Powerful Quotes From Black Women Bosses on International Women’s Day

To feel empowered today, consider the words of powerhouses like Shirley Chisholm, Shonda Rhimes, and Mellody Hobson on International Women's Day

(Bozoma Saint John, Head of Global Marketing for iTunes & Beats Music and one of Black Enterprise’s “Most Powerful Women in Business.” Photo credit: Apple, Inc.)

 

This year’s International Women’s Day is a special one. Not only are women being recognized and celebrated for their strengths, which the holiday has aimed to do since its inception in 1911, but this year it corresponds with the “Day Without a Woman” boycott, in which protesters around the nation are uniting for a one-day demonstration to remind people of the valuable contributions women make to the workforce.

Recent research by the Center for American Progress shows that if all paid female workers simultaneously took one day off from work, it would cost the U.S. nearly $21 billion in gross domestic product (GDP). The study, entitled A Day in the U.S. Economy Without Women, also found that women’s labor contributes $7.6 trillion to the U.S. each year.

In the U.S., women make up almost 47% of the workforce, according to United States Department of Labor’s statistics. In 2016, the agency reported that there were about 10.2 million black women in the labor force in 2015, representing one in seven women in the labor force. Of those, 9.3 million were employed, particularly in management and professional occupations.

According to the agency, black women currently earn more than ever and continue to be more likely than other women to participate in the labor force. In 2015, six in 10 black women were employed or actively looking for work—but the wage gap is still stark. The DOL stated that the annual earnings of black women are nearly 20% less than white, non-Hispanic women, and 40% less than white, non-Hispanic men.

There’s no doubt that a black woman sitting in a boardroom, standing on the Senate floor, steering a corporation, or changing the face of what’s shown on television is a vital part of this country’s evolution. Therefore, it’s only fitting that on this day we share some meaningful and empowering quotes from black, female bosses, who continuously show us what it means to make bold moves that initiate substantial change.

Whether you’re protesting today by marching or taking the day off, or you’re demonstrating your solidarity with the Day Without a Woman cause by choosing to only shop at small, minority-owned, and minority-women-owned businesses or wearing red, the words of wisdom from these unapologetic, female trailblazers will remind you of the enormous value black women bring to the workplace. Today is about having pride in the power of womanhood, and these quotes are sure to inspire and encourage you to speak up, speak out, work harder, and live boldly.

 

On Speaking Up:

 

“I didn’t learn to be quiet when I had an opinion. The reason they knew who I was is because I told them.” ― Ursula Burns, Chairman, Xerox 

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” ― Oprah Winfrey, CEO, Harpo, Inc.

 

On Maintaining Authenticity in the Face of Limitations:

 

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” ―Shirley Chisholm, former congresswoman representing New York’s 12th Congressional District and the first black woman elected to Congress

“Never compromise who you are personally to become who wish to be professionally. The most expensive real estate you’ll ever own resides between your two ears; be selfish about what you allow to happen on that property.” Janice Bryant Howroyd, CEO, ACT-1 Group

“One of the things I discovered a long time ago was that it’s a waste of energy to spend a lot of time agonizing over how people will receive you. I’m not suggesting that you barrel through life willy-nilly, but I am suggesting that we stop trying to allow other people’s potential prejudices, let alone actual prejudices, to paralyze us.” – Michele Roberts, Executive Director, National Basketball Players Association

“As you move up—as you engage more and more people in the company and take on broader roles—this idea of ‘looking the part’ becomes more and more of a challenge when you don’t look the part. But there’s nothing I can do, or wanted to do, about being a black female—I kind of like both of those things. So, at the end of the day, the people who were around me had to do a little bit more adjusting than I did.” ― Ursula Burns, Chairman, Xerox 

“Excellence is the best deterrent to racism and sexism.” ― Oprah Winfrey, CEO, Harpo, Inc.

“We must reject not only the stereotypes that others hold of us, but also the stereotypes that we hold of ourselves.”  ― Shirley Chisholm, former Congresswoman representing New York’s 12th Congressional District

“Definitions belong to the definer, not the defined.”  ― Toni Morrison, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Nobel Prize winner

 

On Femininity:

 

“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.”  ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, novelist, MacArthur Genius Grant recipient

“I trust my intuition implicitly. I don’t talk myself into anything and I don’t cut myself out of anything.” ― Bozoma Saint John, Head of Global Consumer Marketing, Apple music, Apple

“And frankly, being a woman I think gives me a slightly different take on a lot of the issues and on a lot of the solutions to the problems we face.” ― Carol Moseley Braun, former U.S. Senator (IL)

“I was raised to be an independent woman, not the victim of anything.” ― Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator (CA)

 

On Paving the Way for Other Women:

 

“Being powerful means helping someone else find their voice. Often folks take power to mean personal privilege. I think it means just the opposite. It’s a collective obligation to give back to make sure that the next person has a better opportunity than you have.”  ― Lisa Borders, President, WNBA

“There’s got to be someone who’s willing to do the tough job, there’s got to be someone who’s willing to say, ‘Ok, I’m going to break this ceiling. I’m going to be different, I’m going to be bold, I’m going to take a chance. I’m going to break the barriers so somebody else can come up behind me.’― Nadja Bellan-White, CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Africa at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide

“Making it through the glass ceiling to the other side was simply a matter of running on a path created by other women’s footprints.” ― Shonda Rhimes, Founder & CEO of Shondaland

 

On Trying and Taking Risks:

 

“The biggest risk of all is not taking one.” ― Mellody Hobson, President, Ariel Investments

“Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.” ― Carla Harris, vice chairman, Global Wealth Management & Managing Director & Senior Client Advisor, Morgan Stanley

“Dreams are lovely, but they are just dreams―fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.” ― Shonda Rhimes, Founder & CEO of Shondaland

“It’s not about knocking on closed doors. It’s about building our own house and having our own door.”  ― Ava DuVernay, director and screenwriter

 

Can we get a “raised hands” emoji?