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'Who run the world? Girls.' Female Quotient brings workplace equality to UNC


Sophomore Caroline Ciaramitaro (left), a business administration major, and junior Carlyle Rickenmann, a double major in advertising and political science, pose for a portrait on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. They are co-presidents of the Female Quotient club at UNC Chapel Hill that meets at 1789 Venture Lab.

As Michelle Williams accepted her Primetime Emmy award Sunday evening for Lead Actress in Limited Series/Movie, she gave the speech that is now featured on the Instagram account of The Female Quotient, an international business starting to make its way onto college campuses.

"When you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value," she said. 

Dedicated to promoting gender equality and female empowerment in the workplace, The Female Quotient was started to inspire and uplift high-level women working in high-level companies — but it is now incorporating college students into its program through the new FQ Lounge @ Campus initiative. Discussions about a chapter at UNC began in February, and it is now active on campus. 

Chief Executive Officer Shelley Zalis founded the company in 2012 after the Consumer Technology Association’s annual Consumer Electronics Show convention. Not wanting to feel like the only woman in a room full of 200,000 businessmen, Zalis asked her female friends to join her in walking the conference floor, and The Female Quotient was born as a platform to invite collaborative and productive conversation about being a woman in the workplace.

“Long story short, 50 women showed up to meet her to walk the conference floor with her, and they all walked it together, and everyone turned heads and said, ‘Who are these 50 women?’ It was just this highly visible celebration of women in tech and a showcase of the female presence that was there,” said Heather Logan, the strategic partnerships lead of The Female Quotient, who oversees the FQ Lounge @ Campus initiative.

The Female Quotient is best known for its “lounges,” which are pop-up workshops at major events around the world, including Cannes Film Festival, Advertising Week in New York City, SXSW and even one held with Michelle Obama at International Women’s Day. 

As of 2018, these renowned lounges started making their way onto college campuses through FQ Lounge @ Campus. After finding success with women in executive-level positions, The Female Quotient decided to expand into entry-level positions by partnering with universities all around the world. 

“It really happened organically. We always gave back to young girls and provided mentorship with those core values of our company, so we did a lot of mentorship organically, but not on an ongoing basis. We knew we really wanted to bring more structure in order to increase our impact,” Logan said.

This fall, junior Carlyle Rickenmann and sophomore Caroline Ciaramitaro are starting a chapter of Female Quotient Lounge @ Campus at UNC. Their journey as co-presidents began after Rickenmann stumbled across The Female Quotient’s website and reached out to ask if the company was looking for summer interns. Then, Logan called Rickenmann and asked her to start a chapter of FQ Lounge @ Campus at UNC.

Rickenmann said that her dedication and passion for The Female Quotient’s mission is personal. During her senior year of high school, she was speaking with a male UNC alumnus who quickly shut down her childhood dream of working in the sports field after college.

“I said, ‘I want to major in journalism, and I want to be a sports reporter.’ He looked at me dead in the eyes, laughed and said, ‘Okay, what's your real plan?’” Rickenmann said.

For Ciaramitaro, advocacy for female empowerment stemmed from growing up around a group of strong and successful women. She attended an all-girls high school and said that female empowerment was the norm. Upon entering UNC, she said she felt a shift in the culture she had once been accustomed to.

Through her relationship with The Female Quotient, Ciaramitaro had the opportunity to attend Advertising Week in New York City. She said the culture of inclusiveness and, as The Female Quotient likes to call it, the “business of equality,” was incredibly motivational to her as a young woman.

“You could feel it in the air, and I don’t say that lightly,” she said. "I was with people who had no business talking to a sophomore from UNC-Chapel Hill and did and didn’t have their phones out and didn’t have an altered agenda, but were just generally curious about getting to know me and my story."

As far as UNC goes, Rickenmann and Ciaramitaro have a lot of ideas in the works for collaborative events. For now, they are planning a skills series for this semester, which will cover topics such as LinkedIn, interview skills, presentation skills, salary negotiating and building a personal brand. They also say they have a few surprises up their sleeves in terms of guest speakers.

“We have some really, really amazing female alumni who you’ve definitely heard of slated for spring,” Ciaramitaro said. 

Anyone can get involved with UNC’s FQ Lounge @ Campus. The organization is not member-based, meaning all meetings and events are open to the public, and there are no dues.

Rickenmann and Ciaramitaro said they want to make the organization accessible and relevant to women from all majors because they believe it is important that every college student is educated about gender equality.

“We’re always comparing ourselves to one another," Rickenmann said. "We’re always competing with each other, but if we work together and empower each to do our best then we’re all going to do our best in the end.” 


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