Anne-Marie Tomchak is a digital executive, editor, broadcaster, and founder who has worked at the top of international news, technology, and fashion media. She has led editorial teams at British Vogue and Mashable, launched the social media investigative unit, BBC Trending, and founded the social enterprise ShareJoy.
With International Women’s Day today, Recruit Ireland asked her about ShareJoy, her top career advice, and the future of media.
ShareJoy is a social enterprise and digital wellbeing initiative that channels the joy of pre-owned and sustainable fashion to support youth mental health organisations in the UK and Ireland. It launched in 2021 with a fashion edit of items donated by twenty prominent Irish women.
For Anne-Marie, there were two drivers that motivated her to start ShareJoy – sustainability and mental health. When she needed to clear out her wardrobe, she thought “What am I going to do with all this stuff? And when she was stuck at home staring at her phone she asked herself: ‘how can I build a better relationship with this device?”
I’d already intended to set up a Depop shop but wanted the act of selling my clothes online to serve a wider purpose,” explains Anne-Marie. “So when I got a call from my friend Meave McMahon telling me about the loss of Arwen Sullivan, it put things into perspective.”
“Arwen was just 23 and died by suicide in the first few weeks of lockdown. She loved fashion and was passionate about sustainability and wellbeing. So the idea for ShareJoy fell into place organically.”
“Mental health is fragile and it’s been put under a lot of strain during the pandemic. This initiative is about focusing on the good things about fashion and technology, and leveraging the positive side of the coin to move things forward in a solutions-focused way,” Anne-Marie said.
Since starting on Blue Monday, January 2021 ShareJoy raised over €13,500 in the first two weeks of its launch for the mental health charity Pieta. Going forward the plan is to release items into the Depop shop on a monthly basis and feature Irish and sustainable design as well as pre-loved fashion. February’s star listing is the iconic Irish designer Louise Kennedy who donated an item from her AW20 collection.
International Women’s Day
Anne-Marie lives by the spirit of International Women’s Day every day but for her, it’s important to have a time dedicated to put the spotlight on certain issues that need to be highlighted around women and gender equality. “It’s a punctuation point for us to take stock, however it’s not just about one day,” she said.
This year’s theme is Choose to Challenge and for Anne-Marie, this is something that resonates with her own work. She has covered an array of gender issues for British Glamour over the last year from the increase of domestic violence against women during lockdown to virginity clinics in the UK “where women’s bodies are being controlled and exploited”, she said.
Anne-Marie has been a champion of women and women’s voices for a long time now through her work, “fighting for equality and social justice through the journalism I’ve been producing is incredibly important to me,” she said.
“International Women’s Day this year is going to be more important than ever because the UN has already highlighted that we’re at risk of reverting back to 1950 stereotypes and losing about 25 years of progress due to the care burden women have taken on during COVID.
It’s not that women don’t want to care, we are caring, but what’s happening is, by default, a lot of the care duties are falling onto women. As a result, careers are being put on hold. We need to ensure that we don’t lose all of the gains that we’ve made”, she continued.
When Recruit Ireland asked Anne-Marie what advice she might give to women thinking of starting their own business or initiative she stressed the importance of outreach- connecting with others and networking, “It’s the best advice I can give”, she said.
In Anne-Marie’s experience, most people are willing to help and the worst thing that can happen is they say no.
“Sometimes you have to be a master of your own destiny. We need to be more proactive now that we’re living in a more physically confined way,” she said.
She recalled a quote that she read in Laura Whitmore’s new book ‘No One Can Change Your Life Except For You’. The quote reads, ‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any’. “I love that quote because it’s a reminder that we all hold power in the world (to varying degrees) no matter what world we’ve been born into,” she said.
For those starting out in the media industry, Anne-Marie said, “Now we have a little more space and time to reflect. There’s room to figure out what titles you admire, where your interest lies”. She gives the same advice as she gave about starting up a business and that is, “Don’t wait around hoping that someone will call you or ‘discover you’. Pick up the phone and write that email.”
Anne-Marie recognises that getting work in media can be difficult especially during a pandemic, however, she said something rather profound. While we all think there’s not much happening right now (unfortunately) when there’s a crisis there’s always a story to tell and she believes that’s a unique opportunity.
She said that young people don’t always have to have it figured out yet, other than to know that the most pressing issues that lie with us today are social inequality and climate change, “I always say this when I talk to young journalists, your future job doesn’t exist yet,” she said.
Fake news and the future of media
According to Anne-Marie digital literacy amongst recipients of news is something that needs to be addressed and not just targeted specifically at younger people, “The onus is on us all to become more digitally literate and that doesn’t necessarily mean spending more time online,” she said.
“I’m a firm believer in original journalism and quality storytelling. Trust is really important. News has become quite polarised on social media platforms and we need to rethink how we do things. Start-ups like Kinzen (co-founded by Mark Little and Aine Kerr) are really important as they’re dedicated to finding solutions to the disinformation crisis. And from what I can see solutions are clearly needed,” she concluded.