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38 Powerful Quotes from Women Who Don't Mess Around

“I don’t take well to rules.”

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza
Content Strategist, InHerSight

Christiane Amanpour

Christiane Amanpour, 1996. Burns Library, Boston College via Flickr.

Your week needs a boost. You might be at the top of your game or struggling with self-doubt (or both), but there’s always room for wise words. For a little power in your week, check out these quotes from women who inspire us.

38 powerful quotes from women who don’t mess around

1. “I quickly decided to turn loss and failure into my driving force.” 

—Christiane Amanpour, international journalist, war correspondent, and television host

2. “In every position that I’ve been in, there have been naysayers who don’t believe I am qualified or don’t believe I can do the work. I feel a special responsibility in proving them wrong.”

—Sonia Sotomayor, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America

3. “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.”

—Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand

4. “‘Lucky’ implies that I was handed something I did not earn, that I did not work hard for...I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.”

—Shonda Rhimes, television show creator, producer, and writer 

5. “Truth is powerful, and it prevails.”

—Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate

6. “By doing the work to love ourselves more, I believe we will love each other better.”

—Laverne Cox, actress and LGBTQ+ advocate 

7. “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”

—Wilma Rudolph, world-record-holding Olympic sprinter

8. “Putting yourself out there is hard, but it's so worth it. I don't think anyone who has ever spoken out, or stood up or had a brave moment, has regretted it. It's empowering and confidence-building and inspiring. Not only to other people, but to yourself.”

—Megan Rapinoe, professional soccer player and World Cup champion

9. “One of the most important things for any leader is to never let anyone else define who you are. And you define who you are. I never think of myself as being a woman CEO of this company. I think of myself as a steward of a great institution.”

—Ginni Rometty, president, chair and CEO of IBM

10. “Every day, you have the power to choose our better history—by opening your hearts and minds, by speaking up for what you know is right.”

—Michelle Obama, lawyer and former First Lady of the United States of America

11. “Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.”

—Sandra Day O’Connor, former associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America and the first woman to serve on the court

12. “When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

—Audre Lorde, poet and civil rights activist

13. "The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity."

—Amelia Earhart, pilot and first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean

14. “People get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you're succeeding. People do not get scared when you're failing. It calms them. But when you're winning, it makes them feel like they're losing or, worse yet, that maybe they should've tried to do something too, but now it's too late. And since they didn't, they want to stop you. You can't let them.” 

—Mindy Kaling, actress, author and television show creator, producer, and writer

15. “I don’t take well to rules.”

—Aidy Bryant, actress and comedian

16. “Now it’s up to all of us, women and men alike, to make the next big push toward equality between men and women. We’ll have to start by changing how we think.” 

—Anne-Marie Slaughter, international lawyer, foreign policy analyst, political scientist and public commentator

17. “Luck has nothing to do with it. I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.”

—Serena Williams, professional tennis player and winner of 23 Grand Slams

18. “It is very important for a woman to believe there is nothing she cannot do.”

—Sahle-Work Zewde, president of Ethiopia and the first woman to hold the office

19. “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” 

—Alice Walker, novelist, short story writer, poet, and social activist.

20. “What does it take to be the first female anything? It takes grit. And it takes grace.”

—Meryl Streep, award-winning actress and producer 

21. “If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” 

—Shirley Chisolm, politician, educator, author, and the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress

22. “Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”

—Dolores Huerta, labor leader and civil rights activist

23. “It took me a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I’m not going to be silent.”

—Madeleine Albright, politician, diplomat and the female United States Secretary of State

24. “Sometimes it takes dealing with a disability—the trauma, the relearning, the months of rehabilitation therapy—to uncover our true abilities and how we can put them to work for us in ways we may have never imagined.”

—Tammy Duckworth, United States senator and former U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel

25. “All girls know that they can be anything now. That transformation is to me one of the most satisfying things.”

—Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia and the first elected female head of state in Africa 

26. “You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.” 

—Aung San Suu Kyi, state counsellor of Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

27. “Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations...If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won't exist because you'll have already shut it out...You can hear other people's wisdom, but you've got to reevaluate the world for yourself.”

—Mae Jemison, engineer, physician, former NASA astronaut, and the first black woman to travel in space

28. “I love the idea of elevating women, because we're still trying to reach equality, but we aren't there yet. If we can show all these amazing things that women can do, it gives other women and girls role models to look up to and think, I could be like that entertainer or lawyer or entrepreneur or mom who chooses to stay home. It changes their aspirations of who they can be.”

—Melinda Gates, American philanthropist, former general manager at Microsoft, and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

29. “Be courageous. Challenge orthodoxy. Stand up for what you believe in. When you are in your rocking chair talking to your grandchildren many years from now, be sure you have a good story to tell.”

—Amal Clooney, international law and human rights attorney

31. “You are good enough to make whatever you want to achieve possible. You just need to find your talent and passion, then put a heck a lot of work into it.”

—Ashley Graham, supermodel and body positivity activist

32. “‘I don’t like to gamble, but if there’s one thing I’m willing to bet on, it’s myself.”

—Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, singer, songwriter, and actress

33. “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.” 

—Toni Morrison, novelist, essayist, editor, teacher, professor emeritus at Princeton University, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award

34. “Don't be afraid to take the tough jobs. You'll develop confidence in dealing with tough issues that will serve you for the rest of your career.”

—Geisha Williams, former president and CEO of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company

35. “I think it's great to be flawed. I am hugely flawed, and I like it this way. That's the fun of life. You fall, get up, make mistakes, learn from them, be human and be you.”

—Priyanka Chopra, actress, singer, film producer, and the winner of the Miss World 2000 pageant

36. “The most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not, to live your life as an honest and compassionate person, to contribute in some way.”

—Ellen Degeneres, comedian, television host, actress, writer, and producer

37. “Most of us have everything we need to get through a crisis; we just have to tap into it.” 

—Anita Hill, lawyer, professor, and civil and women’s rights activist

38. “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” 

—Ida B. Wells, investigative journalist, educator, and an early leader in the civil rights movement

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