11 Ambitious Women on How to Be More Powerful
It’s an exciting time to be a woman in the world. So many of our favourite female leaders are standing up and speaking out to help women regain their power and to educate and inspire them to achieve personal success and officially bridge the gender gap. But despite their efforts, women are still underrepresented in STEM fields, tech, politics, film, and more. To help change this, we looked to some of our inspirational sisters for their quotes on summoning your inner ambition. Scroll down to feel empowered.
When actress Reese Witherspoon cofounded her production company, Pacific Standard, she was shocked by the lack of female leads in Hollywood. Speaking at the recent Glamour Women of the Year awards, Witherspoon addressed the industry’s double standards, the sexist behaviour she’s encountered, and why it’s important for women to be ambitious and speak out if we want to see change. “I believe ambition is not a dirty word, it’s believing in yourself and your abilities,” she said. “Imagine this: What would happen if we were all brave enough to believe in our own ability, to be a little more ambitious. I think the world would change.”
As the American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American principal dancer in its 75-year history, Misty Copeland is forging a new landscape for minority women. She wrote a memoir, Life in Motion, which is now a New York Times best-seller, and her Under Armour commercial, “I Will What I Want,” went viral. In an interview with The Washington Post, she spoke about the importance of self-belief and forging your own path. "Belonging shouldn't mean you are like everyone else. You want to feel accepted, but you don't have to look like everyone around you, you don't have to follow the exact same path as someone before you. I think that's been my experience—that it's okay to be different, it's okay to be unique, that you can set your own path,” she said.
Charlize Theron is a modern crusader for equal rights and female empowerment. The Oscar-winning actress is a U.N. messenger of peace, and in 2007, she founded the Africa Outreach Project to help keep African youth safe from HIV and AIDS; a big part of this is education. Theron joined First Lady Michelle Obama on stage at Glamour’s "The Power of an Educated Girl" panel recently to launch governmentwide initiative, Let Girls Learn, that supports and encourages education for women worldwide. She had this to say about smart women: “There is nothing sexier than a smart woman. We have been told to live by a certain mold, especially women, and it's time to break it and it's up to us to do that. Stop waiting for men to do that; look in the mirror and see yourself and say, 'I am sexy, I am attractive, I am smart, I am intelligent, I am powerful, I have a voice, I look cute in these jeans.' Yes, I don't have long hair, I have short hair, but I am still a girl and I'm still hot.”
As one of the world’s most successful female actresses, it’s hard to believe Nicole Kidman ever doubted herself. But at the Women in Film’s Crystal + Lucy Awards dinner, she said that as teenager, she was a “living metaphor for what had always held women back,” and she spent her entire career rejecting the industry’s expectations to honor her power as a woman. “I was afraid of my own power, afraid that it would threaten people, intimidate people, and it's a great sadness wishing to be less than you actually are,” she said. “And it's hard to take on the world when you're constantly in a battle with yourself. I worked through it; I’m working through it.”
Australian actress Cate Blanchett is a formidable force. She is the epitome of beauty and strength, and she is a living example that a woman can be both of these things if she so chooses. This inner power is visually present both on- and off-screen. She exudes confidence, integrity, and artistic intelligence. But reaching her level of success takes more than talent: It’s about dedication and discipline. “Someone might have a germ of talent, but 90% of it is discipline and how you practice it, what you do with it,” she told Vanity Fair. “Instinct won’t carry you through the entire journey. It’s what you do in the moments between inspiration.”
Kerry Washington is more than just an actor; She is also a vocal advocate for human rights and equality. Speaking at the recent GLAAD Awards, the Scandal star called for minority groups to stand together in the fight. “I don't decide to play the characters I play as a political choice,” she said. “Yet the characters I play often do become political statements. Because having your story told as a woman, as a person of color, as a lesbian, as a transperson, or as any member of any disenfranchised community, is sadly often still a radical idea. There is so much power in storytelling, and there is enormous power in inclusive storytelling, in inclusive representations.”
At just 26, Cheryl Strayed left her familiar surroundings for the wild... literally. In 1995, she strapped on a backpack and set off solo on the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail. She wrote about the transformative experience in a memoir, Wild, which become one of Hollywood’s most feminist films of the year, starring Reese Witherspoon. So far, the film has earned $34 million USD worldwide, inspiring a new generation of PCT trekkers and positioning Strayed as a feminist icon. Early on in the book, she refers to the challenges of being a woman and how she hoped to shed those “notions of femininity” on her PCT hike. “I’d been a girl forever, after all, familiar with and reliant upon the powers my very girliness granted me,” she told The Guardian. “Suppressing those powers gave me a gloomy twinge in the gut. It’s a really interesting part of being a woman, especially a young woman, and especially somebody who has been conventionally attractive. I think most young women go through this experience.”
She went on, “I’m just fascinated by the fact that the main power we grant young women in our culture is the power of their beauty and sexual appeal to men. And we also punish them for cashing in on it and admitting to it.”
Is there anything Victoria Beckham can’t do? She went from Posh the pop star in the Spice Girls to a fashion force to be reckoned with. Her self-titled label has won over the industry elite and just about every celebrity in Hollywood. On top of that, she's a busy mother of four, wife to football star David Beckham, and international goodwill ambassador for UNAIDS—that’s some incredible work ethic right there—and now she wants to throw her influence behind female empowerment. “It started with the Spice Girls and girl power, and I want to send that same message to women through my collections,” she said told the Glamour Women of the Year Awards crowd. “I want to support, empower, and really make women feel like the best versions of themselves.”
Since her role as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker has redefined what it means to be a modern woman. SATC quickly became the “new voice” for the next generation of women, challenging society's traditional expectations. This clearly rubbed off in her personal life when she challenged herself to create her own shoe line, SJP Collection. Now the entrepreneur runs a shoe empire. She told InStyle how she summoned the lady boss within to make it happen: “Do not allow failure to be your undoing. I'm in a position to fail because I have the resources to cushion my failures. But for most people in this country who work incredibly hard, a setback can be catastrophic. Luck and hard work have something to do with success, but it's often the relationships you cultivate that can help you regroup.”
Ever since Emily Ratajowski starred in the explicit “Blurred Lines” music video, she has had to defend herself. Instead of being privy to the public backlash, she turned it into a platform for speaking her mind about female empowerment and owning your sexuality. “I think you can be a sexual woman, empowered and be a feminist. I think sexuality should be empowering to women; it's not always misogynistic or exploitative,” she told The Daily Mail. The Gone Girl star thinks women should have a right to be sexy and be taken seriously. “You get people who are like, ‘If you want to be taken seriously as an actress, don't post any sexy photos.’ And that's… You can do whatever you want—that's what being a woman is,” she told The Los Angeles Times.
Courtesy of J.K. Rowling
Despite many setbacks, single mum J.K. Rowling pushed on with her book about a young wizard, determined to see it succeed. She finally sold Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for a mere $4000, but the fantasy series went onto become an international hit, one of the most popular book and film franchises in history. Rowling never stopped believing in herself, and she says setbacks are what make you stronger. In her Harvard Alumni Association commencement address, she said, “The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.”
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