06/27/2014 10:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Girls' Lounge Takes Cannes with Confidence

The annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is a spectacular display of the world's best advertising, with an overlay of seminars, meetings, networking, parties, intimate dinners and not-so-intimate dinners. It is the place to be. And in some moments, it's a place that makes you want to hide away just to catch your breath.

Thankfully, there was a destination passed on from one female advertising executive to another... The Ipsos Girls' Lounge, a sanctuary away from the madness. Set up inside a sprawling penthouse at the Hotel Martinez this year, this growing group of smart, savvy women continued to redefine itself.

The Girls' Lounge began as a female-only oasis at a few select conferences, providing beauty touchups that boost outer confidence -- a great blowout, a fresh manicure, professional makeup and digital profile makeovers. In its second Cannes Lions, the Girls' Lounge dug deeper with its Confidence Circle breakfast series and afternoon networking sessions, delving into issues that resonate strongly with professional career women.

Against the backdrop of the French Riviera, advertising's All-Stars, including, Meredith Levien, New York Times' executive vice president of advertising, participated in a spirited debate about the future of women and their lack of representation at the top. Shelley Zalis, founder of the Ipsos Girl's Lounge, challenged companies to not fill quotas for female leaders -- but to actively seek out the most qualified women for these top roles and to adapt the working conditions for them. We need to keep our talented female executives opted in.

A resounding note rang true over and over: Women need to be less modest. We should be able to say we're great and be confident about it. If you feel you have a different perspective and never speak up, you're not going to get anywhere. If you want to get to the next level, you have to express yourself with what makes you unique and special.

"Female empowerment is about embracing feminine qualities like nurturing and collaboration," said Zalis. "The companies that are successful now have these as core values although they were once considered to be too female."

Zalis also shared how she gained balance early on by thinking forward. "Will I regret this? If my kid is playing in a game and he/she wants me to be there because it's important to them, I won't miss it. You have to change the meeting, or find someone else to take it... rebalance yourself. If I am going to regret something later, I don't do it!" said Zalis.

An equally important component to balance and boosting confidence is taking care of your body during a packed business trip. Instructor Nicole Rijelle led the sunrise stretch, and reminded the ladies that in addition to paying our credit card bills, we must also remember to pay our "sexy bill"! It's easy to push off exercise and eat badly while away, but we must break that work travel habit. And once we brought our sexy back, Courréges provided wardrobe consultation, sharing a stunning array of ensembles to show off the tone.

One of the things I love most about the Girls' Lounge is you never know who you're going to meet or what you will hear. From Gayle Fuguitt, CEO of ARF to Melissa Goidel, CRO of Refinery29 to the mother of Atlantic Recording Artist Katy Tiz who flew to Cannes just to hear her daughter rock the terrace with her hit "The Big Bang."

All week along the Croisette, women were seen carrying their pink and white gift boxes from PopSugar, with perfectly coiffed hair, stunning makeup, their bags stuffed with business cards and lightness in their festival-weary feet. All telltale signs they had just visited the Girls' Lounge.

The Girls' Lounge has opened up the energy to have dialogue between women, with the authenticity of trust between girlfriends. I hope to see you at the Girls' Lounge at ANA in Orlando on October 15-18, and at CES in Las Vegas in January 2015.

Find out more about the Girls' Lounge
Follow the Girls' Lounge on Twitter
Follow the Girls' Lounge on Instagram