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Allies: Amy Emmerich, Refinery29

Today on Allies we are talking with Amy Emmerich, President and Chief Content Officer at Refinery29, the leading media & entertainment company for women.  

For the past 4 years, Amy has been responsible for driving content strategy and expanding distribution across channels as the brand scales globally. As an Emmy-award winning producer, she has more than 20 years of experience developing content and programming for brands including Refinery29, MTV Networks, Travel Channel, and Vice Media.

As an organization that is 85% female, with 79% of leadership roles filled by women, how do you go about creating an inclusive environment for the men at your company?

“At Refinery29, we value our male allies and their dedication to the advancement of women. Our goal, in everything we do, is to make Refinery29 an inclusive and safe space for all, from our employees to our audience —everything we do is through a female lens, but the space we create for conversation is for everyone.  That means celebrating different experiences and perspectives and also making sure to highlight the opportunities to bridge them.

It’s so interesting because this company was founded by two men and two women, and they’ve always nurtured its growth with safe spaces in mind. The video business began with myself and Stone Roberts. The men are treated as equals just like the women — from the moms group (dads are invited) to the community groups, men are invited. (And we let them have a bathroom too!)”

At Refinery29 you publish a lot about gender equality issues, what initiatives are you working on internally to address these topics?

“As a company that is focused on women, our staff is a true reflection of that. Our workforce is 85% women and 79% of our executive team is women.

Continuing to understand where we can do better is one of our primary focuses for 2019. We’ve committed to increase our people of color employee population by 20% by the end of 2019. We believe it is imperative that our insides reflect that of our audience. Diversity doesn’t just happen on its own, it takes intention, education, and engagement.”

ILLUSTRATION BY NICHOLE WASHINGTON

Can you tell us a little bit about Shatterbox and how you are supporting women behind the camera?

“We started Shatterbox in 2016 as a rallying cry to counteract staggering industry statistics and gender parity in Hollywood — and now in 2019, it’s clear we’ve made strides with amazing female-helmed films BUT we still have a lot of work to do! Of the top 250 films at the domestic box office in 2018, only 8 percent of their directors were women and only one percent of films employed 10 or more women in key behind the scenes roles. Shatterbox is dedicated to spotlighting the voices of female filmmakers, and the women around them, highlighting emerging and established talent the support and opportunity to realize their vision and reach new audiences through storytelling.

More than anything else, we’re conditioning our audience, our peers, our industry, and ourselves to see these women’s names on film posters, on billboards, on their screens — to make sure they know who owns these stories. Supporting their creative vision is amazing, but allowing these filmmakers to own their own stories, and let it just be their own, is why we do it.

Over the past two seasons, we’ve shown that investing in female talent is not only imperative from a cultural standpoint, but from a business one as well. Women are good for business, period, and we need more of them to tell their stories for this next generation.”

How do you aim to empower women through your content?

“I do not believe that we empower them, I believe they are already powerful. I’ve always said, our audience is the boss of us– not the other way around. If we don’t provide a service or value for them, they will let us know it.  

We’re here to service their needs, speak power to their experiences, and offer an entry point into other people’s: whether that’s understanding where and how to get a safe abortion in states where that information isn’t readily available with our Abortion Map, or breaking down the business behind the billion dollar beauty industry with our Shady YouTube series, or explaining the politics of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and the Green New Deal.”


What advice would you give yourself at the start of your career/early in your life?

“Stop questioning and judging yourself so harshly. The job I have today didn’t even exist when I was in my 20’s. I always say –

“Life is not a ladder, it’s a lattice.”

Everyone thinks they need to climb up — that the ultimate goal is ‘the biggest job,’ when that’s not the lesson at all. Instead, find something you are passionate about and fight like hell for that passion, and find a way to get paid to do it.”

What organizations are you proud to partner with?

“We’re proud to partner with organizations that have a willingness to have authentic conversations with our audience. Planned Parenthood, GLAAD, ACLU, Emilys List, have all been wonderful non-for profit partners. NBC and Turner are networks that believe in female-focused storytelling with our On Her Turf Channel and Shatterbox series.”

What is your favorite story that Refinery29 has put out in the past year?

“I’m really proud of our recent collaboration with AARP where we joined forces to combat ageism. It seems like an unlikely partnership at first, but it affects women at both ends of the age spectrum and understanding those unconscious biases early, and then creating forums to combat them is really important to us. Refinery29 committed to push ourselves and our audience to shift how we speak about age and begin to demand a fuller representation of women over the age of 40.”

What makes you angry?

“I have two children, so raising them has made me realize how many horrible habits have been unconsciously taught to my generation and how much work we all have to do as a society to undo them, and create a better space for this next generation. Looking at them every day though is the best reminder to be hopeful — to work together to correct it. Honestly, they might fix it before we do!”

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Thank you Amy for being an Allies contributor! We have many more incredible woman to spotlight in the coming weeks, so don’t forget to check back in. To continue the conversation and to be featured on an upcoming installment of Allies, reach out to me at epierce@zooppa.com.

Zooppa is a content platform and agency that helps brands connect with creators all over the globe to produce videos, photos, graphics, GIFs, and more. To learn more please contact joey@zooppa.com

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