Interview with Shelley Zalis

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Tech Cat
Interview with Shelley Zalis
Lori: Hello, everybody! It’s great to be here. Lori Schwartz, the Tech
Cat, and I’m bringing you a fabulous guest this week, the wonderful
Shelley Zalis, who I’m calling The Pioneer. Shelley is the CEO of The
Female Quotient, a holding company that’s focused on investing in the
power of female leadership and skills, and one of the company’s many
ventures is The Girls’ Lounge, which is a concept that started as a
physical space but has really become a haven for women to connect at
male-dominated trade shows, and so much more. Let’s have a big
Tech Cat hand for Shelley Zalis, ladies and gentlemen!
Shelley: Thank you, Lori. I’m so thrilled to be on the show with you
because I think that you are such an inspirational tech leader. So,
thank you for having me.
Lori: Well, I hope that my mother is listening to this. Well, Shelley,
tell us about your background, because you really have an amazing
story, as well. So, give us a sense of your background, and then we’ll
dive right into all the wonderful things you’re doing right now.
Shelley: You know, my background is a little crazy and very nonlinear
and very unexpected, mainly because I’ve always followed my
heartbeat moments that has led me through my path, through my
journey, and it really all started when I had this idea to migrate
research from a central location and telephone to the Internet in a day
and age where only wealthy old men were online with broadband
connection, which, in market research, as you know, is hardly a
representative population.
Lori: Right, right.
Shelley: And it was, you know, one of those moments where I said, I
need to build an online research platform, and everyone told me that it
was too early, it was premature, and that it wasn’t ready. It was, you
know, too early in its day and age. And I thought to myself, well,
when will the time be? If I don’t create it, it won’t happen, and I’m
not very good at, you know, women are not good at waiting for things.
We need instant gratification. So I thought if I don’t build it, who will,
and so I left the big traditional research company to pioneer online
research and was really the first, or one of the first, to migrate
research to the Internet. So my story’s really quite crazy. It was
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called OTX at the time, and I came up with the name in two minutes
flat, where I said, really, what is it. The O was online; the T, testing;
and I love the letter X—I think it’s a sexy letter—so X was exchange.
So it was Online Testing Exchange, and in nine short years it really
became the fastest growing online research company in the world, and
now, doing research online, is the new normal. So it’s been a very
exciting career. And then in the last five years, I sold it to one of the
largest research companies in the world called Ipsos, where I started
running global innovation in eighty-three countries. So that’s what
I’ve done for the last five years.
Lori: It’s pretty amazing because even if you don’t understand
research or you’re not a researcher, the fact that you innovated
something that no one had touched in such a long time just gives the
audience an inkling of what happens when you get an idea.
Shelley: What’s amazing about that, I just want to jump in when you
talked about listeners on the phone, it was one of those moments
where I’m not a techie, but I built it for the lowest common
denominator of, you know, when you’re taking surveys—and I’m sure
everyone has been called once upon a time by someone on the
telephone to say, do you have a few minutes to answer some
questions, or stopped in a mall to say, do you mind answering a few
questions—migrating to online was not about technology; it was about
simplicity of being able to engage in a survey when and where you
wanted, and so I built it for the lowest common denominator, as a
mom with children, so that it would be representative and easy for
everyone, regardless of how sophisticated a technology person you
were, to be able to use.
Lori: It’s so smart. And then you and I had met when I was running
my technology lab, and you were so gracious. You got us all this great
press in the New York Times, and we were trying to do some other
things together, but then you popped up again in my world with The
Girls’ Lounge, where they were showing off at all these major industry
events, and they were always packed, and everyone was, like, have
you heard of this thing called The Girls’ Lounge? And I knew it was
you, but I didn’t know what it was, and it sort of exploded, and it’s
taken the advertising, marketing, entertainment industry by storm.
So, tell us about The Girls’ Lounge.
Shelley: Well, first of all I want to say that the reason I showcased
what you were doing then was that you were first, also, and a pioneer,
building a media lab, a tech lab, so that big marketers could come in
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and try and experiment with new technologies, and it was so ahead of
its time, and so—
Lori: So ahead
Shelley: So ripe and ready and if we didn’t bring visibility to it, it
wouldn’t have happened, so I just want to applaud you for doing that
because I think it was really revolutionary and transformative, so
ahead of its time, and that also became the new normal. So, kudos to
you.
Lori: Yeah, totally. God, I love this call, and I think that we have to
do this more regularly.
Shelley: Listen, hey, it’s not only a girlfriend thing of supporting one
another, but the truth is you do need to do shout-outs for visionary,
game-changing steps because you were bold and brave, and you took
that step where no one else was going. And if you don’t have that
network supporting you and embracing it, something wonderful can go
away before it can be embraced; and that’s what we have to do is
embrace the moment of something that is phenomenal, whether we
make mistakes or not. That’s how we learn and grow. And I think
that’s really a very important part of the technology conversation, that
failure is a big part of success. And the same thing happened with The
Girls’ Lounge. If you asked me where I was going to be today, I would
never in a million years say it was running, you know, founding The
Girls’ Lounge. It was one of those things that happened by accident,
where I was on my way to CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. I
knew as a woman in technology I wanted to go experience the largest
technology show that was in Las Vegas with forty thousand people, but
I didn’t know anyone, and I heard that less than six percent of people
in technology were women. So I called four of my girlfriends that
were in business, and I said, hey, do you want to go with me to the
CES show, and let’s walk the floor together, because I don’t want to go
by myself. And they said great, and I said, and if you know other
women that are going, invite them so that no one is alone. And
twenty-four hours later fifty women showed up to walk the floor
together at CES.
Lori: Oh my god.
Shelley: And it was a heartbeat moment again. It was one of those
empowering moments where, number one, we did not feel like the
minority. We felt like the majority, and we acted like the majority.
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And it’s where I coined the phrase Confidence is Beautiful. We walked
that trade floor as a power pack, and every head turned, like, what
just happened, you know, what just passed us, and we were, like, this
chick team, and we were looking at technology together, and we were
laughing and having fun. And then day two we had a hundred women,
and by day three we had a hundred fifty women. And it was really this
empowering moment of confidence, where I said, if I could connect
women in technology, what about women in marketing, research,
media agencies, and that’s where The Girls’ Lounge was born. And
today the girls enter the destination, had conferences, where women
can connect, collaborate, and more importantly activate the changes
that we want to see together. And it became very clear that if we
could have done it alone, we would have, and that’s where the power
of the pack arose, and women started calling The Girl’s Lounge a
destination at conferences, and then it turned into a safe haven and
then a sanctuary and than an oasis, and now women just call it their
home. It’s their home at major conferences, and we’ve connected
over four thousand corporate women together across Fortune 500
companies, and we have CEOs and CLOs and CIOs and CTOs and
CCOs and COOs—we have the C-suite—and they’re all women. And
not only do we have today’s leaders of senior women, but also connect
tomorrow’s leaders. And one of the most important things that we do
in The Girls’ Lounge is no name badges. Every woman is included,
regardless of seniority, and we all support and learn from one another,
and that’s empowering, and that’s authenticity at its best.
Lori: That is so, so amazing. I didn’t actually know the CES story,
which I wish I had seen it happening and wasn’t doing my own crazy
stuff there, because it is really true that it is such a male-dominated
environment, and the only women you do see are usually behind the
booth, kind of being the actors in the booth. So I can see how that
would really stir up your thinking and launch this great movement.
Shelley: Yeah, I just wanted to add one thing about what’s interesting
about technology and what happened that day, also, was—
Lori: Yeah!
Shelley: —in general, when men are talking about technology, it’s big
screen, small screen, and the actual factual pieces of what it does. So
women like to contextualize it and tell stories about it and how does
this technology fit into your life. And so even the tours, you know, the
floor tours, today, three years later, we still do a walking tour at CES,
and what we share is how this technology makes a difference in your
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life and fits into the bigger scheme of things and really contextualizes
it into today’s day and age, which is kind of interesting.
Lori: It’s huge. The storytelling around the tech is huge, and that’s
also why I created StoryTech, too. But we’re actually going to take a
break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk to Shelley about
The Female Quotient, which is the holding company that you just
launched that The Girls’ Lounge sits inside of, including some other
really exciting initiatives. We’ll be back in a moment with the Tech Cat
and the fabulous Shelley Zalis.
{Commercial Break}
Lori: And we’re back with the fabulous Shelley Zalis, who’s going to
talk to us about her new company The Female Quotient, which is doing
so many exciting things and it’s just such a fascinating time in our
world right now with women and business. So, Shelley, tell us about
The Female Quotient.
Shelley: So, you know, I call it TFQ, and the name came up—The
Female Quotient—because I always say first came IQ, then came EQ,
now comes FQ. And when you think about the intelligent quotient, you
know, that’s very linear, and it’s you know, how big is your IQ, how
smart are you, how textbook savvy are you; and then EQ became the
new norm where it’s how emotionally connected are you and people
oriented and how deeply can you feel, because it’s a very important
skill set, you know, the cognitive and the emotive; and then I say then
comes the FQ, and I say the female quotient is about bringing the
feminine intuition to the table—and, you know, men have it too, by the
way—but from the cognitive and the emotive side, men and women
are all important; we’re all equal; we’re just different. And in general,
men have very wonderful strengths—they’re more linear, they’re more
strategic, they’re more decisive, in general—and women have some
very important strengths—we’re more nurturing, we’re more
collaborative, we’re more teambuilding, we’re more supportive, in
general—and so when you bring those strengths together to the table,
to me, that’s diversity. Diversity is not about gender, race, or age; it’s
about mindset and skill set. And when you balance great strengths
together, you make the table better. And so that’s why the holding
company is called TFQ, The Female Quotient, and inside the holding
company, right now we have two portfolio companies. One is The
Girls’ Lounge, which we just talked about, and the other is a strategicinsight
company called Contexxt, and I put two X’s in the spelling of
Context just to bring The Female Quotient inside.
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Lori: Why do you think that all this is getting so much traction right
now, because there’s so much discussion about women in the C-suite
and women at Silicon Valley and getting, also, young girls interested in
coding. Like, what’s going on in our business world that this is all
bubbling up right now?
Shelley: Well, I mean, everyone says it’s the year of the woman, but I
really do think that as we’re living in a multi-media, multi-tasking
world on steroids in a very nonlinear world, I mean, number one,
women are great multi-taskers, and we are very good contextualizers
and visualizers and we have a good ability to take complex problems
and make them simple. And so I think that it’s a really important day
and age, even in STEM, you know, when you just said why are we
trying to get more girls in technology, in STEM—science, technology,
engineering, and math—we’ve now added A—we call it STEAM—art,
because when you think about it, technology just flat out, it’s cold. To
make technology sticky and easy to use, you need to add that warm
factor. And even with math, when we see jobs, of course, created in
math, but it was a woman that brought the friendly icons to the table
to make it this friendly capability, this friendly technology. And when
you think about all kinds of technology, while technology is an enabler,
there’s a really importance that we need to place and bring this
conversation forward about the ability for personalization and
customization. And we actually just worked on an amazing project
with the VA, and I just bring it up because today’s Veteran’s Day and
celebrating Veteran’s Day, where we were working with the White
House and the VA to personalize prosthetics, create assisted
technology for prosthetics for vets. And so we created a female
challenge, and while utility and functionality for prosthetics is the same
for men and women—you want to move your arm, you want to move
your leg—women have very different fashion design and accessory
needs than men. Women with a prosthetic hand cannot put on their
lipstick, they can’t shave their legs, they can’t snap their bra—little
things in life that are really important for living life with confidence;
and with a woman that wears dresses and has a prosthetic leg, she
wants to feel beautiful—
Lori: Right, right, right.
Shelley: —and wear beautiful shoes. So we created a whole
Prosthetics is Beautiful campaign, helping women not only cover their
prosthetics with beautiful coverlets that can light up and play music
and have tattoo art on them but also to snap on and off different legs
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with different shoes so that they can live more confidently. And so
that was just a very big initiative, and it was all around technology,
and it was bringing that personal element and that warmth and that
emotion to understanding how technology can be your best friend if
we use all of the abilities that it brings to us. And we use a lot of
young girls to give them visibility and how important what they do is,
because, imagine, if you’re ten years old, as a young girl, walking into
a computer class or a STEM program and it’s all boys, how does a tenyear-old
find that confidence, as a girl, to go in and to feel comfortable
in that classroom, unless she’s bold and brave to take that first step
and lead the way for others to follow and not just to be like everyone
else but to stand out and make a difference in what she’s doing and
feel really good about it, and so we do a lot of work through the girls,
now, and also bringing confidence to girls in STEM and how important
what they do is and the difference that they can make in so many
lives.
Lori: Now, since you’re becoming this sort of translator of a lot of
different initiatives around women in C-suites and girls, you have a lot
of really important people coming through now—important, I mean in
that they’re doing really high-level things that are impacting, you
know, outside of just the, even, marketing and entertainment
vertical—so you were telling me about an initiative around getting a
woman on the dollar. Can you tell us about that because it’s just
fascinating.
Shelley: Well, this is, obviously, a White House initiative with the
Treasurer of the United States—Rosa Rios, a woman, that’s the
Treasurer of the United States. It’ll be the first time since 1896 that
there’ll be a woman on a bill, and it will be the ten-dollar bill. They’ll
be announcing it by the end of the year who it is. But it’s a very
exciting time for us, for women, to—what we say is, you can’t be it if
you can’t see it. And we must bring visibility to women around the
world that are making significant contributions to business and to
social progress and to education and to technology and in space, but
we have to share these stories because if you only read about men
and you only see men making a difference, well, we’re never going to
understand and realize the opportunity and the potential and what
women are actually accomplishing, the accomplishments. So we really
need to bring that visibility and share those stories and celebrate them
in very significant ways. So I think that’s very important. And then
The Girls’ Lounge was just invited to be at the World Economic Forum
in Davos, where we’ll have, for the first time ever, a destination for
women in Davos, which is very exciting.
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Lori: Oh my god. That’s amazing.
Shelley: And, you know, that’s not just to have a presence there.
Yeah. It’s just walk the walk now. You know, we’ve all been talking
about some of the challenges that we have with gender equality in the
world, particularly in the work force, and gender equality comes in
three key buckets, you know, the wage gap—why are women paid, in
general, seventy-seven cents on the dollar? Culture—how do we
create a culture of care so that people can have a life and not just
have to choose between work or family, but how do we create better
integration of work and family with your life. And then the
unconsciousness bias—how do we change the quota, really, and it’s
just so amazing to me where, when you think about it, we will never
achieve equality until all people are equal. And it’s not just about
putting African American, Hispanic, women, LGBT, at the table to fill a
quota; it’s we need this diversity of mindset and skill set, like I said
before; and if we balance that way, it will be better for business.
Equality is good for business, and gender equality is not a female
issue.
Lori: Right, and that’s a unique point. That’s a unique point. That is
the first time I heard it voiced so smartly, when you were describing it
to me, as it’s not about filling a quotient of women in a room. Your
point is that having all different kinds of people actually makes a
company better.
Shelley: You know, Barry Salzberg said something from Deloitte. He
said that in the past, he said they had just hired their first female CEO
in the United States, and we were giving a speech together. And I
asked him, I said, did you do that to fill a quota? And he said, no, we
did it because it makes the table better; and he said, as a matter of
fact, he used to have three of the thirty-four of his board members
were women, and the women never used their voice or expressed
themselves; and so I said, so what’d you do about it; and he said, so
he got rid of five of the guys, added five more women—now he had
eight out of thirty-four—and he said, and all of a sudden, the
conversation changed from a linear, just a typical conversation to a
much more collaborative, storytelling, not just the what is happening,
but the why. And I thought that was so interesting to think about how
the different voices, the different thinking, the different ideation—if we
were all the same, why do we need so many of us? If we’re all going
to represent the same opinion, the same message, the same thinking,
why do you need so many? It’s a waste of money.
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Lori: Right.
Shelley: What makes the table better is this diversity, intention of
thought. That’s healthy. That’s powerful. That’s the bottom line.
Lori: And it’s very, very exciting, too. When we come back, we’re
going to talk to Shelley more about some of the trends that you’re
seeing in the marketing and tech and entertainment space and how
they are fueling what you’re doing, and more on The Female Quotient
when we get back with Shelley Zalis and the Tech Cat.
{Commercial Break}
Lori: And we’re back with the fabulous Shelley Zalis, and we were just
talking about that unique concept that having more women, having
more diversity in the boardroom will actually make your company
better, and it’s a different spin on this conversation. Shelley and I
were just talking that often, if you are promoting women, people think
you’re not promoting men, and that’s not really the conversation that
you’re having.
Shelley: No, you know, and I think what I’d love to see us starting to
talk about is not what you are but who you are.
Lori: Nice.
Shelley: And if we start really recruiting and also blending teams
based on strengths, we will actually have a diverse team by default,
and so I think we have to start migrating more to that kind of mindset
where it’s not just what’s your GPA, what’s your experience of the past
of what title you held, and what company did you work for, but who
are you, what are your unique strengths? I mean, none of us are
perfect. We don’t have all the skill sets that we need, and that’s why
we need to balance off each other, and that’s what a team is about.
It’s collaborating. You know, we’re taught in school to be competitive
and compete with one another, but the truth is in business today, the
best asset is having collaboration and having team members that
know what their strengths are and how to pair themselves up and
surround themselves with others around them that make them the
best that they can be.
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Lori: That’s such a great point. Well, what’s the biggest surprise for
you in all of this. I mean, are you completely blown away by how this
has just exploded?
Shelley: You know, I think when you create something that fills a
need, then it becomes sticky. And I think women never really had a
destination to get to know each other. You know, when you think
about it, the best business deals are done with people. It’s not about
a company; it’s about working with people you like and trust. And so
we create that authentic relationship in The Girls’ Lounge, because you
come and spend time with someone. It’s beyond the half handshake,
and that’s when business gets done. So a lot of business is done in
The Girls’ Lounge, and so I think what—I’m not surprised, actually, but
I do love—I say we went from a moment to a movement, and the
movement is—
Lori: Oh, yeah.
Shelley: —women in business are really starting to behave differently
because we’re giving them this place to connect in a way they’ve
never connected before. And now when you meet in The Girls’ Lounge
and spend time with each other, you go back out to that big
conference with forty thousand people, and you’ll see all the women,
like, high-fiving each other and they all know each other, and that’s
confidence building. I mean, when you’ve a whole new network of
women, it’s confidence building. And it’s not that it’s not for men, but
I think women do need a place to have these kinds of conversations
and support and empower one another, but transformation will only
happen with men involved. This is a people issue, and so we can
empower each other and support one another, but transformation will
only happen if we do it together. And I think that’s a very important
thing to consider.
Lori: Well, why is it so—oh, I’m sorry. Why is it so important, also,
one of the things that you do in The Girls’ Lounge that, frankly, I never
have gotten to take advantage of, but it’s so helpful, you know,
helping women with their hair and their makeup, and some of the
things that I struggle to get in when I’m running off to travel for
business or when I’m doing some moderating or hosting, and that
stuff—looking good and looking professional—is so key to all of this,
but it’s so hard to fit in. What made you decide to weave that into
what you’re offering in these Lounges?
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Shelley: You know, because it’s not about hair and makeup. It’s not
about how you look; it’s more about how you feel, and it’s about inner
beauty. And it’s the self in confidence; there’s a reason it’s called selfconfidence.
If you feel good, you are good; and that’s really what it’s
about. And so it’s not even about hair and makeup; it’s about p.s. do
what you want to do. Come into The Girls’ Lounge and find your
space, whether you just want to make new girlfriends, whether you
want to see your friends that you already have, if you want to be
efficient and get your hair and makeup and nails done while you’re
doing a power meeting. I want women to be women and not be afraid
to bring who they are to the table, and I want women to bring
femininity to the boardroom and not apologize for it. I think it’s okay
that we’re girls. I mean, it’s wonderful.
Lori: Right.
Shelley: You know, guys can have—play golf. I mean, women play
golf, too, and they can play video games, and they can watch sports at
the bar and bond that way. I just wanted to create an environment in
a space that women enjoy being in the way we like to be, and that’s
okay. And so I just wanted to sensationalize a little bit the space to
say it is a girls’ space, where we do things that women enjoy doing
and not be afraid to say this is how we roll. And we’re just as
powerful, and we’re just as successful, and we’re just as accomplished,
and we’re just as all those things, but why can’t we have a little fun
while we’re at it? I often invite my clients, my girlfriends, to let’s go
get a manicure/pedicure and do a business deal at the same time
because we’ve got to multi-task. I mean, we don’t have a lot of time
in the day, so instead of just going for a drink, let’s get our nails done,
sit next to each other, and talk about business at the same time, and
we can accomplish two things for the price of one.
Lori: I love that so much. You do have a lot of major brand to our
sponsoring what you’re doing, is that correct?
Shelley: Yeah. The Girls’ Lounge really is an industry initiative, by
and for the women in the industry. So we have multiple partners
that—and I say it’s given by the girls at, because companies are just
institutions. People make things happen, and I want women to
understand that if we want to have this kind of place to connect, then
it’s our responsibility collectively to make it happen. So it’s not my
Girls’ Lounge, it’s not yours, it’s ours, and we all have to share in that
responsibility to make it happen. And it also is a subliminal way of
collaborating. So it’s not like a sponsorship model where you see
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brand names all over The Girls’ Lounge, but we integrate value-added
services in all of The Girls’ Lounges, which keeps helping The Girls’
Lounge grow and dimensionalize. So we have services around helping
you be the best that you can be with confidence coaching, how to do a
LinkedIn profile, having a professional headshot. We have very
important power conversations that are very authentic and genuine
and sincere and very interactive. We do a series called “Ask Her,”
connecting today’s and tomorrow’s female leaders with just real
questions—real women, real questions, real answers. We have bythe-way
services like hair and makeup and nails so that you can be
efficient and get your stuff done that you need to get done. We have a
home office where you can practice your speeches, you know, if you’re
going on the main stage and print your documents, and we also have
Skype where you can call in to see your family and say hello to them.
It’s just a place that you can get it all done when you’re so busy
running around. Why not also be efficient in a space that you feel very
comfortable?
Lori: God, it’s just such a brilliant idea. I mean, I used to be the only
woman at so many of these conferences, and I would have loved to
have had an environment like that to feel supported. I mean, the best
thing about it in those days was not waiting on line in the bathroom.
That was always my joke. There was no women’s room. Well, where
are you getting some of your ideas? Where are you getting your
inspiration from?
Shelley: You know, I really said, people asked me to write, you know,
my book so many times, but a book is linear and has a beginning, a
middle, and an end. This is my living legacy. This is my story of
things that I wish I had as I was rising the ranks. I never had this
kind of network and support system from girlfriends, so everything
about The Girls’ Lounge is really my gift of love back to women for the
things that I wish I had, and I feel it’s my responsibility now to share
with others what I always wanted as I was rising the ranks, and then
all the women and the girlfriends—we’re all sisters now. It really, you
know, and everyone contributes, and everyone keeps taking The Girls’
Lounge to that next level and dimensionalizing it. We keep adding
more and more services that women need—want, need, wish, hope
for. And I say when purpose meets passion we’re unstoppable. And
this is really my purpose today. It is certainly my passion. And it’s
my life’s journey. And I’ve met, in the last three years since we’ve
had The Girls’ Lounge, I mean, I didn’t know any of these women
before, and so I’m a living story of a reflection of success from The
Girls’ Lounge, because I have so many genuine—and I say that word
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genuine—girlfriends in business today that not only support me but
they take me to the next level. And it really is so true when I say we
are better together, which is one hundred percent, a living-andbreathing
testimonial from me, from The Girls’ Lounge, even though I
created it, I am also reaping the benefits of what it is. And that’s why
it just, you know, becomes more and more important, and in the last
three years I think we’ve hosted thirty-seven-plus Girls’ Lounges in
three years, and we’ve connected over four thousand corporate
women with one another.
Lori: God, it’s just—the sheer numbers alone is simply amazing. Are
there any trends that you’re seeing, just in the marketing and tech
world that are helping to kind of fuel this revolution right now that
you’re building off of?
Shelley: Well, I mean, you know, we keep talking about the
connected everything. So I think a couple of trends that have
connected everything, the more you can integrate together—I mean,
even apps, I mean, think about it—if you want a shopping app, who
can download a hundred of them? What if you create the Uber
shopper app that has all the different components in one place?
Lori: Right, right.
Shelley: Or visualization and contextualization, which is why I called
my trends from the context. How do you take complicated things—we
have so much data. I mean we are collecting more data today than
we did from the start of civilization up until 2003 point in time, and so
I think how do you take complicated data and make it simple and
visually beautiful and take gigabytes and terabytes of data and turn
them into ten things you might know and ten things you might not
know—something that is soundbiting, complicated stuff, and
technology helps us do that today, and I think that those are the
trends of contextualizing, visualizing. You know, info graphics are
great because it’s bite-size nuggets of information that’s so relevant,
and making technology easy to use because it will not be embraced by
mainstream if it’s not easy, if it’s not bringing a value-added
proposition to life. If it’s just a me-too and another gadget, I think the
early adopters will always buy into that, but it won’t become
something that mainstream embraces.
Lori: Good fodder to take a break on, and when we come back with
Shelley Zalis of The Female Quotient, we’re going to talk a little bit
about where are you guys going to be next, where are you speaking
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next, what are some of your upcoming projects that we can all look
forward to, because I think after hearing you speak, everyone’s going
to want to know where they can find you. So we’ll be back in a few
moments with the Tech Cat and the fabulous Shelley Zalis.
{Commercial Break}
Lori: And now we’re back with Shelley Zalis, and we were just talking
about marketing tech entertainment trends that are really feeding into
all the magical things that are happening right now with The Female
Quotient and The Girls’ Lounge, and I know that our audience would
love to know, what do you have coming up next, and I know because
I’m going to a luncheon next week where you’re going to be given an
award. So can you tell us about that?
Shelley: Thank you. Yeah, you know, I don’t accept awards just to
accept them unless they’re very meaningful and important and I know
that it could make a difference for so many others, and this is an
organization called Girls Inc., which supports young girls from
impoverished homes or neglected homes that don’t have that support
system. And so women, really, all come together, and we raise the
roof for them and support and nurture and really help them find their
confidence and their voice, because all people are beautiful, and it
really is helping them find their voice and live confidently. So I’m very
excited about that one. And it’s all about mentorship; and the word
mentorship, for me, is a word that we do need to reimagine and
redefine because in the past, mentorship has been very linear; and it’s
the wise old sages that push the messages down, and I believe that
mentorship is about pairing and sharing and we learn from each other,
you know, some up, down, and all around; and I learn so much from
the digital natives and the millennials and the boomers and all
different ages; so I just think that it’s so important to give back with
generosity in every which way. So it’s very exciting.
Lori: You’re really sitting in a place now where all these different
women’s organizations are sort of hinging off of The Girls’ Lounge,
right? You’ve had a lot of different organizations coming to you and
partnering with you?
Shelley: It’s important messages. I mean, we just recently did a
Girls’ Lounge for the women in the military: the women in the Army,
the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines. They hosted their first
national symposium for women of the highest level, and their biggest
challenge is how do they find their voice in the armed services and not
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just be evaluated by their muscle strength but their mind strength.
You know, it’s just so interesting because it was a conference for, I
think, a thousand people, a thousand women, and there were a few
men in the audience, and one woman that’s one of the highest ranking
women in the Air Force got up and she said to the man, I’m just
curious; how do you feel in this room today? And the man said, a little
uncomfortable; and she said, that’s how we feel every single day.
Lori: Mmm.
Shelley: There’s less than, I think it was, less than thirteen percent of
people in the military that were women, and it was just a very telling
moment, or even her uniform—I mean, which she rocked, I mean,
she looked sensational in it, but she said, you know, these uniforms
were made by men for men, and when we’re in combat, we have to
sort of unzip from below, and just going to the bathroom is
complicated. So it’s really how do we bring visibility to these
conversations and not—you know, and some of them were just legacy
issues, but if we don’t bring up the fact that we have the ability today
to customize uniforms, customize prosthetics, customize technology,
customize conversation, based on individual needs, shame on us.
We’re living in a day and age where anything is possible if we ask the
right questions and raise our hands and be willing to take that first
step towards change.
Lori: Mm. Well, you’re getting to meet so many interesting people.
Is there anyone that you’ve met recently that either you were a fan of
and you got to meet them in the context of The Girls’ Lounge or just
someone that’s really blown you away?
Shelley: I’m blown away every day by amazing women, you know,
supporting one another. But the Treasurer of the United States, Rosie
Rios, I mean, she’s amazing, and it’s the courage. She’s been working
seven years to get a woman on the ten-dollar bill. I mean, kudos to
her. And Megan Smith, who’s bringing visibility to women in
technology, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, who is
one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met, makes technology
simple and finds solutions to everything. The answer is yes, period.
And all these young girls. I mean, I had young girls creating, with 3-D
printing, prosthetics for the female veterans, but we also made one for
a seven-year-old little girl and just gave her a pink prosthetic hand.
Lori: Oh.
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Shelley: I have thirteen-to-fifteen-year-old girls making robots, and
we’ve just commissioned them to make a little female robot with a
pink ponytail that walks and talks and hands out business cards, with
LED lighting on her chest. There’s so much inspiration surrounding us,
and I think we need to open our minds to it, celebrate it, and reinforce
it and bring tremendous visibility to it so that in two years from now
we can see the quota changing and the equality metrics rising, and
change happens when you take the first step. So that’s really what it’s
all about. Be brave, be bold, take risks, and push forward.
Lori: Where can we—I love every time you answer a question, there’s
always, like, a fabulous quote. I just love it. It’s like you’re so
tweetable right now.
Shelley: Oh! Tweet me, then. Thank you!
Lori: Where are you guys going to be next? Where can folks get
involved with The Girls’ Lounge and The Female Quotient? Where are
you guys going to be next?
Shelley: So, we go to CES—well, we’re going to the White House in
December for the inauguration of the woman on the ten-dollar bill.
We go to CES in January in Vegas. We go to Davos January 20, and
then there are lots of Girls’ Lounges that follow. But to follow us, you
can go to The Girls’ Lounge on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; or
Shelley Zalis.
Lori: Can you see ever opening up sort of Girls’ Lounge franchises,
where other people are throwing up Girls’ Lounges?
Shelley: Everyone has a girls’ lounge in their backyard, so, it’s like
Dorothy, just click your heels and make it happen. But we’re here to
help any organization that would like some help or some
encouragement or conversation or anything that we can do. We’re
always willing to roll up our sleeves and join the team. So, we’re here.
Lori: And in terms of the research side of your business, are there any
new research studies or any reports coming up soon that we can keep
our eyes open for?
Shelley: You know, I’m always doing research on what women want
in corporations, in mentors, and work-life balance—you and I don’t
believe in the word work-life balance: whole other conversation for
another radio show. So we’re always publishing and asking—we’re
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just very curious and asking questions all the time and sharing facts
that–curating other people’s articles so that we can really start having
one voice pushing forward. So just follow us and you can find out
what we’re talking about, what conversations we’re joining, and who
we’re following because there are so many inspirational leaders today
that we just—they’re transforming culture and corporations.
Lori: Well, it’s certainly a very exciting time for you and all the people
that are involved with what you’re doing. And, again, I’m such a
fangirl, and I’m so glad that we had a chance to have you share with
everybody what you’re doing and a new way to think about this world,
that diversity actually can empower a business and this is not about
exclusion at all, and it’s just a very powerful message.
Shelley: Oh, thank you.
Lori: So, let’s give a big hand for Shelley Zalis of The Girls’ Lounge
and The Female Quotient, and we’re going to be keeping our eyes out
on all the wonderful things that you’re doing. And I’m certainly going
to be looking forward to hearing about who made the dollar—who got
on the money—and all the other wonderful things that you’re doing.
So, join us next week again for the Tech Cat Show. We’ll be hearing
from some other wonderful people, and it’s just been a real treat to
hear from the fabulous Shelley Zalis.
Shelley: Thank you so much, Lori.
Lori: Ladies and gentlemen, the Tech Cat Show. It’s so great to have
you.