaders at the federal, state, and local level, I spent time as a practicing attorney, and I started an education nonprofit. When the opportunity to run for Mayor of Fort Worth came to me, I didn’t expect it, but it felt like the right moment to step up for my city and lead in an exciting time in Fort Worth history.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Every day, I’m choosing to lead firmly with a consensus-building, bipartisan-focused mindset. It might seem like the opposite of disruptive, but because it’s not what we’re seeing right now, especially at the state and federal levels of government, I do end up being pretty disruptive. The politics in Fort Worth and on our City Council range widely, but my commitment is to focus on where we can agree and what we can get done together.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s less of a mistake and more of an embarrassing story, but I was once pumping breast milk in my office with the door closed, totally brain-dead from everything that comes with a new baby. Someone knocked and I unthinkingly welcomed them in and had a whole sit-down conversation with a man from the Finance Department. I was, thankfully, covered up well enough, but looking back, it was very awkward. On the positive side of things, the story is also an example of how kind and understanding people can be with frazzled new parents.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I was lucky early in my career to work for a woman named Nancy Fisher, who at the time was the chief of staff for Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick. She was just the right mix of empathetic and no-nonsense. She taught me, and the women around me, about how valuable a reputation is, the importance of speaking with authority, and being mindful of the messages you are sending with the way present yourself.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Democracy, and the way government should run, is a prime example of the way “disruptive” can improve or detract. We know that government functions to provide assistance, improve lives and be additive to our communities. Progress and disruption moves us forward to do more and be better in all of those areas, but you can take it too far. The far political fringes we see in both parties right now are that example, pulling us to places where “disruptive” is distracting at best and harmful at worst.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  • Don’t be intimidated if you’re the only woman in the room.
  • Be the most prepared.
  • Don’t let your clothes do the talking for you.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We need more women’s voices in policy-making. I want to create a bench of women to use their voices in a powerful way to create policy change, especially those who don’t hold elected office.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Often, women only get one shot to be heard. You have to listen first, come prepared, and then be concise and impactful when your opportunity comes. You have to know you might only get one chance and make the most of it.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

There is an episode of the podcast Honestly with Bari Weiss called “The New Founders America Needs” that I think of often. In it, she is speaking to a group of young adults essentially about the problems that exist in the America they live in today, and how important it is embrace critical thinking to solve these issues. There is so much more to it, so I encourage you to give it a listen. It’s good food for thought for anyone, but especially that next generation of leaders.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

It would absolutely be a movement of investing more in early childhood education and childcare. Ninety percent of brain development happens before age five, yet we invest drastically less in their education than we do in K-12. Businesses lose $13 billion annually in productivity costs due to child care challenges faced by their workforce. If we could work collectively to change these issues, it would transform all of our lives. If kids are successful, we’re all successful.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Madeleine K. Albright said that “There’s a special place in hell for woman who don’t help other women.” I’ve been lucky to have women of all personality types and levels of success help me and others on the path to successful careers, but I have also heard horror stories of women who haven’t been so lucky, being held down by a boss or someone they look up to. We should never eat our own.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on Twitter at @MayorMattie.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.