32 Powerful Women Share Their Hopes and Dreams for the Leaders of the Future
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
When you are launching a business, it can be easy to feel discouraged if things don't turn out you way you hoped. But when you start to doubt yourself, take a step back. Think about all the reasons why you want to keep going -- including the impact your efforts might have in the long run on others.
For Women's History Month, we asked 32 female leaders about their hopes for the next generation.
Teresa C. Younger, president and CEO of The Ms. Foundation for Women
Maggie Drake, co-founder and CEO of Bandolier
"I hope the next generation understands the importance of a good work ethic because hard work will help them find what they love. Everyone says 'do what you love' and it's true, but how do you know what that is? You have to work harder than everyone else and want to work harder than everyone else. If you find yourself doing both of these things, it's because you love what you're doing and that in itself, is true success.
Nikki Pechet, VP of marketing at Thumbtack
"My biggest hope for the next generation is that we give each and every child a fair shot from the day they are born. Babies born into poverty today start at a major disadvantage, and it gets worse as they approach kindergarten. From birth, kids from poor families miss out on singing, reading and talking that is part of everyday life for wealthier children, and they are less likely to attend formal pre-school. Which explains why low-income kids start kindergarten over a year behind other kids in language and pre-literacy skills."
Monica Long, SVP of marketing at Ripple
"We need to get serious about improving diversity in tech right now. That means holding our feet to the fire interviewing diverse candidate panels for jobs, investing in programs for girls and other underrepresented groups to get access to the tools and training to enter the field, and making role models more visible, to name a few ways to start moving the needle. I hope that the next generation doesn't have to spend their energy fighting for equal footing in the workplace and can instead do great things for the world, because we know diverse teams are smarter."
Beth Monaghan, CEO and co-founder of Inkhouse
"Opportunities for women will expand or contract based on our willingness to give. For women to gain momentum in the push toward equal opportunities, we have to be willing to reach back and pull other women up faster. This means we'll all need to release our attachments to the hard way we did things and help other women skip a few rungs on that ridiculous corporate ladder."
Donna Peeples, chief customer officer at Pypestream
"As a female that has worked in many male-dominate industries, I take my role as a mentor to other females very seriously. But being a mentor is often something that can be overlooked -- especially with how busy everyone seems to be. I hope the next generation remembers the people who took the time to mentor them and they pay it forward.
"While women have come a long way in business, there are still not enough female leaders, especially in the C-suite and serving on boards. We need to take accountability for that and help propel the next generation of women into these roles. In order to do this, we need to train the next generation to be able to be successful leaders by zooming in to understand discrete issues, while still being able to look at the overarching issues that affect the entire organization and connect the dots between the two."
Beth Devin, head of Innovation Network and Emerging Technologies at Citi Ventures
"My hope is that women are able to play an increasingly impactful/influential role in society, business and government. There are multiple studies that find that when there are more women in leadership roles, companies perform better. We need more female investors, healthcare developed by and for women, entrepreneurs, elected officials, etc.
"I strongly believe our chaotic world would benefit from more gender diversity. Most importantly, I look forward to a day when young girls and women enter the workforce confident and secure in their abilities, aware of their personal power and are ultimately respected for who they are."
Barbara Goose, CMO at John Hancock
"I hope the next generation continues to challenge the traditional ways of operating, motivating older generations to embody open-mindedness to new ideas. Their broad and creative thinking can help drive real change in our ever-evolving world - a phenomenon we're already seeing play out in the news."
Nidhi Gupta, SVP of product and engineering at Hired
"Creating opportunities for women has come a long way, but we still have changes to make for the next generation. For example, data shows that the gender wage gap might not close until the year 2152. My hope is that we prove this statistic wrong by changing the curve to allow the next generation to lead the way. My second hope is that this next generation will be exposed to more role models that look and think like them, or empower them to enter and stay in the tech industry."
Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation and chairman of the board of trustees at National Geographic
"My hope is that the millennial generation is the next greatest generation. I've long been a champion of this next generation, but our own research and that of others reveal some recent troubling trends -- for instance, for whatever reasons, they aren't voting at the same rate as other generations; they aren't striking out to start new businesses at the same rate as those who came before them. Research confirms that this generation has a deep sense of social justice and a desire to make an impact, so I hope that they will more fully embrace civic engagement, voting and entrepreneurship as these have been -- and likely will continue to be -- cornerstones of what makes America strong and helps communities thrive. So my hope is that the idealism and intent will turn to fearless action as they focus on making their mark on the world."
Kathy Hannan, national president and chairman of the board of Girl Scouts of the USA
Maria Jimenez-Lara, CEO of the Naples Children & Education Foundation
Nicole Opas, VP of Games at Zynga
"I hope the next generation uses all the information and access available to them to create deeper, more meaningful connections to people and ideas. While some may feel the next generation has it too easy, the fluidity of information may make it hard to be your authentic self. I hope the power of using social media, mobility and technology is channeled into positive things for individuals and society."
Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest.com
"My hope for the next generation is that they will feel empowered when it comes to financial planning. Money keeps many of us up at night, but it doesn't have to. Knowing the basics like how to create a budget, tackle your debt, the importance of contributing to your 401(k), etc., are things everyone should know how to do. Learning these things early are important. Having a plan gives you more financial confidence and puts you in control of your financial future."
Rachel Sumekh, founder and CEO of Swipe Out Hunger
Lisa Mae Brunson, founder of Wonder Women Tech
"I dream that the next generation will see the seeds we have planted blossom into a world that recognizes everyone as human, as equal. I have a dream that words like diversity and inclusion are no longer buzzwords, but are policy. Women and the underrepresented no longer march to be heard, but march to celebrate victories. I have a dream that one day we no longer marvel at the accomplishments of people of color, LGBTQ and the deaf and disabled as though we have witnessed some miraculous feat -- but instead we marvel at the beauty of their innovations and contributions for its own merit.
I have a dream that our next generation will solve the challenges that we have faced for centuries and will find alternative solutions to wars, create medical breakthroughs, utilize sustainable resources, innovate technology for social good, and build a government and policies that incorporate human rights, provides healthcare and housing for all, and brings people together. I do what I do so that the next generation can be inspired to carry the torch our collective ancestors have passed on to make the world a greater place."
Sarah Gerber, co-founder and CEO of Zero Gap
"I hope that the next generation has even more opportunities and experience and increased value of their contributions as women. I hope they will help take us all to the next level in achieving gender equity. I already see a level of strength and vulnerability in the next generation that I believe has the power to make great strides forward."
Lee Mayer, CEO and co-founder of Havenly
Gloria Larson, president of Bentley University
"More than ever, issues of gender equality and pay in the workplace are at the forefront of public consciousness and it is my hope that this elevated consciousness will lead to great change for the next generation. Researchers at the World Economic Forum Summit, held in January, said the gulf between men and women at work -- in both pay and status -- is likely to widen unless action is taken to tackle inequality in high-growth sectors such as technology.
"My hope is firmly rooted in what data tells us to be true. We know the business case for gender diversity is very strong and companies that embrace diversity have been shown to outperform those that don't. The newest data from McKinsey Global Institute shows diversity on executive teams is strongly correlated with profitability and value creation. In fact, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21 percent more likely to outperform on profitability and 27 percent more likely to have superior value creation. Wall Street is paying attention and taking action too, recently creating gender equality exchange-traded funds. These funds give investors the option to actively invest in companies that champion equality. Swiss banking firm UBS is the latest firm to offer one of these funds.
"A critical component of this is that men need to be part of the solution too. Equality in the workplace is not just a woman's issue, but it affects us all. The sooner men can understand how to fully be workplace allies, the sooner the pace of progress will quicken."
Amy Bowen, director of communications at Consigli Construction Co.
Meera Oliva, chief marketing officer at Gradifi
"I hope that we break the traditional model of leadership and begin to recognize that good leadership can take many diverse forms and styles."
Krista Anderson, chief customer officer at Okta
"I hope we get to a point where the next generation of women can show up as themselves and share what they think, without fear of judgment. Where they don't have to think, 'Am I being too feminine in the way I lead, speak or communicate?' I want women to be quiet or loud, smile or scowl in meetings, and live in a world where this all doesn't matter as long as you are professional and productive. What matters is the value they are bringing. I want people to stop interrupting women and stop questioning women's career aspirations. I want women and men to be judged and held to the same professional and behavioral standards. As a female leader today, I see it as my absolute duty to help pave the way -- to not think about if I am being too feminine, to interrupt when someone interrupts me, to be bold and ask the tough questions."
Glenda McNeal, president of enterprise strategic partnerships at American Express
"That they are present and engaged, balancing the dependence on social media -- as to understand the power of human connections. As we build authentic relationships, one-on-one or in small groups, we learn about ourselves as we learn from others.
That effective communication skills -- listening and speaking -- breaks down barriers, builds trust, inspires and creates loyalty. In my relationships, personally and professionally, I have learned that it is better to understand than to be right. That they choose courage, practice humility and are compassionate. That they use their voices for good."
Koel Thomae, co-founder of Noosa Yoghurt
"For starters, there are a lot more women in the game now than ever and I hope that trend continues especially in the natural foods world! I'm so lucky to be in Boulder, Colo., which is a hotbed for emerging food trends, so I get to see things bubble up. I also hope to continue to see Americans, especially emerging food brands, warming up to more globally-inspired culinary trends more than they did 10 or 20 years ago. It's great to see that people are being more adventurous when it comes to their palates. I also hope to see women seeking strong female mentors out and lifting up each other's businesses and creative processes; staying curious as female leaders is the best thing we can do no matter what industry we're in."
Cristina Mariani-May, CEO of Banfi Vintners
"I hope to see the next generation of female leaders inspired by the women before them, to feel empowered, and to continue to break barriers -- particularly in the wine and spirits industry, which is dominated almost exclusively by men at the upper management and executive levels. Women have unique qualities that are assets in leadership roles -- just as men have their unique qualities -- and it makes sense to have a balance of each for any company."
Lourdes Martin-Rosa, president of Government Business Solutions
"Today, we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. Embrace information toward your business growth. It's been exciting to experience the surge of growth opportunities for women in business. Women business owners no longer have to adhere to particular stereotypes. I look forward to seeing the next generation of women become leaders and experts in their fields, using strong values to lead strong organizations. I hope to see them welcome other women competitors as viable teaming partners, which will allow them to expand their knowledge and resources. And of course, I hope to see more women-owned businesses play a more proactive role in both the public and private sectors. Also for those wanting to explore becoming entrepreneurs I would share these wise words from Winston Churchill: 'Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.'"
Linda Kozlowski, chief operating officer at Etsy
"My hope is that the efforts to make women in leadership positions more mainstream will be second nature for the next generation of women. We'll know these efforts have been successful when 'women's leadership' becomes synonymous with just 'leadership' and we no longer have to discuss equal pay or gender diversity because progress will have been made. I don't expect it to be perfect, and I don't expect it to happen overnight, but my hope is that the next generation accepts diversity of all kinds as the norm."
Melanie Allen, chief marketing officer at Brooks
"My hope for the next generation is that they never feel limited by a glass ceiling or the number of people who look like them at the top. There are so many great examples of the next generation of leaders pushing past traditional boundaries both for themselves and for others. I hope these examples inspire all generations of leaders to create their own limitless journey."
Jennifer Glanville, brewery manager and brewer at Sam Adams
"My hope is that we as individuals have a comfortable and inclusive world, from the workplace to social settings. On the professional side, I hope women feel empowered in the workplace. As a general rule, whenever I speak with my female team members, they're less likely than male team members to highlight their achievements, have a conversation about salary or advocate for what they deserve. In the future, I hope women feel empowered to speak up and have professional environments that allow them to do so."
Jessica Spaulding, owner and founder of Harlem Chocolate Factory
"It may sound cliche, but I hope to see more young people following their dreams. Growing up where I grew up, in the Harlem community, dreams were a luxury that a lot of people couldn't afford to have. That's a big reason why it's so important to me to have Harlem Chocolate Factory represent this thriving community and what can happen when you follow your passions. Everything we make is inspired by Harlem and its history and in return I hope we can inspire the next generation.
If you're lucky enough to have a dream, you should follow it. I think so many young people are afraid to ask for help, and just follow the path that's been laid out for them, but you can use the resources that are available to you to follow the path you desire.
Education is also another essential component. It's important to arm yourself with as much information as possible, and that can come through traditional methods like school or mentorship. No matter what your dream is, you need to have the drive to follow through and if you're doing something you truly love you will have the resilience to succeed as long as you arm yourself with the proper tools."
Cathy Polinsky, chief technology officer at Stitch Fix
"My hope is that the next generation of girls see that being a CTO is absolutely possible and available to them. You can't be what you don't see and when I was growing up, there were too few women in technical fields. It's so important that women know that a career path in technology (STEM) is available and I'm a big advocate for supporting other women in technical fields. I want women and girls everywhere to see a world of possibility -- regardless of what their interests are.
I'm surrounded by smart, passionate and accomplished men and women in a wide range of roles at Stitch Fix. I hope that five years from now, we see more female venture capitalists, more female founders and more female board members. Second, I hope that they're simply known as leaders and the next generation's idea of success and leadership is far broader as a result."