Tell us about your work and your passion.
I’m lucky enough to be able to say that my work and my passions are aligned. I started my acting career at 15 on the West Coast and then moved to New York for college. After working as an actor for a number of years, I have now partnered with industry veteran Audrey Rosenberg to co-found the production company Invisible Pictures, which is dedicated to crafting authentic stories that are not normally represented or highlighted. I have also devoted my career to women’s issues across a number of platforms, so many of our projects have female directors, additional female producers, female writers, female financiers and female stars.
We are so excited to be working on feature films, television, documentaries and short form digital content. I am deeply committed to women’s empowerment, specifically in creating accessible reproductive healthcare for women, domestically and internationally. When a woman has control over her own choices, she can be more empowered to work towards equality in other areas of her life.
What drives your commitment to equality and progress for women and for all citizens?
I remember the day that Hillary Clinton won the primary nomination and the acceptance speech she gave that evening. My roommate and I set up camp on the couch and turned on the TV. Hillary stepped out onto the stage and I unexpectedly burst into tears. I could not have anticipated the reaction I had to seeing her on stage, accepting the nomination as the first woman for President of the United States of America. At that moment, I realized how crucial it is for every man, woman, and child of every color, religion, and creed, to see someone with whom they identify in positions of leadership, having the opportunities to succeed, and being recognized for their accomplishments.
How did you end up where you are? Was there an experience or specific moment that you had that made you think there was something missing in your life? Did you feel like you had a different calling?
Last year, I had a lot of exciting things, spanning from my career to my romantic life, starting to settle and to work out. And I was really unhappy. I couldn’t figure it out – I was on the brink of having what I had always wanted. After wandering around in confusion, I realized that, in more ways than one, I had been relying on a lot of other people to tell me how to live my life. That realization coincided with the 2016 election, the results of which were surprising, disturbing and surreal, especially from a women’s rights point of view, and my choice became obvious: I wanted to start a company with an empowering mission in a creative industry. I wanted to use content creation and my experience as a storyteller to change the narrative and work towards making visible the underrepresented communities who have been made invisible by systems and institutions around the world. Audrey, my co-founder, and I were aligned in this mission, so the partnership was a natural one. We are continuing to build our slate, and looking at every turn to contribute to the conversation around representation and empowerment.
How can we help join your fight for your cause?
You can join me by starting to question the messages being presented by media: Start a conversation about what biases are at play in the storytelling around you. No judgment; simply listen and ask.
You can follow the work I am doing at www.jessjacobs.com and on Twitter @jessjacobsx.
What emerging trends do you see in the non-profit space that women entering the workforce — or looking to return — can dial into?
The trend I see about which I’m the most excited is a trend toward collaboration. The kind of growth and change we want to see in the world requires combined efforts and working together cross-industry. There is so much potential for innovation and I recommend reaching outside of your immediate industry ecosystem. You will find yourself with unexpected connections and conversations and will find ways to work together to create impact. The problems we are facing in the world today are exponential, because of technology, globalism, the population growth rate, and so on. So we need to find exponential solutions, and I believe collaboration is the key.
What advice would you have to those starting out their career?
When I first decided to expand the scope of my work to producing and advocacy, the first task I gave myself was to show up. Anytime there was a lecture or conference around an issue that mattered to me, I went, I asked questions, and I introduced myself to as many people as possible. For example, I’m currently working on co-designing a pilot program for young women in Côte d’Ivoire to increase access to reproductive health care, and the inception of that project was a panel I decided to go to on impact bonds on a random Thursday in New York City. So, I would advise anyone and everyone to start by simply showing up. You cannot make a difference if you don’t show up.
What’s been the biggest struggle in business as a woman?
Right now, only 24% of senior business positions are held by women globally*. Being a part of the minority means that a lot of the systems in the workplace were not necessarily built to serve women, and the ways many of us prefer to think and interact. The biggest struggle has been trusting myself to question the status quo and to continue to have faith in approaching things as a woman rather than trying to beat a man at a man’s game.
My business partner and I had a meeting recently with a very powerful man, and I remember momentarily having the feeling that we had to be twice as serious and twice as rational to impress him. However, that feeling was fleeting and was replaced by a reminder of what success means for us: showing up with our passion, having our mission at the forefront of our pitch, and performing with confidence.
How do you manage a work/life balance?
I have started to believe that the phrase “work-life balance” is misleading. With balance, work can be a part of a happy life, rather than antithetical to it! For me, balance is about learning when and how to say no. Learning is a very personal process, which I am honing by listening to my gut, prioritizing self-care, and understanding that “no, thank you” is a full sentence (rather than feeling I have to justify my choices for the way I prioritize). When a person is ambitious and hungry, it can be tempting to take on everything that anyone throws your way. But we cannot give 100% to multiple things at the same time. Learning to decide which projects to take on creates balance, which gives you the power to create a happy and fulfilling life.
Leave a Reply