50 Ambitious Women Share Their Keys to Success

Someday soon, we’ll be conducting our own interviews of bold women who dared to dream big. For now, you can visit Quartz to read one-on-ones with 50 very ambitious women who achieved a high level of success. Can you recognize the woman above? She’s Glossier’s own CEO Emily Weiss. 

Here are eight awesome excerpts from some of the interviews:

Emily Weiss:

Q: What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute to your success?

A: I think successful entrepreneurs question anything and everything. I don’t like using the word “disrupt,” but if you’re really going to change the way people think about beauty, mattresses, or eyeglasses, you have to reimagine the entire experience. Elon Musk isn’t thinking about what a car does or looks like when he’s designing a Tesla—he’s building it from scratch. It’s something I’ve tried to internalize.

Sheryl Sandberg:

Q: If you could make one change to help women at work, what would it be?

A: I would change our culture, which teaches all of us—women and men—that men should achieve and women should support others. The truth is that everyone should achieve and everyone should support others.

Lena Waithe

Q: What’s your big idea that other people aren’t thinking about or wouldn’t agree with? Why is it so important?

A: I think every studio head, network president, and show runner should walk into their offices and ask, “Is everyone in the room?” And by that I mean they should look at society in all of its splendor and make sure their offices reflect that world. There should be a black person, a Native-American person, a Latino person, a trans person, an Asian person, a woman, someone with a disability, etc. And if everyone isn’t in the room, they should immediately start taking steps to make sure their work environment is inclusive.

I believe everyone should have a voice. This is a really big idea, but I think that if people in positions of power made it their business to ensure their offices looked like the world outside,­ I think the world of entertainment would start pumping out some really great content.

Tracy Chou:

Q: What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute to your success?

A: Being lucky. This may sound like a cop-out answer—and it is a bit—but not entirely! Hear me out.

A few years ago I chanced upon a book called The Luck Factor, which describes a psychologist’s study of luck and lucky people. Richard Wiseman found that people who self-identified as lucky are not actually statistically luckier in controlled tests, like lottery drawings, or other rigorous analysis of odds and outcomes. Rather, lucky people create lucky lives for themselves: For example, by maximizing opportunities for serendipity and fortuitous outcomes, and by seeing the positive even in negative situations. The book immediately resonated with me; it felt like Wiseman was describing my own approach to life more crisply than I could have.

Ai-jen Poo:

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: When I first learned that I was going to be a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, part of me felt fearful and worried about the recognition. Representing a workforce of unrecognized and undervalued women, I’m very conscious about the politics of visibility. I work with so many women who deserve recognition and never receive it. My long-time mentor Linda Burnham said to me, “Don’t you dare shrink from your moment in the sun.”

She helped me understand that shrinking was not helping all the women who are unrecognized; in fact it’s reinforcing their invisibility. I needed to own my contributions and the fact that my work involves thousands of women who can and will feel connected to the award. Ever since, I’ve been really attuned to helping women own their moments in the sun, in addition to creating more of those moments for more women—especially women like domestic workers and caregivers who are so invisible.

Paolo Antonelli:

Q: If there’s one thing men can do to improve women’s life at work, it would be…

A: They should try to imitate women’s attitude and social behavior. For centuries, women have been doing the reverse. I believe that using a female paragon will give humanity a better chance.

Lena Dunham:

Q: If you could make one change to help women at work, what would it be?

A: Women are being sent signals that they have to hide their true selves at work­: that they’re too messy, too emotional, too MUCH. But it’s these very qualities that make surrounding myself with women at work such a joy. Men don’t spend their time trying to subjugate their ids to get the job done. Neither should we.

Reshma Saujani:

Q:  What’s your big idea that other people aren’t thinking about or wouldn’t agree with? Why is it so important?

A: We need to start focusing on bravery over perfection. We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave. Most girls are taught to avoid failure and risk. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough and swing high. By the time boys are adults, whether they’re negotiating a raise or even asking someone out on a date, they’ve been habituated to take risk after risk. And they’re rewarded for it. It’s often said in Silicon Valley that no one even takes you seriously unless you’ve had two failed startups. Our economy—our society—is losing out because we’re not raising our girls to be brave. The bravery deficit is the reason why women are underrepresented in STEM, in C­-suites, in boardrooms, in Congress, and pretty much everywhere else you look.

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