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Ladies Who Lead: General Manager Janene Drafs is KOMO's secret weapon

In honor of the So Northwest Women's Show at the end of February 2018, we're highlighting a couple women in our community who are making a big impact. If you want to join us at the Show, buy tickets online now!

When people think of KOMO 4 - anchors Steve Pool, Eric Johnson or Mary Nam may come to mind. But for all of us who work there, KOMO General Manager Janene Drafs is the real star.

Drafs first walked into KOMO in her early 20s after graduating from the University of Washington. Three decades later, she's now running the show and overseeing KOMO, KPLZ, KVI and Univision.

"If I'm wearing my KOMO gear, people say 'Do you know Steve Pool?'" said Drafs. "I say 'I'm Steve Pool's boss. No, I'm Steve's boss' boss' and they go...'WHAT?'"

Drafs said things have changed dramatically since she started.

"I remember the first woman who wore pants on the sales staff," she said. "I remember there were no female vice-presidents."

As GM, Drafs is inspirational to people inside and outside of KOMO, helping to break the glass ceiling and pave the way for future women in charge.

"It's still rare to find women in very senior management positions," she said. "I think some of the things you hear about and read [right now] about I experienced. Things like more of an unintended bias."

For example, giving an opinion on something in a leadership meeting - and it being met with silence. Than a man giving that same opinion, and it being met with kudos.

"I have a real energy about around being supportive and mentoring of other females because of that," she said. "Not exclusively, I love to mentor fabulous men on my team as well - but I have a thing about a positive mentorship program for women because it has been a part of my experience."

Her advice to women just starting out? Work hard, and use your voice.

"There's actually two things I always tell interns or new employees when they start," she said. "The first thing is - ask for what you want. Make yourself incredibly valuable in that first job and work really, really hard and then ask for what you want. If you think someone is going to recognize you because of your hard work, you are missing the boat."

The second thing is to remember that it's your life skills that get you promoted.

"Your work skills get you in the door, but your life skills get you promoted," she said. "If you can master those as you move in your career you can do anything you want."

And we can't talk about her mentoring of younger women with talking about Claire and Megan.

"I am ridiculously proud of my daughters," gushes Drafs. "Megan is my river, and my heart. She's deep, and she's always been more of an old soul. Claire is my joy and my sunshine, happy and effervescent!"

The admiration is mutual.

"What I love most about my mom is she's always supported us to do what ever we want," said Megan. "She picked a path that not all women want to do and she encouraged us to become our full potential. But she understands that we may not choose the same path as her!"

Her daughters love that she commands attention when she walks into a room - that's what sets her apart from other working moms.

"She deserves to be respected," said Claire. "She doesn't take no for an answer."

And it turns out - leading and motivating other is in her blood. She credits a lot of her success to one special woman, her grandmother who sacrificed her career aspirations to stay home and raise a family.

"My grandmother was incredibly smart," she smiles. "Incredibly driven really early on, always one of my mentors and coaches at a really young age. I think the reason why is she always wanted to go to college and wasn't able to."

Almost two years after she passed away, Drafs hopes she would be proud. She keeps a letter in her office, offering her grandmother a job in radio in the 1930s.

"She turned it down to stay at home," she said. "[My mom thought] I should have this, and it was very special. So she's smiling, she's my little angel."

While Drafs is an open book, there's one questions you shouldn't ask her.

"I really dislike being asked 'How you do it all? How do you make it work? How do you find that work life balance?'" she shakes her head. "Who would ask a man that question? And the answer is, you don't."

Drafs will be participating in a Power Hour moderated by KOMO's Mary Nam on Sunday, February 25th at the So Northwest Women's Show. Get your tickets now!


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