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The LadyGang On Fostering A Ferocious Female Community Through Real-Talk

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It would be rude to talk about nipple hairs in the company of a lady right? Wrong. For any podcast lovers and girl-gang fanatics, nipple hairs are but one of the many incredulous and hilarious topics covered by the LadyGang. Launched in 2015, the podcast has seen its fair share of female faux pas and triumphs. Viewed through the lens of its three hosts, Entertainment Tonight's Keltie Knight, former Glee star Becca Tobin and fashion designer Jac Vanek, you get honest and hilarious views on the daily life of women.


The program, which has amassed a whopping 25M downloads, fuses self-deprecating stories from the trio themselves, and allows lots of audience interaction, whether that's in the form of questions or conversation prompts. And while that number seems massive, the ladies were quick to point out that the devoted listeners don't necessarily, and interestingly, translate to social media followers. “If all the millions of people that listen to our podcast would follow me on insta I would be so happy," noted Knight laughingly. “I had a girl come up to me this week and said, 'I am the biggest LadyGang fan, I listen every week,' she was an actress, [I said] 'Oh I'll follow you on Instagram, what's your Instagram?' and she was like 'I don't think I even follow you.' I'm like 'how do you listen to the podcast every week and don't follow me on Instagram, what the hell?'"

SWAAY chatted with two of the three ladies, Vanek and Knight about the podcast's trajectory and some inspirational collaborations in their near future.

On LadyGang origins

The three ladies, all in entertainment and fashion, knew each other through friends of friends, with Vanek and Knight ironically united by a mutual ex-boyfriend. And while they may come together twice weekly to record the show, it's certainly not something that gets in the way of three very hectic schedules. "That's the really cool thing about the three of us together," says Knight. "We're certainly friends and have certainly become closer through LadyGang, but we all have our own lives, we all have our own careers, and we sort of come together, very different women, every week, to make the show."

Originally intended to be a celebrity-focused show, data then found their listeners were equally devoted to the shows with just the three of them on the mic, than with some A-Lister (the self-deprecating and overly humble trio refer to themselves as D-listers, but not so say their legion of cult fans). “As we kind of went along over the past couple of years, all of our listeners and our fans became really invested in our own lives and our own personal anecdotes and stories that that has been kind of the driving force through the podcast," says Vanek. “We'll get just as many downloads of a show that's just the three of us versus if we have some A-list celebrity."

“I think what makes the show cool is our motivation to always make all of our women feel less alone and feel more normal by opening up and telling our stories." Keltie Knight

On giving back to the LadyGang community

We've encountered a lot of phoney "women's empowerment" in the last few months who've rode on the coattails of #metoo and #timesup, and have come to recognize that many are in fact doing lip service to further women's societal position. These three are doing the opposite.

"I think what makes the show cool is our motivation to always make all of our women feel less alone and feel more normal by opening up and telling our stories."

-Keltie Knight

Recently they partnered with Claremont Lincoln University to give out $100k in student scholarships to women. The non-profit, which reached out to the ladies via Vanek, will benefit the women who haven't the time or money to commit to an onsite University degree. "We have so many questions coming from girls that want to go back to school, that are working full time jobs, are stay at home moms, or don't have the funds to actually pay for a master's degrees," says Vanek. "So this was a way for us to make that happen for women who wouldn't get the chance otherwise."

The competition is an easy application and only requires the submission of a one-minute video, through which you might end up with a master's degree. "It's not some bullshit degree that won't be able to help you," advises Vanek. "These women are able to take power and become as confident as they can in whatever jobs that they're in."

On LadyGang TV

In May of this year it was announced that the LadyGang will no longer be beholden to a single microphone in a recording studio, they're about to hit the small screen. And not only will they be featured in their new show, but they'll be producing, because who knows how to put on a good show better than these three?

“Wait, if you think Kim Kardashian is crazy, you wait till you see Becca Tobin."

- Keltie Knight

"The E! Network was always our top choice, it just felt like our realm really fit so well with what they were doing and so we pitched to them," notes Knight, who's no stranger to television herself. The show, which will launch in the fall is sure to ensue in hilarity, and the real talk that really come to connote the LagyGang brand. What you see is really what you get with these three, and we're sure that's what has landed them this major career move.

Gang's all here! (L-R) Becca Tobin, Keltie Knight, Jac Vanek

And what's more, they promise that even with the advent of their TV adventure, the podcast will never go away. Vanek was adamant about this, commenting, "we would never get rid of the podcast. The podcast is everything and it's so great for us to be a part of." So there you have it ladies, come fall, you will get your fill of this trio three times a week. Is that even enough? We're entirely unsure.

7min read
Culture

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.


A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.