Get to know us! As a regular feature of our blog, you’ll hear from each of our team members on what drives us to create a better kind of women’s media. First up is AWT founder and Editor-in-Chief Saskia Ketz.
What inspired you to start A Women’s Thing?
At the time, I was working at a tech startup with an overwhelming number of male employees, which occasionally brought in an unbalanced spirit. Meetings, communication, the entire company culture is different when there’s a lot of testosterone on the table. Sometimes that’s fun to watch, but it’s generally rather exhausting.
I read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” when it came out, which helped me understand some of the structural reasons for these discrepancies. Originally I had the idea of building a women’s group within the company with two other ladies (four, actually, at that time). We mainly wanted to discuss our thoughts on how we could have a stronger voice in the company, for example by bringing in female engineers and promoting more women to positions of leadership. The latter is very important to women who want to grow in a company. It’s often easier to share challenges as a woman with another woman who went through similar experiences. We realized that the problem was not unique to tech startups, but had to do with the whole status quo—the roots of which are buried deeper and involve upbringing and socialization, media and advertising.
Also, editorial was something I wanted to go back to; writing and art inspire me and make me happy. I believe that media is a field that urgently needs to be reshaped. By forming the AWT team, I feel we are doing our share.
What were the biggest hurdles throughout the process of starting AWT?
The biggest challenge has been to figure everything out at once. Part of that is team building, as we are all volunteers, which brings its own set of principles. How do you hold everyone accountable? It’s a side project for everyone so jobs that bring in money are always higher on people’s priority lists. If you have a full-time position, you might not have the time and energy to devote to another project after a long day of work and I understand that. But perhaps the biggest part of success is pushing through, getting things done, and sticking to the agenda.
Other challenges are forming a mission and questioning that mission constantly. There’s also business development, partnerships, distribution, cashflow. We are ad-free, because we don’t want to be in the business of optimizing our content around advertising—we are all here to create something we care about. But we still need to create a sustainable business model that will allow us to thrive.
One of AWT’s mottos is “bullshit-free.” What kind of content were you tired of in existing women’s media outlets?
Despite the overload on Cosmo content in our society? Well, first of all, it’s not only a problem with women’s magazines—there’s generally a lot of room for better content. I simply want to see and read things other than what’s currently being circulated. There is a lot of inspiration here in New York. I like to learn about the people who shaped and are shaping this city. There are really good publications out there, but many don’t refrain from having a fashion or food section even though there are plenty of sources for both already. Why do we feature women? Because they’re disproportionately represented, as a subject and as published writers and artists.
You’re a staunch advocate of the freelancer lifestyle. Why?
I spent all my 20s freelancing. It fosters more of a creative, free-spirited lifestyle. I like to travel the world and I feel drawn to people who explore different spaces on a daily basis. I also believe in less work, and while that’s sometimes harder to achieve when freelancing, at least it gives you the opportunity to set up life with a more independent outlook. I know people who are afraid of that structure and feel more comfortable with security, but I think it’s fictitious for many, especially if you don’t look forward to Mondays. I don’t recall a freelancer telling me s/he fears Mondays.
I find the work that freelancers do is oftentimes better. They have more time to focus on output, they stay passionate more easily because they don’t have to attend unnecessary meetings or deal with co-workers that are not a personality match. Their work has a higher chance of remaining pure and strong, because it doesn’t get diluted by the lowest common denominator that it takes to please the many people on a larger team.
You’re from Berlin. What do you think is different about launching this kind of magazine here?
I’m able to get around being exposed to the many consumption pitches much more easily in Berlin. There is less perceived advertising and overall more of a “consume less” attitude. I still find it tough to deal with not just here in New York, but also many other places in the U.S.
I just read an article in a German magazine, the Zeit Magazin, which was about how Berlin has become such an English-speaking place. When I come to Berlin now, I think I’m in Brooklyn. Not only because I hardly ever hear people speak German, but because internationalization brought new types of restaurants, cafes and other boutique shops that focus on quality and craft rather than mass production.
Overall, though, people are people and it’s enlightening to be surrounded by diversity. We could certainly launch AWT in Berlin. We are one big community and stories that should be told are everywhere.