Community//

Gemma Toner: “Having a network of close friends and colleagues that you can trust is important. ”

Having a network of close friends and colleagues that you can trust is important. These people can serve as great resources to help you get out of an anxious state and distract you. They can also encourage awareness-driven actions you can take to stop the spiral of negative thinking that fuels the anxiety, then stop […]

Having a network of close friends and colleagues that you can trust is important. These people can serve as great resources to help you get out of an anxious state and distract you. They can also encourage awareness-driven actions you can take to stop the spiral of negative thinking that fuels the anxiety, then stop any behaviors that are creating stress. A support system is really the best resource to encourage practices like mediation and getting outdoors.


As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gemma Toner.

Gemma Toner is a media and telecommunications leader known for driving innovation at the intersection of big data and digital media. As a senior executive in the cable industry for more than 20 years, Gemma experienced firsthand the transformative power of executive coaching and mentoring. With an eye toward helping other women achieve their potential, in 2017 Gemma created TONE Networks, a learning and development platform to develop female talent through expert video content, virtual coaching and a vibrant online community.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Asa senior executive in the cable industry for more than 20 years, I experienced firsthand the transformative power of executive coaching and mentoring. After I retired from Corporate America, I wanted to find a way to make a social impact. With an eye toward helping other women achieve their potential, in 2017 I created TONE Networks, a learning and development platform to develop female talent through expert video content, virtual coaching and a vibrant online community. With 1,000+ videos, the platform enables users to discover career coaches and expertise that otherwise may be hard to find or afford.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game — I love data and ‘Moneyball’ really drove the reasons why home for me (no pun intended). Data can reveal results that help you to understand other people’s behavior. It’s an example of what women are up against every day because there are a lot of unconscious biases out there. Also, it’s a false dichotomy…if you like data, some think you don’t like people. I happen to really like both!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

1. Unexpected Generosity — We have seen unprecedented generosity among our colleagues, friends, neighbors, family and strangers who need help. It is a great spirit and I am looking forward to it continuing.

2. Awareness of Human Interconnectedness — This is a silver lining because it has become clear how interrelated and interdependent we are on each other. We each play a part in the success of our society no matter what our occupation or station in life.

3. Increase in Self-Care — Now that we mostly have to stay home and have fewer external distractions, there has been more opportunity to invest in ourselves, eat right, and exercise, which will enable us to emerge healthier and feeling better overall.

4. Improved Coping Skills — After getting through this, there won’t be much you can’t throw at us that we can’t surmount. Coping takes practice, and the better you get at it, the stronger you become.

5. Innovation — The unanticipated and rapid need for us to do things differently, both personally and professionally, will give us all a head start when we emerge from the current situation. I can’t wait to see the future.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

  • Breathe: Take a deep breath, it’ll slow your heart rate and promote a calm feeling
  • Lend an ear: Tell them you are available to help and they aren’t in this alone
  • Stop the anxiety-causing behavior: Whether that’s turning off the news or stopping conversation about current affairs, recognize what’s causing stress then consciously put up a hand to stop it
  • Find a positive action: Remove yourself from a negative environment by getting outside, going for a walk, meditating, etc.
  • Follow through: Give them undivided attention when they reach out, and proactively follow up

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

Having a network of close friends and colleagues that you can trust is important. These people can serve as great resources to help you get out of an anxious state and distract you. They can also encourage awareness-driven actions you can take to stop the spiral of negative thinking that fuels the anxiety, then stop any behaviors that are creating stress. A support system is really the best resource to encourage practices like mediation and getting outdoors.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“You see things; you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were, and I say ‘Why not?” -George Bernard Shaw

This quote sums up the mentality that I’ve carried throughout my career, and what’s led me to where I am today. I find it so exciting to dream big and do things that haven’t been done before; I’ve always run headfirst towards accomplishing my goals and making things happen. When creating Tone, I thought, if someone’s going to make a difference in this space, why can’t it be me?

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, it would be one that has global impact regarding women’s rights and empowerment for all protected groups. We can be so isolated when it comes to women’s rights in the rest of the world — in particular, developing countries. Currently, I’m a board member of Concern Worldwide, which addresses poverty and helping the most vulnerable people in the world, which tend to be women and children, by first helping them to meet their basic needs like arranging for affordable living and providing food. Then, we teach women how to make money, so our focus becomes education — how to apply their learning to the workforce and financial literacy.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech: “Don’t wait to have the tough conversations” with Gemma Toner of Tone Networks

by Penny Bauder, Founder of Green Kid Crafts
GaudiLab/Shutterstock
Work Smarter//

5 Things This Woman Leader Wished Someone Had Told Her Before She Became a CEO

by Melanie Curtin

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.