“Break the rules” Shelley Zalis from The Female Quotient
Welcome to the Pass the Mic and the Defining Moment series. We’re giving powerful women the opportunity to make the world their mentee. These rockstars are joining us to share their stories and sage advice with up-and-coming women.
Meet Shelley Zalis, the CEO of the Female Quotient (FQ), also known as Chief Troublemaker. Shelley is also the creator the Girls’ Lounge, where 750,000 women have been able to connect across 100 countries to share and grow as they bridge the gap. The Girls’ Lounge has transformed into the Equality Lounge, connecting conscious leaders of all kinds, men and women, who strive to close the gender gap and find equality in the workplace.
Shelley dropped by our podcast booth at Advertising Week New York last month for a Pass the Mic interview. In it, she shares how female empowerment can change the world as well as what she has already done to impact the reality of successful women in the workforce.
“I think the most important thing for women is really to believe in yourselves and to own your voice and to know your value, know your worth, and to be yourself. Oscar Wilde says, ‘Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.’ And oftentimes, we just follow in the footsteps that were created. And when you do that, you're just like everyone else, and then nothing changes. And for me, I had to break the rules. That's how I got my nickname, Chief Troublemaker. The rules didn't work for me, and it's really hard to break protocol or to be different. But nothing will change if you just keep following a pattern.” – Shelley Zalis
Be the first, second, and third.
“It's hard to be the first. You know, one of the things I always say is you have to be the first, the second, and the third. The first is always the innovator. You're always doing something that's never been done, and that's risky. And you’ve got to be willing to make those mistakes or get in trouble, quote unquote. The second is always the copycat. But they don't really know what's under the hood. The third is always the sweeper—they win. They ride in on that shiny white horse. So I always said, you got to be the first, the second, and the third, because there's no one that's going to beat me at my own game.” – Shelley Zalis
Go where no one’s gone.
“Imagine if the power of the pack goes together. You know, I would say that [the] collective minority is greater than the current majority. And that really is what The Female Quotient is all about. When you are an only and lonely, you're invisible, no one notices. And you're never going to be able to change the status quo. But, if you're bold and brave enough to go where no one's gone, and then everyone comes with you—bam, change can happen.” – Shelley Zalis
Take a moonshot mindset.
“The World Economic Forum just put out a report that says it'll take 132 years to close the gender equity gap. 132 years? Where will you be in 132 years? So basically, I think that's an excuse to do nothing, which is the most ridiculous thing in the whole world. I just wrote a report that says, 'Where will you be in 132 years?' It doesn't take a rocket scientist. It takes a moonshot mindset. We could close the gap in five years.” – Shelley Zalis
“I like people that are different. You need, you know, one of everything on a team. It gives you like, how many SVPs are there? A ton. VPs. I don't invite people to meetings based on title. I invite people based on who I need in a meeting. And I always told my team, if you want to be in a meeting, show up.” – Shelley Zalis
We are so honored that Shelly showed up for us all with this powerful advice. For more transformative inspiration, check out more Pass the Mic content.