One of the things that I love the most about my role at Linkage is the incredible group of women leaders who I get to interact with every day. As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day together, we’ve put together a list of women who have inspired us to live our best lives and reach our full potential.
This year’s theme is #BalanceForBetter, a challenge to forge a more gender-balanced world through the celebration of women’s achievement and taking action for equality. This focus is very near and dear to our mission to achieve gender parity in the workforce.
Here are some of the women–some we know personally, some we don’t–who we look to for inspiration:
“I am inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Among the first women to attend Harvard Law School, she was an early fighter against gender inequity and bias. She was courageous in her conviction about how the country needed to evolve, along with the laws that could accelerate change. She experienced extreme personal and professional struggles, but continued to ascend to the very top of her field. This year, I was also particularly inspired by Simone Biles and the entire U.S. Gymnastics Team. Despite suffering horrific abuse by the trainer who was supposed to protect her, Biles has become the most decorated Olympic gymnast of all time, while speaking out to ensure no one else suffers the abuse that has riddled the U.S. Gymnastics organization.” –Jennifer McCollum, CEO of Linkage
“I’m inspired by Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. Reshma found her calling to fuel the movement for gender parity in computer science, which had nothing to do with her career path of being a lawyer and politician. I believe all genders should experience vast and varied learning opportunities so they can follow their dreams and contribute to a bright future.” –Angela Hicks, Instructional Designer–Linkage North America
“I meet inspirational women every day thanks to my role at Linkage! Therefore, selecting just one woman is a challenge. However, having just finished Becoming, Michelle Obama is now at the top of my inspirational woman leader list. I was in awe of her honesty, vulnerability and grace as she shared her personal journey into the woman she is today. A powerful quote that I try to remember every day: “My job, I realized, was to be myself, to speak as myself. And so I did.” –Kerry Seitz, Director of the Women in Leadership Institute
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the way for gender equality and did so with smarts, inclusion, and conviction. She inspires me and makes me proud to be alive at a time when she is serving on the Supreme Court. She is a living legend. Legally, she paved some critical pathways and opened important doors for women. I’m inspired to help women walk through those doors.” –Susan MacKenty Brady, EVP Linkage Solutions
“My mom, Bonne Niven, raised me as a single mom, while balancing a heavy career. She has always been my inspiration to “have and do it all”. She has been a director of human resources for 30+ years and is a constant source of mentoring and advice, and she pushes me to grow in my career and personally. She doesn’t put social pressures on me to settle down, and that is a relief for a single woman in her 30’s! My mom introduced me to the leadership development industry in 2012, and I have never turned back. My passion for leading high performing teams has come to life as the manager of operations at Linkage. I am so grateful she has supported me to continue to be the best I can be for myself and others.” –Ashley Niven, Manager of Operations–Linkage North America
“Aside from my mother, I am most inspired by my Grandma on my mom’s side. She was the first female lifeguard in her town in New Jersey and was one of the first women to play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She is a strong and caring woman. She taught me to treat everyone with respect and patience. She is a firm believer that women can do anything, just as well–if not better!–than men. The knowledge she gave me has helped shape my career, how I interact with people, and who I strive to be.” –Kirsten Ruf, Commercial Operations Project Manager–Linkage North America
“The woman who inspires me is Jane Fonda because she has a purpose and goes after it. She tells us to accept who we are and be comfortable with it, learn from the past but not live in it, and she tells us that age brings wisdom. Now in her eighties, she is truly amazing. She has achieved so much–and she is willing to accept differences.” –Salwa Al-Sharqawi, President of Linkage Middle East
“I am greatly inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook–she is one of the most influential woman leaders in the corporate world. Her TED Talk and book Lean In has really influenced my understanding of leadership. Sandberg focuses on the reasons behind the lack of women leaders in the world today and what we can do to reverse the norms to encourage more women to reach to the top and achieve real equality. She tells us that a successful leader needs specialized people skills–beside common competencies such as having a clear vision, strong will, and a can-do attitude. Her insights contributed greatly to the progress of women leaders inside and outside of the corporate world and she has inspired a new generation of both male and female feminists.” –Linh Ngo, Consultant–Linkage Asia
“Since my adolescent years, my mother has had an indelible influence on me. She has taught at a teacher’s college for more than 30 years, nurturing thousands of future educators. Her dedication to education has not only empowered her current students, but also spilled over to the children these students will go on to teach in the future. She inspired me to find meaningful impact by pursuing a career in leadership development. Through leadership development interventions, we create a positive ripple effect, in which the betterment of top-level leadership cascades down to thousands of employees and stakeholders in large multinational companies around the world.” –Chris Liu, Consultant–Linkage Asia
“Our Virgin Mother Mary has a huge impact on my life, both personally and professionally. Mother Mary guides and inspires me to be a faithful follower of God and to fully trust and firmly believe in God’s will and plans in all situations. Mother Mary is filled with grace and humility. She never boasts of her holiness or worthiness and has always been extremely humble–but never timid. She stuck up for what she believed in with a humble countenance and strong determination. She inspires me to be always humble and remain graceful in finding the balance between seemingly contradictory things, which may seem hard to do.” –Christina Khoo, Program Manager–Linkage Asia
“A fierce and outspoken woman who stood up to the Taliban at a very young age, Malala Yousafzai is an advocate for a woman’s right to education and she is the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Her strength and dedication to a women’s right to education is something that has instilled a sense of respect in me.” –Namratha Komanduri, Associate Consultant–Linkage Asia
“My mother is my biggest source of inspiration. Even though she passed away from cancer nine years ago, the values and lessons she imparted throughout my life continues to resonate deeply with me and plays a role in every key decision I make. Now that I am a mother myself, I hear my mother’s voice coming out of my own mouth as I do my best to impart the same life lessons to my children! Thinking of others before self, showing compassion to all, embracing discipline, having a generous spirit, and being grateful for the little things were just some of the principles she demonstrated throughout her life. She had a super colorful life, from kindergarten teacher to pub owner–and all my friends thought she was much cooler than me. Even throughout her sickness, she never once complained or whined about her situation. She was always smiling and always grateful for the blessings God had given her!” –Desley Khew, Managing Consultant–Linkage Asia
So, tell us: What woman inspires you? How has she impacted you, personally or professionally?