“Gender equality is not a female issue—it’s a social and economic issue that affects us all.” With these words, Shelley Zalis, founder of The Girls’ Lounge, kicked off Barneys’ celebration of International Women’s Day. Welcoming a group of professional women—and a smattering of men as well—to a recent panel discussion about female leadership in the workplace, Zalis drove home the point that IWD is the perfect chance to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. She also underlined the need for further action in accelerating gender parity across all levels and the fact that it’s only through collaboration that this will be achieved.

“There was a recent study that said women who want to move ahead shouldn’t collaborate with other women,” Zalis told the attentive crowd. “That collaboration means they don’t get the credit for their work and women should work in a silo. Well I say fuck that. It’s only when we work together that change happens. It’s only by working together that we’ll be able to transform the world.”

International Women's Day
Shelley Zalis, founder of The Girls’ Lounge, addresses the crowd about the importance of women at all levels of leadership in any organization.

Other panelists in the discussion echoed these sentiments as they fielded questions about their own experiences in the workplace. Moderated by The New York Times’ EVP and chief revenue officer, Meredith Kopit Levien, the panel focused on the advancement of women at work and how to get more females into leadership roles sooner, tying back into this year’s International Women’s Day theme of Pledge for Parity. In addition to Levien and Zalis, the panel also boasted Barneys’ own EVP of communications, Charlotte Blechman; Joanna Barsh of McKinsey & Co. and co-author of the book, How Remarkable Women Lead; the CFO of David Yurman and former manager of Goldman Sachs, Adrianne Shapira; Tara Christie Kinsey, head of New York’s Hewitt School for Girls; EVP at IPG Mediabrands, Thea Winarsky; and Kim Hatchett, executive director at Morgan Stanley. Clearly a group of women who know a thing or two about leadership!

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McKinsey & Co.’s Joanna Barsh, head of the company’s Centered Leadership Project, shared the consultancy’s findings on women in leadership roles across a variety of industries.
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The New York Times‘ Meredith Kopit Levien and IPG’s Thea Winarsky pose a question to the audience.
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Kim Hatchett, managing director at Morgan Stanley, shared a touching story about the racism her father faced as a college athlete in the 1960s, and how as a result, she strives to be entirely neutral and equal in dealing with people of any race or gender.

One of the main talking points over the course of the discussion was the fall-off of women at mid-level leadership roles as they climb the corporate ladder. With a lack of female managers to turn to for guidance and role-modeling, along with the fact that many career advancements happen at the same time as life changes like having children, this is the stage in their careers where many women are most susceptible to falling by the wayside.

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Adrianne Shapira drives home a point about how entry-level positions in the financial industry are filled with a balance of male and female candidates, but that this balance skews the farther up the ranks you go.

“Many of us up here know the feeling where the baby’s crying, the nanny is sick, and the CEO is on the phone,” Shapira shared with the audience. “As you’re rising through the ranks, you face that moment where you dread having to tell your boss that you can’t go get on the plane to go make that deal. For a lot of women, that light at the end of the tunnel looks like an oncoming train.”

It’s only by surrounding yourself with other leaders who are also dedicated to equality that this can be avoided, Blechman told the group, crediting Barneys’ CEO Mark Lee and COO Daniella Vitale with their devotion to parity across all categories and levels of the business. “You need to get buy-in from the top,” she said, “otherwise you can’t affect change. That’s the idea of We For We—women can’t operate as an island or within a silo. You need to surround yourself with support.”

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Barneys’ EVP of marketing and communications, Charlotte Blechman, shared her view that, while feminism had its place and time, it is now a bit antiquated and that the focus now need to include both men and women striving for equality.
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The International Women’s Day panel discussion’s powerhouse line-up: Meredith Kopit Levien, Charlotte Blechman, Joanna Barsh, Shelley Zallis, Adrianne Shapira, Tara Christie Kinsey, Thea Winarsky, and Kim Hatchett.

Speaking of We For We, let’s talk about how you can help get the word out about the fight for gender equality and the need to accelerate progress. Barneys and The Girls’ Lounge are teaming up to bring visibility and excitement to International Women’s Day through a crowd-sourced social media campaign, #WeForWe. We for We is the idea that gender equality is not only a female issue, but a social and economic one that involves everyone, male or female. To take part, just share a photo on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, holding a sign that reads #WeForWe and what it means to you. Then nominate your friends to do the same, so that the #WeForWe campaign can help raise awareness about the importance of International Women’s Day and parity.

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One of Barneys’ International Women’s Day window displays, this one seen at the Madison Avenue flagship.

Need a bit of inspiration for your #WeForWe sign? Stop by any of our flagship locations now through March 18th to view impactful responses from this social campaign, currently on display in our International Women’s Day windows at stores across the country.

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To take part in the social media campaign, simply post a photo of yourself using the hashtag #WeForWe and explaining what it means to you.

LEARN MORE ABOUT INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY