I recently had the pleasure of attending The Ipsos Girls’ Lounge conference at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France. Founded by Ipsos CEO Shelley Zalis, The Ipsos Girls’ Lounge sets up shop at large trading events around the world, providing a place for women in the marketing, advertising, research, media and technology industries to network and inspire one another.
I was thrilled when Shelley invited DARA Artisans to join her in Cannes this year to share the story and mission of DARA at the conference. I have a deep respect for the Girls’ Lounge’s efforts to help women discover and empower confidence, from balancing life and career to transforming the role of women globally. Not only do I identify with these initiatives as a female CEO, but I also value them in light of DARA Artisans’ extensive collaboration with women artisans and entrepreneurs around the world.
Given The Girls’ Lounge’s focus on women helping and learning from other women, I thought the conference would be a perfect opportunity to showcase the work of renowned weaver Mrs. Kommaly Chanthavong, founder of the Mulberries silk production cooperative in Laos. Mrs. Kommaly has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to strengthen the position of women in rural areas. She has spent her life teaching women the art of silk weaving and providing them with the skills to maintain a dependable income.
Mrs. Kommaly and her daughter Boby joined Dan and me at the conference in Cannes, and together we set up a silk weaving demonstration on the terrace outside the Hotel Martinez penthouse. Hundreds of visitors and conference attendees stopped by to watch Mrs. Kommaly at work, marveling at the intricacies of her technique.
We also set up a Bedouin-style “indigo tent” to display the designs of Aboubakar Fofana, a master indigo dyer from Mali. Fofana utilizes the finest hand-woven fabrics and is committed to preserving and revitalizing Mali’s nearly lost tradition of natural indigo and vegetable dyeing. Our goal was to create a tangible, transporting environment for learning and discovery—an intimate space where women could form connections, network, and engage in meaningful conversation.
The positive response was overwhelming. Amidst the bustling activities of the Cannes festival, it was clear that both Mrs. Kommaly’s demonstration and the indigo tent provided a rare opportunity to mindfully foster creativity amongst women.
This inspiring effect is emblematic of The Girls’ Lounge’s collaborative energy—you never know what you’re going to see, whom you’ll meet, or what you’ll hear. I was particularly excited to be able to attend an engaging “Power Conversation” called “ASK HER: How to manage gender equality in the workplace,” moderated by New York Times CRO Meredith Levien. Panelists included Tina Brown, Maureen Dowd, Thalia Mavros, Windsor Hangar Western, Kat Gordon, Susan Lyne, Wenda Harris Millard, Linda Boff, Shelley Zalis, Joana Pena-Bickley, and Hannah Bronfman. The discussion covered everything from how female entrepreneurs should navigate acquiring investors to the ways in which Hillary Clinton has approached her campaign strategy.
Considering the progress of gender equality, VICE Media’s former Creative Director, Thalia Mavros, made the astute observation that “the next step is to understand the deeper sense of investing in female leadership.” Investing in women has always been integral to us at DARA Artisans. We are proud to work with many female artisans and companies who strive to create and sustain economic and social opportunities for women worldwide. Founding DARA has given me the opportunity to witness first-hand the power and creative potential of women, and my inspiring experiences at The Girls Lounge solidified the importance of nurturing it.