5 inspirational women with important lessons for success in business

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kirsten Salyer, Opinion Editor, World Economic Forum

  • For International Women’s Day, we asked World Economic Forum Managing Director Sarita Nayyar to share the lessons she learned from some of the women who have inspired her throughout her career.
  • The list includes Maya Angelou, Indra Nooyi and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Each year, International Women’s Day is a reminder of how far we still have to go to closing the gender gap and achieving gender parity.

At the same time, it’s an opportunity to pay tribute to the inspirational women who are playing vital roles in our economies and societies. This year, in particular, the world is recognizing the crucial role women are playing in the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

These women can offer important lessons for us all in furthering equality and making an impact in our work.

With that in mind, we asked Sarita Nayyar, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, to tell us about some of the women who have had a positive influence on her throughout her career. Here are five of the women who inspire her, in her words.

Maya Angelou, poet and author

Maya Angelou has inspired me to think differently. She overcame challenges and was still able to focus on the future and stay optimistic. She encouraged everyone to be part of the solution – that’s what I find most motivational.

I keep coming back to her book Letter to My Daughter. It speaks to my experiences growing up as one of three girls with a mother who encouraged us to never let gender inequality deter us from excelling and following our passions. Her words resonate with me on a personal and professional level.

Indra Nooyi, former chairman and CEO, PepsiCo.

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 27JAN08 - Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo, USA; Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2008, captured during the session 'Message from Davos: Believing in the Future' at the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 27, 2008. Copyright by World Economic Forum    swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger+++No resale, no archive+++
Image: World Economic Forum

I had the privilege of working with Indra Nooyi when she was chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. The corporate world is an extremely competitive environment – one where typically CEOs may only last a few years – and here you have an Asian woman not only served in the role for over a decade but made her mark.

She introduced the concept of “performance with a purpose,” of delivering business results but doing so in way that served broader social and environmental goals. She had challenge after challenge thrown her way from activist investors, and she persevered, with the support of her board, with commitment and poise.

Bridgette Heller, former executive at Danone, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft Food

I worked with Bridgette Heller when we were both at Kraft Foods. She was my contemporary, my peer, and I learned a lot from her example.

Bridgette was always looking to engage the organization better towards gender and racial equality and diversity. All of us in our careers will come to a moment where we have an opportunity to make a decision about who we bring to a team or who we promote. We have to bring diversity into that decision-making.

She excelled at that work in an environment that was largely filled with men. She inspired me to always strive to speak up for diversity and inclusion in my own work.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organization

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is incredibly accomplished and brilliant. She rose through the ranks at the World Bank over two decades to become the 2nd most senior person. She navigated the international landscape engaging stakeholders across multiple organizations to drive impact. As a two-time Finance Minister under two different Presidents. She brought innovation to her role as Nigerian finance minister, launching many programs to bring transparency and reduce corruption.

What’s more, she’s someone who is highly regarded by everyone. Everyone speaks about her with a level of admiration that is constant, which is saying something. Now, as head of the WTO, we can be sure she will continue to strive for impact and do things differently.

Dr. Kamal Malik

No list of inspirational women in my life would be complete without mentioning my mom.

She was always dedicated to education, becoming a doctor and then continuing to practice medicine even while married to a military officer who was positioned in various locations. It wasn’t easy. Her commitment to her career instilled in me that drive and that focus to achieve my goals.

She instilled in her three daughters a love for exploration, curiosity and education. We grew up in an environment in which women did not have the same opportunities as men and where she was expected to have a son. She never let that affect us, encouraging us to excel in our professional choices

Thanks to my mother’s example, I can be the only women in a room full of men executives, and it doesn’t bother me. She taught me not to rely on external recognition or acknowledgement but to be self-driven. Who I am, and where I am today in my career, is thanks to her. She was way ahead of her times. Thank you Mom!

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Climate action ‘both a priority and a driver of the decade’: Guterres

Finland is a world leader in clean energy. Here’s what’s driving its success

Trump’s Russophiles under investigation, Europe remains ‘en garde’

Syria war: executions condemned as violence continues ‘on both sides’ of border with Turkey

Now is the time to seize ‘unprecedented opportunity’ of the Sustainable Development Forum, says ECOSOC President

Afghanistan extends ceasefire with Taliban; UN urges both sides to work towards lasting peace

EU and China in search of a win-win agreement through strategic cooperation ahead of the EU-China summit

‘Wind blowing in the direction of peace’ in Africa: UN Secretary-General

Harnessing the power of nature in the fight against climate change

Rule of law in Hungary: Parliament should ask Council to act, say committee MEPs

COP25: ‘Signals of hope’ multiplying in face of global climate crisis, insists UN chief Guterres

Council Presidency: Floundering with the EU 2014 budget

EU Banks still get subsidies from impoverished citizens

Century challenge: inclusion of immigrants in the health system

State aid: Commission approves €53 million public support scheme for charging stations for low emission vehicles in Romania

Is China about to launch its own cryptocurrency?

European Health Union: Commission publishes open public consultation on the European Health Data Space

Trade preferences boost developing countries’ exports to the European Union

These are New York Public Library’s 10 most borrowed books

Bank resolutions to remain a politically influenced affair

China in my eyes

5 charts that show renewable energy’s latest milestone

Making the move to more sustainable mobility – three steps for companies

This young activist explains how to change the world in 3 steps

Hungary’s emergency measures: MEPs ask EU to impose sanctions and stop payments

Telemedicine: union when the rule is isolation

International partners pledge $1.2 billion to help cyclone-hit Mozambique recover, ‘build back better’

Vulnerable young people must not be blamed & stigmatised for violent radicalisation

Scotland wants to create an ethical stock exchange (Post Brexit)

Addressing the Challenges of COVID-19 Vaccination

The future of the plastics industry is green

A clean energy future with hydrogen could be closer than we think

Human rights breaches in Guinea Conakry and Madagascar

Art, mental health and suicide: different strategies for increasing access to health services

As human genome editing moves from the lab to the clinic, the ethical debate is no longer hypothetical

How debt for climate swaps could spur a green recovery

The UN’s unyielding effort to tackle sexual abuse and exploitation: our quarterly update

Security Union: Significant progress and tangible results over past years but efforts must continue

Impact investing in Latin America and addressing the ‘missing middle’

Governments must take further action to boost job opportunities at an older age

EUREKA @ European Business Summit 2014: Innovation across borders – mobilising national R&D funds for transnational innovation in Europe

The world’s impact in a small Brazilian town and the increased demand for mental health

Long-term EU budget: The Union’s ambitions must be matched with sufficient reliable funding

Time to pay up: UN summit to push for development finance breakthrough

‘Great cause of concern’ UN chief tells Security Council, surveying ‘bleak’ state of civilian protection

How Islamic finance can build resilience to climate change

Further reforms in France can drive growth, improve public finances and boost social cohesion

The best companies to work for in 2020, according to Glassdoor

Countries must up their game to reduce low birth weights, warns UN-backed report

Libya: EU efforts should focus on protecting migrants, MEPs say

MWC2021 Launches New Initiative to Widen Access for Spanish Industry Professionals

One in three children do not get the nutrition they need

Largest joint UN humanitarian convoy of the war, reaches remote Syrian settlement

Is the EU denying its social character favouring a banking conglomerate?

Why the UN is investigating poverty in the United Kingdom

Sustainable fishing staying afloat in developed world, sinking in poorer regions

A comprehensive strategy for Eurozone’s long term growth gains momentum

Silk Road Unlimited

This is how Europe is helping companies and workers as the coronavirus crisis deepens

UN chief announces progress on committee to shape Syria’s political future

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s