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Farah Nanji  0:02  

Shelley, it's a pleasure and an honour to welcome you back to Mission makers. How you doing today? Where are you joining us from?


Shelley Zalis  0:08  

I'm so happy to be with you. You know how much I love you. I'm coming in from Los Angeles, I'm home. This is my hometown. And usually I say my home is United Airlines. But this week, I'm in Los Angeles.


Farah Nanji  0:21  

Nice, nice. So we are speaking just a few weeks after the whole craziness of Davos. Tell me how it all went. I got the chance to come down to your space this year is amazing. But yeah, firsthand, tell it tell me about the what is what it was like.


Shelley Zalis  0:38  

You know what it was, actually, I think, a turning point moment for us. I mean, we've been at Davos for eight years now. And of course, we make it the place. For women, we call it the place for conscious leaders. But we started with something called the girls lounge at Davos. And we called it the place for the 17% Because only 17% of white badges are held by women. And after women started supporting women in our space, and the space kept growing and growing and growing, we then evolved to equality lounge, the place for conscious leaders. And I have to say that what was remarkable this year was women flooded. Davos, I actually if I had to write a hashtag, that would have been women on Davos. And I, while we're still not in Congress, at the levels we should be at. Davos is no longer a boys club. You know, it really, because we created an unmatched space for women to come and feel safe, secure, and that they belong. They come as if it's a conference, and they just booked their ticket. And of course, you have to be able to afford an airline ticket to Davos and hotel, which is very expensive. But if you can you show up. And to me, it was game changing to walk the streets and feel the energy, the presence, where it really was the home for women. And that made me incredibly happy.


Farah Nanji  2:01  

Absolutely, I brings a smile to my face, because I remember there's a friend of mine who flew in all the way from Miami just to come to the FQ for one day before before going to London. And if a space like yours didn't exist, like there's no way she would have been part of being able to be part of that conversation and also just experience and receive that knowledge and like that insights of like what's being said at that in that at that level. So you know that thank you so much for creating a space like this because it is so necessary to open up that inclusivity and accessibility place where so many conversations and decisions get made. So talking about decisions, how do you like how does it FQ measure the impact of their community being at a place like Davos,


Shelley Zalis  2:43  

you know, when we first got invited to Davos, we were invited with the following. We want you to come but you might not feel welcome. And, you know, you talk a lot about representation and reflection, which matters a lot. If women don't see other women at Davos, they feel it's not a place for them. And, you know, that's why my head on the one hand said, Who wants to go to a place that I might not feel welcome. And my heart said, I need to be the first and be brave and bold enough to create this little space that everyone will feel safe and secure. And so we were the first and when I brought the party, I brought 50 Power women with us to say, you know, we don't need to apologise, and we don't need permission. We're here and we came as a pack. And that's you know, I call it power the pack a woman alone has power, collectively we have impact. And so you know, to see now the, the impact that that had and exactly what you said resonating with women saying we can come to Davos, we don't need permission. We don't need a badge, because we're not getting white badges. And it's exactly why I intentionally choose to be outside of Congress so that it's an unmatched space so that everyone is welcome, everyone you show up in Davos, you come to this lounge and and now I see all these other women groups opening up, you know, spaces in Davos, and that's what it's supposed to be. It's supposed to inspire this collective of all of the power, you know, when you all come together, it's game changing. We see what's happening, you know, all over the world when women come together. And when women support other women, we all rise. And that is the most important thing that we do. And and this year, you know, Jamie Dimon always came to support us, the CEO of JP Morgan, and he's been unbelievable and part of what gave us the validation and the credibility. But this year, we had so many Fortune 500 CEOs coming and we launched a whole new concept called the flipping point. And the flipping point requires action in a WEF came out with a report the World Economic Forum saying it'll take 132 years to close the gender gap 132 years to close the gender Guess who's going to make that a priority, or even put it in their budget if it's not attainable, or achievable? So we challenged the world and the World Economic Forum in particular, saying that we can close it in five years. And so when you walked in our space this year, it said, the flipping point and says, we created the internet and 25 years, we put men on the moon should have been women, if we had spaces in 10 years, and we created the vaccine for the, for COVID in one year, why should it take another 132 years to close the gender gap? It's not that complicated. And so we were asking for 10, fortune 500 CEOs to step up to the plate and be bold and brave enough to prioritise gender equality so that we could actually close the gap in our lifetime and in a CEOs legacy. And I think we got all 10 So it was, it was really remarkable.


Farah Nanji  5:59  

Amazing. Yeah. I mean, 132, none of us will be here by then it, there's absolutely no, especially when we see how fast you know, we've witnessed the most amount of technological change, you know, and so many different things. There's absolutely no reason something as basic as like, gender equality, which is basic, but complicated should be, you know, take that long. What what do you think, are some of the key drivers to make that happen in five years? What would we need to see, you know, from from the world to make that happen?


Shelley Zalis  6:28  

I think most importantly, it's a conscious mindset. You know, I say, we need a moonshot mindset. With a moonshot mindset, anything is doable. When it matters, you know, where there's a will, there's a way that expression came for a reason. And I think our biggest obstacle has been accountability and responsibility where the responsibility lies. And it really does lie at the CEO level, while we need our Chief Diversity and Inclusion officers, and we need HR and we need finance, you know, CFOs, and CEOs and CIOs, and you know, all of those, ultimately, the accountability lies at the top, you know, where are you putting your priorities. And when you look at great resignation, or you know, all of the things that we're hearing about, women are leaving the workforce, and the workplace. And they're starting their own companies to make their own rules, which is what I did that I got the chief troublemaker title, I had to leave to create my own company, because I needed to be the boss and make my own rules. Because I was so tired of being the exception, I wanted to become the new norm. And that's what it's going to take is creating a new equality playbook in the workplace and not retrofitting. Because what was done isn't wrong. It's just women weren't in the workplace. 100 years ago, when the rules were written, we need to have a white board with a white space and create the rules of the road that will work for everyone. And not just for some. And so you know, pay gap mean, how hard is it to pay Sally the same as Peter? Does that take 132 years to figure out how to cut a check? I don't think so. The problem has been that we've been trying to retrofit. But that's not going to work. It's too expensive, too costly. How long have you been here? How much were you getting paid? That's too hard. But if we close the door of inequity and open the new door of equality, starting tomorrow, with new hires coming fresh out of college or skills, or and we say equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender starting forward. We don't have to worry about what we can't do. Let's just create the rules of the road of what we can do drive forward. And then you look at care caregiving, we are losing our best leaders to care to caregiving. And caregiving is still predominately a female responsibility. Why? Why we need to share responsibility at home so that we can have equal opportunity at work. And the solution is not going to come from expecting governments to fund it. It's going to come from the CEO creating the right policies and benefits inside the workplace. And then you look at the sponsorship model, which is filled with bias. But if you flip the model on his head, and we're working on something called proximity ship, it's so easy. These things are not hard. It just requires commitment and then flexibility and hybrid. We still haven't figured out how to universally stop that all we do is talk about the world. So we need flexibility. We need hybrid we need remote. But if all Fortune 500 companies made the decision to have people back to Office Tuesday, Thursday, or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then the flexibility not with elective but To create the same policy that worked for everyone, because we know who's going to let the hybrid and remote, it's gonna be women, it's gonna be caregivers. So it has to be something that everyone is working on the same, you know, roadmap so that we're not leaving people out, or they become the invisible again, and it becomes the golf game, that those that are on the golf course are the ones that succeed and, and get promoted and, you know, etc. So little things like that that actually are not complicated. You know, it just takes focus and accountability, responsibility and some budget to experiment with new ways of thinking.


Farah Nanji  10:40  

So what happens when that CEO is like, so resistant to mindset change and just can't evolve with the times? Like, how do you tackle that mindset?


Shelley Zalis  10:48  

That's up to the board. And, you know, it's time for the board. And of course, we need more representation on boards. So that, you know, it's not the legacy board, you know, board that is still in place, the board needs to make that decision. But I really believe if we have 10, fortune 500, CEOs leading the way the other 490 will follow, which is to prove that it works. And that it is not complicated, it actually is simpler than creating a vaccine simpler than putting people on the moon, simpler than creating an internet connecting the world to one another. It is much easier than all of those things that we have done in less than 25 years.


Farah Nanji  11:29  

So well said 100 100% agree. What do you think, some of the misconceptions around Davos, or the biggest misconception perhaps,


Shelley Zalis  11:38  

that it's a boys club, and that women should not be there and should not have a seat at the table? That is the silliest thing that I've ever heard. And you know, what, there truly is the perception that that is the truth. And so we just blew it all up, and just said, that is we're all welcome. We might not be invited to sit at the table in Congress. But as you said, the most important conversations were happening in the equality lounge. And we just shifted the power from Congress to the equality lounge, not in all of the topics they talked about, but in changing the equation closing the gender gap. If you truly want progress, action, accountability, and knowledge sharing, because we're a collaborative organisation, you show up in the equality lounge, and no one is gonna say, No, it's our space. And we create the agenda. And we invite the attendees, which is everyone. So talk about inclusivity. It's, it's the place of inclusivity, in the place where it happens for those conversations.


Farah Nanji  12:47  

Definitely, how how does shutter these hours prepare for Davos?


Shelley Zalis  12:53  

Um, I, you know what I really don't. So I really, my team is amazing. And when I say when purpose meets passion, you're unstoppable. And, you know, we come straight from CES, which is the first week in January, where we have 75 panels. And then we went to JP Morgan's health conference, which was a second after and then we go straight to Davos. And so it really is the power of the collective. And, you know, everyone on our team is so incredibly valuable and passionate about what we do. And our partners are remarkable. You know, we have remarkable partners. The acquire Lounge is not mine. It's not yours, it's ours. And it's everyone shows up with open arms. You know, I would say you walk in to get a hug a hello and a yes. And then you say, what did I just agree to? Because it's a place of transparency and a place of trust. I don't need to prepare, I just show up. And, you know, it's, you know, the team has done all the heavy lifting already. And the conversations are so organic and unscripted, even though, they have pre questions approved by you know, different panellists, etc. What happens in there is most the most magical stuff is the unscripted and it's the connections, the relationships, that form, you know, once inside the lounge.


Farah Nanji  14:28  

Yeah. And it's the opportunity to be there to really capture that serendipity in a way that just unfolds in itself in this magical places that really has a special energy field surrounding it. Well, apart from the equality equation, what would you like to see more of next year at Davos?


Shelley Zalis  14:47  

I would love to see more CEOs come, you know, so more. We have a lot of white badges. But I'd love to see government officials Come, I will work on whole initiative with First Lady's, which I think that they have so much power and so much voice yet to be used to help change equation, close the gaps. And I would love to see every CEO from Fortune 500 company that is at Davos to be in the lounge, at what, one point or another, and I'd love to, you know, get flooded with phone calls from their team saying, you know, so and so wants to come. I mean, it's like Jamie diamonds team calls us in advance and says, you know, what works? Here's his schedule, how can we schedule it? That's conscious leadership. Definitely, we had, you know, Chuck, the CEO of Cisco, who was unbelievable, completely leaning in and embracing, you know, everyone in this space with truth and transparency and, and trust, it was remarkable. And, of course, we always have Joe view, the global CEO of Deloitte, who always shows up, you know, and, and all the consulting firms have been, you know, so supportive and involved in and Edelman always brings, you know, their top people, it's a place of everyone feeling that it's their home. You know, we say it's a place where everyone belongs, it is we get the most remarkable phone calls from everyone bringing their, their talent to the table, and, and we're all talent. You know, I think that's the most important thing, you don't need a white badge to be powerful. You know, the community inside our lounge is so remarkable. And so for me, I also would love to say, you know, we have a lot of women networks now coming to Davos, making sure we are all adding value, one plus one is 11. You know, that is incredibly important to


Farah Nanji  17:02  

I'm sure that, you know, I get asked this question a lot about how do we get, you know, a speaking space and I can only imagine that yours is one of the most popular places to get to get that slot. So tell you know, the people listening, how do they how do they get that opportunity? Who do they write to? How do they pitch what what is it that you're looking for in particular, or your team when it comes to speaking at the FQ


Shelley Zalis  17:26  

speaking at the FQ at Davos is all around leaders and experts around closing the gender gap. So you know, that is so incredibly important. So they should call Talia ta l i a right to email Talia at the So that's the best person to she does all the programming and content and stuff like that. So that's the best person and to get in touch with us sooner than later. So that we, you know, we don't have all of our conversations and not even panels, their conversations with conscious leaders are a combination of people from different categories, different countries, different, you know, organisations, and we are an umbrella, the female quotient, the pilot is a space, it is a space for conscious leaders to have important unplugged open conversations with one another. And it's not on the record like Congress. So people really do let their hair down. And we invite all organisations to come under, you know, into this space because that's also the hub dynamics happening. You know, it's it's, so you don't have to be a fortune 500 CEO, you don't have to be just an expert. If you're an organisation centred around closing the gaps, the equality gaps, send us a note and we will welcome you with open arms


Farah Nanji  18:58  

mazing What have been some of your life lessons from Davos?


Shelley Zalis  19:06  

Gosh, Davos has been such a turning point for us in our, in our mission. And so I have to say that, number one, always follow your heart, you know, because my heart is what brought us there. The second is bring your girlfriends with you. Because it's it's lonely when you're an only in lonely. It's not fun number one, too, it won't create the impact that you need. So bring the party with you which is you know, when your girlfriend's which is power of the pack, which I know I started at CES and and I will continue forever. Our communities now million women strong across 100 countries. So we do have the largest global community of women in the workforce. And number three, there's always a yes, there's always a solution. You just have to find it and it won't necessarily be the solution that you see. Sometimes you have to create the solution in, in a vacuum, which is really scary. You know, I have been the first most of my career. But I have to say you got to be the first which is seeing what's not seen and making it possible. The second is the copycat they copy you, but they don't know what's under the hood. And the third is usually the sweeper, they win, because you create it, you did all the hard, heavy lifting and the work. So you need to be the first, the second and the third. But most importantly, bring your girlfriends with you. Because there is nothing more powerful and more precious than the relationship of women supporting women, which in my career at 60 years old, I never had until I started the girls lounge. And now the equality lounge, and, you know, I language matters as well, you know, I don't like when we say, oh, we need male allies. We don't need male allies. Gender equality is not about women, it is not about men, it is about truly, you know, it's it's truly about any one that is in a position of leadership is an ally. So when we say male allies, it's like we're giving men more power by saying that, Oh, rescue me, Princess, because the prince kisses the princess and wakes her up. It is about leadership allies. And that's what we need to change the equation, close the gaps. So language matters a lot. And, and lastly, we need to get rid of that imposter syndrome, we need to shut that voice up in our head and own our strengths. And we often talk about the feminine strengths of passion and collaboration and empathy. And we hear that today we need empathetic human CEOs and leaders. And that's very important, but we've referred to the feminine qualities as soft skills. So we're now readdressing, all that and calling them critical skills, essential skills, they are the essential skills of leadership today. And we need to make the invisible visible, because we are losing our best leaders to invisible work. Not Okay, time to make it as visible as possible, and then create the solutions to close this gap. So that we can all rise to the top in in the workplace and in the workforce. Instead of opting out, we should be opting in with a quality


Farah Nanji  23:03  

100%. And I agree that the content the tone language is plays a massive role in, in supporting that journey. And and you know, I saw this post that you guys shared recently, just highlighting so much of the work, there were the words that some people could millions of people use day to day in their life, like combat this problem and those types of languages, you know, they they create a sort of subconscious kind of, you know, impact on oneself. And we may not realise how that language can play a role in our perception and, and everything else. So we're in, we're almost in March, what are some of the plans for the rest of the year? For for the FQ?


Shelley Zalis  23:47  

Gosh, we have so many exciting plans. We're off to South by Southwest, obviously, in Austin, Texas. So that's coming up. And that's really a place for a female founders, when you look at the investment that VCs are making, you know, women are getting less than 2% of funding and and women of colour less than 1%. So that that is ridiculous. And I challenge us to stop even putting the threshold of 5% but threshold of 50%. Like why are we putting a low barrier there? I mean, it's ridiculous. You know, so we need to invest in female founders, we know they outperform male founders as a matter of fact, so I'm not really sure what the perception is that people have but women are badass and kicking butt. So we need to invest in women number one, so we're off to South by Southwest. We of course have Ken lions, which is another really big one in June in the south of France. And we have so many lounges in between with Oscars, and you know, Hollywood we need to start, you know, turning the table on Hollywood. Actually, I'm off this week to speak with Women in Trucking. I'm obsessed with that. So Women in Trucking, and of course, we need more female racecar drivers. So we need to up the ante there. So we're going to be working on a really big initiative. And then we have one of our biggest initiatives coming up right now, which is upskilling, rescaling and skilling women in underserved parts of the world. I spoke at UN recently and they were talking about how the future is female by 2030. And well, that sounds really good. But my question was how? So I challenged everyone and I looked at the audience, it was a huge, massive audience. And I said, how, how was that possible when we're losing women in tech, every single day? And yet the future jobs, our tech jobs, their sustainable jobs, their green tech? You know, that's the future. And what's the game plan? Like everyone talks a big game, but what's the roadmap? What are we doing to ensure that the future will be female by 2030. And so I left that and I decided I needed to create like a certification programme for women and underserved parts of the world, seven weeks or seven months, thinking forward of the future skills, but then creating the certification to actually meet the needs, and then getting our big companies to guarantee the job. So if you've got the fortune 500, companies putting the certifications in place, I want to make sure that the certification goes with the guarantee of the job, so that the future can be female by 2030.


Farah Nanji  26:34  

Amazing. And you mentioned there, you gave a little hint to our audience about the motorsport connection. And this is definitely a podcast that loves the motorcycles industry. And you were telling me a little bit earlier about off air about the the f1 thing. So if you can share a little bit of information about what that Lounge is going to kind of look like which races, what can people expect? How do they how do they enter? And that would be amazing. And then yeah, let's start there.


Shelley Zalis  27:02  

Well, first of all, you are going to be a very important part of this, because you are so incredible, you're the boss. But you know, we had Romania, from Ferrari, and we also had Fabiana, from Fia, and you put those two together. And that is a match of all matches, I mean, they both are super, super badass women, and so talented. And so, you know, we do a quality lounges at Formula One, with our partner at CAA. And they're amazing lounges for visibility and conversation about what we're going to do or what we need to do. So what we're putting in place now is the action that needs to happen. And, you know, plans are in the works. But we're really looking forward to what's to come. And you know, a lot of young girls don't go into racing, because they don't see once again, you know, I'm the co founder of see her if you could see her, you could be her, they don't see women, drivers. So they don't believe that they can be that. And once again, you gotta go back and make the invisible, visible, and sometimes put it out there because perception isn't reality. We just think we can't but you know what women are as powerful and strong a racecar driver as men. It is not about this. It's about this. And there is nothing holding us back. Other than our imposter syndrome. We don't believe we can. So we need to show women all over the world that they can be badass racecar drivers and compete in Formula One against the men, we just need more, and we need to groom them and train them and give them that confidence to push forward in a very aggressive. Aggressive is not a word women love but in a very strong way. Because that's who we are, we have incredible strength,


Farah Nanji  29:11  

I think is the mindset of failure is not an option, right? Because on the one hand, you know, there is a part about the role models, and that that has been kind of changing a little bit over time, but it's still a lot more work to be done. But at the same time, it's the talent pool, right? Because if you don't have it's so hard to get is only 20 Formula One drivers in the world. So, you know, it's that I think the missing element is like where are those female drivers in f3, like all of those feeder series that eventually lead to that to that pathway. And so will those equality loungers, will they be at every race or will it be specific races? Or can you divulge that information at this point?


Shelley Zalis  29:51  

We don't have any information the day that they're at every race will be an amazing day. So is that whole? Absolutely. Is it doable? Absolutely. Um, I think we start also with profiling all the female racecar drivers. So that series, I'm gonna start immediately. So I'd love to talk to you about that. So let's, let's discuss, that's number one. Number two, we need so many women watch Formula One. I mean, I think it's 45% women watching versus 55 minutes. So we are watching Formula One, we are interested in Formula One, so and the interest will go sky high by getting more women, not just an F three, we need them to go to F one. That's more women from f3 to f1, or F four, F three to F one. And it's all doable. And then we need to put brands, feminine brands on race cars, like you know, so we're working on that too. Just wait for what what you're gonna see in this upcoming Formula One and Vegas, what we are going to do, but it is going to transform the way we have thought about what should be on a car.


Farah Nanji  31:04  

Do you remember in the last mission makers, you gave us a you actually said quite a lot there about the types of brands? And it. So I encourage you guys to go back to that episode, if you want a little bit of thoughts on, on what Shelly is referring to there. And then also, like women makes 65% of, you know, the new car purchasing decisions. Like they're a huge influencer in this kind of in the in the whole car space. So it's, I mean, yeah, I think you and I will be one of the biggest cheerleaders when it when this happens. Lastly, I also just want to quickly get your thoughts on.


Shelley Zalis  31:42  

I don't think we're gonna be cheerleaders, we will be on the field playing front and centre. So cheerleaders are important for generating energy and enthusiasm. But we will be the activators of change, because that's what it's going to take. Right? We need to not just amplify, we need to activate. And, you know, often times people think that women are watching the game. And applauding, we need to be in the game on the field, you know, making it happen, because it's not going to happen by itself.


Farah Nanji  32:22  

For sure, no, thanks for correcting me on that. But yeah, I think will will be extremely happy. And I'm sure that we will both play and have played, in fact, a role in facilitating some of that to happen. And we need as many people really pushing that, pushing that through. And a lot of that comes from having conversations and like sharing, because people it's such a closed off sport and industry. It's not like playing football, where you can just pick up a ball go to the park, no cost associated, it's such a, you know, behind closed doors type of world and, you know, you need again, you need those role models that you can see and can believe, hopefully give you that like perspective into what it what it takes. And not just on the driving perspective, but from all aspects of the industry from, you know, engineers to like all of the different facets, right. Look at this, women can do anything. It's really true. Absolutely. And so, last one is the music industry. I'm not sure we've actually talked about this, but I'd love to know what your kind of thoughts are on kind of getting that gap. Much more Farah because at present in specifically electronic music, only 2% of producers are female. And this is also crazy, like, you know, so yeah, it'd be really interesting to know what your observations and thoughts and initiatives are around any of that.


Shelley Zalis  33:51  

Same same, I mean, it's, it's the same problem in a different industry, you know, I mean, and so, we are working big in the music industry to get more visibility. And it's not just as you said, you said it brilliantly. It's not just about the, the artist, it's about women in the business of in the business of because that is also how we change equation, close the gap. So we need both we need the artists with more visibility, but we need more women in the business of music, sports, you know, race cars, yeah, the whole nine yards. It's the business of which we under, under share under talk about, you know, because that's where a lot of decisions get made to. And it's also men are in the business and that's where the stereotypes get kicked in. And the perception is that women aren't as talented and women aren't as capable and women aren't aren't aren't. What about women? Are Are Are we Look at what the perception is and what we can't do. I'm saying women can do anything as well, if not better. We need to put them in the arena.


Farah Nanji  35:15  

And those people behind the scenes, a lot of those people are the gatekeepers, right? And and they're the ones that open the doors. So 100% You know, we need to we absolutely need to not stop this conversation until it happens. Otherwise, there's will we will we're not going to be in 132 years time. So yeah, that's that's the thing. Shelly, is there anything else I haven't asked you, that you'd like to share? Before we close up position.


Shelley Zalis  35:41  

You know, we say we give women the megaphone, not the microphone. And so this is what you're doing. You are Amplifying Voices, and you're activating change. And so I am just so grateful to a champion like you, for women all over the world, using your voice for impact. And so thank you for all that you are doing.


Farah Nanji  36:03  

Thank you. I'm super humbled to be here with you. I mean, you've you've done 1000 so much. So so much. Like you are really someone I know so many people around the world look up to you for what you've done what like as you say, like if you can't, that space isn't being created like and isn't being accessed to you, you have to create that space. You know, life is too short to like live in that box. So yeah, so thank you so much. Wishing you a great rest of the day and we'll speak to you soon

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