A panel embracing women kicked off with an empowering act, when Change the Ratio founder Rachel Sklar breastfed her baby on stage during TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in New York on Thursday.
“So sorry for my nipples so early in the morning,” Sklar quipped.
A panel discussion on diversity in business featured Sklar, The Girl’s Lounge Founder Shelley Zalis, digitalundivided founder Kathryn Finney, The Pink Ceiling founder Cindy Whitehead and TheWrap founder Sharon Waxman.
Finney, whose company digitalundivided promotes black and Latina women in the tech world, said women of color need to be mentored and invested in.
Finney says she felt “invisible” when she first got involved in the white, male-dominated world of technology. She once was told she wouldn’t be able to relate to other black women because — bizarrely — she had an accountant (meaning she was too wealthy).
At that moment, Finney knew the uphill battle she would face in order to succeed in an industry where she was not only a woman, but also black.
“If we’re not involved [in tech], then we’re not going to be part of the future,” Finney said.
Zalis chimed in, questioning if “diversity” was even applicable.
“Women are put in the ‘diversity’ bucket but we’re 50 percent of the population,” Zalis said. “So why are we ‘diverse’?”
Zalis didn’t come from women’s activism, but it found her, as Waxman pointed out. Zalis wanted to attend the Consumer Electronic Show with a group of girlfriends when the group expanded from four to 50 women within 24 hours of hatching the plan.
“All the guys, their heads turned,” Zalis said. “When you’re alone, you might be powerful but you’re a little invisible. It was that moment that I realized there was something amazing about the power of the pack.”
The Girl’s Lounge founder felt she could do anything while surrounded by other powerful women. Her networking company has connected over 7,500 corporate women.
“I say we went from a moment to a movement, because a movement requires all of us collectively, collaboratively working together on a common cause that we really believe in,” Zalis said. “It started as an accident, really.”
Zalis says that despite her company’s growth, gender inequality remains a major issue.
“We’re going backwards because we’re not creating solutions for change,” she says. “We’re not having the right conversations.”
Waxman then asked Finney if diversity is a code for racial diversity when all types of diversity, including gender, are important.
“Tech has a severe marketing problem right now,” Finney said. “When you say a tech entrepreneur or founder, who comes to mind? Is it Mark Zuckerberg? Or is it Rachel Sklar?”
Whitehead creates products that are strictly for women, and she’s best know for inventing what is often referred to as “female Viagra.”
“Women’s healthcare is in a crisis. We really haven’t had innovation since the birth control pill,” Whitehead said.
Whitehead is looking to fix that. Her latest project, The Pink Ceiling, is working on a new technology that allows women to easily tell if someone has slipped a “roofie” in their drink.
Meanwhile, Whitehead delivered shocking news to ladies in the room when asked about her why the media falsely refers to her pill as the “female Viagra.”
“Desire is not a blood flow issue,” she said. “Woman are not on-demand creatures when it comes to sex. “
The breakfast was hosted by TheWrap’s CEO and Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman; film and theater producer Paula Wagner; A+E Networks President and CEO Nancy Dubuc and The Girl’s Lounge Founder Shelley Zalis.