10 Inspiring Women On What Makes Them Feel Their Most Powerful
To celebrate International Women’s Day, 10 formidable leaders from around the world share their thoughts on what makes them feel their most powerful or self-assured. Read on for collected wisdom from Jacinda Ardern, Anna Lee, Elif Shafak and more.
Malala Yousafzai, Kristi Mansfield, Anna Lee, Indra Nooyi, Sunita Gloster and Lara Brownlow for International Women's Day 2022.

Lead image, L-R, clockwise: Malala Yousafzai, Kristi Mansfield, Anna Lee, Indra Nooyi, Sunita Gloster (photo by Tim Levy via AdNews) and Lara Brownlow.


Anna Lee, COO, The Iconic

“Feeling powerful starts with the right mindset. I try to tackle every situation with a ‘can-do’ rather than a ‘can’t do’ attitude. It’s also really important to get the basics right, like exercising regularly, eating well, meditating often and sleeping in a disciplined rhythm. When I nail those, I have inner strength to tackle whatever life throws at me, from solving complex problems, resolving conflict constructively to overcoming difficult situations. I am always mindful to show kindness and support others – to make a positive impact on those around me. When I’m the best version of myself, I walk with a sense of confidence and a belief that I can do anything I want. Nothing is more powerful than that.”


Sunita Gloster, CEO Gloster Advisory, Non Executive Director, Advisor Accenture, UN Women Australia

“Making stuff happen is what makes me feel my most powerful. I am the daughter of Indian parents who chose to call Australia home in 1974, just as the White Australia Policy ended. My parents were so grateful for the welcome, they planted a huge seed of ‘doing good’ in me; to make everything I could around me better; to use my voice and my talents to be part of something; to belong. It’s a cocktail of assimilation, mixed with the Asian stereotypes of ambition, faith and gratitude.

“I gravitated to a career in advertising, a powerful tool to shape attitudes and behaviours. I’ve made stuff happen; I’ve delivered commercial outcomes – I still do. Real power is being able to influence hearts and minds. The moment I am most proud of is being part of an incredible coalition of people that created the When Will She Be Right? campaign for UN Women Australia. With zero budget for media and production, we created work that 24 million Australians saw. It is a message that agitates for accelerated change for the security, safety and equality of women. That felt powerful, making stuff happen for good. Using my skills and experience to play even the tiniest role in influencing change.”


Indra Nooyi, Former CEO, PepsiCo

“Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organisation. I’ve never forgotten that.” Fast Company.


Lara Brownlow, Head of Agency & Channel Sales, LinkedIn ANZ

“I am powerful because I am empowered! My empowerment is driven by three key factors. One, the purpose-driven company that I work for, that is doing so much good in the world and trusts us with flexibility to do work where best suits me. Two, an excellent network which is comprised of the best husband, parents and carers that help me manage full-time work and raising my little ones. And three, last but not least, something that is so important to me and that has only developed over time, is a strong sense of self; allowing me to be confident in my core values and abilities as a leader.”


Malala Yousafzai, Activist

“Some people only ask others to do something. I believe that why should I wait for someone else? Why don’t I take a step and move forward? When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” The Boston Globe.


Kristi Mansfield, Co-Founder & CEO, Seer Data & Analytics

“Calling out what needs to change, and then taking the actions to create the change, undergo the reform, or innovate is an act of service that’s both simultaneously confidence-building, and humbling. I think taking purposeful, constructive action has imbued in me a strength and energy that propels me forward. It also sustains me. It’s a force I draw on regularly, especially when collaborating with other people and supporting them in their own purposeful actions. Sometimes it feels unstoppable; to me this is genuine power.”


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Elif Shafak, Kamala Harris, Melinda French Gates and Jacinda Ardern.
L-R clockwise: Elif Shafak, Kamala Harris, Melinda French Gates and Jacinda Ardern.

Elif Shafak, Author

“I feel most powerful and most assured when I understand my own flaws and failures and follies; when I learn to love and embrace who I am, just as I am, not some imaginary perfect person shaped by somebody else’s expectations, but a real, imperfect human being with myriad conflicts, doubts and scars, as well as curiosity and empathy. That kind of openness to learning, that kind of compassionate wisdom, is something I treasure.” Porter


Melinda French Gates, Philanthropist

“To me, empowerment means if a woman has her voice and her agency. Can she say what she thinks needs to be said in any setting? Does she have the agency to make decisions on behalf of herself and her family? If you sit on a corporate board and you don’t think you can voice what you’re seeing on that board or in that corporation that is wrong, then you don’t have your voice …” The Cut.


Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” New York Times


Kamala Harris, Vice-President of the United States

“I hope that by being a ‘first’, I inspire young people to pursue their dreams. The number of times I’ve heard the word ‘no’ – or that something can’t be done – in my lifetime is too many to count. I’m honoured to be considered a ‘first’, but I always think about the people who came before and paved the way for me to get where I am today. From Rosa Parks to Shirley Chisholm to Congressman John Lewis, I stand on the shoulders of so many great men and women before me.” Harper’s Bazaar.


Like what you’ve read and want to read more? We recommend 22 Women On What They Wish They Knew At 22. The founders, directors, authors and artists share the words of wisdom they’d give their younger selves.