Laura: Hi everyone, I’m Laura Max Rose and you’re listening to Women Mean Business where we interview extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. I’m here live at the Women’s Fund, Rockin’ Resiliency, Straight outta Compton Luncheon. Here with the Mayor of Compton herself, Aja Brown. Aja, welcome to the show. Thank you for being here.
Aja: Thanks for having me.
Laura: Aja, you are the youngest mayor that the city of Compton has ever had (Aja: Yes.), so, I can only imagine. You were born in 1982, and not only are you facing the challenges that women face when they’re trying to excel in the workplace or in government, but you’re also very young. I can only imagine the barriers that you had to face becoming mayor. Tell us about those barriers and how you were able to overcome them.
Aja: I think it’s really interesting how people have implicit bias and really don’t even recognize how it influences the way that they think and what they really rationalize as acceptable leadership. I was able to really get in the trenches, speak to voters, speak to, and the majority of voters are women. Generally, people are supportive, but their number one question is, “Are you old enough to be a mayor?” and then, “Are you qualified to be a mayor?” And it’s really interesting because I don’t think that same question or assumption is really directed toward men, because men usually assert themselves, and even if they are not qualified for something, they’ll just hop in there and move forward.
Laura: Of course. They take their seat at the table.
Aja: Exactly. They just take it and they just assume that they’re supposed to be there. When I actually ran down my qualifications, they said, “Wow, you’re probably the most qualified mayor we’ve ever had,” or could potentially have. And so, it was really interesting and exciting at the same time because I was just able to win over people just one by one, and the momentum just grew and I was able to make it through.
Laura: Well, we’re seeing on both sides of the political aisle right now this resistance and this uprising to the establishment. A lot of what the establishment perpetuates is this need to sort of do things by the book, and clearly we have decided that is not the book we are going to go by anymore. You seemed to figure that out pretty early, and you were able to go forward and follow your dreams and really achieve them. To become mayor at such a young age is really incredible. What drove you to take on this huge responsibility? Why did you decide to dedicate your life at this point?
Aja: I was just discontent with the status quo and I just refused to complain. I thought that I could really be a part of the solution and hopefully to be a catalytic force to drive other people to want to be a part of their community to take back their city. When I looked at the city of Compton, I knew that it could just be an amazing community, and it had been an amazing community, and it just really needed strong leadership that was strategic and focused on not only utilizing the resources that were already there, but also attracting new resources. And it takes a certain type of leader to be able to do that.
Laura: Thank you so much for being here today, Aja.
Aja: Thanks for having me. I had a great time.
Laura: You’ve been watching Women Mean Business where we’re letting you listen to extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. I’m Laura Max Rose.
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