Travelzoo Becomes the Only U.S. Listed Company with an 80% Female Board

Global travel deals publisher Travelzoo announced it’s the only U.S. listed company to have 80% of its board of director seats held by women—the highest female-to-male ratio of any NASDAQ or NYSE-listed company. The landmark event will be commemorated today with a Travelzoo sponsored discussion featuring an all-female panel moderated by Tina Brown, C.B.E, Founder and CEO of Women in the World Media and creator of the Women in the World Summit. Today’s event spotlights the ongoing issue of lack of gender diversity within listed companies.

Underscoring the cultural diversity of the company’s board, female Travelzoo board members hail from New York, San Francisco, London and Shanghai. The two new Travelzoo board members recently elected, which brought the ratio to 80%, include Rachel Barnett, based in New York, and Carrie Liu, based in Shanghai. Other existing female board members include Mary Reilly, based in London, who has been a member of Travelzoo’s board of directors since September 2013. Beatrice Tarka is based in San Francisco and has been a member of Travelzoo’s board of directors since August 2015.

The women will be featured panelists in a discussion about strategies for improving female-to-male ratios in executive leadership, and how to address the challenges that hinder progress. Panel moderator Tina Brown commented: “In order for women to take their rightful place in the C-suite, they need a seat at the table—the boardroom table to be exact. I salute Travelzoo for not only recognizing the invaluable contributions women can make by appointing them to its board, but doing so with such whole-hearted, ground-breaking enthusiasm.”

Lack of Board Gender Diversity Remains a Persistent and Global Problem

Today’s event serves as a reminder that despite advances, female representation on listed company boards remains low around the world. Consider that:

  • According to board intelligence experts Equilar, who publish the Gender Diversity Index, 23% of Russell 3000 companies, representing the 3,000 largest listed U.S. companies, have zero female representation on their boards.
  • Aside from Travelzoo, just four other NASDAQ or NYSE-listed companies have boards composed of over 60% women.
  • In the UK, only 27% of FTSE 100 directors are women.
  • Several European countries, including Belgium, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, are trying to drive change through mandatory female quotas for boards. For example, Norway instituted a 40% quota for female representation on boards for the largest publicly traded companies.
  • In Hong Kong, several recent reports state that 11% of Hang Seng-listed companies have women on their boards.

“A board of directors should consist of the most qualified individuals being elected. Furthermore, having different perspectives is very important,” said Ralph Bartel, founder and chairman of Travelzoo. “I find it disconcerting that only 5 of more than 4,000 U.S. listed companies have 60% or more female board members. I look forward to seeing many more listed companies around the world re-define their boards.”

Esteemed fashion designer and businesswoman Diane von Furstenberg commented: “Travelzoo is making a commitment to women and is leading the way with its 80% women on its board! And its landmark achievement is a starting point for many other businesses to follow.”

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The Ultimate Female Entrepreneur’s Guide To Techweek Chicago 2017

The one thing that startups can relate to is constant change. And that seems to be the case with one of the iconic and debatable tech conferences nationally, and especially in Chicago – Techweek.

The change I am alluding to is both in terms of mission as much as it is in structure.

Female entrepreneurs and women in tech usually ask if Techweek Chicago is worth it?

And, while there’s a blatant answer – go to the women in tech breakfast, which is part of Techweek, where 20 different leading technical women and entrepreneurs will speak, there are other considerations.

So, Windy City Cosmo reached out to the CEO of Techweek, Amanda Signorelli to get your questions answered about what to wear to Techweek, who should attend, and most importantly, what you’re signing up for. Because, as a past attendee (2013 and 2014), Techweek Chicago is not going to be like the Greek parties you’ve read about in 2013, nor have tricks up its sleeves like Microsoft’s act as sponsor in 2014, nor have to squash the sexist commentary and then transition like 2015.

No, this year, Techweek Chicago is going to be different. More serious. More structured. More impactful, maybe. And if you’re intrigued, there’s a discount code at the bottom of the article.

“Techweek was founded in 2011 as a small conference to gather the tech community that began bubbling after the Groupon IPO,” Signorelli shared, “Since 2011, we’ve seen the ecosystem grow and evolve from a nascent market to now a top-tier global tech ecosystem, driven by the growth in B2B software companies.”

Techweek: More Compact

Techweek Chicago is turning into more of a tech day, with just one full day of sessions and then a handful of sponsored events June 19-23, 2017.

At first glance, the conference seems light. I pulled out my calendar to block off sessions, and the substance was less frill and more business – which seems to be the new direction of Techweek. Sessions will touch on high-growth startup strategies and diversity in tech, as well as acquisitions and scaling businesses.

“Techweek this year is all about the content,” Signorelli shared, “Every evening event we have will be anchored with recognizing leaders in the community or sharing knowledge around a specific topic.”

Techweek Speakers:

I moved along to the speakers and familiar players from after work networking events are coming thru to impart their tips and techniques including Mike Rothman, CEO of SMS Assist; Pat Vihtelic, CEO of Home Chef; Amanda Lannert, CEO of Jellyvision; and Justyn Howard CEO of Sprout Social.

Usually, Techweek Chicago emphasizes their interactive sessions, networking opportunities, and their job fair, and launch competition to showcase the Chicago tech scene. And, I’m here to say, that all of those things are still part of the Techweek Chicago 2017 agenda.

Techweek Chicago Conference Highlights:

  • Techweek Chicago Kick-Off Party: Monday, June 19 at 5 p.m. at the MillerCoors rooftop
  • The Capital One Gathering, which will take over three floors and feature 3D printerspace, coding, robot wars and more: Tuesday, June 20 at 5 pm at Capital One
  • Techweek Launch Showcase, a summit featuring top local startups from the Techweek100: Wednesday, June 21 at 5:30 pm at the Bottom Lounge in the West Loop
  • Nerdery Virtual Reality Event, with leading content and interactive activities: Wednesday, June 21 at 7 pm at the Nerdery
  • Women in Tech Breakfast, where female business leaders share their thoughts on tech entrepreneurship, in partnership with Syndio: Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 am at VenueSix10
  • Growth Summit, panel of CEO’s speaking about company growth topics: Thursday, June 22 at 8:30 am at VenueSix10
  • GoGo Air Gathering, featuring the passenger experience in the future: 5:30 pm on Thursday, June 22 at GoGo Air
  • Techweek Gives Event, announcing the most generous company: Wednesday, June 21 (time and location TBD)

Techweek Charity: Give Back to S.T.E.A.M.

Another part of Techweek Chicago that is changing is that it is focusing on giving back. Techweek launched TechweekGives this year as an opportunity for Chicago’s technology community to come together and give money, time and goods to S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and other nonprofits. The goal is to raise $1 million over a 90-day period, and two months in, they are over halfway to their goal with nearly $600K in money, goods and volunteer hours.

Interview with the CEO of Techweek:

Amanda CEO (1)

What innovations are you most excited about in the next five years? 

Signorelli: It’s hard to pick just one source of innovation, but I am personally excited to see the future of driverless cars because I hope that in the next five years, we can make the roads substantially safer for everyone. Yes, autonomous vehicles are cool, but they’ll also save lives. 

Do you find that in the launch competition that there is a focus on one type of technology or business model that resonates with the tech community? Feel free to give an example. 

Signorelli: Chicago is a B2B (Business to Business) tech city. While the B2C companies are certainly the easiest to digest in terms of business model, B2B startups resonate well with the tech community. From our finalists last year, we had strong representation from both models, MailControl, AcesHealth, and Shurpa were B2B and Schlep and Parqex were B2C (Business to Consumer). 

As a woman leading a tech conference, did you have any reservations? Why did you choose this role? 

Signorelli: No, I was fortunate to succeed a great female entrepreneur, Katy Lynch, before I took over and I never felt any reservations joining nor taking on the role. I choose this position because I truly love to learn about tech and early stage companies. I enjoy doing due diligence on interesting companies and seeing how tech trends evolve across markets. 

Are there any female entrepreneurs that you are partnering with this year? 

Signorelli: This year we have our Women in Tech breakfast kicking off the Growth Summit, which will feature 20 different leading technical women and entrepreneurs. Our Growth Summit lineup also includes some fantastic female entrepreneurs such as Nicole Staple, CEO of Brideside and Kristi Zhulke, CEO of Knowledgehound. 

What advice would you give a woman who is interested in tech and wondering how to gain skills in the community?

Signorelli: Build relationships and take notes. There are numerous organizations that offer great classes to teach hard skills and can help build a toolkit needed for a startup. However, what’s equally important is being engaged in the community and meeting the entrepreneurs who have success and listening to them. Take notes, ask questions, and be curious. 

Often times in tech, there are women-only conferences, what value do co-ed conferences bring to women? 

Signorelli: I’ve had this conversation with many fellow female entrepreneurs and there’s no right answer. However, I personally believe it is vital to have co-ed conferences that include dialogue from both genders. I want to celebrate great entrepreneurs for being just that—entrepreneurs—not just because they are female. That doesn’t change what they’ve accomplished. If we truly want to see a state of equity, all parties must share an equal voice.

 Do you think Techweek has helped change the dynamic of a more inclusive (gender, race, education) tech community? How so? 

Signorelli: Techweek is a reflection of the local community, and consequently, is a catalyst for conversation, which provides a chance to push for a more inclusive environment. Last year, in partnership with Capital One, we expanded the focus of diversity to include programs that fostered the development of technical skills for those with disabilities.

Techweek keeps growing, is there a reason someone should choose to attend Techweek Chi in their hometown vs. traveling to Techweek New York or LA?

Signorelli: Every Techweek event, just like our markets, is different. In LA, you’ll hear about fashion, ecommerce and e-gaming startups, while NYC is heavily weighted towards FinTech and media. And separately, Chicago has an emphasis around B2B SAS companies and Big Data. Someone should choose to attend a Techweek depending on their industry interest.

People on social media often ask, is it worth it to attend, so who will be most impacted by the content and people at Techweek? 

Signorelli: Techweek is a thoughtful assembly of events, each with its own purpose and ideal audience. Tech enthusiasts, students and engineers should attend our community festival. Early stage entrepreneurs and angel investors should attend the startup showcase and senior level executives, founders, and Venture Capitalists should attend Growth Summit. We work hard to ensure that there is something for everyone at Techweek.

What should you wear to Techweek – for men and women? 

Signorelli: We have early stage startup employees, bankers, Fortune 500 executives, and students. Everyone should feel comfortable wearing their work attire—with a touch of Techweek red!

Techweek Chicago Discount Tickets:

Tickets are on sale at Techweek.com/Chicago. There are three tickets this year, including a free pass. Plus, we are offering a 15% off Techweek Chicago discount code using: WINDYCITY.

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10 Life Hacks I Learned as a New Entrepreneur

I’m a woman entrepreneur in Chicago. Looking back on my adventures building my business over the past eighteen months, I realized I learned a lot (maybe the hard way). Being new to entrepreneurship, I adapted little and big life hacks that have fundamentally transformed the way I look at business and life. Some of these are easier said than done, and I need to remind myself every day to do it. But, some have become an integral part of my standard operating procedure. I want to share these best practices and tools for entrepreneurs – with women, men, entrepreneurs, and wanna-be-entrepreneurs – hopefully, some of these will resonate.

Here are the life hacks I learned as a woman entrepreneur in no particular order.

1. Really, there are no stupid ideas, only identifying ones that work for you

Tool: An easily accessible idea repository, mind mapping software

When you are starting out as an entrepreneur, ideas pop up everywhere. In most cases, we dismiss them as impractical. Keeping an open mind towards ideas, and exploring them, no matter the source, is critical. I have gotten ideas from sources as diverse as customers, investors, teenagers, and friends at the gym.

Mapping out ideas and writing them down has helped me remember these ideas so that I can come back to them on a regular basis. Sometimes, I incorporate ideas from my idea repository into my products, marketing strategy, and partnerships. These ideas have a way of morphing and transforming into unexpectedly exciting concepts after a few iterations.

2. Ruthless prioritization followed by precise execution

Tool: Business process map and a good project management software

It is very easy to get lost in rabbit holes and sucked into diversification, which makes us lose focus on what we want to do as we grow our business. Pivoting several times is not only natural; it is essential in the early stages of your business. As you progress from ideation to your startup launch, it is important to have a frame of reference that validates your hypothesis. These could be frameworks or people who could give you timely feedback. Being a little ruthless with prioritization is life-saving because your business is your baby as an entrepreneur, and in reality, who likes to admit that their baby is ugly!

Using a tool like the business process map is helpful to prioritize your business ideas based on value creation. Having a great project management software has also been a life saver for me to keep track of everything related to the project on a week by week basis to keep things manageable.

3. Understand your strengths and weaknesses – and test your limits

Tool: SWOT, MBTI, Google

You don’t know what you can or cannot do until you try. As a new entrepreneur, this past year has been an incredible learning opportunity for me. Learning concepts in business school is one thing, but researching and understanding how the real world operates is another.

Starting from a place of understanding my strengths and weaknesses through SWOT analysis was very helpful. It helped me figure out where I needed to personally develop to get my business to where we wanted to go. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say; I say that tiger mother definitely pushes your buttons and fires up cylinders that you didn’t know existed.

MBTI from Myers Briggs was a tool I found super useful to interact with my co-founders and advisors. Forming a new team in a high-stress environment is hard, but if you have the instruction manual for a personality type, it does help ease the process a little as you understand how to vary your approach based on the kinds of people you hire and manage.

Google has of course been my guide to the galaxy of tools, techniques, and processes that we have had to adopt along the way.

4. Create your own village

Tool: Your friends and family, extended community, connections from the past, network for the future. Advisory board, Linkedin, Facebook, Whatsapp, Ning and so much more.

Entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey. Finding people who can help, guide, support, partner and in general be that support system in the journey is critical in sustaining the entrepreneur journey long term. As an entrepreneur, I was required to merely take feedback for what it is intended for: as learning opportunities. Yes, that was very hard, but a great life skill to have! I have had the good fortune of friends and family who continue to give me their advice, effort and help along the way and hope to continue getting that in the future. This has truly been a life support system for me as I received guidance from the unlikeliest of places when I needed it the most.

5. Stay present with personal and situational awareness

Tool: Your senses and your internal radar

It is all too easy to get immersed into your own world and forget about the world around you when you’re wearing many hats. I have had several conversations of “uh huh, uh huh” with family, while mentally wrestling website content or a product feature. This is so hard to implement in practice, but something that all of us needs to strive for.

Emotional intelligence is a must-have as an entrepreneur, and it is all about understanding how all players in a situation respond and adapt. It is important to recognize and trust your instincts and understand spoken and unspoken communication around you. This means getting our heads out of the daily rabbit holes and breathe in to be responsive to everything that is happening around us.

6. Finding balance in your life

Tool: Calendar to make time for hobbies, vacations, time with family and friends

Entrepreneurship by definition puts a heavy thumb on the scale, disrupting life balance as we know it without care or remorse. Even though I led a balanced life during my corporate career, trying to find some semblance of equilibrium between work and home, passion, and duty, ambition, and zen has been a real challenge.

My new approach as an entrepreneur is to guard personal time fiercely and treat it as an investment for yourself and your startup. Always searching for this elusive sense of balance has helped avoid burn out (and most importantly, provide sanity).

7. Find time for others – Karma has a way of seeking you out

Tools: Kindness, empathy, and listening skills

When you are an entrepreneur you have so many things on your plate, it is easy to be self-centered and focus on the million things you need to do. That is, even more reason to find time to help others in need – whether it be to find a job, make connections, give advice or even just smile and listen. I have had the most interesting conversations at the gym. It started with helping someone execute sun salutations and somehow turned into contacts in Silicon Valley technology investment firms. I am a strong believer in kindness – attracting goodness, especially if you don’t expect anything in return.

8. Ideate. Listen. Observe. Inquire. Learn. Pivot. Repeat.

Tool: Brainstorming techniques, an excellent ring binder notebook, periodic review of notes

There is nothing glamorous about entrepreneurship. It is about being disciplined and keeping yourself on task with a change management process that works for you. Because like it or not, you are always changing. Being mindful and conscious of how to evolve with these changes was a crucial learning for me, Having a few brainstorming techniques in your back pocket is very useful to get ideas flowing. After the ideation process, it is all about listening to feedback, creating learning out of feedback, micro-pivoting as needed and then rinse and repeat.

9. Settle for outcomes – never for values

Tools: Company mission, vision and value statement

One of the main drivers for me to start my own company was that I wanted to create something that was true to my values, where I didn’t have to settle for values that rang false or be someone I was not. When you are creating a company, you almost always don’t get exactly what you are looking for. In that scenario, the one thing I did not compromise on are the company values on how to operate, who to work with, and even the definition of ‘is’: because of a simple reason, I want this to be a company that founders and employees are proud to work at.

I have learned to choose values over outcomes. In situations like ‘Is it more important to have all of these features added, or give people time off to have family time ?’

10. Find time to center yourself

Tools: meditation, yoga, hobbies

Being an entrepreneur is like an on-off switch. Either you are in or you aren’t. If you have decided to be an entrepreneur, there is that strong internal instinct that you have to pay attention to. It’s giving you guidance on all aspects of your business. Having the quietness in your day to have that internal dialogue is very important as an entrepreneur. This means un-cluttering your calendar and your mind to have that clarity of thought and intention calibrated to your goals. Doing this on a regular basis through activities that clear your mind has been very helpful. I found this to be the hardest of the lot to do – concluding that focus amidst the chaos. It is still work in progress.

Conclusion:

This is my top 10 list of the big and small life hacks I have found useful in my entrepreneurship journey. Hope you will find it useful as well. I would love to hear from you on what have learned in your journey that I could shamelessly steal.

Deepa Kartha is the Founder and CEO of Zinda.xyz, an SMAC(Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud) based Employee Engagement software company. Journey from Zinda is a social engagement and impact software in the workplace that aligns employees and companies on a common purpose provides motivation for employees and insights for businesses.

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Ann Shoket, Former Editor of ‘Seventeen’ Magazine, Provides a New Millennial Guide in ‘The Big Life’

On a rainy Wednesday, May 10, 2017, the trailblazing Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen for the better part of a decade, Ann Shoket got real about how she helped young women navigate the tricky terrain of adolescence and become smart, confident, self-assured young women. After her career at Seventeen, she’s continuing the conversation with her latest book, The Big Life.

Shoket had an event at WeWork River North in Chicago to answer career questions, sharing #GirlBoss worthy inspiration, and providing plenty of insight about having it all as a millennial. L’Oreal Thompson, Blogger at LT in the City, among other creatives and female entrepreneurs were in attendance.

The Big Life is a book for millennial women. Shoket gets you because she’s been shaping your thoughts and influencing you since 2007 when she started as Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen until 2014.

But she didn’t just rely on her own views of millennials. Shoket hosted Badass Babes dinners, kindof like what Chelsea Handler does for her Netflix show (this one on relationships with Trevor Noah and Sarah Jessica Parker is my favorite), to gain insights from men and women for her book.

Your Squad vs. Your Friends:

Millennial women are changing what it means to be powerful and successful in the world―for everyone. Forever. You want The Big Life―that delicious cocktail of passion, career, work, ambition, respect, money, and a monumental relationship. And you want it on your own terms. Forget climbing some corporate ladder, you want a career with twists and turns and adventure. For you, success only matters if it’s meaningful.

In an interview with Forbes,  Shoket explained one of her chapters that distinguished a woman’s squad and her friends.

“Your friends are your friends…[They’re] there to go to concerts, hang out, eat pizza and text about dudes. That’s what your friends are for,” Shoket explains.

“Your squad is your chicks who are bonded together over your mutual ambition to succeed and achieve. You’re devoted to helping each other achieve and succeed. Not everyone in your squad needs to know each other — this is your team and your sisterhood. I talk about that in my book — you need someone who is an insider, who is well-known and knows all the ropes about how things go and can give you a little bit of insight and some perspective into what’s happening to you. You need the wingwoman. You need the connector.”

 

The Most Powerful Fashion Magazine Editors:

Naturally, Shoket has an exhaustive biography. She has been a key architect in shaping the national conversation about and for millennial women. As Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen from 2007 to 2014, Shoket repositioned the iconic fashion and beauty brand to dominate as the most relevant voice for its 13 million readers. She led the magazine to become the number-one teen magazine on every platform with innovative content around the most important issues facing young women today. She helped revolutionize teen magazines, as part of the launch team of

Shoket has appeared regularly on Good Morning America, Today, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View, CNN, Access Hollywood, and E! News, and she was a guest judge for four seasons on America’s Next Top Model. Forbes has named her one of the “Most Powerful Fashion Magazine Editors” in the country.

Shoket isn’t the only high-profile, former fashion magazine editor with a book. Read about former editor of French Vogue’s tips on success, choosing a cover girl, and inspiring what’s in Vogue here on Windy City Cosmo.

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Windy City Cosmo Wins Award for Female Entrepreneurship Coverage

I’m very excited to announce that after two years of interviewing Chicago female entrepreneurs, Windy City Cosmo joined the stage with Chicago publications and Chicago entrepreneurs that were recognized by liftUplift for being champions of women’s power.

LiftUplift launched in September 2015, and everyday acts as a catalyst that empowers female makers and entrepreneurs. Corielle Heath Laaspere, Founder of liftUplift, orchestrated this special evening on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at Catalyst Ranch in the West Loop.

Chicago female entrepreneurs, from female publications to graphic designers and fashion designers as well as tech startups and venture capitalists, were all recognized with a liftUplift Ally Award.

All of the women awarded were interviewed prior to the black tie event.

During my interview,  I was asked, what inspired you to become a champion of Women Power?

“Women, like men, are amazing and driven individuals. I think it’s important that we have a community where we can specifically address our needs as female bosses and also simply help each other succeed, much like what liftUPlife does,” I answered. You can read the full interview here.

Chicago Female Entrepreneurs Recognized for Championing Women Power:

One of the awardees was Katy Lynch, Co-Founder of Codeverse. She was also recently nominated for two awards at the Moxies –  ‘Best New Startup’ and ‘Best Social Impact Startup’ (which you can vote for here).

Another awardee was Silvana Favaretto of The Tulle Project. Favaretto is a graphic designer (and she graciously designed the program for the award ceremony) who was looking for a project to inspire her creativity and take her art to the next level. She decided to wear tulle skirts for 100 days (see her whole story here) and that’s how the business started.

She wore a black tulle skirt that she made herself. Earlier that day, she was at Chicago’s annual show “One of a Kind.” P.S. you should check out her “Mommy and Me” collection for Mother’s Day.

Photo: The Tulle Project

Make sure to grab a copy of Chicago Woman magazine to read all of the profiles of the women who received Ally Awards.

liftUplift’s Story:

A smiling blonde, Laaspere, draws you in with her contagious charismatic personality, her spark for supporting women and her business acumen to turn her passion into a full-fledged tech startup. I first interviewed her in 2016 and you can read her whole story here. 

“I was born to do this,” are the first words Laaspere tells me.

“I never really worry about failure. I do in the way that everyone does with day to day anxiety. But, so much of liftUplift comes out of myself. I don’t worry that that will be taken away from me.”

In the past few weeks, she’s been to Russia and shares a bit of her journey to meet Danara Buvayeva the founder of IconicDress.ru, a fashion rental platform like Rent the Runway for Russia.

Last October, American Councils for International Education and WorldChicago placed her as an Intern/Fellow with liftUPlift for 3-weeks, as part of an international business leaders exchange program. Danara was inspired by how well women entrepreneurs are organized and supporting one another in Chicago. When we had the opportunity to propose a reciprocal exchange project for Danara and I to carry out in Moscow, we pitched a 2-day conference for connecting and empowering women entrepreneurs in the US and Russia. And THAT’S how the #W4W Conference was born!

This April, while in Moscow for the conference, I got to visit the Iconic аренда вечерних платьев -прокатshowroom and learn a little more about Danara’s business model. 

liftUplift’s Ally Awards sponsors included: Catalyst Ranch, Lime Red Studio, RISE Movement, and The Tulle Project!

Are you a Chicago female entrepreneur? Share your story with Windy City Cosmo by emailing Amanda at windycitycosmo.com.

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