For more than two decades, Gershoni Creative has worked with brands like Google, Apple, Deloitte and Patrón to develop innovative experiences across a range of mediums. At the heart of the San Francisco-based agency is its president and co-founder, Amy Gershoni, who, together with her creative director husband Gil, works with brands of all sizes in every industry to deliver moments of connection with their audiences. Amy shared a few thoughts on women stepping into power, the importance of work-life balance and how to inspire the next generation of female leaders.
How would you describe the overall culture at Gershoni?
People often talk about building culture as this thing that you build after you already have a culture in place. But we actually did it the opposite way. We decided what kind of life we wanted to have, and then we built a business around it. We often say to people, “We laugh as hard as we work.” And it’s genuine. We do, in fact, do both all day long. Our goal is to be the best part of everyone’s day. That goes for clients, but it also goes for the FedEx guy—everyone we come into contact with. We believe in filling each other’s cup. And that comes back to us in waves. It’s why we throw events. It’s why we do salons. It’s why we love first-person research. It why we have a practice of really listening to the people who are engaged in the product or service that we’re learning about. It may sound super California, but you get back what you put out, and we put out goodness
Would you say that there is a separate female culture at Gershoni?
In our office, there is not a separate “lady culture.” We talk explicitly about women’s issues on the floor as if they were everyone’s issues—because they are. We also talk about men’s issues. We all practice an egalitarianism of points of view as much as we are able. It allows people to bring their whole selves to work, practice compassion and learn from one another. Fifty-one percent of the people in the world are women, and we are in the business of communicating. Learning how to understand and be in a relationship to those who are different than ourselves is fundamentally our business.
What do you say is the biggest change since women have begun to break the glass ceiling in the industry?
Glass ceilings are being slowly broken, and every generation cracks it a little more. I have deep gratitude for every woman before me who’s worked, not only in my industry, but across all industries. Everything changes when you include new people in the conversation. If it’s men, women, people of color, people of diverse socio-economic backgrounds, people on a learning spectrum, people from different countries—all these perspectives make communications better and deeper and richer. Businesses thrive with a diversity of points of view. Everyone benefits when there is diversity. Ideas benefit, solutions benefit, culture benefits. I believe this is the biggest benefit of breaking ceilings.
What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?
There are many challenges still facing women in this industry and any group that’s a minority in their industry. Having a successful career is still defined by ideals that were set up in a different century. The system is not set up to support family life, or work-life-balance. That’s not ideal for men or women. In my opinion, one of the hardest challenge is the internal one. While there are so many challenges—to be heard, to be paid, to be equals in opportunity, to grow and lead—the biggest one starts inside. As women, we need to internalize that we have every right to expect equality. With our bodies and our minds, our families and our health. In this industry, and one could argue in all industries, our insights are extremely valuable, and we need to own them. Ask for what we deserve, and make no apologies for it.
What steps do you take to make sure you have a healthy work-life balance?
That same advice that I give about what’s going to change the norms and make work better applies to life. Trust your instincts. Make sure you fill your cup. Make sure you are taken care of. Because you are going to do a ton of other stuff for everyone else, and if you have nothing to give, you’re not doing a good job. For me, personally, I make sure that I spend time with people I love, people who are interesting and interested in the world. And because I am who I am, I like talking to strangers. It’s something that I need.
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
Enjoying my work and the people I work with, and still being madly in love with my husband. That balance, after 25 years of doing this, is really the greatest professional achievement.
Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made him/her so special?
Working for myself for most of my life, I didn’t have a whole lot of people in my industry to show me the ropes or give me advice. So I’ve collected mentors from throughout my personal and professional life. I’ve learned at different points in my life from everyone I meet. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I try to hang out with people smarter than me. I’ve learned from every client. I’ve learned from all my co-workers. I’ve learned from my family, from my friends. I even learn from the people who are really unpleasant, the negative experiences. I consider those some of the most powerful mentors that I’ve had, too.
How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?
Having been through different life stages, and by being really open about that. I really believe in people’s success. I have met, let’s call them mentors, who felt like once you got to a position of power, you had to protect that power. I’ve seen and heard from friends and colleagues how difficult it is at that high level in corporate America to mentor and take risks and speak for all women. It’s incredibly difficult and complex in a big organization. I have a lot more luxury in my organization. I can really work with women as people, much as I would work with a man as a person, and provide that kind of mentorship: How do we make what makes you special keep being special, one foot in front of the other, for a great life?
Find out more about Gershoni Creative at gershoni.com.