Women’s History Month-Interview With Liana Zavo: A Female Advocate Championing Gender Equality, And Revolutionizing Women’s Economic Empowerment Through the Power of Storytelling

Photo Caption: Founder & CEO, Impact Speaker and Author

Every year, as Women’s History Month dawns upon us, it serves as a reminder of the remarkable achievements and ongoing challenges faced by women. While progress has been made, the gender gap in economic participation persists.

Recognizing the undeniable benefits of empowering women in the workforce, we turn our attention to individuals like Liana Zavo, whose innovative storytelling strategies are transforming the landscape of women’s economic empowerment. Zavo’s deep understanding of the power of storytelling has been the driving force behind her mission to empower women. As Zavo put it, “Empowering women entrepreneurs goes beyond business success; it’s about creating a more equitable society where everyone has a chance to thrive. Let’s rewrite the narrative and build a future where gender equality is the norm.”

By equipping them with effective storytelling strategies, she enables them to transcend societal barriers and make their voices heard.

Forbes Staff: As a female advocate you represent a diverse group of female founded organizations. In New York City, you founded ZavoMedia PR Group, an international public relations agency and a leading communications company that contributes to the growth and success of founders and organizations. Your agency’s outstanding work has earned nationwide recognition from the prestigious Public Relations Society of America. This recognition is a testament to the exceptional quality of your agency’s public relations services and the impact it has made in the field. Congratulations on this remarkable achievement, which further solidifies your agency’s reputation as a leader in the industry.

You started your PR firm by amplifying female founded startups and NPO’s. Your approach challenges the traditional narrative that has hindered women’s economic participation for far too long. You are part of the NSBA Leadership Council, advocating as a small-business leader around the country to amplify the voice of the most important sector of the U.S. economy and also a member of BMW Foundation’s Responsible Leaders Group. Your commitment to women’s economic empowerment in order to transform society, is reflected in your work, which spans from the local to global. Can you talk about your commitment to the community? Most importantly what made you become a female advocate?

Liana Zavo: My journey as a passionate women’s advocate began when I made the choice to share the stories of women, inspired by my own personal journey of transparency and authenticity. By empowering women and providing equal opportunities, I unlock untapped potential and drive economic growth. I’ve trained and mentored thousands of women in service-oriented leadership, helping them take control of their narrative. But my dedication doesn’t stop there. I extend my mentorship to young teens in orphanages, high schools, and first-year college students, guiding them to navigate challenges and shape their own destinies. Empowering individuals to embrace their unique stories is transformative, fostering personal growth and creating a more inclusive society. Being a part of the Vital Voices 100 and an alumna of the World Economic Forum’s Community of Young Global Leaders gave me the inspiration to empower women and help them be seen and heard on a global scale.

My commitment to the community is rooted in the belief that together, we can create positive change. Through mentorship, collaboration, and giving back, I strive to uplift and support others. By collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations, we can amplify our impact. I believe that by working together and fostering a sense of gratitude and empowerment, we can create a stronger, more inclusive, and supportive community for all.

Forbes Staff: You recognize the unique perspectives and skills that women bring to the table, and are actively advocating for their inclusion. By providing women with the tools to effectively communicate their stories and experiences, you are disrupting the status quo and paving the way for increased gender equality in the business world. What ignited the profound passion within you and instilled an unwavering dedication to support and navigate the narratives of women? Furthermore, what pivotal moment or opportunity propelled your breakthrough in the field of public relations?

Zavo: In my work, I am constantly striving to highlight the advancements and achievements of women year-round. My passion lies in building a world where companies wholeheartedly support women’s causes, promote more women into leadership positions, and ensure equal treatment for everyone within their organizations, every single day. The seeds of my journey were planted during my childhood, as a young girl yearning to be acknowledged and understood by women around me. At a tender age of 13 years old, I have had a deep desire to become a journalist, following in the footsteps of my maternal grandmother. Helping to tell stories is a passion that feels ingrained in my DNA. My grandmother’s ability to travel for work throughout Russia was a great source of inspiration for me. It was not an easy task for a woman with a family during that time, but she persevered and succeeded.

I encountered significant challenges when I initially entered the communications industry. As a college dropout and a single mom, I had to put in twice the effort to establish myself and overcome the hurdles of finding leverage and connecting with the right people who could guide me in the field of public relations. Despite these obstacles, my innate ability to connect with others and build relationships proved to be a valuable asset. While breaking into the public relations industry was a challenging moment in my life, I found incredible support from remarkable women who believed in my journey.

I used to work as a stylist in New York City, and one of these women happened to be a former client of mine. I embarked on my journey in the public relations industry when this extraordinary woman acknowledged my vision and offered me a consultancy role for her skincare company. She also introduced me to her public relations firm, which was representing her at the time. This opportunity marked the beginning of my career in public relations.

I believe in the unique voice and story of every woman, and through mentoring, training, and advocacy, I empower women to embrace their individuality and overcome obstacles. By amplifying women’s voices and fostering a sense of community, we can break through barriers and create a more inclusive world. One of the key elements of my methodology is fostering innovation and collaboration among women entrepreneurs. By creating spaces for networking, idea-sharing, and support, I cultivate a community that propels women forward.

Forbes Staff: Your mentorship and storytelling strategies have an incredible ripple effect that goes beyond individual entrepreneurs. When women are empowered and given equal opportunities, it positively impacts society as a whole. You shared your personal stories and profound insights and values in your book, BEPIC: Be Seen & Be Heard, it was powerful and important. I’m curious to know, what inspired you to create an audible version of the book? What do you hope listeners will gain from it?

Zavo: Over the past year, I have poured my heart and soul into creating an audiobook that I am incredibly excited to share with the world. I am delighted to announce that it will be released in March 2024. The demand from the community was the driving force behind the decision to create an audible version of B.E.P.I.C.: Be Seen & Be Heard. In order to reach a larger audience effectively, it is crucial to actively listen and connect with them on a deeper level. Through the audible version, my goal is to inspire listeners to embrace their individual stories, discover their authentic professional voice, and create a meaningful impact with their personal brand.

I hope the audible book will empower individuals to find their voice, break through barriers, and contribute to a more inclusive world. By sharing practical strategies and personal stories, I seek to spark self-belief and confidence, encouraging listeners to create positive change and inspire others through their own stories.

Forbes Staff: As we celebrate Women’s History Month, you stand as a champion of gender equality in the business world. According to a McKinsey report, 39% of women feel that they do not have the same opportunities for advancement as their male counterparts. Could you provide insights on this staggering number? As an international public relations specialist working in 12 countries, how does your experience as a woman, particularly your recent trip to the Snow Polo World Cup in St. Moritz, influence your work with founders and organizations on a global scale?

Zavo: It is concerning to learn from the McKinsey report that 39% of women feel that they do not have equal opportunities for advancement compared to their male counterparts. This highlights the need for organizations and society as a whole to address and eliminate gender disparities in the workplace. Creating a more inclusive and equitable environment is essential for ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to succeed and thrive.

During my recent trip and my attendance at the Snow Polo World Cup in St. Moritz, I had the privilege of collaborating with individuals from diverse backgrounds. At present, I am deeply engaged in the task of facilitating connections and representing investors and real estate developers who are looking to expand from Europe to the American market. In my experience as a woman conducting business internationally, I have encountered instances of gender inequality not only in the USA but certain European countries also in the Middle East and Asia. These encounters highlight the ongoing need for progress and advocacy in achieving gender equality across different regions.

The knowledge gained from these experiences has been especially beneficial in the 12 countries where I collaborate with founders and organizations. As a global impact speaker, I have been fortunate to address audiences about the significance of dismantling barriers and advocating for gender equality. I emphasize that this is not just a moral obligation, but also a strategic business choice. By embracing diverse perspectives, we can encourage greater innovation, productivity, and economic growth. Through my work, I empower not only women entrepreneurs, but also contribute to the progress of entire industries.

Forbes Staff: As a seasoned professional in public relations you understand the intricacies of the corporate landscape and can provide valuable strategies for success. What specific insights and guidance can you as an international public relations specialist provide regarding the challenges and opportunities that women face in the business world? Additionally, how do you leverage your networks and relationships with influential women leaders from different countries to foster collaboration and support?

Zavo: As an international public relations specialist and a female advocate with a wealth of experience, I possess unique insights and guidance regarding the challenges and opportunities that women encounter in the business world. My expertise offers women targeted advice on navigating gender dynamics, overcoming biases, and building confidence in male-dominated industries. Also, my personal branding expertise helps by leveraging my extensive networks and influential relationships with women leaders from various countries to foster collaboration and support.

Storytelling is a powerful tool that empowers women in business to share their unique perspectives, connect with their audience, and make a lasting impact in the business world. During the pandemic, I noticed a significant number of unemployed women. In response, I made the decision to hire them without considering their background or whether they had a college degree. As part of the pandemic relief program, I employed 200 women who were taught by me how to share their stories and that played a crucial role in raising awareness for my public relations firm on a global scale. By organizing conferences, events, and networking platforms, I facilitate knowledge-sharing and mentorship opportunities. These initiatives bring together women from diverse backgrounds, enabling them to exchange ideas, share experiences, and forge meaningful connections. Through these collaborative efforts, I empower women to uplift one another, amplifying their collective voice for gender equality.

Recognizing that gender equality is not only a matter of fairness but also a catalyst for innovation, productivity, and economic growth, these women are steadfast in their commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable business environment. By championing gender equality, I strive to create a world where every individual has an equal chance to thrive and contribute to the global business landscape. We all should be taking action to inspire inclusion. It’s time to walk the walk.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

For more about Liana Zavo and the audible book B.E.P.C.: Be Seen & Be Heard, click here.