When you have the opportunity to sit in a room and have breakfast with some of the most powerful women in the communications industry, it’s hard to pass it up, especially if, like me, you’re a woman in the communications industry. It’d be kind of like saying no to free puppies or a marriage proposal from both Ryan Gosling and Henry Cavill‘s jawline (yes, just his jawline).
But I digress. A few weeks ago, I attending the New York Women in Communications WiCi Awards, honoring rising stars in communications. It was a room jam-packed full of major female influencers in the various different aspects of the world of communications. To give you an idea of just how impressive this room felt, here’s the full list of six honorees:
- Penny Abeywardena, Commussioner at the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs in NYC (who, immediately after the event, had to tend to the Pope’s impending arrival in NYC and the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly)
- Jessica Benenett, a contributor at The New York Times, columnist at Time.com, and Contributing Editor at Sheryl Sandberg‘s organzation, Lean In
- Katrina Craigwell, Director of Global Content & Programming at General Electric
- Carrie Hammer, the CEO of her namesake company, which you may already know of from her Role Models Not Runway Models show during NYFW
- Jolie Hunt, Principle of her own firm, Hunt & Gather
- Genevieve Roth, Senior Special Projects Director at Glamour Magazine, where she is responsible for their annual Women of the Year awards
So yeah, to say I was intimidated by the very air in the room is kind of an understatement.
The majority of the breakfast was a panel, during which each honoree introduced herself and took questions from 2014 Matrix Honoree, Dyllan McGee, the founder and creator of MAKERS. Topics covered included sexism in the workplace, work-life balance, how to start your own business, and more. After all was said and done, it was an experience unlike any other.
After the panel was over, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with Carrie Hammer and Genevieve Roth about building a career, being a woman in the workplace, and the exact (but still somehow elusive) definition of business casual. Check out our my interviews below:
(Photo: Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images)
Hammer launched her namesake brand, Carrie Hammer, in 2012 after working as a sales executive for several years and realizing that there was little professional attire out there that she actually wanted to wear. She debuted her collection at New York Fashion Week in February 2014 with Role Models Not Runway Models, where she had real, inspiring women model her clothes. She was named in Forbes 30 Under 30 and 15 Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2015 by Entrepreneur Magazine.
The Gloss: How did Role Models start?
Carrie Hammer: My customers are powerful women and executives so when it came time to show at NYFW. I didn’t feel comfortable sending traditional models down the runway to model the clothes. While planning the show I decided that we should do ROLE models, not runway models. The decision was also driven by my strong belief that the fashion industry holds a lot of clout and responsibility when it comes to young women’s body image. I realized this was a great opportunity to show young women that Role Models are the one they should be looking up to.
TG: What made you want to make the career switch from executive to fashion designer?
CH: I come from a family of artists and being creative has always been an important part of my life. I’ve had a passion for clothing for as long as I can remember. My hobby when I was young was needlepoint and I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas in 4th grade. I guess I was born for this! I studied Economics at UCLA and going into business right after school seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I was fascinated with where digital and the web was going. When I moved to New York, my love for fashion intensified, especially as it pertains to dressing for work. I found it difficult to find things for work that fit well, were work appropriate, and that made me feel confident. My male counterparts all had custom shirts and suits, and I was left out in the cold with no options of my own. I found a manufacturing partner just to make dresses for myself and I got so many compliments on them that it was an easy transition to make this into a business. Professional women are an underserved market and I am happy to be their clothier and empowerment agent. As a solution, I began getting custom pieces made for me through tailors online. When I found that many of own friends shared this struggle, a light bulb went off. I had no choice but to start a line to cater to the underserved professional woman.
TG: What do you think separates your clothes from the rest of women’s career clothes?
CH: It’s so important for women to be empowered in their work and in their life. Clothing and presenting a polished appearance is an important part of one’s career. Having a tailored and well fitting dress is the most beautiful thing a woman can wear. It can be a simple black dress but if it’s made for you it will be the most beautiful piece in your wardrobe. We provide beautiful, professional, and feminine clothing for women to make them feel powerful inside and outside of the workplace.
TG: I work in an office where jeans and a t-shirt is pretty acceptable work attire, so long as it’s not sloppy, and I’ve found that the term “business casual” really trips up a lot of my friends at other offices. What’s your definition of business casual?
CH: Business casual is whatever makes you feel most comfortable in the workplace. I feel like this is a term that requires a certain level of professionalism but also allows for more comfort. As long as there is 1 professional piece in the mix: smart blazer, good pants, great blouse—you are in good shape!
TG: What’s your best advice for someone trying to switch careers?
CH: Just do it. Start anywhere, start now and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can’t be afraid of what people are going to think.
TG: What’s the best advice you have for a young woman just starting off in a new career, or just leaving college?
CH: The best things in my life have always come from situations that made me the most uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to just put a line in the sand, say you can do it and then figure it out later. Plus, keep trying until you make it happen because you don’t always get it on the first try. And, my mother has taught me so many amazing lessons in my life but one that stands out is perseverance pays. When I started my own line three and a half years ago, my mother told me to try, try, and then try again. Perseverance was hard against insurmountable odds but now my business has taken off. Perseverance does indeed pay.
You can reach Carrie Hammer on Twitter at @carriehammer.
Click to the next page to see our interview with Glamour Senior Special Projects Director, Genevieve Roth!
(Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
Roth secured such notable stories for Glamour highlighting high profile figures and their philanthropic endeavors, such as the May 2015 cover with Michelle Obama, Kerry Washington, and Sarah Jessica Parker, as well as interviews with Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, and Melinda Gates. She helped launch The Girl Project in 2014 and works with FLOTUS on her Let Girls Learn campaign.
The Gloss: Women of the Year is a huge part of your job. What’s your favorite thing about putting that kind of event together?
Genevieve Roth: My favorite thing about [WOTY] and any event is that we get to introduce people to each other. So, we’re like little Yentas for incredible people who have amazing work that they can go and do in the world. For instance, we honored in the same year Amy Poehler and an incredible woman named Dr. Jane Aaronson who has an organization that’s all around helping kids get adopted in foreign countries. So now, Amy works really closely with Jane’s organization and sort of the alchemy of that and that love story started at Women of the Year backstage and at dinner and that’s happened more times than I can tell you. My favorite thing is when someone says, “Oh I met so-and-so who I now collaborate with at Women of the Year.”
TG: Is that how you met Michelle Obama and got involved with Let Girls Learn?
GR: Yeah. Well, Glamour full of women who work in this space because they care deeply about it, and then at a certain point we’re like, Well, we’re doing this incredible journalism, but if we were going to go one more, what would we do? And you can’t work in women’s media for very long without understanding the power of an educated girl. And so it happened really organically. Like, okay, yes, let’s put some skin in this game and let’s do it in this space that feels really powerful and meaningful for us.
TG: So I work with an all-female team, and personally, I love it. Do you think there are benefits to working with an all-female team, or is it no different than a co-ed staff?
GR: I would be nowhere without my colleagues and my team, without a doubt. The people that I get to work with at Glamour are the best part about the job. We do have some men, and I think they bring in great perspective and always do, but I’ve working in both environments. I’ve worked in all-male environments and I’ve worked in all-female environments, and all I can say is that I like the environment at Glamour.
TG: What’s your biggest piece of career advice for a woman who wants to launch her career right out of school, without taking time off or seeking an advanced degree, especially in the communications industry where jobs can be so hard to come by?
GR: I think about this a lot, actually, because the skills that it takes to be good at the junior jobs are not the same skills it takes to be good at the senior jobs, necessarily. But, hone your skills in that low-level job. Just be unbelievably good at making somebody else’s life easy, and just be so good at that part of the job and finish the job every day, work harder than anybody, and amazing things will happen. But it’s a tricky thing for a deeply creative person to figure out how to organize somebody else’s life, but that skill set is really important.
TG: What’s your definition of business casual?
GR: So I actually have really strong opinions about this because I was always one of the few women in a male office and I’ve always been a little young for my job. I get dressed for work. I get dressed for work, I dress like I mean it, so that I get taken seriously. Victoria Beckham once said that she can’t really concentrate in flats, and I can’t really concentrate in them either. So business casual for me is a pencil skirt and shoes someone wants to beat you up to take. I take myself seriously. Once I leave the office, it’s full hobo, but when I’m at the office, I take myself seriously.
You can reach Genevieve Roth in Twitter at @gmoneyr.