Talia Bender (BS'14), a graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, is the president of The Female Quotient (The FQ), a company focused on advancing equality in the workplace. She is passionate about increasing visibility, leadership, and entrepreneurship opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities. She was named a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeeper, has been instrumental in building the ANA #SeeHer initiative to accurately portray women and girls in media, and serves as an Adweek Executive Mentor. In 2021, she was named one of Forbes 30 under 30 in marketing and advertising. We spoke with her about the roots of her social justice activism.
I’ve had the opportunity to learn from incredible leaders across industries—women who have been there and done that—on a day-to-day basis, and I’m grateful to have a group of women in business to call on for help."
Tell me about the Female Quotient.
The Female Quotient is best known for its signature Equality Lounge™, a pop-up experience at industry conferences including South by Southwest (SXSW), the World Economic Forum in Davos, and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). We bring together leaders and change-makers across every industry—from Halle Berry to Sheryl Sandberg, from Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon—to tackle all aspects of inequality in the workplace, to ignite breakthrough ideas, and to foster real change.
When the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many of those conferences online, we pivoted, too. Over the past two years we’ve hosted more than 800 virtual sessions, during which leaders have shared their learned experience with the larger FQ community.
Some of our many upcoming events include #SeatAtTheTable, a virtual event with the aim of bringing together women from more than 100 countries to converse and collaborate on what’s needed to eradicate gender inequality. WNBA Player Lisa Leslie, makeup artist Bobbie Brown, and actresses Brooke Shields and Anna Chlumsky are all involved in the initiative.
You can watch a livestream of the event on March 23 by RSVP’ing at this address. We also invite anyone who’s interested to host their own virtual table. Sign up at this address to receive a hosting guide, conversation starters, and learn about additional ways to engage in the discussion online.
I’m also very excited to announce that The Female Quotient has entered the Metaverse, where we’ll continue to host our iconic Equality Lounge, as well as launch a new platform to bring more women into Web3. As we enter this new wave of technology, it’s critical that women are at the forefront of this work.
Can you talk about the role of mentors in your life?
At The Female Quotient, we believe that mentorship is not only top-down, but also bottom-up and all around. A mentor doesn’t have to be someone in a senior role with whom you meet for coffee once a month. Some of the best advice comes in bits and bytes; it’s a concept we call mentorship in the moment. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from incredible leaders across industries—women who have been there and done that—on a day-to-day basis, and I’m grateful to have a group of women in business to call on for help with different scenarios in both formal and informal settings.
I have also been extremely fortunate to forge a unique relationship with Shelley Zalis, CEO of the Female Quotient. She is a pioneer in the market research industry, a sought-after expert on gender equality, and has been instrumental in my career growth and in learning how to build and scale businesses and The FQ team.
Finally, I am a firm believer in peer mentorship. Often times, those of us in similar roles or facing similar growth opportunities, have found that having each other to lean on has proven incredibly valuable.
I am a firm believer in peer mentorship. Often times, those of us in similar roles or facing similar growth opportunities, have found that having each other to lean on has proven incredibly valuable"
How did your NYU Steinhardt education shape you as a professional?
I recently spoke to 11th and 12th graders at my high school, Milken Community School, about my time at NYU Steinhardt, and how important it is to find a program that allows you to explore your passions and interests. As a student in the Media, Culture and Communication program, I was able to take a number of courses taught by adjunct professors who were also working career professionals. Learning from business leaders across the city was invaluable—and made each class more exciting than the next!
I was also able to pursue other, more diverse interests; I co-founded the NYU Chapter of TAMID, for example, which to this day remains a major part of my life. I interned while an undergraduate, which is how I met Shelley Zalis, and propelled me to my eventual role at The Female Quotient. I am forever grateful to Steinhardt and the MCC program, and look forward to staying involved with the NYU community.
And, I am most grateful to NYU for the simple fact that it’s where I met my husband. It was so special to visit campus recently with our thirteen-month-old son Liam, to show him where it all started!
The Steinhardt School celebrates faculty and alumni whose powerful, visionary work has been honored with prestigious awards.
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