Female bosses need to lead by example, says Huffington

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At Advertising Week's "Thrive" panel, executives from Hearst, Facebook, AT&T and Skinnygirl swapped stories of leadership

New York’s Town Hall, located in the middle of Times Square, occupies an important role in the history of women’s rights. It was built in 1921 as a meeting place for women suffragists, and later that year became the site of Margaret Sanger's arrest for staging a conference on birth control. On Wednesday during Advertising Week, it served as a stage for some of the media's most successful female leaders. 

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, led "Thrive," a panel that focused on the ways companies are going about creating environments for their employees to de-stress and refresh. Panelists emphasized the importance of unplugging from devices, taking time away from work and leading through example.

Wednesday’s panel consisted of Carolyn Everson, VP of global marketing solutions at Facebook, Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture, Lori Lee, senior executive vice president and global marketing officer at AT&T, Joanna Coles, chief content officer at Hearst and Bethenny Frankel, CEO and founder of Skinnygirl.

Huffington opened up the session by commenting on the significance of these women leading their companies to advocate for wellness. "This is really the third feminist revolution," she said. "For women to say we don’t just want to be at the top of the world, we want to change the way the world is designed. It’s truly amazing that women are leading this disruption of the way men have designed workplaces."

Everson spoke about Facebook’s time-off options and goal-writing workshops. Shook mentioned Accenture's variety of benefits which includes 16 weeks paid maternity leave and 80 hours back up dependent care. Lee spoke about how AT&T offers stress workshops and holds races. Coles touted Hearst's in-house gym and weekly green market. And Frankel said that Skinnygirl has a culture that applauds a work-life balance.

But all panelists agreed on a singular that for large-scale change to occur, they needed to lead by example.

"Everything we do is multiplied," said Lee, "Leaders can start this roller coaster of activity."

For example, Everson was sure to take the four-week vacation that every Facebook employee is entitled to after 5 years with the company. "There were questions internally and externally about if I was really going to do it," she said. 

Also, following a "vision" workshop for employees, Everson wrote out her own goals and sent them to the entire company, asking them to keep her accountable.

"We’re finding that the more people are fulfilled with their own set of objectives and priorities, the better they are performing," she said.

Coles said she breaks away from work and sneaks in 30-minute exercises at the Hearst gym, despite already having a treadmill at her desk. She also is strict with her colleagues about unplugging from their devices.

"I have always tried to not contact my colleagues over the weekend," she said, "and if they contact me I don’t always respond, because I think it’s important that people understand that there is a space where you can be with your family or just be on your own walking your dog, which is a thing I like to do to de-stress."

Frankel said her brand "Skinny Girl" is all about giving women permission to indulge in foods like chocolate or taking some time for themselves. "I want a culture where I can say to my assistant sleep tomorrow morning, stay in, heal. You don’t want people around you looking like they are miserable."

And she is the first to live by it. Frankel said some days she sleeps in until noon, and promised thast anyone she works with would back her up on that.

"Everyone has to create a balance for themselves," Frankel said, "but within your infrastructure, I think that flows downward. You have to lead by example." 

Huffington recently left her namesake publication to launch Thrive Global, which offers companies and their employees online courses, certifications and workshops on wellness. The company is set to launch after the election in November. 

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