While "booth babes" certainly received the lion's share of attention and eyeballs at International CES last week, it was the ladies who created The Ipsos Girls' Lounge who continue to change the game. Begun almost exactly a year ago at CES 2013, the Girls' Lounge has welcomed more than 1700 women into their circle over the past year at many high-level industry events including the Association of National Advertisers' Masters of Marketing conference, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and Advertising Week in New York.
Destroying the notion that women can't work well together, The Girls' Lounge has knocked down the walls of formality and offered a female sanctuary to unload, share and grow both personally and professionally. Founded and led by Shelley Zalis, CEO Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange, this group is comprised of female entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and innovators who are leading the charge for the next generation. From CEO to CMO to manager to PR executive, the room is less about titles and more about the power of the female quotient.
I was happy to be invited to help host the lounge by Zalis and her stalwart team, but they really did most of the work. They arranged activities interspersed throughout CES including morning yoga, LinkedIn digital profile makeovers, professional headshots from Tumblr, wardrobe consulting, power talks and new this year -- the "Girls' Only" Tech Tour.
Alexis Lloyd, creative director for The New York Times R&D Lab, led over 25 women through the frenzied CES floor and provided insight into the products that will revolutionize our industry over the next few years. Heads were turning not only because they were a polished group wearing pink headphones, but also because of the impressive collection of female executives talking about 4K displays, curved TVs and myriad other gadgets being introduced to them.
Our male colleagues wonder what really goes on in The Girls' Lounge. Yes, we do indulge in traditional girly activities -- blowouts, manicures and makeup touchups. But we also unwind from frenzied schedules and share our career stories -- the good and the bad -- how we juggled a demanding boss and small children at home, found our mentors, changed our company cultures and how we can continue to guide more women to the C-Suite.
We agreed that one of our biggest challenges is providing support for female colleagues who are mid-career and toeing the line as to if they want all in. The life of a corporate executive is not an easy path, and women lacking a strong peer network may be tempted to opt-out. The Girls' Lounge teaches them how to stay vested and still enjoy a successful personal and family life.
During a "Power Conversation" session moderated by Meredith Levien, EVP, Advertising, New York Times, that included media executives Gayle Fuguitt, Wenda Harris Millard, Shelley Zalis, Nadine McHugh and Gail Tifford, strategies for upping the "Female Quotient" in our organizations were discussed. Zalis stressed that it's not about having women at the table just to have women, but instead to cultivate the value of the female perspective. "Most women are great communicators. We also tend to work more collaboratively and bring both passion and intuition. You don't put women at the table to gender balance, you put women at the table to power balance."
McHugh, VP, Global Integrated Media Communications at Colgate Palmolive, shared that she was disappointed that only two female executives gave keynotes at CES this year -- Marissa Mayer, CEO, president and director at Yahoo! and Carolyn Everson, VP, Facebook. We resolve to change that in the years to come.
The Girls' Lounge is not only flush with media power, but also star power. Breakthrough Atlantic Recording artist Meg Myers, joined us in the suite clad in a "All Women are Rebels" black tee and belted out a few ballads that gave chills to everyone listening. Seeing such a young, strong, spirited woman push ahead in the fierce music industry was inspiring.
Fueled by the energy of the wonderful women I met at the Girls' Lounge, I encourage you to mentor and/or find a female mentor within your organization. Host a ladies' lunch among your colleagues and keep the dialogue open and honest. It's up to us to keep changing the game.
The Girls' Lounge will convene next at the 4A's in Los Angeles, March 16-19, and at ARF in New York City, March 23-26.
Follow the Girls' Lounge on Twitter: @TheGirlsLounge
Join the Girls' Lounge on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Ipsos-Girls-Lounge-5050478