In our ongoing support of the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl, Barneys New York recently hosted a panel of inspirational women who shared what they’re doing to support their fellow females. Megan Smith, Chief Technology officer of the United States, was joined in conversation by Shelley Zalis, chairwoman of TFQ Ventures and founder of The Girls’ Lounge, and United States Treasurer Rosie Rios. Rios has been instrumental in efforts to get a woman pictured on the 10 dollar bill. Also on the panel were Barneys EVP Charlotte Blechman; Dyllan McGee, filmmaker and founder of MAKERS, the largest video collection of women’s stories; Payton Iheme, senior policy adviser to the White House; and Deborah Burns, author of the upcoming novel, Skirting the Rules.

International Day of the Girl
The panelists included, left to right, Shelley Zalis, Dyllan McGee, Rosie Rios, Megan Smith, Payton Iheme, and Deborah Burns.

The conversation centered on lost, or nearly lost, histories—the stories that get left out of textbooks but show that women and minorities have been at the table all along, but may have been forgotten along the way. For example, did you know that it was a woman who oversaw the programming and design of the lunar lander that was responsible for putting a man on the moon during the Apollo missions? Her name is Margaret Hamilton, but that name didn’t make it into the movies. It’s important to note and include all those who’ve been present in the struggle, women and minorities along with the more familiar names.

International Day of the Girl
Host Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, along with Barneys’ own Charlotte Blechman.

“Women used to comprise 40% of computer scientists in the eighties, and women were some of the founders of computer science,” Smith shared. “Some of the very first programmers were women, but when home computers were introduced it became more and more biased. People bought computers for husbands and sons and we discouraged our girls from going in that direction.” Smith urged those present to be more mindful: to show today’s youth the value and purpose of science, technology, engineering, and math, and to make them aware of role models who have paved the way throughout history.

International Day of the Girl
Panelists Payton Iheme, Megan Smith, Shelley Zalis, and Rosie Rios pose alongside child-star-fashion-illustrator Bonjour Jake and Puneet Ahira, Systems Architect & Special Advisor in the Technology Office of the White House.

Zalis also urged the women present to rally to support each other, especially in industries that tend to be male-dominated. To that end, she shared the mission of The Girls’ Lounge, which provides a place where women can connect, collaborate, and discover their confidence at professional conferences. “Change won’t happen if we continue down the same path we’re going,” Zalis told us. “We all can make a difference, we just have to take the plunge, raise our hands, and raise our voices. Gender equality is not a women’s issue. It is a social and economic issue. We have to get to the point where it’s not about women needing to defend themselves—this is about making the world an equal place for all.”

International Day of the Girl
Founder of The Girls’ Lounge, Shelley Zalis, who told us, “All people are important, all people are equal—we’re just different. We need to celebrate those strengths. When diversity is no longer about gender, race, or age, but rather about diversity of thought and diversity of skill set, we will be in a much better place. The greatest success is when you have a diversity of strengths.”

Partnering together on our #GirlPossible campaign, Barneys New York and The Girls’ Lounge are taking steps in the right direction. “Barneys continues to be such an incredible partner with The Girls’ Lounge—we share the same ideas, wishes, mission, and purpose,” Zalis continued. “When purpose meets passion, you’re unstoppable, and Barneys and The Girls’ Lounge together are unstoppable.”

Even though International Day of the Girl was October 11, it’s not too late to get involved and to make a difference. Start by watching Megan Smith’s message above about why initiatives like IDG are so important, and then take part in our #GirlPossible movement to start spreading the word. It’s as simple as four easy steps:

  1. On a piece of paper, write the message, “Anything is possible when ____________.” And fill in the blank with your answer.
  2. Snap a pic holding your message.
  3. Share the photo on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook using the hashtags #GirlPossible and #IDG2015. Also, be sure to tag @BarneysNYOfficial and @TheGirlsLounge.
  4. Tag your heroes—anyone who inspires you—to nominate them to take part as well.
International Day of the Girl
Bonjour Jake provided guests with custom personalized sketches to liven up their #GirlPossible posts. Barneys’ Simon Doonan couldn’t resist getting in on the fun.

Get out there and spread the word about International Day of the Girl. Let’s ignite change and make an impact for our sisters worldwide and for future generations. Together, anything is #GirlPossible.