Broad of the Month: Amanda Mountain

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Lisa Ingarfield | @tritodefi

Thomas King, author of The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative states “stories are wondrous things.”. They are powerful, motivating, and crucial for our understanding of the human experience. And so, I begin with a story: a long time ago, a college professor told a first generation college student she believed in her. “You really have something. You can do this,” the professor said to the young, nascent, video production student.

A lasting memory of support and encouragement told with warmth and pride.

The student at the center of this story is Amanda Mountain, the first woman and youngest CEO of Rocky Mountain PBS (RMPBS) in its 62 year history. Mountain recounts this story as a catalytic moment in her life; one helping to catapult her into a successful career in the media. This pivotal moment gave Mountain the strength and confidence to move forward believing she was capable of much more than she imagined.

Amanda Mountain, CEO of RMPBS. 

Amanda Mountain, CEO of RMPBS. 

Mountain’s vision for RMPBS centers on the transformational power of storytelling and a desire to create citizen storytellers across the state, giving Coloradans the tools and training to share their stories widely. Creating space for, and empowering women and girls to share their stories is especially important. Public media, says Mountain, plays a significant role in shining light on the varied experiences of women and girls in Colorado. Mountain understands Colorado women do not all have the same opportunities and resources. And the spectrum of their stories, so often silenced or ignored, must be shared.

Throughout her life, women have been a lifeline for Mountain. When she was uncertain about her ability or opportunity, she turned to the women in her life for support. She underscores this. Women have always been there for her. Always. She describes a time when she sought counsel from a group of women mentors about being a mother of a young child and a CEO. She felt internal guilt and experienced external shaming for her identity as a working mother. Her mentor group provided support and guidance and helped her see how these (false) narratives are the ones often keeping women from leadership roles.

Women, Mountain reflects, all too often make decisions based on fear. We’ve all likely been there. Faced with a risk or big decision we perhaps shy away from it, telling ourselves now is not the right time, or we can’t do it. The doubt women experience about their capabilities can sometimes be overwhelming. Mountain believes the discomfort of these decisions is important to notice and women “just have to do it anyway,” even when scared. The minute we stop making decisions, Mountain shares, is the minute we can lose control over our lives.

Seven months into her current role, Mountain is still finding her footing. She shares what an incredible opportunity this is for her while recognizing such a gift isn’t one many women are given. “That I was able to make choices to get me to this place and not having been forced to make choices to simply survive, is an extraordinary privilege that no one in my family before me has ever had.”

She acknowledges many of her employees don’t have the same luxury. Many women are simply trying to get by. And so, Mountain regularly asks herself how she can she use her position to significantly and meaningfully support women and girls in Colorado.  

One of her answers, is to start with the culture of work, particularly, the faulty reasoning equating effectiveness and success in the workplace with the amount of time spent working in the office. Mountain recognizes how this equation harms individuals, particularly working mothers. She also acknowledges how requesting work/life balance is often “quietly translated” into a lack of work ethic in many companies. This quiet translation disproportionately affects women who are still the primary caregivers in their families and households.

The values of community, support, and social change permeate RMPBS and the media it creates. Public media attempts to change the world and, as Mountain articulates, has an obligation to do so, now more than ever. It has the capacity to empower women and girls and to connect them with a more representative media. Often, we turn on our televisions and we do not see ourselves reflected back. Mountain, in her leadership of RMPBS is committed to helping remedy this reality. Public media thrives on bucking trends, and Mountain is at the helm, writing this new story, expanding authorship across the state, and creating a space where women and girls have the tools and platform to speak their truth.