11 female leaders and how they describe the journey
Newsweek is running an article about “My Journey to the Top“:
These 11 women came from many different backgrounds, but they all had big dreams. The path to power meant facing obstacles and their biggest fears.
There is a reoccuring theme in this reports from the women, and I would call it ignorance on what the surrounding is telling you about to do or not to do, a ‘just do it and look for what comes out of it later’ attitude and encouragement by others.
Cofounder and editor in chief, The Huffington Post
But it also taught me that it is easier to overcome people’s judgments than to overcome our own self-judgment, the fear we internalize.
I don’t think that anything I’ve done in my life would have been possible without my mother. She gave me what I am hoping to be able to give my daughters, which is a sense that I could aim for the stars combined with the knowledge that if I didn’t reach them, she wouldn’t love me any less.
She helped me understand that failure was part of any life. So often, I think, we as women stop ourselves from trying because we don’t want to risk failing. We put such a premium on being approved of, we become reluctant to take risks.
President, Atlantic Records
It was the most amazing time of my life. I would dream up hundreds of ideas, some good, some bad, some laughed at, but always encouraged by Lyor. Ignorance was bliss, and my out-of-the-box thinking was rewarded with a huge promotion to start our own marketing department at Def Jam.
President and CEO of Lifetime Network and Entertainment Services
We look carefully at female role models. I think it’s really important to be a mentor to people that you think are promising. People did it for me, and it helped me grow and be a better leader. Women and minorities need that help more than anyone because there are less people like them who are successful in the higher ranks of companies.
In hindsight, my initial love for fashion was about hope and evolving to become the type of woman I wanted to be: strong, confident and feminine. I always loved the idea of dressing up—my wardrobe and how I present myself reflecting how I feel on the inside. That is what I do for other people now. I give women the means to express themselves and be who they are and who they aspire to be, and I think there is a real beauty in this.
It took me a really long time to say, “You know what? I want this. I want to be successful in my field. I want to be able to make choices on my own and make my own choices based on success.” And I just think that’s a hard thing for a female. We’re still not really supposed to want it as much as a guy does.
And I wish that we could embrace that and have that be a positive thing and not a negative thing: with the connotation of “Look at her. She’s working so hard and therefore not being with her children.”
Chief scientist, Multihazards Demonstration Project
I think there are a lot of issues there. A very large part is how you balance work and home, and all of us are dealing with the problem, but mostly we try and pretend and don’t talk about it on the job, and there I was dealing with it in a very public way.
Mayor of Atlanta
I was always someone in the background, willing to work on the team, not step up. I didn’t run for class president. I didn’t seek high office at any stage in my life until I was in my 50s, and then I did so very reluctantly.
Women need to help women understand that we were not all born with all of the skills, nor was anyone, men or women, that are necessary. But with hard work and passion, you can be recognized as a leader. My fears of failure, my fears of not being perfect, kept me from thinking that I could run for mayor.
You have to practice; being in the situation is the only thing that helps. You have to make all the mistakes and you have to learn from them. The more you do it, the more comfortable you feel and then you learn. You have to have high goals. There is always room to improve. You are always trying to be one step ahead of everybody because there are so many good players out there. My name means something in the golf world. But at the same time, you always learn. It’s never good to feel too comfortable.
TV host and cookbook author
People started writing me angry mail that they couldn’t get the recipes, and they couldn’t keep track of them. So I went to New York and met with a very small publisher. We published a book of these recipes in three months for Christmas and sold 10,000 copies. That was the biggest achievement in my life at that point. I remember my mom and I got the check in January and we danced through the streets and just thought it was the most money in the world ever. We went to a really great restaurant and bought nice dresses for ourselves and had the best time. Bigger projects grew out of that.
Creator and executive producer, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Private Practice’
Television is all about running your own show. And I felt that, like the interns, I was thrown into deep water and I was asked to swim. What I’ve learned is that if you swim hard enough and you pay enough attention, you create something great. You have to stick to your own vision.
Professor of Religion
I was educated at a time when parents did not expect girls to do anything useful. I wasn’t being practical at all. I was following what I loved. I started to explore this material and only later discovered that one could actually make a living teaching it.