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Female excellence at the me Convention in Frankfurt.

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Sheryl Sandberg, Amber Valetta, and Beth Ditto: just three of the high-octane names She’s Mercedes guests got to experience live at the me Convention. A review of three exciting, action-packed days.

What do dance and coding have in common? What about the future of networked jobs – or new leadership cultures in the digital age? This year, Mercedes-Benz and SXSW decided to join forces and explore these and other questions at the first ever me Convention. For three intense days, Friday to Sunday, 150+ speakers stepped up to the mic at Festhalle Frankfurt, including international icons like Sheryl Sandberg, Amber Valetta, and Beth Ditto. Across a range of key notes, panel discussions, and workshops, they shared welcome glimpses of their own visions of our future – and She’s Mercedes was right in the middle of it all.

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  • 1
    Amber Valetta discusses sustainable fashion.
  • 2
    Opening the me Convention with astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
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    'Get your ass to Mars“ – space pioneer Aldrin in plain terms.
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    Symone D. Sanders on possibilities of using technology towards political change.
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    Hans Ulrich Obrist on the role of the curator in the 21st century.
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    Dr. Auma Obama in conversation with stage host Léa Steinacker.
  • 8
    Clare Jones.
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    John Cohn of IBM discussed productive fun in the work environment.
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    Mr. Mindful Gelong Thubten not only conducted a meditation session but also addressed the audience on caution in every-day life.

On Friday, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, and Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, discussed culture, leadership and innovation in the digital age, including topics like women in leadership positions and the working environment of the future. Sandberg’s clear call to encourage young girls to develop self-confidence and leadership qualities from an early age was met with great applause. “Don’t tell little girls that they are bossy. Tell them that they have executive leadership skills.“ At the subsequent exclusive lunch for She’s Mercedes guests, former racing driver and She’s Mercedes brand ambassador Susie Wolff underlined Sandberg’s statement: “The me Convention is a great setting for She’s Mercedes – and for bringing inspiring women together.”

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Female leadership in focus

She’s Mercedes invited 20 participants from Germany, the USA, China, Romania, Slovenia, Nigeria, and Sweden to attend the me Convention. Part of a vibrant, high-power mix of jewellery designers, editors-in-chief, bloggers, CEOs, and more, each of these guests could have been the center of attention in the group photo with Susie Wolff. Nancy Ogochukwu Obi from Nigeria revealed that she was “very glad to get the opportunity to meet so many interesting women”, while passionate AMG driver Patricia Murray from the USA added that “we got far more input than I ever could have imagined.“ After lunch, the group joined Susie Wolff for a guided tour of the Mercedes-Benz trade-fair presence. The brand’s sleek new models doubled as a welcome backdrop for several Social Media posts and Instagram stories.

Don’t tell little girls that they are bossy. Tell them that they have executive leadership skills. Sheryl Sandberg

At the 25hours Hotel by Levi’s, right at the heart of Frankfurt’s hip “Bahnhofsviertel” district, the She’s Mercedes crew later enjoyed a cocktail reception featuring Britta Seeger, Daimler AG board member and responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales, before heading to one of the city’s hottest restaurants, the Chez IMA, to enjoy their dinner – and a very special surprise: US singer Beth Ditto, looking cute and laid-back in sneakers, a charming polka-dot dress, and a slick of dramatic eyeliner – 5ft and 2in of focused energy and bubbly joy. Understandably, the ladies were thrilled!

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Beth Ditto dove straight into conversation, wanting to know where everybody was from and what brought them together at this event. She happily talked about Portland and her visits to Berlin, but also paid close attention to the She’s Mercedes guests’ stories. The mood was relaxed and boisterous – almost like sharing a meal with a close friend. Finally, it was time to take the She’s Mercedes shuttle to the me Club, where the She’s Mercedes guests were treated to an exclusive, front-row-feel gig by the charismatic singer with excellent views from the VIP area.

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    Beth Ditto performs at the She’s Mercedes Night.
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    Up close: The She’s Mercedes group meets up with the singer.

Sharing thoughts with an inspiring woman

The following day also held a notable surprise. On the me Convention stage, Dr. Auma Obama – German scholar, sociologist, journalist, and author – offered an impassioned speech and pleaded that poverty should never determine a person’s opportunities. Later on, the She’s Mercedes participants got to meet former US president Obama’s half-sister in the cosy ambience of the Circle of Excellence Lounge, to further discuss her views and receive a signed copy of Ms. Obama’s book.

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Reconciling fashion and sustainability

Another obvious highlight was the panel discussion on Closing the loop: fashion and the circular economy with fashion icon Amber Valletta on Sunday. Together with Ryan Gellert, Liz Bacelar, and Céline Semaan she talked about how haute couture and sustainable manufacturing methods could be reconciled and how to close the loop of production and consumption.

Plenty of input, networking, and joyous exchange: As three intense days in Frankfurt drew to a close, and while people were busy swapping numbers and business cards, everybody agreed that this first ever me Convention was not only an incredible experience for all participants – but one that will stay with all involved and inspire their future choices.