Gay cashed in $16,000 in 1989 to create a new breed of agency, T3, that rose to national prominence for innovation under her leadership for more than 30 years.
Today, Gay is focusing her always-on energy to empower entrepreneurs and the next generation of women business leaders to take big leaps in their careers and lives. She is an active speaker on women’s leadership, company culture and entrepreneurship. Her book, Cowgirl Power, released in January 2018, shares insights and examples for women to develop personal power and lead like fearless cowgirls.
I spent the first decade of my career working in advertising. It was basically Mad Men with bell bottoms—complete with catcalls and intimidation. It was a toxic environment and it was not for me. My next few roles in PR and management consulting opened me up to a different kind of leadership. I was working with organizations and mentors who didn’t suppress my strengths because I’m a woman, but rather fostered them to help me become stronger.
I was given opportunities to take on projects and lead teams well beyond my experience. At times, it felt like I was fighting above my weight. But I was seeing successful results and bringing something interesting to the table. It was during this time I was able to realize just how strong I was.
Emboldened and raring to make a change, I returned to advertising. It was the 80s and a recession was on the horizon. Despite the agency’s success, I knew we could answer client needs with something smarter than bloated TV spots. We were missing a bigger opportunity.
I put together a plan and pitched it to the agency. They called it “cute.”
That stung. But it also lit a fire in me that changed my life. I walked out of that office knowing one thing was for damn sure—if they didn’t want to change things with me, I’d do it without them. I quit, cashed in a $16,000 IRA and started my own company, T3.
As the agency grew, we had no trouble attracting top talent—many of them women. But as their personal lives progressed, I saw tough choices having to be made. I was losing some of my best people. So we took steps. The largest was T3 and Under, a program that lets moms and dads bring their new babies to work. It became a lightening rod for discussions among women in business and has even been recognized by the White House.
My journey was not easy. There were scary days and months and arguably years, but we thrived. Along the trail, I’ve formed a clear philosophy about leadership and success. All of which has been shaped by my more than 40 years as a business owner, wife, mother, mentor, board member, business policy advocate, speaker, artist and Texas rancher.
In fact, growing up in Texas and ranching Texas Longhorn cattle is the very place I learned the toughest lessons about learning how to brush yourself off and get back to business.
First female Chair of the Texas Business Leadership Council and created the first Federal Task Force
Executive Committee member of the Texas Exes, the official alumni association for the University of Texas at Austin
Member of the Dean’s Advisory Council to The University of Texas McCombs School of Business and an advisor for the College of Fine Arts and the Moody College of Communication
Board of Directors of the Texas Cultural Trust
Member of Women Corporate Directors
Member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD)
Founding member of Paradigm for Parity, an international organization focused on closing the gender gap by 2030
Founding member of Austin 100, a technology think tank
Board of Directors of Monotype and served on compensation and nominating governance committees.
Part of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Network
Nationally recognized speaker represented by New York’s Greater Talent Network Speakers Bureau
Fast Company’s “Top 25 Women Business Builders”
Inc. Magazine’s “Top 10 Entrepreneurs of the Year”
Recognized by the President of the United States for innovative family friendly policies
Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame