“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.”
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!
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.
“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.”
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.
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.