Reporting and writing by Allyson Smith
Think of your favorite podcast. What is about? Politics? Movies? TV show rewatch? Now, think of the hosts. How old are they? What’s the demographic they aim for? Young adults, right? Someone between 18 and 35? You’ve probably thought of dozens of podcasts that fit that description, and let’s be honest, at a point, they all start to get redundant.
That’s where Women With Issues comes into play.
Hosted by Tracy Maxwell Heard and Diane Kilivris, Women With Issues is one of few podcasts geared toward women over 50 that discusses political and current event topics — particularly those that matter to women over 50, as established by an AARP Harris poll.
Tracy and Diane met each other as communication majors at the University of Akron decades ago, but they drifted apart when Tracy pursued a career in politics and Diane went into advertising.
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“Tracy and I had reconnected a couple years ago after losing touch in college — we met in college at the University of Akron. We really wanted to do something together, and I had been thinking about doing a podcast. And I came across an AARP article that said… in this upcoming election cycle, 95% of women over 50 will vote,” Diane says. At the time the poll was conducted, the majority of women were undecided as well.
“I said, ‘Hey Tracy, look at this, this is our podcast right here,” Diane says.
After planning for months, they launched their first episode in April, which was recorded together in person weeks before. Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S., they have recorded all of their episodes via Zoom, including episodes with guests.
The podcast was not only inspired by the rate at which women were voting, but also the issues that women said were important to them in this upcoming election. The top issue was health care, followed by the economy and ethics.
Tracy, who served in the Ohio House of Representatives as the minority leader, majority leader, minority whip and in other roles, noted that this would be an incredible turnout. “I know the demographics for all the different categories and never ever had there been any category that performed at 95% percent in any election cycle. That was just unheard of. So the potential for that, it was just really empowering for us, so let’s gin this up and make sure we show up and deliver, and impact this opportunity,” she says.
“How many women, how many of our peers, know the power they were sitting on right now?” she adds.
Tracy acknowledges that this data doesn’t mean all women will be voting the same way, “and that’s not required for me to deem this a successful venture,” she says.
“There’s nothing that’s not on the table for women to have conversation or discussion, from health care — because we’re not just managing ourselves, but our parents and our children, so we’re 100% involved in that — [to] the economy, because we’re working and then the challenges that we have around the economy, being underpaid, being in and out of the workforce because we’re raising children and things.”
While they have been covering information found in the Harris poll, Diane, who is white, and Tracy, who is Black, cover other topics as well, such as race. They found that while race wasn’t something that was ranked as an important issue in the poll, their listeners deemed it an extremely important issue.
“We did two race episodes, and those are by far our most listened-to episodes. I’ve seen people sharing those episodes with friends,” Diane says.
Women With Issues is a podcast for women that stands out. While most podcasts for women discuss beauty, self-help or sex, Diane and Tracy say their podcast isn’t “fluff.”
“It’s not fluff. We’re not fluff. We try to make it entertaining, but we’re talking about what’s important. I really did research and I didn’t find anyone else doing this type of podcast,” Diane says.
Even though the poll that inspired the podcast was about the 2020 presidential election, Tracy and Diane have no intention of ending Women With Issues after the election. In fact, they think the end of the election cycle could breathe some new life into the project.
“Beyond the election, I would like to see us continue to address women’s issues, in general. Maybe not over 50, but women’s issues in general,” Diane says.
“Nov. 3 isn’t at all intended to be an end. We’ll look back and see what happened, what we did right, what we did wrong, and continue to adjust and move forward,” Tracy says.
To listen to Women With Issues, go to Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor FM, or Google Podcasts.
Allyson’s background is in media production and anthropology. Her hobbies include coffee, traveling, and taking months to read a single book.
Photos: Used with permission from Tracy and Diane.