You Inspire Me: Revolutionary Action with Cindy Gallop

“Men, you have no idea how much happier you’d be in a world 50% designed by women.” –Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop is pursuing two lifelong missions: to redesign the way we think about business and to revolutionize the way we think about sex.

This past Tuesday, I interviewed Cindy Gallop, an advertising consultant and entrepreneur. Gallop is founder of two successful start-ups that she hopes will change two vital pillars of society, business and sex: IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn. Gallop said that her two companies represent the two sides of her life: professional and personal. The former, IfWeRanTheWorld, launched in 2010, is a web platform designed to channel corporate and individual good intentions into action through breaking down social good initiatives into easily performed “microactions.” The latter, MakeLoveNotPorn, launched at TED2009, is a revolutionary business designed to socialize real sex, disrupting the myths perpetuated by pornography.

Yet Gallop wasn’t always an entrepreneur. For 28 years, she worked in advertising, founding the US branch of advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty. As Gallop describes it, her turning point came in 2005, when she turned 45.

“I had always viewed 45 as a midlife point, a time to reflect on the half of your life you had lived so far,” Gallop said. Yet on her 45th birthday, Gallop said she suddenly realized, “Oh my god, I just worked for sixteen years at the same advertising agency…I need to do something different.”

In a dramatic risk-taking venture, in order to review every option open to her, Gallop resigned from her position as chair of BBH without a job to go to. Most would have found such a leap of faith scary.

Gallop described her resignation as “the best bloody decision I ever made” because it allowed her to turn the things that she passionately believed…into businesses.

Today, Gallop still works as a brand innovation consultant and runs her two businesses on the side, with a remarkable degree of success considering the obstacles she has faced. Because of the adult content on MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, Gallop said that every difficulty a business normally faces—from finding venture capitalists to even a bank to store the money—is tripled. Yet today, according to Gallop, MakeLoveNotPorn.tv has 145,000 members and revenue in the tens of thousands.

“Many times, this battle has been so demoralizing that I think I can’t go on,” Gallop said. “But then I read another email from someone telling me how much my talk changed their life. The cumulative impact of those emails makes me feel like I have a personal responsibility to take MakeLoveNotPorn forward.”

Gallop believes passionately in her vision of the future: on the business side, a world where corporations and consumers profit through shared values and share action directed towards social good—intertwining philanthropy and profit; on the personal side, a world where real world sex is just as socially acceptable and shareable as anything else.

Part of her vision is a business world more centered around female values, because as Gallop put it, “we live in a world where the default setting is always male.” Gallop laughed, “Men, you have no idea how much happier you’d be in a world 50% designed by women.”

Gallop believes that business now is a male-centric construct, for the simple reason that while in its growing stages throughout history, women couldn’t work and thus couldn’t contribute to its development. Business today has male values like command and control, but Gallop said she sees that changing. “The future is about a 50/50 female value-model—valuing collaboration, consensus-building, and community.”

And in turn, her self-described most important leadership quality, a traditionally feminine quality not normally attributed to leadership by men, is caring about others before herself.

“When you’re a leader, everything else matters before you—people, community, audience. That’s who I’m responsible to.” Gallop said. “Any woman is a leader who gives and believes passionately in what she’s doing.”

When asked her advice for girls aspiring to follow in her footsteps, Cindy Gallop said that the single best moment, or rather a gradual realization, was realizing that she no longer gave a damn about what anybody else thought. “Do what you think is right. Speak up in that meeting. Take risks. The worst way to live life is caring what anybody else thinks.” Especially in her leap to entrepreneurship, Gallop encourages risk-taking, stressing that a job is not necessarily the safe option, and that young women should take their futures into their own hands, especially by working for themselves.

In her final words of advice for girls seeking to be revolutionaries like her, Gallop answered:

“Take action. The moment you complete an action, it transforms your worldview. Just do something.”

This post is part of the You Inspire Me series. Each week, Take the Lead blogger YingYing will interview a powerful woman for leadership lessons on following in their footsteps. Read more here.


About the Author

Eva Shang is 17 and a rising freshman at Harvard University. She is Teen Advisor to the United Nations Foundation campaign Girl Up, a blogger for the Huffington Post, and Junior Delegate to the national gender equality campaign Vision 2020: Equality in Sight. In addition, Eva is a Girl Scout Gold Awardee, and has been honored by Philadelphia City Council as a “Rising Star”, part of the City of Philadelphia’s Next Generation of Women’s Leadership.