#YesWeCan Change The Way Media Portrays Women and Girls

My entire career as a social entrepreneur and advocate has been dedicated to widening the images we see of women and girls in the media. I’ve seen first hand how a young woman’s life can change when she feels reflected in the media or entertainment she consumes. It’s not trivial. In fact, it’s vital that we, the world’s largest exporter of media images, lead that business with full inclusivity and recognition of what the world truly looks like.


When President Obama took office he talked about opening up the White House to everyone.

I have always been inspired by the Obamas’ commitment to using their platform as a power for good. I am still in awe of the variety of artists, academics, humanitarians, engineers, and change makers they have invited in. I mean even the musical Hamilton was workshopped there! I feel incredibly grateful and proud to have been one of the voices they included. I worked with the White House Council on Women and Girls over the last eight years convening on and exploring the state of affairs for girls in tech, education, and media. Last April, we were able to bring together the forces I work with in my world to host one of the most comprehensive gatherings of industry, parent advocacy groups, and academic researchers focusing on gender stereotypes in toys and media.


The White House Council on Women and Girls, The Department of Education and USC’s “Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative” held a summit on how gender stereotypes impact our children’s ability to dream. The day’s agenda covered the influencing forces in boys’ and girls’ lives, the effects that gender stereotypes can have on their perceptions, and the steps people and businesses are taking to eradicate stereotypes. Our goal was to ensure that children can grow to reach their full potential in life, not stifled by norms or stereotypes that could inhibit their self-actualization. As someone who has spent 22 years studying and working in this field, that summit felt like a cumulating moment. I was so proud and humbled to see the key stakeholders, decision makers, and leaders in that space come together and engage in honest dialogue.


Before this administration, we were all having conversations in private or separate spheres, but in April we were all together sharing our research, thoughts, and brave steps forward. Major businesses, including Disney, Mattel, LEGO, and Warner Brothers, shared their compassion and understanding toward parents’ demands for better representation, and demonstrated how they are stepping up to the plate. Other up-and-coming companies, such as littleBits, showed us that there are still countless avenues for ingenuity in toys and media to help kids grow. Researchers and academics presented their latest findings on the challenges and opportunities in boys’ and girls’ lives as well as the importance of media so we could make informed decisions. Activists and parents brought their irreplaceable voices to the forefront sharing their experiences and the demand for more. All of these different perspectives are essential to spur future action. Most importantly, every group, regardless of differences, came to the table to have an open and authentic discussion in order to drive change.


Now, more than ever, we need camaraderie and openness to build a future path that will advance gender equality. No person or group can achieve such a lofty goal alone. Divisiveness will only hinder progress. This important meeting of both private and public sector stakeholders fueled a lot of change that we will be seeing in our retail spaces for years to come. Sharing information, finding allies, and building networks will help manifest positive change.


We all need to feel inspired by #YesWeCan moments that create positive momentum in our lives, instead of focusing on when we feel defeated. The summit has been a motivating force in my life because it was an agent of significant positive change.


#YesWeCan create media that is an inclusive representation of our multifaceted society.
This post was written by Jess Weiner and Elizabeth Hedge, who shared the badass experience of planning and executing the Summit on Gender Stereotypes in Toys and Media together in partnership with the White House Council of Women & Girls in Washington D.C.


10 Free Ways To Pay-It-Forward

Kindness is a universal language and November 13th is World Kindness Day. Take the time to celebrate an entire day dedicated to inspiring individuals to be kind to each other. It costs little-to-nothing for us to pay it forward and small free acts of kindness can lead us to even bigger ones. Here are 10 ways to start


  1.  Share a smile – The simplest, least-expensive way to give kindness to a stranger. Also, check out one of my favorite Instagram blogs, @SmileADay. Smile a Day is filled with beautiful smiles and stories about happiness.


  1. Give a compliment – this can be given as an addition to the shared smile. Compliments truly can brighten a person’s day. And I don’t know one person who doesn’t get a boost of energy from giving or receiving an exchange of compliments.  giphy
  2. Go volunteer at your local shelter – There’s never a shortage of volunteer work! And there are many options for volunteering: homeless shelter, animal shelter, children’s hospital, and more. If you’re already volunteering somewhere, invite a friend to join you.tumblr_myphfi5ufk1s4a7cao1_500
  3. Instead of forgetting about them and eventually tossing in the trash, take leftover food from your fridge and offer it to your neighbors or community.image08
  4. Help someone carry bags to their car – We all struggle with this when grocery shopping alone. Spend 2 minutes to lend a helping hand.man-groceries
  5. Let someone cut you in line – Especially if you’re not in a rush. That’s a sure way to make someone feel like a VIP (just remember to show courtesy to anyone waiting behind you).  e9db06cfa0af849839fdccda97761f79018cc2b9
  6. Share your extra coupons with the person behind you in the checkout line.image00
  7. If you’re running errands, offer to pick up a few things for your neighbor.image02
  8. Offer to write a letter of recommendation for someone – Tap into your network and see if anyone is in need of a recommendation. It can even be as simple as writing one on their LinkedIn profile. image07
  9. On crowded public transit, give up your seat to someone in need. This should be a regular act, but if it’s not make it a point to be considerate today.image03

BONUS: Pray for someone or send them good intentions. This is one of my favorites. I believe there is power in prayer and good intentions and even more power when intent is sent in numbers. Join someone in manifesting their wishes.image10


3 Ways (not) to Blow Your Interview

A season of transition is upon us. Summer is slowly turning into fall as we begin the month of August. I always love this time of year because I know that I’ll be back in the classroom teaching personal brand development to future professionals at USC. For a lot of recent graduates, this is a very exciting time. Many are wrapping up their last summer internship or a vacation and preparing to enter the workforce and launch their careers with a new position. This means doing a lot of strategic job hunting, and even more importantly, planning for successful interviews.


Interviews can be tough when you’re new to the process, trying to break into a new industry, or design a new career path. I’ve had plenty of experience with interviewing candidates for positions with my company Talk To Jess, LLC (learn more about our company transition by signing up for our newsletter!). From great interviewers to interviewers who have room for improvement, I’ve seen and talked to them all. Through lots of practice and avoiding these three mistakes before, during, and after the interview, we can all take control of our careers and receive offers for any job we truly desire.



Mistake #1 (Before the Interview): Manipulating the interview process to meet your needs, instead of being flexible to meet the needs of the employer


One thing that completely turns me off is an interviewee who tries to manipulate the interview process to fit their personal agenda. Asking the interviewer if you can re-schedule a meeting for a certain day/time because you have another appointment creates a less-than-favorable first-impression. Before even meeting, asking for special accommodations paints a picture that you will always try to manipulate a situation to fit your needs, without concern for the needs of the company. Always allow yourself to be flexible when prospecting a job opportunity. Show your interviewer that you’re willing to go the extra mile to land your position. The ball is ultimately in their court – you are trying to earn your spot on the team. Clear your schedule of other appointments when possible. Show your interviewer that their time is just as valuable as your own, and this will create the best first impression.



Mistake #2 (During the Interview): Not being specific about your experience, skills, and what you bring to the table, along with things you want to accomplish in the position


An interview is really your opportunity to show a prospective employer specific examples of your experience and any applicable skills you’re able to bring to the company. Saying you have excellent time management and organization skills or that you can do the job efficiently is simply not enough. When an interviewer asks you the infamous question, “Tell me about yourself,” they aren’t asking to find out your favorite color or where you went to school. Your interviewer is looking for specific examples – or anecdotes – about your past experience related to the position. Always be prepared to follow this question with anecdotal examples that answer why you’re qualified for the position, why you’re interviewing for the position, and tactical examples of what you’ll accomplish once on the job. You’ve got 30 minutes to show the interviewer that you’re equipped to bring success to the company – deliver the details that prove why you’re the best candidate for the job.



Mistake #3 (After the interview): Not following up or sending “thank you” notes


The level of engagement and dedication in your follow up tells an interviewer how hungry you are for the job. I’ve had candidates who interviewed extremely well and showed me why they’re qualified for the job, however, I did not end up hiring them. Why? Because they failed to follow up with me in a way that made them stand out amongst other candidates. Following up is the single most important skill to have in any business or career. Being persistent and saying thank you shows the interviewer that you are both very interested in the position and value their time (and yours). It may be old-fashioned, but handwritten thank-you notes still go a long way in the job hiring process. A handwritten note leaves a takeaway for the employer and shows that you care enough to add that extra personal touch to your representation. If you are committed to following up, a potential employer will commit you to their memory too.



Honorable mention (At all times): Giving weak handshakes

This is a personal pet peeve of mine (hey, I’m a professional brand developer). Please practice your handshake before meeting and greeting people you want to network with! An interview is not only a part of the job hunt; it’s also a networking opportunity. Shake a person’s hand with conviction. Don’t give out weak handshakes – that’s exactly how you’ll represent yourself: weak and lacking confidence. When you shake someone’s hand, be firm and look them in the eye. Exude confidence and make them feel like they’ve just connected with someone worth knowing.


Avoiding these mistakes ultimately show an interviewer that you possess empathy and pay great attention to detail (a requirement for any job). The job searching process can be a long one, but every successful interview is an opportunity to leave a lasting impression for your personal brand and take control of creating the career you want. Think forward and walk in the very best version of yourself before, during, and after your interview.


The Women Who Inspire Me: Part 2

Amongst the women I admire most is Maria Popova. She’s a writer, critic and intellectual whose work speaks to my whole soul.


Maria created Brain Pickings, a blog and curated platform that offers incredibly rich thoughts on culture and philosophy and brings forth literature, art, and people that sometimes go unnoticed. I’ve spent many an afternoon getting lost in her writing and then ordering every book she is recommending.


Even the art that hangs in my home has come from artists she’s exposed me to through her work! I am forever grateful that my eyes have been opened to the elegance and stunning beauty of Kerri Augenstein‘s Dumb Dots Figure Studies series.




Maria reminds me to explore further what I already think I know, and open my mind to beautiful other possibilities. Her work is so in depth and clearly time intensive that I have no problem donating to Brain Pickings in order to support her wonderful work.


In a culture of click bait, Brain Pickings is a luxuriating indulgence in thoughtful exploration.



How To Stay Positive Online

Anytime we open our laptops we become susceptible to bad news. The Internet is littered with it.


You open your browser to check your go-to news source – where positivity is no doubt a rarity. You check your social media only to find “friends” who are doing all the things you wish you were doing, but aren’t. You see a pop up ad with women who look nothing like you, and you doubt yourself.


It’s overwhelming. How are we supposed to stay positive when we’re surrounded by so much negativity?


It IS possible. Here are a few sites I visit on a regular basis that help me stay informed and still be positive:


Hello Giggles – This site markets itself as a positive community for women, and it is just that. Here you’ll find newsworthy articles and lifestyle articles about women like you.


Brain Pickings – Maria Popova’s blog gives meaning and depth to topics of philosophy, science, design and art. I get lost in her inspiring and unique perspective.


Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls – A cultural community for women and girls that encourages activism, learning and volunteerism.


What sites bring you a positive lift?


The Gift of Giving

This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we give. It is truly an exchange of energy between two people – an act of kindness and generosity from one person to another.


During this time of year, we often still find ourselves overwhelmed by the hyper-consumerism of the holidays. It almost makes the simple, altruistic act of giving feel a bit tainted.


The truth is, we can choose to spread the love and (spiritual) wealth we feel any day – not just during the holidays. Giving isn’t always about money, it’s often about time and it’s most certainly about intention and love.


This year, my company has decided to dedicate our corporate giving to a wonderful organization called She’s The First. STF is a nonprofit that helps hundreds of low-income students around world complete their educations and become the first of their families to graduate.




This year, they are launching a new program in Sierra Leone and they are looking to get an inaugural group of scholarships set up to help the girls. We are going to sponsor a wonderful girl named Zainab.


After losing both her parents to the Ebola virus, Zainab moved in with her aunt. Now in her first year of secondary school, she’s been given another chance. With our help, Zainab will graduate in three years.


If you’re still looking for gifts for your loved ones, consider giving them the gift of knowing they’ll help a young girl graduate. You’ll double your generosity!


Happy holidays to you!


What Comes After You Enjoy The Moment?

What’s the point of achieving your dreams if you don’t take time to enjoy them? We’ve talked about the importance of soaking in your moment and feeling gratitude for where you are and what you’ve achieved.


But what happens once you’re well into that job you were working toward, once you’ve attracted that great relationship or achieved that health goal? What happens once you reach your dream and it (gasp) becomes the norm??


What do you do after you’ve enjoyed your moment?


1. Allow Yourself to Feel Happy:


​I know the “doer” voice in our heads wants us to ​move right on to the next big goal. But stop. Sit still. Allow yourself to feel happy. Give yourself the grace to really, fully feel appreciative of the accomplishment. Banish the thoughts that want to move you swiftly into goal setting again. Even the best climbers take a moment to enjoy the view before moving again.


2. Be Open to What’s Next:


So you’ve finally crossed it off your to-do list. Now what? Time to dream again. Remain open to the possibilities. Let inspiration and intuition guide you. It’s not a race – it’s a journey. And it’s yours and yours alone. Make a pact with yourself to start again with new visions, new moments to manifest. It doesn’t have to be bigger or better than the last one (that’s perfectionist thinking!). Moments come in all shapes and sizes. Decide which next moment is ready for you to claim.


3. Keep Moving:


Don’t get too attached to the journey looking the same for every accomplishment. Even if dreams or goals don’t work out as you’ve planned, keep moving. That’s resilience. Bounce back, learn from it and keep the growth in motion. Remember, this life isn’t graded, it’s not pass/fail – enjoy the process that unfolds for you…because that next amazing moment is always right around the corner.


Spreading Confidence with #PearlxChange

This past weekend I had the incredible opportunity to join Nicole Richie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marianne Williamson and few hundred other new friends at the first ever Pearl xChange conference in Los Angeles.


The event gathered a diverse room of women (and some men) to collaborate, inspire, and take action on a personal, professional, and even a global level. Together we explored our varying paths to success and confidence.


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Taking my place on the not-so-red carpet before the show! I’m joined by speakers: Nicole Richie, Psychic Dougall Fraser, Event Producer Ramey Warren and Astronaut (and bad ass) Jeanette Epps.


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Nicole did a lovely job hosting and offered a few wise words of her own throughout the day. In her opening remarks she discussed the power of collaboration and openness as a source of empowerment.


“When you’re open, the world is your oyster, and you can create whatever you want…Your mind + my mind is going to help us evolve” –Nicole Richie




I was first up at the mic, which was exciting because I had the opportunity to set the tone for the day – the women in the audience were so receptive, warm, and affirming.
We spoke about that messy path to confidence!


“It does us no good to be resentful of the path that got us here…Forgive, elevate, and move on” — Jess Weiner



Shadi Mehraein gave some solid advice to the entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs in the audience citing her ups and downs along her journey to becoming a successful venture capitalist, investing in women-led markets.


“You’re only going to fail when you give up” — Shadi Mehraein




Marianne Williamson is incredible. If you’ve never been in her audience, know that she speaks with enough power and conviction to mobilize a nation. Marianne discussed the importance of showing up and being there to support one another.


“How are you changing the world & how can I help?” — Marianne Williamson




Dougall Fraser has a gift – but he won’t attribute this to his psychic abilities – no, his gift is reaching people at a vulnerable level and guiding them to their own intuitions. According to Dougall, fear diminishes our power and our power is within our own intuitions.


“We have to carve out time to be still” — Dougall Fraser




Jeanette Epps offered an amazing perspective about both advocating for yourself and your responsibility beyond yourself. Her insightful perspective on the world stems from the fact that she’s seen the world from a few vantage points – including from space and within the CIA.


“I didn’t let anyone define who I would be… I defined who I would be in the world.” — Jeanette Epps




Gwyneth Paltrow took the stage to answer some questions from the audience. She spoke candidly about her divorce, her business, and her philosophy of friendship (even bestie Cameron Diaz was there to support!)


“As soon as I can put a pause in between the negative voice in my head and what I’m feeling, I can get back to myself.” — Gwyneth Paltrow


The diverse paths of each speaker and attendee reminded me that no one’s journey to success or confidence will look the same – nor should it. Life’s twists and turns are often what help us to move forward.


As Nicole Richie summarized in her closing, “Pearls are beautiful on their own…but when you add more pearls to the strand, you become more valuable.”


Why I Love “Reverse Mentoring”

Some people have hobbies like baking or building those little ships in bottles (do people still do that?)


I’d say my main hobby is mentoring.


Yep. I collect mentees like some people collected Tiger Beat posters of Rob Lowe back in the day. (Anyone? No? Just me?)


Many people might think of a mentor/mentee relationship as a one-way street, but if you are lucky, you get what I call “reverse mentoring.” The collective wisdom, insight, and inspiration you receive by helping someone on their journey.


I get such an incredible gift from having mentees in my life.


Here are 6 women I’ve mentored and what they’ve taught me in return.




Emily-Anne Rigal, We Stop Hate


I’ve known Emily-Anne since she was 15! She has now created a media empire through her anti-bullying organization We Stop Hate and her new book, Flawd. I’m inspired by her commitment to creating a community that inspires individual change.


She’s also taught me the joys of selfie-taking, social media and when to use the right emoticons. 🙂




Cammy Nelson, Brave Like Me


I met Cammy when she was in 6th grade and knew she was destined to be a force in the confidence community. She works with girls across the country to redefine bravery as taking risks and taking action – no matter how big or small.


Cammy has taught me about the tenderness of forgiving oneself and the glory of speaking about your dreams while in swimming pools.




Kara Norman, Empower Her, Inc.


Kara thinks I’m mentoring her, but truly she has helped me through her devout faith, passion, and generous heart. She provides events, resources, and programs that help women and girls live fulfilled lives in her community of Atlanta, Georgia. Even when faced with difficult challenges, she rises to the occasion and models grace in action.




Megan Grassell, Yellowberry


So truth is, I cold-called Megan and her Mom after I read about Yellowberry and I’m pretty sure they both thought I was a crazy creepster offering my help and mentorship. But I truly knew that Megan was on to something HUGE. Her ambition and drive led her to create a business that helps young girls feel confident about wearing a bra for the first time. I’m grateful that Megan ended up trusting me and didn’t hang up the phone!




Molly Thompson & Lauren Paul, Kind Campaign


My world got better when these two filmmakers and activists stepped into it. After appearing in their groundbreaking documentary on bullying, “Finding Kind”, we ended up mentoring each other over the years. They are so wholly dedicated to spreading kindness and positivity to women and girls worldwide. I’ll forever be indebted to them for the kindness they showed me on the floor of a movie theatre in Somewhere, USA – crying over broken hearts and big life changes.




Tammy Tibbetts, She’s The First


I first met Tammy during my Seventeen magazine days, and now she’s the Founder and President of an amazing organization that provides scholarships to educate girls in developing countries. Watching her grow professionally over the years inspires me to remember that growth and success take time – but are ultimately worth the wait.



Most days when I sit down to write these posts, I have no idea where to start.


I think about writing something witty, snarky, silly.


I think about using the time to uplift, inspire, educate.


I feel pressure to speak about my work, the business, stuff that makes money.
But if I’m silent enough. And still enough. What comes to me is this…


Sometimes I don’t want to write anything. I want to be in gestation, growing new ideas and thoughts. I don’t always want to produce for production sake, and I don’t want to worry about whether or not it gets a response.


In the silence, I can hear a smaller voice emerge, one that says to take a step back not forward. To sit not pace. To listen not talk. And if I do listen, I can hear the tiny sounds of new ideas rushing to be formed and my patience rising up like a swell.


I sit and I listen.


And I always end up writing.


But it’s never what I thought it would be.