The Female Quotient: Insights From Davos Through The March

The Female Quotient: Insights From Davos Through The March

Diversity/Equality Founders/Startups

Last Sunday, on my flight to the World Economic Forum, I came across an article entitled, “Davos Makes Glacial Progress in Hike Towards Gender Balance”. Having since spent time on the ground in Davos, I am thrilled to report the glacier is thawing and I am confident that next year’s coverage will highlight progress being made.

To its credit, the WEF reached out to The Female Quotient in 2015 as part of its efforts to proactively change the gender ratio (less than 20% women) of its flagship event. In its second year, TFQ at Davos doubled in size and produced three full days of standing room only panel discussions. With participants including Sheryl Sandberg, Paul Polman and Cherie Blair covering topics ranging from “Why Diversity is a Business Imperative” to “Rebooting the Future” to “The Future of Work”, The TFQ Lounge was a “Can’t Miss” destination along the Promenade.

So much ground was covered in three days that a true recap could fill the pages of a Thomas Friedman book (btw, he was on a panel with us this year! #fangirl). Luckily for you, much of the content was taped and will be made available via In the meantime, below are three topical highlights.

1) Inclusion and Equality in the Workplace – THE HOW:

The general consensus of all discussions was that we have been admiring the problem for the past few years, and now is the time to walk the talk. In the lounge, we heard from executives at some of the companies leading the way, including Salesforce (the gold standard), CA Technologies, Unilever, Facebook, Tradeshift, and more.

Devin Wenig, CEO of eBay, told us he made achieving pay parity part of eBay’s overall business agenda and implemented metrics and targets to measure progress, just as he does any core business agenda. This proved successful as eBay, one of the first public companies to publish pay data, recently announced that it achieved 100% pay parity.

To help move the conversation from lip service to impact, The Female Quotient, in partnership with Catalyst and Atlantic Media Strategies, announced the launch of “The Modern Guide to Equality.” The document, available online here, is a practical starting point for advancing equality in the workplace and is meant to become a living, breathing destination for thought and action-sharing.

2) Leadership in the Age of Millenials and the 4th Industrial Revolution

The definition of leadership, along with the traits that make for a good leader, is changing. As our world is rapidly being reshaped (demographic shifts, industry transformations, advances in technology, science, communication, etc.), we must reshape ourselves, our communities, our companies, and our countries in order to thrive and excel in this new paradigm. Gone are the days of the “carrot and stick” and “command and control” leadership tactics. Compassion, humility, collaboration, inclusion were the phrases most oft-repeated as traits required of leaders.

Indeed, whether they had read The Athena Doctrine or not, CEOs and leaders across Davos were touting the importance of feminine leadership traits. Luckily for us, the author John Gerzema is a friend of TFQ and joined us for a private dinner we threw for CA Technologies in our Lounge.

3) Getting Back to the Basics: The Golden Rule

Also known as the Law or Reciprocity or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” The Golden Rule has been a core tenet of cultures and religions since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, I think we can all agree that, in recent times, compassion and tolerance do not seem to be “ruling” our collective hearts or minds.

The good news: there is a call to action happening now – post 2016 and in response to Drumpf, Brexit, and increases in hate crimes, terror attacks, species extinction, etc. – that humanity band together to accept our differences and to live compassionately and sensitively toward ourselves and others. Put more simply, we’re bringing The Golden Rule back.

For more on this read our amazing panelists’ books:

“Imaginal Cells: Visions of Transformation”, curated by Kim Pollman and Stephen Vasconcellos-Sharpe.

“Thank You for Being Late” by Thomas Friedman.

As I type this I am back on a plane, heading home to LA. It has only been a week, but feels much longer. Not only has the most female-attended World Economic Forum passed, the largest Women’s March/Rally in history has taken place. Both have left me inspired, energized and with a renewed sense of hope and faith in humanity.

The March embodied so much of what was discussed in the TFQ Lounge at Davos. Certainly, it was organized by compassionate leaders across the world and reached epic participation rates (women AND men) because so many of us believe in standing up, and standing together, for inclusion and equality and compassion and love. One of the mantras of the Girls Lounge, which Shelley,  the CEO, repeats often is, “Alone we have power, together we have impact.” Never have those words rang so true.

For those asking what now? The answer is, “we keep at it.”  We stay united, engaged and activated every single day. Creating diversity and equality in the workplace will take time, as will realizing the changes we would like to see in our country and world. I will end by paraphrasing Thomas Friedman’s advice for making it through these challenging times: 1) Play the long game and avoid short-termism, 2) Wake up everyday and be a positive, active force in your immediate community, and 3) Live by The Golden Rule.

The Messy Middle

The Messy Middle

Diversity/Equality Personal Development

I learned the term “The Messy Middle” via my work with Shelley Zalis and The Girls Lounge. The Messy Middle refers to the pipeline problem that most corporations experience, where the number of men and women in junior roles is fairly even and then, as you move up the ranks, there is a major drop-off in women. This is due to the gender wage gap, unconscious bias, and other corporate issues, as well as women leaving the work force to start families and not returning (which can often be tied back to poor corporate policies and culture).

What I didn’t realize, until an Oprah-style “A-Ha” moment I had whilst lunching with a dear friend, is that I have been in my own version of “The Messy Middle.” And I am not even at a major corporation. Nor do I have children (outside my furbaby Joanie).

I am a 40 year old woman who has been in the startup space (both operations and investment) for close to two decades. These past few years I have been going through what I will call “a transformation” – which has mostly been very powerful and positive. But a lot has been going on in my head and my heart, which has been making me feel a bit, well, ”messy.” Indeed, life itself is messy, but this middle time, at middle age, seems particularly so.

Now “middle-aged” is not a moniker I like and/or associate with. And, in this day and age, 40 isn’t even middle-aged anymore (right?). But what I have discovered while having some deep conversations with my female friends (mostly ranging 35-45), is that all of us are doing a great deal of self-work. We all seem to be spending a lot of time and energy examining: 1) the nearly two decades of our work selves, 2) our priorities, passions and purpose and 3) how we define happiness.

Yes, middle age seems like a perfectly logical time to be assessing the first half of your life and making adjustment/improvements for the second. But for women, it is more than that. At 40, we find ourselves serving multiple roles:

1. Career women (who have often had their heads down working twice as hard as men to get recognized, promoted and paid equally)
2. Wives
3. Mothers
4. Single people who, whether grappling with marriage and child-bearing or not, are constantly barraged with inquiries as to why we are single and childless
5. Care-takers to our parents

Playing all these roles is exhausting and impossible to balance (yes, I hate that word too). The only savior is to really spend time in one’s own head and heart evaluating what’s most important to your own fulfillment – which is usually quite different from when you last checked in during your 20’s and 30’s.

The good news for women here is that we are open communicators and have nurtured deep support systems to help us along the way. If I did not have a kickass group of women that I trust and respect to talk to, this messy middle would be a whole lot lonelier and great deal messier. Also, I found that when I was sharing what I was going through, not only was I not alone, I picked up terrific advice and actionable tools for re-assessing and re-aligning.

I share some of my “self-work” in this post. Hopefully, it helps others work through some of their “messy” to make whatever adjustments they need in order to live their best lives.

As my dear friend Shelley says, #PowerofthePack.

Less Talk, More Action (My Trip to DC)

Less Talk, More Action (My Trip to DC)


I have been in the startup community (NYC and LA) for nearly 20 years, first as an operator and now as an investor. There has always been a diversity issue (a very big one) so I am, of course, thrilled that it has been getting so much attention as of late. Though I am eager to move from talking about it to ACTING to eliminate it.

I am a strong believer that each of us is responsible for putting into the world more than we take out. That each of us can, and should, make a positive impact – whether that means on a community, industry, state or global level. Obviously, it is easiest to make a difference locally, in an area that you are passionate about and familiar with. Starting out in early-stage tech in the late 90s, I have countless stories about being the only woman in my company, at a party, or at a conference. Because of my experience, I dedicate a good deal of my time to advising and mentoring both my female colleagues as well as the many existing and aspiring female founders I meet. I want more women to join / start / invest in tech startups. The more women that do so, the more that will follow in their footsteps (see my post “Choose Possibility”). Of course, we should all want this, not just women, as the numbers show that companies with women in management report higher returns on equity and better net income growth than those lacking female leaders.

Last year, I had the good fortune of meeting a “soul sister” by the name of Shelley Zallis. Shelley built and sold an online research company and, for the past few years, has been producing “The Girls Lounge”, a destination for female executives to connect and inspire one another, at a handful of major industry conferences. As everyone does, I immediately fell in love with Shelley. I believe our meeting was kizmet, as we met right at the time I began to think about gender equality on a national and global (not just tech ecosystem) level and right at the time Shelley was just beginning to think about how to build her Girls Lounge into a much bigger initiative.

Just before Christmas (and exactly one year after our first meeting), Shelley invited a group of 35 female executives to join her on a trip to DC. This was a venerable crew of badass women from Fortune level companies including IBM, Viacom, iheartmedia, Unilever, The New York Times, and Caterpillar (to name a few). I was honored and elated to be invited.

The purpose of the trip was to bring women from the public and private sectors together to begin to formulate a plan for moving beyond articles and studies and into creating an executable corporate roadmap for achieving gender equality. The first day we met with Megan Smith, the CTO of the USA, and discussed/brainstormed topics ranging from STEAM education to how to involve big media companies in bringing greater visibility to workplace diversity. The second day was spent with US Treasurer, Rosie Rios. She is the woman behind the initiative to get a female on our currency (if they see it, they can believe it!). Rosie had McKinsey & Company come in and present to us. If you don’t already know, McKinsey has a partnership with LeanIn.Org and, together, they produced a study called Women in the Workplace 2015.

The study is a short read, chock-full of charts and to-the-point summaries – definitely worth 15 minutes of your time. Check it our here. I will provide you with the take-away sentence that is most important: “Based on the slow rate of progress…it will take 25 years to reach gender parity at the senior-VP level and more than one hundred years in the C-suite.” 

This is absolutely NOT OK. That’s four more generations of our daughters being passed over for high-visibility projects/promotions, feeling like they cant take reasonable maternity leave without it impacting their performance reviews or career trajectory, and working just as hard (if not harder) than the guy next to her while earning 77 cents to his dollar.

The good news is that workplace diversity and gender equality are hot topics today. You can’t peruse the tech pubs on any given day without an article on this topic. And there have been a multitude of high profile articles on diversity (or lack thereof) in Hollywood this past year. These are the two industries in which I play – I am hoping, and assuming, the same goes for all industries.

The bad news is that we are at a stage where many companies are just providing lip service when they are publicly claiming diversity is a priority. In fact, according to the McKinsey study, “74% of companies report that gender diversity is a top CEO priority, but the message is not reaching the majority of employees. Less than half of workers believe that gender diversity is a top priority of their CEO, and only a third view is a top priority for their direct manager.”   One example here is Twitter. Twitter joined alongside several Silicon Valley heavyweights in releasing their diversity numbers (which were beyond dismal) and proclaiming that diversity was a key priority. Recently, an employee (now ex) posted this resignation letter that went viral stating that he was leaving the company because he believed its diversity initiative was more talk than action. To be fair to Twitter, tackling diversity in the workplace is a huge task and one that won’t happen overnight.  The company did release an apology letter and just this past week announced that they hired away Apple’s Worldwide Director of Inclusion and Diversity.

There have been lots of folks hired in the last year with fancy titles like the one above. But what can and will these people actually do to implement change. That’s where we are back to the good news. There are action items that can be taken – and companies like Facebook (go Sheryl), Salesforce, Netflix, Goldman Sachs, and Intel are leading the way. What we need is for these major companies to be transparent about what is and is not working – and to track and report their progress – all the way down to the bottom line.  We must prove to CEOs (and shareholders) that diversity strengthens a company in every aspect, including financially.

And this is where The Girls Lounge (consisting of leaders across multiple industries) and Megan & Rosie come back in. Having corporations and organizations tackle this issue in silos is a sure way to get to 100 years before we create the change we want to see. I will not share the plan for more unified action here – as it is still under construction and it is not mine to share. But it includes bringing together companies, organizations, and the government to evaluate, promote, and enact best practices for eliminating the gender/race wage gap, building corporate practices that promote diversity and eliminate discrimination (including changing Family Leave Policy – for more on this, watch this TED talk), and tackling the very difficult subject of unconscious bias.

As Shelley likes to say #TogetherWeCan  
As I like to say, let’s #GetShitDone   

Stay tuned….
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