Jennifer Jonsson, Chief Operating Officer
In my career, I’ve had my fair share of mansplaining, misogyny and harassment, but I was also lucky to have strong female leaders and mentors that encouraged and inspired me along my journey. As I raise three strong-willed daughters who believe there is no limit to what they can do in life, I am thrilled to see so much recent focus and attention on evening the playing field and empowering women to stand up for themselves and for each other to ensure that we always have a seat at the table.
The same hopes that I have for my daughters—to be confident in their potential and to aspire to big things—I also have for the many female team members I am lucky enough to lead in my professional life. As a female COO, in a company that is 65% female, I am constantly looking for opportunities to ensure we’re investing in our female employees and making sure they know the sky is the limit.
One tactic we believe is extremely important is getting our employees to go “outside” of GYK Antler—to attend women-focused industry events and conferences where they can learn from external leaders. By supporting our female team members to go beyond our own walls, to connect with other like-minded individuals and to learn from organizations doing it differently than us, not only will the individual women grow, but the whole company will benefit as well.
Most recently, we had members from all verticals of the company attend three separate women-focused events: the NH High Tech Council’s TechWomen Annual Luncheon, the Young Women in Digital Marketing Conference and the Boston AdClub Women’s Leadership Forum. Team members who attended these events spanned across the agency—from creative, to account, to tech to digital, from director to coordinator. Each person, independent of role or title, was incredibly moved and motivated by the women who shared their experiences. So much so that we have collaborated to share our learnings as well as insights to what we do at GYK Antler to foster a healthy workplace for women, in hopes to contribute to the continuous forward movement of this imperative cultural shift.
“Having been in the advertising and marketing field for 27 years, I find this current movement exhilarating. The energy at recent events, such as the Young Women in Digital, provides me with such excitement and optimism for where the future of our industry is headed. Of course, the events and motivational speakers are what can spark a flame, but it is what the company and employees do afterward that is what makes a difference. In addition, beyond these group venues, GYK Antler supports team members pursuing personal and career growth training. In the past, I have focused my efforts on trainings that are targeted specifically to women and based on defining and honing individual strengths. The reality is that women learn differently and need to be managed differently from men. It’s just how we’re wired. It is important for organizations to recognize this truth so employees are able to leverage their strengths resulting in companies getting the best out of our teams.”
“Going to an event that is focused on digital marketing, led by women leaders across the space, provided me high-level insight in how to keep our agency and clients relevant in such an ever-changing field. This event was unique in that it contained both actionable information on what’s new in the industry and how to be cutting edge in digital in 2018, while also providing the all-female attendees with empowering professional development. That said, we gained many new insights from the panelists. It was also thrilling to realize a lot of what was discussed during the conference were strategies we’ve already begun implementing agency-wide. It’s motivating when female-thought leaders in the industry validate changes you’ve been vying for in digital marketing strategy as it helps to further drive home our client recommendations.
Additionally, as a young woman in marketing still early in my career, attending events like these remind me it’s natural for your career journey to wind and weave before you get a better idea of what exactly is your passion or specialty. To hear how many avenues are available to women in this field is exciting and it’s especially empowering to hear when coming from the women who helped pave the way.”
“Attending women-led conferences provides both professional and personal guidance and inspiration. From a personal perspective, the more events I attend, the more I see and begin to believe that you don’t need to be a man to run things. I can often be hesitant to speak up, especially when I’m the only woman in a work-related meeting. These women gave such powerful advice – my favorite piece being that confidence is a muscle and in order for it to become stronger, you need to exercise it. The more I practice being confident, the more confident I will naturally become. I believe that if you’re able to be confident in what you’re saying and how you present yourself, you can go anywhere and be respected by anyone.
Additionally, as a member of the business development team, it’s beneficial to be surrounded by other women who are also interested and involved in the creative/tech/digital world as a way to connect with individuals at organizations that could be a future partnership for GYK Antler.”
“As a recent college graduate, listening to the stories of women who have already achieved so much, even in their relatively short careers, taught me invaluable lessons that I can take with me throughout my own career. Specifically, the importance of sticking up for yourself and not being afraid to ask for more—whether that be a raise, promotion or a title change. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no. It’s important to stop rationalizing why you don’t deserve something, and start rationalizing why you do deserve it. I also appreciated hearing advice about networking and finding mentors. Networking is often a daunting task, but in this ever-changing industry, they helped me realize to “start networking before you need to.”
Overall, listening to their stories gives me confidence about myself and my career. It’s not every day that you get advice from women who are in places that you want to be one day!”
“My long-term goal is to build my own company, so having the opportunity to listen to Jessica Gelman, CEO of Kraft Analytics, share her story of how she progressed in her career is incredibly motivational and helps continue to remind me that “I can do it, too.” I love hearing other women’s success stories because each is different and provides insight into what worked and what didn’t when building a career. Jessica Gelman was able to take her passion for sports and find a way to combine that with her tech education to create her ideal career. As an individual who also has many interests, it was an important message for me to hear as a reminder that if you put the work in, you can be the creator of your dream career. Another point that was reiterated by each of the presenters was how imperative it is to be proactive in continuous learning and development of skills. Luckily, there are so many talented individuals in our creative department at GYK Antler that I can use as resources—learning from them will be key to improving my skills to hopefully achieve my goal of becoming an art director.”
“Historically, women are ingrained in the history of technology across the world. Women like Ada Lovelace, who in the mid-19th century, was the first person to recognize the full potential of a computing machine and wrote the first algorithm that computers would one day use. Dorothy Vaughan, while working for NASA, taught herself and her team how to program in FORTRAN—ultimately helping the United States win the space race. In the not-so distant past, women were the largest trained technical workforce. Even though women were instrumental in advancing our understanding and use of technology, we don’t hear names like Ada and Dorothy frequently. It’s important to attend women-led events like the TechWomen Luncheon because it provides us a chance to pay homage to the unsung women tech heroes of the past and it allows us to see current-day women tech heroes who are actively changing the landscape. They are thriving in roles and environments that many people perceive as traditionally male dominated. By meeting them and hearing their stories, we get to see real and current examples of women who are masters of their own career trajectories. We can take this information and knowledge to empower ourselves within our own careers.
One common theme among each of the speakers was the importance of having and providing support. They had strong, supportive partners, parents, friends, teachers, co-workers, etc. As someone who recently had a child, went back to school, and changed careers, I know first-hand how important having a strong support network can be. Through GYK Antler’s adoption of the Evergreen business philosophy, the company has built a culture where people are put first. We foster an environment where employees are fully supported both personally and professionally. Having that support network at work, as well as at home, is what allows me to juggle motherhood and my career.”
“After attending the Young Women in Digital Marketing Conference and the New Hampshire High Tech Council luncheon, I was particularly intrigued with a concept that was brought up at both events—the aspiration gap. This is the concept that women in the workforce have lower aspirations to secure top jobs and have less confidence in their leadership skills than their male counterparts. In a 2015 study conducted by Deloitte, just 47 percent of women reported that they aspire to be number one in their organization compared to 59 percent of the study showed a clear contrast between female millennials’ lack of confidence in their overall leadership abilities, and how high they rate themselves in the skills vital for a leadership role: communication, negotiation, assertiveness and intellectual ability. As a female millennial, nearly a decade into my career, I had never consciously thought about this concept in the past but it certainly resonated with me on a personal level regarding what my aspirations were once and what they are today. Going to such events and listening to women share their stories of success is important to combat this unconscious bias as it helps build a stronger belief in ourselves that we, too, can create careers that are significant, meaningful and impactful.”
Taryn Harpool, Account Executive of Explorics
“What I enjoy most about attending the New Hampshire High Tech Council’s TechWomen events is that it provides me with a strong network of fellow-female professionals to learn from and lean on. It’s truly motivating to see how supportive our local professional community is in New Hampshire. Additionally, it’s reassuring to know you can attend an event for the first time and not only be welcomed, but are encouraged to share your personal and professional journey.
In December, I attended the TechWomen’s breakfast featuring the guest speaker, Annabel Beerel. She is a leadership mentor who works with executive teams on bringing mindfulness into their leadership roles. My takeaway from her presentation was to focus on always being present in the moment: professionally and personally. I still try to take that approach to this day. There’s no such thing as multi-tasking, it really just means putting a half-hearted effort into your work. I’ve found that moving away from that constant buzz of tackling 100 things at once makes me more productive and less stressed. By giving our full attention to each task we’re working on, the output always turns out stronger.”
“Over the years, I’ve often felt that women’s perception in the workplace is viewed as doers, who get shit done. While men still have louder voices, women are carving paths and their hard work and productivity is speaking loud and clear. And I’m a prime example of that. After 15 years in the technology industry, and 7 years at GYK Antler, I am in a role that I had once only dreamt of being in. Because of that, recently I have been hyper-focused on strengthening my leadership and managerial skills to improve my team and our offerings while contributing to the overall success of the agency.
After attending the New Hampshire High Tech Council’s TechWomen luncheon, my desire for continuous upward movement was reignited and my eyes were opened to future goals and aspirations on a personal level. Attending these events with my female coworkers is not only inspirational, but they also validate processes and actions that I’m doing right for my team, my career, and my company.”
Although each event hosted different women speakers, all echoed the same inspirational tone—of a changing time where the gap between men and women is closing and a time where women are being empowered to be unafraid in their dreams. Empowerment is defined as “the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.”
At GYK Antler, we have recently hired Marian Spurrier, a Director of Talent & Development (another woman!), who will be focused on coaching, mentorship, career planning and training and development to ensure we have a balanced, equitable, diverse and safe environment in which all employees can learn and grow.
I couldn’t be prouder to see so many amazing women in our organization not only succeeding, but supporting each other and coming to the collective conclusion that the only limit to what they can achieve is the limit they put on themselves.
group photo cred: Katie Noble