women entrepreneurs

10 Incredible Quotes That Make the Case for Women in Business Leadership

The woman leader is a minority in business. But why? The business world isn’t made up of pre-pubescent boys running a ‘No Girls Allowed’ club out of a treehouse, is it? If so, it’s time to let the down the ladder. We need to change the paradigm, and not just because it’s ‘the right thing to do’.

In 2014, the Peterson Institute for International Economics conducted a massive global survey on women in leadership positions. Out of nearly twenty-two thousand firms, 60 percent had no female board members. Over half had no female executives, and less than 5 percent had female CEOs. But here’s the key finding: “For profitable firms, a move from no female leaders to 30 percent representation is associated with a 15 percent increase in the net revenue margin.” Imagine what a 50 percent female representation would yield.

The perspective and prowess women bring to leadership has a positive impact on revenue. This makes sense because a diversity of perspective, coupled with decision-making, breeds innovation. If businesses won’t adapt to women in leadership roles, they’ll lose out to those that do.

The Power of Perspective

Successful women entrepreneurs are equipped with valuable perspectives on what it means to be a leader in business. So, for this discussion on female leaders, I’d like to take a different approach. Each of the following sections comments on the wise words from Square’s list of 10 inspirational quotes by women entrepreneurs:

1. “Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It’s the mastery of fear. It’s about getting up one more time than we fall down.” —Arianna Huffington, Editor in Chief of The Huffington Post

Is your organization afraid to change? When there’s a lack of diversity in leadership, fear is quite often a motivating factor. Putting a woman in leadership may result in a shake-up—it may cause your company to think differently about how you value employees and how you solve problems. No one is without fear; it’s what you do with fear that separates you from those who give in to it.

2. “Follow your passion — and if you don’t know what it is, realize that one reason for your existence on earth is to find it.”   —Oprah Winfrey

Where would your business be if you took this advice? Case in point: IndieGoGo and its co-founder, Danae Ringelmann. Formerly a Securities Analyst at Cowen & Co., she’s “passionate about empowering artists, activists and entrepreneurs with the tools and know-how to raise money with their social graph”—and she’s outspoken about it. Today, IndieGoGo is one of the largest crowd-funding sites on the web, and Fast Company has named Ms. Ringelmann one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Technology. Where would she be if she hadn’t followed her passion? Still a Securities Analyst at Cowen & Co.  

3. “I want every little girl who’s been told she’s bossy to be told again she has leadership skills.” —Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook

Are you in the tech sector looking to take the next step? Before Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, there were women in technology who set the precedent for innovation. Grace Hopper invented the first compiler for computer programming languages during WWII. Margaret Hamilton coined the phrase ‘software engineering’ and wrote the code NASA used for the Apollo 11 moon landing. These women weren’t told they were leaders, but the world still benefitted from their innate talent. Today, tech companies such as Facebook, that recognize female leadership skills, benefit from it and are at the forefront of the industry.

4. “The difference between skill and talent: A skill is something you learn. Talent is what you can’t help doing.” —Caroline Ghosn, founder and CEO of career site Levo

Does your company make it a priority to recognize leadership talent in women? Caroline Ghosn and Amanda Pouchot are the founders of the career-building site for Millennials, Levo. In 2011 they recognized their own talent and left McKinsey & Company to start Levo. The site has raised over $8 million in funding and has over 9 million users. Clearly, McKinsey missed out by not putting these women in leadership to begin with.

5. “Build your business success around something that you love — something that is inherently and endlessly interesting to you.” —Martha Stewart, businesswoman, writer, and television personality

Is your business based on something you absolutely love? Note Martha’s not saying ‘build your business success around a marketable model’, or, ‘build your business success around something that will give you a continuing return on an investment’. This is an example of what women can bring to leadership—the daring and legitimacy to be successful with something you love, not just something that will help you ‘bring home the bacon’.

6. “In whatever you do, you’re not going to stand out unless you think big and have ideas that are truly original. That comes from tapping into your own creativity, not obsessing over what everyone else is doing.” —Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal

Are you thinking big with your business, or just settling for what works? The story behind Nasty Gal is about as huge as it gets. Amorusa started selling vintage clothing on ebay in 2006 and then harnessed social media to grow her company into a multi-million dollar retailer, with $49 million in funding by 2012. Nasty Gal grew 11,200% in three years, all based on the idea that you can make old things new again through e-commerce and networking.

7. “Surround yourself with a trusted and loyal team. It makes all the difference.” —Alison Pincus, cofounder of One Kings Lane

Do you prioritize employee morale in your operation? Pincus’ words here aren’t just lip- service to the idea of camaraderie: a trusted and loyal team outperforms the competition by 20 percent. Entrepreneurial success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Women are well-equipped to be leaders because they naturally understand the value of cooperation. In fact, a study found women cooperate better than men. The business world is becoming increasingly social. According to Base Creative strategist Woody Yip, gender neutralism is one of the key trends to watch in 2016. “This suggests that women will have rising power in consumer markets,” Yip says. As a result, “Gender dynamics will change rapidly in culture.”

8. “Life-fulfilling work is never about the money — when you feel true passion for something, you instinctively find ways to nurture it.” —Eileen Fisher, fashion designer

Is your work in line with your true passion? This may be the key takeaway from these quotes. Successful women entrepreneurs such as Eileen Fisher are passionate about what they do. We all know how dull work can be without passion. Is fear of failure stopping you from a passionate pursuit?

9. “I wake up every morning and think to myself, ‘How far can I push the company forward in the next 24 hours?’” —Leah Busque, founder and CEO of TaskRabbit

Do you think about pushing your business further every day? Originally, TaskRabbit was an on-demand internet service that operated on an auction model. But Busque noted a level of dissatisfaction with the model. Even though the website already had 1.25 million users and $38 million in funding, she wasn’t afraid to change the model to adapt. This type of adaptive thinking is exactly what women can bring to leadership roles.

10. “Nobody talks about entrepreneurship as a survival skill, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking. Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science; it’s about trading: buying and selling.” —Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

Have you examined the basic, fundamental crux of running a business? Anita Roddick hits on a simple truth of entrepreneurship, and business here. By doing so she touches the core of what it takes to succeed. It’s about understanding the basics and putting your understanding into action.

As we move further into the new world of work, organizations that understand women can make great leaders, organizations that act on this truth, will be on the forefront of the new economy.      

Daniel Matthews is a freelance writer and introvert who specializes in careful analysis, communication, and culture. A firm believer in the power of the written word, his mission is to help people think differently about the world, but he's also a firm believer in not taking himself too seriously.

  • Daniel, this is one of my favorite articles I’ve read this year! I professionally speak at leadership conferences on the power of positive self-disruption on average 2 days a week for 40 weeks every year, and have been doing so for over two decades… I’m still looking out to leadership audiences dominated by men. Your article is a wonderful call to action for organisations around the globe to get serious about balancing the ledger in gender leadership. Warmly, David

    • Daniel Matthews

      Thanks David! I appreciate the kind words. It was a pleasure to write this one, so I’m really glad it was a pleasure to read.

      Women as business leaders! Let’s keep people talking. Let’s convert the discussion into action.

      Best regards, David!

  • andrea arena

    Thoughtful and inspiring! Great work!

    • Daniel Matthews

      Thanks Andrea!

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