[Photo by: Yanek Che for Guest of a Guest]
Re-posted from Forbes.
As Cindy Gallop reminded us, quoting Kathy Matsui, one of the most important things we need to do in order to gain more leadership seats at the table is to break through not the “glass ceiling,” but “through the thick layer of men.” Another key thing we all must do in this quest, as Emily Gannett reminds us, as she references Margaret Thatcher’s mantra, is that we must as women not just gain more seats at the top, but also make room for and help other women sit at the table.
In the fourth installment of More Seats, I sit down with entrepreneur, producer and Change the Ratio Co-Founder Emily Gannett. Not only has she produced some of the most talked about content and events in the tech space over the last few years, but she has also made it her mission–working alongside Rachel Sklar–to help fundamentally Change the Ratio of women in the technology industry and leadership roles. Emily and I both have had the opportunity to work at established agencies but we have both chosen the path of entrepreneurship. I admire her greatly and am elated to share the conversation we’ve had with all of you.
Name: Emily Gannett
Educational Background: BFA from New York University in Cinema Studies
Previous Work Experience: Started earning my stripes (and war wounds) in 2003 by working in Publicity, Finance and Physical Production Departments at Miramax Films and then Focus Features. My gig in the studio system ended when my boss Jane Evans encouraged me to leave my full time job in production to focus on product placement and hired me as a consultant. Around the same time I co-founded a startup called KlickableTV an online video platform that allows users to create interactive videos and measure popular engagement points and qualitative/quantitative results to product placements.
Did you have any female role models / mentors when growing up?
My mother was definitely a role model. She traveled a lot when my sister and I were growing up but she was always there for us. My mother runs the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. I’m proud of her pioneering work in advising policy makers and creating standards for the after-school industry. My grandmother has also been a role model for me. She owns and operates an antique store and I like to think I get my entrepreneurial spirit form her. And, yes – she is still at it at 88 years old!
I’m lucky that my both parents have supported my education and the career choices I’ve made.
Do you currently have any female role models / mentors?
Rachel Sklar has definitely been an inspiration in my life which is why I wanted to work with her. I have gained so much from partnering with her on Change the Ratio. I am definitely less vocal than Rachel but I really appreciate what she does. She puts herself in a challenging position — when women write it is OFTEN CONSIDERED more scrutinized and controversial than when men do. I love that Rachel is not afraid. She’s not afraid of controversy and offers support. That is why we have the Change the Ratio platform. This platform pushes everyone to clarity and to make changes.
Who has influenced you most?
My sister Erica. She was diagnosed with cancer as a teenager and was able to beat it. She is a talented photographer and amazing person and friend. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t get along with her or who hasn’t felt they’ve known her for years.
What drives you? What motivates you to get out of bed, stay late and / or work on the weekends?
I really trust that I know what I need. I stick to a pretty consistent schedule where I get up very early, workout, have coffee and start my day. But every so often (often its the day after an event) I decide I’m sleeping late… its not a laziness thing. I’m just listening to my body. It’s the same way with steak. I don’t usually eat red meat but every couple months I’ll wake up at my normal time and have a major craving. It might be 8am and I’ll be thinking where I can get a filet mignon for dinner or how I can move a meeting downtown so I can have a Corner Bistro Burger for lunch.
I love being physical, I’m a marathon runner and some of my best thinking happens when I run. I don’t want to forget anything, so as soon as I get home I run to the computer to jot the idea down. Sometimes I write the email right then… all sweaty and the subject line usually looks something like this:
RE: I LOVE RUNNING BECAUSE I COME UP WITH IDEAS LIKE THIS followed by my next brilliant idea.
What key personal characteristics do you see in yourself that you’ve found especially critical in achieving success?
I know what I’m good at and I know what I’m not good at. I think that’s a trait that makes a good producer. I find talented people who can do what I can’t or what I don’t like to do. I love finding partners to collaborate with. I reach out and ask for help when I need it, and offer help when someone else needs it.
How would you describe your approach to the world?
Assume best intentions. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and hope they are operating from a place of love. I know it sounds cheesy but I think its put me in a good spot. I know a lot of people who assume everyone is out to get them and have to work hard to earn their trust. I’m the opposite. I trust you until you show me I can’t. I think that’s one of the reasons I make friends quickly but also why I may get burned, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Did you make assumptions when you first started your career that subsequently proved to be wrong? What sort of insights did you gain?
I used to think that other women were very competitive and weren’t interested in helping me but don’t believe that any more. I’ve found that more often than not women are very supportive of each other. I agree with Madeleine Albright when she said ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’
What do you like most about what you do?
Coming up with crazy ideas and then making them happen, especially when we can incorporate elements to make a party more interactive. I love hosting parties and seeing guests having a great time and then looking at all the tweets and pictures the next day – its fun to see the conversations and content surrounding an event.
What does empowerment mean to you?
Owning it. Not apologizing. Being proud of your accomplishments and taking credit for successes. Sometimes I hear successful women tell the story of how their career flourished and they often talk about how they were in the right place at the right time and “the stars aligned”. I used to explain my story the same way… but then I realized, you know what, I work really really hard. All this great stuff in my life? It’s because of the things I’ve done, the decisions I made, and the people who have supported me along the way.
How do you deal with uncertainty? How do you approach the unknown?
I read my horoscope daily and fortune cookies every time I order Chinese Food. No seriously though, living with ambiguity and adversity is my specialty!
What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
“You should probably join another company or agency. Someone else is doing something just like this.” I’ve probably heard this 5 times and never listened.
What three pieces of advice would you offer young women looking to create a career similar to yours?
1) Be open to new adventures. A lot of careers have a set path – for instance if you want to be a doctor you have to go to medical school and do a residency. If you are in marketing, events or anything creative you decide your next move. You should have goals but make sure you stay flexible enough to continuously evaluate and reevaluate them… a lot of my career moves almost felt organic… things were happening and I just decided to roll with it. And I’m glad I did.
2) Know your worth or “have a day rate”. I think I wasn’t charging enough for the work I was doing. Women have a hard time asking for money. Something that has always helped me is when asking for money, pretend you are your best friend’s agent. You are negotiating for her.
3) Pay it forward. I love helping people. It genuinely makes me feel good.
Here’s a chance to plug what you are working on and share with your fans…so, what’s up next for IRL?
We have events coming during the US Open and Fashion Week with The Macallan, The Daily and OMEGA. It’s going to be a busy but very exciting fall.
I heard I missed the best party at SXSW. What do you think is the most important element to a party?
You did Leslie. Conduit’s “Get Sauced” party was pretty epic. Good news for you…we’re doing it again this year. Who is there is most important. People make the party.
What is your specific definition of a woman ‘leader’ in the social media/marketing industry? How do you apply those definitions to your daily roles at IRL Productions?
Someone who communicates well and who can inspire creativity in others, fosters an atmosphere that encourages learning and innovation, especially during challenging times. I try to keep this in mind when I approach my work at IRL. The event business can be pretty challenging, we are constantly hitting rode blocks which force us to make changes to our plans. I’m a good problem solver…I can think outside the box even under extreme pressure. I know we can get through anything.
Are there any particular areas of marketing you are interested in (Ex: Brand Management, Digital Marketing, Analytics, Event Planning, etc.)? Which areas of marketing do you see other women being extremely involved in?
Events that include social touch points to extend conversations and measure their effectiveness. I especially love incorporating new technologies and emerging platforms, we are always trying new things.
How do you believe social media has enhanced or hindered the Change the Ratio conversation? For instance, do you believe tumblr has been effective in pushing/forwarding the dialogue?
Social media plays a huge part in Change the Ratio particularly on twitter. Rachel started using the hashtag #changetheratio and I don’t think there has been a day since last June (when we started) where I haven’t seen at least one tweet referencing it. I love to see how people are incorporating it in their vocabulary…#changetheratio has become synonymous with increasing visibility and diversity for women but extended to minorities (for instance check out her article on Business Insider!). The tumblr is definitely helpful, a place where we can celebrate our efforts and shine a light on women entrepreneurs and leaders in our community.
What do you see as some of the biggest obstacles in the Change the Ratio campaign?
Time and resources. We need more of both. Cough, cough, brand managers…feel free to reach out if you want to sponsor our next event!
[Photo by: John Exley]