Sarah Gerber is the co-founder and CEO of the non-profit, Zero Gap, focused on gender parity in workplace culture. She is also the founder and Executive Producer of Twenty Twenty Studios, a boutique production studio telling mission-driven stories. She has produced award-winning documentaries and traveled the world capturing compelling stories. Sarah is passionate about social and economic equity. She sits on the board of a non-profit focused on systemic economic empowerment in a rural Honduran community and previously was on the board for a non-profit building schools in war-torn South Sudan. She is a Bay Area native and currently lives in Oakland with her husband, David.
Sophie: What led you to co-found Zero Gap and Twenty Twenty Studios?
Sarah: My first company, Twenty Twenty Studios, I founded because I was passionate about the role of storytelling and narrative to shape culture. And that, in part, led me to more recently co-found Zero Gap — it is about shaping culture. And the other impetus for launching Zero Gap was that my co-founders and I felt there was a need for more equal and representative spaces in the movement for equality. And in order to do that, we realized that what the movement needed was a narrative shift from a “women’s issue” to a human issue. And the way to do that was by fostering equal collaboration and ownership between men and women to close the gender gap. And that is the mission and vision of Zero Gap.
Sophie: Could you speak to why inequality in the workplace isn’t only a women’s issue? How does it harm all groups, including men?
Sarah: Gender inequality is built on a system that prescribes a very narrow script for men and women to follow and penalizes those who don’t follow the script. That system is otherwise known as patriarchy. And patriarchy requires a definition of masculinity that restricts the full humanity of men (as well as women, of course). While this system affords (white) men the most privilege, it is not without costs. Costs like not being allowed to have emotions or express certain emotions, expectations around status and fulfillment, and generally, access to the feminine, which is in everyone. The balance of feminine and masculine is part of being fully human. Cutting off half of one’s humanity does not come without costs — costs to the individual and to the society. Once men recognize the costs, inequality shifts from being a “women’s issue” to a human issue, which ideally will lead to co-creating a new system of full humanity for everyone.
Sophie: As a woman, discussing gender (in)equality can feel like an exercise in being further discredited. Do you have any advice for speaking to this topic in a productive, inclusive manner that brings people together?
Sarah: I believe that creating spaces for productive and inclusive conversations is the most important thing our world needs. Period. When it comes to gender equality, building inclusive spaces is essential. They aren’t easy to do, but they are essential. If we want a world that is equal, this is the first opportunity to build it, in real time. One practical step I can provide is this: find common ground. Find the ways in which we are more similar than different. And start from there.
Sophie: What’s most frustrating for you in the current state of the struggle for equality in the workplace? Do you see any potential fixes for this on the horizon?
Sarah: I think the most frustrating thing about the current state of the movement towards gender equality is this: while we are in an undeniable moment of reckoning from which history will take a new course, I am not sure yet if that change will be for the better. Fear and shame have risen as much as awareness in the post #metoo world. And I find it hard to believe the fear and shame can drive the meaningful change we all are looking for. Ultimately, this is a key impetus for founding Zero Gap. I believe that building spaces where men and women can co-create the future is essential for progress in the equality movement, particularly at this moment in history.
Sophie: How can men contribute to the gender equality movement?
Sarah: I think the first and most important step is to re-frame the whole relationship. This is not about helping, contributing, or allyship. This is about getting a stake in the game for building gender equality. And in order to do that (and thereby bring about the kind of systemic changes needed for equality to be realized), men need to take ownership and time to re-examine their understanding of masculinity, it’s relationship to feminity and then how those “roles” play out in the world. And then join women in spaces where we can co-create a new and more equal system.
Sophie: Lastly, how do you take care of yourself? Do you have any self-care rituals?
Sarah: I am in a season of life where I am actively working to refine and commit to my self-care. I believe that what energizes and restores me are things that take effort and commitment. Self-care isn’t about “relaxing” or “disconnecting” — it is about actively engaging in the things that are core to me operating at my highest level and optimal state. Right now that means a few specific rituals. My mornings are sacred. I try hard not to schedule anything early so that I can take time to read, write and meditate — it sets my day up. I attend a restorative yoga class once or twice a week. And then with less routine, I take walks in a nearby park. And I am actively looking for more practices.
About the author:
Anne-Sophie Bousset ("Sophie" to English-speaking friends), is a freelance marketer and community builder. She helps companies build their brand, attract clients, and build a community around their product. Her favorite things include sunshine, yoga, reading, and lazy Sundays in with her cat, Phelps. She can be found on Twitter @Sophie_Bousset.