This Wednesday, Fortune’s ‘Most Powerful Women’ summit wrapped up in Washington, where some 450 executives ranging from chief executive of IBM, Ginni Rometty to Michelle Obama, came together to swap stories, ideas and lessons learned through the trajectory of their careers.

The summit and the term ‘Most Powerful Women’ first came to being in 1998, when Fortune realised that women were gaining significant power within the corporate world and had just as much to contribute on leadership and the economy as men, yet were not being recognised in the media. Consequently, this list generated a significant following and gradually led to a Fortune community, which hosts live events and programs for women of influence and encourages them to use their power wisely and globally. This community now includes some of the most prominent leaders in business, philanthropy, government,education and the arts, while the ‘Most Powerful Women’ summit is now one of Fortune’s biggest inaugural events for women.

At this years’ summit, the level of talent in the room was considerable and highly valuable information was shared by some of the world’s most influential business leaders. Highlights of the summit included Michelle Obama’s speech on the value of education for young women and the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power’s emphasis on how to thrive outside your comfort zone.

A prominent theme however, that was present in the majority of speakers was the need for transparency and authenticity. Both Power and Facebook vice president of global marketing solutions- Carolyn Everson, emphasised the importance of being ‘real’ and ‘putting all your cards on the table’, when leading a team. For example Everson, regularly shares her performance reviews with her team to demonstrate the need for openness in their office.

“It is such a beneficial leadership skill and people really respond to you when you are authentic and when you are honest enough to reveal your fears and weaknesses with the team; they can relate” she said during her speech.

To find out why being your ‘authentic’ self is so important, we have provided a list of the best golden ‘nuggets’  of wisdom from the conference below (courtesy of Jena McGregor from Australian Financial Review) which not only touch upon Everson and Power’s emphasis for honesty and authenticity in greater detail, but also the importance of backing yourself and getting out of one’s comfort zone. Read on to add some much needed inspiration to your Friday…


Carolyn Tastad, North America group president for Procter & Gamble, said that every time she’s been promoted, she’s “been personally surprised”. But she noted that when she presents new opportunities to other women, they often focus on the many tradeoffs, looking at all the reasons why they should and shouldn’t take it. They say things like: “I’m not sure now’s the right time, I’m not sure I’m ready,” she said. “And yet I can talk to men in the same situation, and men are like, ‘Yes, I’m going for that.’ “

She said she tells women, “I just need you to put on the blinders for one minute” and focus on the opportunity itself, rather than everything they’d have to give up or change. “There are so many other things you have to consider, but there are solutions,” she said. “Every now and then you don’t get to the solution because it looks too daunting. Just pull it in. I do think women look across first, and men don’t.”


Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, told attendees one of the best things she’s done to boost her relationship with her team actually wasn’t her idea. At a time when her team was working “insane” hours, she found a way to thank their families at the holidays. She bought gifts for all the spouses of her team members, and wrote them letters herself. “I wish I could say it was my idea,” Everson said. “But it was my husband’s.”


Everson also shared that someone once told her to “think of herself as a thermostat” when she walks into a room. As the leader of a team, you might have to turn the temperature up, getting people energised and focused on a goal, or you may have to turn it down. It was an analogy she’d shared before, but a smart insight on how different situations call for different leadership and communication styles.


In the fall of 2011, shortly before Ginni Rometty became chief executive of IBM, she sat on the stage of the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and shared her own experience that career growth is never comfortable. Four years later, she echoed the same words to a new audience of women at the summit, even though she is now leading one of the world’s largest companies.

“When did you ever learn the most in life?” Rometty said. “I guarantee it’s a time you felt most at risk.”

Rometty, 58, first joined IBM in 1981 and about three decades later became the first woman to lead the company. The CEO, who chatted about the Dell-EMC merger, the importance of transformation and reinvention, and IBM’s “moonshot” into health care, said her advice to women was to “be comfortable with the fact that growth and comfort don’t co-exist”.


One of the most common, and yes, familiar, pieces of advice offered by women at the summit was how valuable it is when leaders show they are vulnerable and authentic. Many talked about how much it matters to come across as real, to share aspects of their personal lives, and to reveal their fears and their weaknesses.

Others didn’t explicitly articulate the same advice, but they showed it. US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power had the audience in stitches over her fears about a coming presentation she was going to have to give to her six-year-old son’s class. The same woman who’s spoken on behalf of the United States in front of the UN Security Council called the upcoming school speech “totally traumatic”.

She described a staff meeting with her team, where they brainstormed how they could convey the work of global diplomacy to first graders. Thinking of her own son’s familiarity with aspects of her job, she suggested she’d start by sharing a “good news” story about the success in fighting Ebola. “My staff was like, what are you talking about?” Power recalled, noting their concern over talking to young children about a disease that killed thousands of people. “We’re going to have a huddle tomorrow about what the contents of that speech are going to be, because I’m clearly not reliable for that audience.”

To find out more about the summit or to read any of the participant’s speeches in full, click here: