How MAKERS Created Year-Round Engagement

Launched in 2012, the MAKERS media brand hosts an annual conference to help advance women in the workplace and beyond through storytelling and crucial conversations. Last year, COVID gave organizers a chance to rethink its “annual” model.

Author: Casey Gale       

Luuvie Ajayi Jones and Gabrielle Union

Author Luuvie Ajayi Jones (left) and actor Gabrielle Union take part in one of the three MAKERS@Home virtual events in 2021.

The MAKERS feminist media brand has worked for a decade to accelerate gender equity by uplifting and inspiring women in the workplace and beyond. Developed by Dyllan McGee, a documentary filmmaker and founder of McGee Media, MAKERS has created an expansive video collection of women’s profiles, produced Emmy-nominated documentaries, and made award-winning digital content all in service to its mission of uniting women around the world through storytelling.

The MAKERS Conference launched in 2015 as a way to bring attendees who are making a difference in their own fields and communities into the conversation. Typically held as a three-day, in-person summit, in pre-COVID years, the annual MAKERS Conference gathered 600-plus leaders and executives to talk about topics such as unconscious bias, workplace harassment, education, entertainment, and more through a feminist lens, with past speakers including activist and journalist Gloria Steinem, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and actors America Ferrera and Natalie Portman.

“We appreciate women who are raising their voices for change and have a clear agenda to tackle,” McGee told Convene in a 2018 interview. “MAKERS partners with top business leaders, government officials, Hollywood heavyweights, and rising talent, talking [about] everything from equal pay and gender parity to sexual harassment and health care. Plus, we always look for ways to push the envelope and invite unexpected voices to share their insight and inspire our attendees in new, unexpected ways.”

In 2021, due to COVID-19, organizers “doubled down,” according to the MAKERS website, and expanded the event from a one-off experience to three unique virtual events held throughout the year that “featured a mix of the MAKERS magic — inspiring speakers, engaging video and audio profiles, essential conversations, and more.”

In February 2021, MAKERS virtually welcomed the MAKERS@ community — its corporate sponsorship program that connects executives at the forefront of equity initiatives — to a kickoff event that featured McGee, leadership author and consultant Joanna Barsh, and marketing executive and Convening Leaders 2020 Main Stage speaker Bozoma Saint John. In May, the annual MAKERS Conference was held over three days online, with such speakers as actor Gabrielle Union, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, and author Luuvie Ajayi Jones. And in November, MAKERS featured a “finale” event that involved talks from 2021 National Youth Poet Laureate Alexandra Huynh, and climate justice advocate Lauren Ritchie.

MAKERS’ approach to its 2021 event reflected an effort to take its “community on a journey over the year,” according to the website, “creating a sense of belonging as we advocate for equality together.”

Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.

MAKERS Conference logo

The MAKERS Conference logo for the series of MAKERS@Home virtual events