The recent release of Suffragette reminds us how far we’ve come in terms of women’s rights. It’s funny to think therefore that are still new feats that women have to overcome to still put them level with men, but it is happening. There are many things we can learn from some of the world’s most powerful women, Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) and Angela Ahrendts (Apple), and they’re more than happy to share their secrets. We take a look at these inspiring women and the lessons they can give us to help us succeed in our own achievements.
As the CEO of Yahoo!, Mayer has certainly made her mark, making plans to boost mobile income and bring in respected journalists like Katie Couric to produce content. Prior to her move to Yahoo!, Mayer was one of the most influential members of staff at Google, and in 2014 was named as one of Fortune’s ’40 under 40’. Whilst she has faced much criticism for her management decisions, Mayer is still going strong.
What’s the best piece of advice that Mayer has on leadership and success? “Don’t forget to be bold” – given to her as she left Google by its founder, Sergey Brin. It’s advice that she’s carried with her throughout her time at Yahoo, using it to go ahead with bold decisions like the acquisition of Tumblr and other tough calls. It’s a good piece of advice to follow – sometimes we all need to be bold in our decisions, so if you’re struggling to make a choice or have a fear of taking charge, remember these five little words to help you go ahead.
Facebook SEO is a woman to admire for many reasons. Not only in 2012 did she become the first elected female head of Facebook’s board of directors, was part of the team responsible for the launch of Google.org, the philanthropic segment of the company, but she also made her mark in the political world as Chief of Staff for Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers. She has also garnered admiration for the brave way she has dealt with the tragic and unexpected death of her husband, Dave Goldberg, discussing her grief publicly on Facebook and gathering messages of support 600,000 people in just one day.
How does a strong, admired CEO deal with a tragedy? Not alone, that’s for sure. Sandberg admitted to needing help from people around her, telling her “where to sit and reminding me to eat”, in a situation we can all empathise with. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph she talked about how returning to work at Facebook was a “chance to feel useful and connected”, a reminder that we can all pick ourselves back up no matter what we’ve faced in life. Her advice? Faced with no longer having Option A (her husband) to help her raise her children, she instead said: "I promise to do all I can to kick the s--- out of option B”. We all have to make the most of what we got, finding ways to make it through, rather than dwelling on what was or what we can no longer have.
It’s no wonder that Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry, has style. Now the Senior Vice-President of Apple’s retail and online stores, Ahrendts has cemented herself as one of the world’s most powerful women, confirmed by both Forbes and her membership of the Prime Minister’s business advisory council. She hasn’t been idle since joining the technology giant, she’s made major changes to internal structures, bringing her influence and retail expertise to the fore at a time when Apple has been launching new and exciting products such as the Apple Watch.
What career advice does Ahrendts have for those hoping to tread in just a fraction of her footsteps? It came from her father. In a post on LinkedIn, she said: "ask questions, don’t make assumptions. Questions invite conversations, stimulate thinking, break down barriers, create positive energy and show your willingness to understand and learn.” She also stressed the importance of being true to one’s self, taking an interest in colleagues’ personal lives and talking to them. She quoted Maya Angelou, who famously said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So whilst being assertive and confident in your abilities is a key way to ensure success, it’s also important to remain human, and a good person – as that’s what people will remember about you.
To look at the achievements of these women is to feel inspired, so when you wake up tomorrow, remember their words and take steps to find your own success – who knows where the path will lead you?