chatting with...azita ardakani

When we first launched this series of YWiB stories, I knew I wanted to get my foot in the door of Lovesocial.  See, when I’m not chatting up women of influence for YWiB consumption, I spend my days as a communications and social media coordinator, and the work of Lovesocial and its founder, Azita Ardakani, is a daily source of inspiration for me.  I approached Azita about sharing her story with the YWiB faithful, and she happily obliged.  I was ecstatic.  We talked conscious communication and “making it” over a chai latte (me) and piping hot green tea (Azita) in the very new Lovesocial headquarters, housed in Gastown, Vancouver. Name three people you’d like to have a dinner party with. Wayne Dyer [internationally renowned author and speaker in the field of self-development], Eckhart Tolle [author of The Power of Now and A New Earth], and Jay-Z.  Jay-Z is so cool.  And can I invite one more?  Maya Angelou.  That would be a very interesting dinner party.

Describe yourself in five words. Creative, stubborn, hopeful, nostalgic and quirky.  Not necessarily in that order.

You started Lovesocial three years ago, and in such a short time, you’ve acquired some pretty amazing partnerships and projects in its portfolio: documentaries like Miss Representation and Gasland, Zooey Deschanel and Sophia Rossi’s, Summit on the Summit, Oprah Magazine...tons more.  Which project crystallized the “ah-ha” moment for you?  Was there a specific experience that really told you that you made it? I actually don’t ever like to think that I’ve “made it.”  That kind of thought results in almost a complacency, or it makes you stop trying.  But having said that, there have been a few moments for me over the past three years where I’ve stopped and gone, “Hey, we’re really doing something here.”  One moment was probably after HBO launched Gasland, a documentary that sheds light on the process of hydraulic fracturing or fracking, and the local stories of the many lives affected by that.  The impact of this process is devastating, both on the environment and on people.  After airing, gas companies activated their PR powerhouses, notably with automated social media operations called astroturfing.  We got under the skin of gas companies.  That was a turning point.  Between that and our flagship project, Summit on the Summit (a campaign focusing on the global clean water crisis) I got to see how immediate and how impactful this beast known as social media was.  We created a business for an ever-evolving industry.  It’s like building a boat on an ocean.  The landscape is always changing, and so our goals and benchmarks.

Is there a project that you’ve worked on that’s very close to your heart? I’m really proud of everything that we’ve done and the people we’ve connected with, because many were the result of an organic, natural partnership.  Recently working on Miss Representation has been fulfilling as there is a desperate need for alternative mainstream media targeted at women.  Optimizing social platforms to promote messages of worth, and campaigns like #notbuyingit help consumers take the power back into their own hands.

You speak about “conscious communication” and “sharing with intention” – so the opposite of many companies trying to leave an indelible footprint in the social media landscape by throwing anything and everything at it and hoping it sticks.  Were you always so enlightened about conveying messages in the most authentic way possible?  How did you develop the Lovesocial philosophy of connecting people with things that matter? Sharing with intention and communicating consciously – these are the human components of all things business.  I have a degree in sociology, not business or marketing, so that is the lens out of which I tend to see things.  I think people want to connect with what’s real and what’s valuable to them.  Cluttering up Twitter and Facebook feeds with too much of anything – charities to support, TV shows to watch, food to eat, politicians to follow – creates a climate of apathy and over saturation.  Why should we create or contribute to such a convoluted space?  Share things in a way that matters.  Be innovative.  Add value.  That’s when you’ll affect change.

Why do you think YWiB and the YWiB philosophy is important for young women in the community? A network, a support system, a community – those things are so important for young women who have all these thoughts and ideas swirling in their heads.  Ideas can be scary.  YWiB offers that pillar of support and connection that can help breathe life and direction into those ideas.  Organizations like YWiB build confidence so that young women learn earlier that there is absolutely no reason why you can’t reach out for something you want today.  To me, boundaries aren’t real – they are by-products of our society and culture.  People create their own walls and they invent these notions of needing permission to go out and live their best lives.  Why?  Give yourself permission.  That’s enough.

Can't get enough of Lovesocial?  Stalk 'em on Twitter at @lovesocial.  Get on Azita's radar at @Azita.

happy #IWD!

Today is International Women’s Day.  When I started thinking about this post, I knew that whatever we wrote had to be crazy profound, informative, celebratory, and engaging.  So I did what every curious, thirsty-for-knowledge YWiB-er would do: I went to Google.  And it actually turned out to be a great place to start, since whenever I search for something on Google I’m reminded of the power and impact of women today, and I’m always, always amazed.  Know why?  Because that blessedly simple homepage, those fun-tastic Google Doodle logos, that perfect list of links I get after hitting enter – and my Gmail account, for goodness sake – those elements are the work of Marissa Mayer, a personal hero of mine and Google’s former vice president, search and user experience.  Mayer is now the search giant’s vice president, location and local services (that’s Google Maps and Google Earth to us common-folk).  She’s a cupcake-loving, thirtysomething fashionista who has a Masters in Computer Science from Stanford and was Google’s first female engineer.  Happy International Women’s Day, indeed. Anyways, back to my Google search (thanks, Marissa!).  International Women’s Day is more than a century old, having begun in 1909.  It honours the achievements women have made on a political, economic and social scale all over the world.

What’s happening on this day of celebration?

YWiB is proud to be a part of such a great international community.  We’ve got a rich history, and we’re only just starting out!  Here are some highlights of our contributions to the young women in our own backyard:

  • Beyond Pink is a unique, high-impact, two-day conference aimed at providing real world skills that are applicable to girls from all walks of life.  What started in 2009 became YWiB’s signature event, bringing delegates mentor dinners, insightful workshops, the Entre-Carnival tradeshow, inspirational keynote speakers and panels, and a conference experience like no other.  Watch for Beyond Pink 2012 – it’s back and it’s going to be better than ever!
  • Miss Representation Screening and Panel
    • Miss Representation is the documentary film that’s taken the world by storm, exploring women's under-representation in positions of power and influence in America and challenges the limited portrayal of women in mainstream media.  YWiB, of course, got our hands on it and in partnership with the YWCA Metro Vancouver, Networking in Vancouver, PeaceGeeks, and Vancouver's Women Business Networks, held not one but TWO screenings of the film as well as a panel discussion with some of the city’s biggest names in PR and media,
    • For #IWD, Miss Rep & Lovesocial have partnered to create this great video, check it out!
  • Cross-Generational Salons
    • We bridge that gap they call generational by bringing an accomplished group of Vancouver’s women leaders together with the next crop of girls who want to follow in their footsteps for questions, answers and everything in between.  The next cross-generational salon is coming up soon – you’ll find the details here so keep watching this space!

Of course, we at YWiB wouldn't be where we are today without the amazing women who have paved the way for us and helped us along in this incredible movement.  We’re so lucky to have such wonderful members, advisors, partners, and supporters – THANK YOU!  Our mission is to connect young women with the skills and support to achieve success on their own terms and to become engaged members within their communities.  We can do this because of the women who have set the stage before us in years past, and we hope to equip all of YOU with the tools to do the same for the future.

Happy International Women’s Day!

 I love quotes. I’ve collected quotes since the beginning of Google.  There was one that really stuck with me that was on the cover of the Stanford admissions letter the year that I got in: ‘The world is before you, and you need not take or leave it as it was when you came in.’” – Marissa Mayer