By Lauren Jones, Photo by Mark Seliger
The illustrious Gay Gaddis is well-known for her role in transforming Austin’s advertising industry. One of the most respected businesswomen in the country, Gaddis is the founder and CEO of T3—The Think Tank—an award-winning advertising agency, and is celebrated for her ability to build brands, think outside the box and create a beloved company culture. She recently sat down with Austin Woman magazine to talk about her career journey, reflect on her upbringing in Southeast Texas and share details from her newly released book, Cowgirl Power.
Austin Woman: Where does the name Cowgirl Power come from?
Gay Gaddis: A lot of my values come from my roots as a young cowgirl and growing up in the country. I started riding horses with my godfather and have been around them my whole life. I grew up hearing about cowgirls.
AW: When did you first feel inspired to write a book?
GG: It had been bubbling in the back of mind for a while, but it wasn’t the right time yet. I have been a contributor for forbes.com, where I talk about my ranch common sense—what I call my horse sense—and how it has guided my business principles. I originally thought I could make a book out of it but decided I wanted it to be my story as an entrepreneur. With this book, I want women to understand their options and know if you believe in yourself and know your strengths, it opens doors.
AW: How did the writing process go?
GG: I have to give my husband a lot of credit. I wrote the entire book on a mini iPad and my husband then put it into an editing software so I could work with it from there. I wrote on airplanes, at my ranch. … I put myself on deadlines and then went back and rearranged things. Start to finish, it took 18 months.
AW: In addition to the cowgirls you feature in your book, what women today do you think embody those same characteristics?
GG: The women in The Committee of 200 [a global organization for female business leaders]have not only been inspirational to me, but have been successful in their careers, like Ellen Kullman, former CEO of DuPont; Denise Morrison of Campbell’s Soup; and Linda Addison, immediate past managing partner at Norton Rose Fulbright. I have really enjoyed being around these women.
AW: What does the word “empowerment” mean to you?
GG: [Empowerment] comes from within, and I’m hoping to empower women with this book. I wrote these watershed moments in the book. I forced myself to go back on my career and moments in time when I felt powerful. Women have a voice right now and we have an opportunity to change things. We don’t have to take things the way they are.
AW: What have been some of the highlights of your career?
GG: I have three kids and am so proud of them. They are outstanding in their own right, and I am excited to see their careers as they grow. Also, I’ve been proud of [mine and my husband’s]Texas ranch. We raise longhorns and we are proud of what we built there. We both grew up on ranches and bought our place in the Hill Country about 23 years ago. Getting the opportunity to write a book was a big deal as well. I’ve also trained as a fine artist and have gone back to my roots. I recently had a gallery show in Houston.
AW: What’s next, another book?
GG: I am already working on another book. When I was reading this book, I started in on another chapter and another idea and it really didn’t go into [the]book. I thought it would work as its own book. [The next book] will be timely in a lot of ways and will come out in two years. It’s a slower process, thankfully. I didn’t want to be overly ambitious this time.