When I saw Shelley Zalis speak at Advertising Week and found out she was the person responsible for The Ipsos Girls’ Lounge, I knew I needed to interview her. She has been able to take this idea to have a place for women to congregate and network at male-dominated conferences and events and built a community of encouraging women from it. It was an inspiring story that I wanted to share with Social Media Week. Here is what she had to say:
I first came across the Ipsos Girls’ Lounge at Advertising Week, but this idea has been around almost two years. Tell me why you think this idea has become so successful.
SZ: I had no idea that The Girls’ Lounge would become so important to me and to so many other women in our industry. It all started so spontaneously as a last minute sleepover with a few girlfriends that I knew were attending the Consumer Electronics Show in 2013. By the end of the week our little party of 5 had become a party of 155.
Today, more than 3,000 women have connected in The Ipsos Girls’ Lounge and it has become the go-to destination at some of the largest industry conferences in the advertising, marketing, media, research and technology spaces. There is power in conversation and we are seeing first-hand how really good ideas come about when women get together. Women come into the Lounge as ‘women in business’ and leave as supportive and generous ‘girls’ girls.’
Do you feel that the power of social media has helped you spread your message?
SZ: Absolutely! We just wrapped a national tour with our #ConfidenceIsBeautiful Bus and the response has been amazing! We were a featured activation at Oprah’s “The Life You Want Weekend” and at New York’s Advertising Week – where we brought an awesome 40 foot bus to women at these conferences and set up a social selfie station where they could express their unique ‘confidence signature.’ The #ConfidenceIsBeautiful message became a movement overnight and was shared on digital billboards across the country, including New York’s Times Square!
There are so many conferences in a year, how do you decide where the Girls’ Lounge will be most useful?
SZ: We saw the power of connecting women in technology at CES, so we decided to connect women in marketing, media, research and advertising. Once I heard that the CTO needs to be best friends with the CMO, we decided to connect female executives in related industries. We now have CEOs, CMOs, CIOs, CTOs, COOs… and guess what? They’re all women! We created Girls’ Lounges in all the major conferences that these women attended so that over time they would develop relationships of trust and authenticity. Today, we are energizing self, soul and sisterhood. It’s becoming a corporate sorority!
What is on your wish list for things you’d like changed in corporate culture?
SZ: I believe it’s our responsibility as women in leadership to opt in to create the changes we want to see. We need to break the rules that never made sense for us as we were rising the ranks and create new rules that will allow people to have a better life at work. We need to change the corporate game from rules of rigidity to rules of generosity. We shouldn’t have to work to live, or live to work, work should be a dimension of life.
What’s the best story you can remember coming out of the Girls Lounge thus far? What show was this at?
SZ: There are so many that we capture in something that we call “the rose file.” We all inspire each other and it’s just a remarkable feeling when you actually leave The Girls’ Lounge and go into a conference and see women just wanting to be together with their pink streaks of hair and pink(y) swear rings. My most recent favorite was the pajama party we threw on our #ConfidenceIsBeautiful Bus at the ANA Masters of Marketing. Women marched through the hotel lobby in matching Girls’ Lounge pajamas to go hang out together on the bus. We did what girls do: laughed, cried, talked…and of course, ate lots of chocolate. It was unbridled fun, incomparable bonding and power deals were done.
What’s next on the horizon for you? Any new projects?
SZ: One of my favorite expressions is, ‘If we could have done it alone, we would have by now!’ Building this network of women who champion, support and mentor each other is critical. The more we advocate for each other and do good together, the better business and life will be for everyone. So, while the next ‘official’ stop for us is CES in January – conversations for other pop-up experiences and surprises are actively underway!
You can read more about Ipsos Girls’ Lounge and Shelley here.
Stephanie Carino has spent over the past 10 years working in the city in the Fashion, Food and Event industries. She also currently writes event coverage and reviews for, Socially Superlative, a NYC-based event website, covering predominantly food, travel and entertainment stories. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter.