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Building a Universe of Female Leaders: Questions for Talia Bender (BS '14), President, The Female Quotient

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Talia Bender, president of The Female Quotient, is advancing equality in the workplace and building the first and largest community of female leaders at events around the world.

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. 

Portrait of Talia Bender (B&W)

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.

Four women sit in front of an audience at the Equality Lounge.

Talia Bender (far right) moderates “Women Leading Art in the Metaverse” panel in the Equality Lounge at SXSW with leaders who are redefining the future of art while solving for inequities across all mediums and disciplines. Pictured from left to right: Maliha Abidi, Founder of Women Rise; Sara Baumann, Founder of Women and Weapons; and Diana Mashia, Founder and CEO of Invest in Her Art;

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. 

Portrait of Talia Bender (B&W)

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"

A group shot of four women leaders at the NBC Universal Super Bowl party.

Patricia Batista-Luri, Founder of LURI, Lisa Leslie, WNBA Player, Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, and Talia Bender, President of The Female Quotient together at the NBC Universal Super Bowl party.

Tell us about the women who inspire you.

I often think of the many inspiring women from the past who paved the way for us—and that’s in large part thanks to Megan Smith, former Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Co-founder and CEO of shift7, and dear friend of The FQ. As a leader in tech (an industry in which women are still woefully under-represented) she understands the importance of highlighting our contributions, as they’re so often written out of history. Along with Rosie Rios, former Treasurer of the United States, Megan hosted 50 of our corporate women on a two-day excursion to the White House in the spring of 2016. Both she and Rosie were passionate about giving women from history their rightful due—and shared with us some incredible stories—both were passionate about making sure pictures of women who worked in government were prominently displayed in the halls of the Treasury, and both have been instrumental in the fight to put a woman on U.S. currency. It is so inspiring to see leaders like Megan and Rosie fighting for better representation. To that end, The FQ recently hosted a dinner with Fair Play's Eve Rodsky for Rebel Girls, a global empowerment brand that amplifies the stories of real-life extraordinary women, in part by producing chapter books for young readers.

There are so many women from history that I admire and look up to, but the person who has been most influential to me is Anne Frank. Her story, of course, is well known, but I find her strength and her grace inspirational. “How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” is my favorite of her quotes.

Talia Bender with husband and son standing in front of flowering tree

Talia Bender and her family. Follow her @femalequotient.

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!

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