Asha Dahya is a host and content creator. She was born in the UK, raised in Australia where she studied a BA with a double major in Film & Journalism, is Indian by ethnicity, and now resides in Los Angeles. Over the past 11 years she has worked for Fox, MTV, Disney, Nickelodeon, MSN, Myspace, ABC, TV Guide and more. Asha is the creator and editor in chief of a daily women's newsmedia site called GirlTalkHQ.com. Asha is passionate about the representation of women, women's rights, and feminism.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I never really set out to be a leader, but I did always want to be successful and known for my success. But moving countries at age 24, getting divorced at 29, and being in an industry that is so dependent upon looks definitely contributed to me wanting to create an opportunity for myself which in turn made me a leader for the content I am creating on my blog.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at GirlTalk?
Having worked in broadcast TV and online media for 11 years (which I still do today also) helped a LOT! The experience I have gotten over the years has been invaluable and I highly recommend anyone wanting to start their own business to first work from the best and learn from them. I learned how to host, produce, edit and write content from networks such as Fox, Disney, MSN, Nickelodeon, Myspace, TV guide, MTV and more.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at GirlTalk?
The highlights are waking up every day and getting excited about content that I want to write about without having to get approval from anyone else. For instance the other day I was reading about a young Jamaican female politician who has become an outspoken advocate for women's reproductive rights and I immediately got excited about what I could write in a blog post about her and share what she is doing with my community. I also continually get excited when men and women reach out to me to want to be featured on the site or work with me. It is very flattering, especially because the majority of requests I get are in line with our brand. Since launching GTHQ I have also been able to leverage this to get other opportunities. I just had a web platform based out of New York reach out to me and want to pay me to contribute videos to their site.
The biggest ongoing challenge is finding and increasing readership. In the digital media world everything is about numbers, even though it takes time to build a solid media website. We have pretty good numbers considering we have only been around since November 2012, yet I am often met with dismissals from larger companies because I am not in the ballpark of a major brand just yet. So the challenge is to market myself in a way that the numbers aren't a problem for anyone, and to find collaborators that are more in my range rather than reaching too high before I am ready.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career like yours?
Do your research, work hard, find your niche and don't give up. I didn't decide one day to just start my own online media platform, it was a culmination of things. But once I got stuck in I realized it was not going to be easy, but I had the necessary skill set. Was I going to match that with my determination? That's the biggest question you have to ask yourself. There are endless amounts of people who want to do what I am doing, and who are doing it. But it is the hard work, and committed to the details every day that make a difference in whether you actually see your idea come to fruition, or allow it to fade away.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
To be a good listener. It can be tough for a talker like me! But being a great listener is a very rare skill. Because I am in the business of story-telling and sharing information, the best way I can do this is by listening and asking questions. I never want to stop being curious or learning.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Daily to-do lists are my savior! No joke. I have a note pad next to my computer in my office filled with scribbles. I even put things like my yoga class, or grocery shopping on my list. When I can physically cross off and see the items I got through that day, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment, and it also enables me to schedule time out from work to enjoy the day and socialize.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women and girls?
That's a very loaded question. There are many issues, and it depends on where you are from and what your background is. While I think equality is a huge issue being discussed around the world today, I think that is what we struggle with most, even in subtle ways. Gender equality seems like a no-brainer, but if we are honest with ourselves we can see evidence where it lacks in areas all around us. I have heard it takes a whole generation for attitudes to change, and I hope that the way we think about gender equality, rape culture, street harassment, and women in leadership will not be the same for the next generation of women and girls.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
In huge ways! I have a handful of work mentors, but I mostly learn from going to classes, seminars or reading articles. My personal mentors have probably made the most impact on my life for the better. We live in a society where we have anything we want in an instant, but with all the technological advances, it is hard to find someone who wants to listen to what we have to to say. For me, having women I can trust not to judge me and be able to share my fears, mistakes and ambitions has been a huge blessing and continues to be. Which is why I am a huge advocate of women supporting each other.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Arianna Huffington for creating one of the most innovative media empires our generation has ever seen, Hillary Clinton because after reading 'Hard Choices' there is NO doubt in my mind we need to have her as the next US president, Tyra Banks, for being a woman of color and breaking all the barriers which set out to stop her and instead she used them as a Launchpad to become an icon and a brand, Spanx founder Sarah Blakely for her incredible business success without ever going into debt, without ever advertising and without even having a fashion background, and Benazir Bhutto for being a fearless leader who fiercely loved her country and was willing to die for the freedom of her people.
What do you want GirlTalk to accomplish in the next year?
This year I hope we will more than double our readership, create more digital partnerships with bigger brands, and start to become an authoritative platform that women and girls know they can come to for informative, engaging, powerful and inspiring content. I also want to travel with the website and speak at schools and institutions on the importance of using your voice to share your story.