This post is part of the series ‘She’s a boss!’ where I introduce you to bad ass ladies with hustle, drive, success and female friendships that you don’t want to mess with.
She’s not a GirlBoss. She’s a Boss!
At the end of summer 2016 a side-by-side magazine cover swept the internet. It was plain to see in one quick Insta, Facebook share or Tweet that publications were steering our youth into specific gender categories: Boys, you can do whatever you want! Read! Learn! Earn! Girls, curls are hard; here are some tips to nailing your school photo. It was a bit sickening to see.
My friends and I are constantly talking about the best ways to ‘lean in’ at work, words to drop out of our vocabulary in order to be taken more serious and other ways to fight the patriarchy, glass ceiling and wage gap. Would these things have been easier if our teen magazine’s in the ’90s pushed that leadership skills were as important as scrunchies? We will never know, but it’s embarrassing to think these mistakes are still being made in 2017.
In our current social media age of the “I fixed it for you” philosophy, graphic designer, Katherine Young, quickly did just that. Taking a few minutes to Google a recent science fair winner that young girls could look up to and wrote headlines that would make a true difference to any young girl’s life, she created a new version of Girls’ Life and threw it out to the internet. Within minutes it was liked, within hours it was shared, within days it was everywhere and within a few weeks Katherine’s ‘fixed’ Girls’ Life cover became synonymous with the demand of the media to #DoBetter.
I cannot think of a better lady to introduce you all to in my series, She’s a Boss, Bitch: Katherine Young. Ok, to use my business jargon: For the sake of transparency, I know this lady IRL. I had the pleasure of interning with her 10 years ago at the start of my career at the Walt Disney World Resort. Katherine was supporting Resorts while I was over in the training department running their internal communications and messaging her and the other interns begging them to teach me how to use Photoshop! If you take a look at her Instagram you will one hundred percent understand why I obsessively like every post of hers.
“My first Girl’s Life cover had an impact that was unprecedented. At first, I was scared that I was going to somehow get in [legal] trouble for what I did. Then I had a real long stretch after the post went viral, where I was resentful that the one piece everyone loves was something that only took minutes to put together, ” she told me. Whether or not it was her best graphic work, it was what she was saying that was resonating with women, and men, across the country.
It seems more and more these days whether it is with blogging, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter it’s the things we say off-of-the-cuff that grab people’s attention. Maybe that is the secret to viral fame: we are being our truest self, and people connect with that, when we aren’t trying to go viral.
While Katherine quickly went viral with her work, the quality was never commented on. Instead, people were having a conversation about the way we speak to boys vs. girls, and it was having a heavy impact across genders and generations.
“People become viral on the internet for horrible things, embarrassing things and taking advantage of fear and hate on the internet. I am proud to have gone viral putting good into the world,” she shared.
The good that Katherine generated spread far and wide. I, personally, saw friends and family who had no idea that Katherine and I were friends, posting and reposting her photo as it spread across different websites. Multiple friends postinghow disgusted they were that this was what we were selling (and buying) for young girls.
Katherine’s reach was going global quickly, her work shown on the TODAY show and even getting the opportunity to write about the experience for The Huffington Post. While living in Minnesota, she was opening up the eyes of millions of Americans: we cannot force gender stereotypes on our most impressionable resource, young women. Maybe she wasn’t going to change this magazine’s mind but she was impacting others.
“A father saw [my post] and left a comment about how he always congratulates his son on his accomplishments but he only tells his daughter how beautiful she is and he has to be more mindful moving forward to compliment her on her accomplishments. I can’t do better than that; and even if it just changed that one family, and how that one girl will be raised, I am extremely grateful.”
With the one-year anniversary of Katherine’s Girls’ Life cover this past September she knew she wanted to celebrate it in another creative way. “I didn’t want to ‘redo’ something with another side by side image. I wanted to just show the good stuff,” she said. “When I looked around growing up I saw only certain kinds of women. I needed to see more types of women to understand what was possible.”
By showcasing real women she wished she had to look up to in her youth, she redid magazine covers from Glamour to Sports Illustrated and even National Geographic in a piece called ‘Women I Needed to See Growing Up’. You may even spy a very familiar face!
“I made a list of traits or achievements that I wish I had seen growing up. Now when I look back it was really the women I have met in my life that made that list for me. Most of them I already knew and they inspired me with how they presented themselves to the world.” she shared with me as we talked about her latest project.
Through this series, you’ll find women who have battled postpartum anxiety, written children’s books and even create beautiful pieces of art despite physical limitations. Each woman, more inspiring than the next, dedicated to their passions and working hard towards a better society.
Katherine’s dedication to her passion is not only obvious through her writing and her art, but it is something that even trickles over into her everyday life.
“I don’t watch or engage with media that portrays women in negative stereotypical roles. I do not watch shows where women gossip and highlight the worst of themselves just to get paid.”
Katherine is one of those women you meet who you just know when they hear something that makes their nose wrinkle they’re going to get home and start working on a way to improve or fix it. That is why she is working hard on her own blog, collaborating with other women (raises hand!!), keeping me busy liking all of her Facebook posts and using her platform, and talent, to keep the conversation going. Through one share at a time, Katherine made a sizable dent in the social media world and created a call out to do better for the youth of our country.
“My hope is that we do for the next generation what wasn’t done for me and show more women.”
And with that, I hope that this post continues to build upon the great foundation she has already laid for us all.
Guys, how rad is Katherine? I know that I’m biased but I, like Katherine, commit to showing more women and want to introduce you guys to other women who are taking the reins like a boss. Leave me a note in the comments and tell me who you want to read about. And let me know if you had seen Katherine’s work before today!
Stay bossy, babes!