“I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of color and as your sister.” – Meghan Markle, South Africa, 2019

She stopped me in my tracks yesterday.

When I heard the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, speaking in South Africa in front of hundreds of little girls, I was moved. I was moved as an executive. I was moved as a mother. I was moved as a wife. I was moved as a sister. I was moved as a woman of color, and I was moved as a woman.

I was moved because her message implied that the different roles we hold as women make us more powerful and more influential. She reminded us that rather than diminishing a woman’s ability to lead, these distinct female roles serve to strengthen it.

I used to be one of those little girls.

Markle’s speech resonated with me. And from the responses of the crowd, I could tell it resonated with them as well (especially with the group of young girls who were listening).

I knew at that moment that she had indeed inspired them and left them believing they could go higher, be better and achieve more. I used to be one of those little girls, and I could feel it. I could feel the value that message would have in their lives today and in the future.

Let’s celebrate female empowerment! Let’s celebrate the courage and confidence that women display when they embrace their own power.

Despite being judged and despite societal pressures, confident women embrace their power by making the personal and professional choices they want and by not letting society guilt them into apologizing for those very choices.

Confident women embrace their power by doing whatever the heck they want to.

When you embrace your power, you are displaying your confidence and are in a better position to

  1. define what you need and want and then clearly ask for it.
  2. celebrate your own and other women’s accomplishments. When women support other women, everyone wins!
  3. stop being a people pleaser. Confident women know that we are “damned if we do and damned if we don’t” so you are better off just doing what works best for you in your own life despite the fallout.
  4. get married if you want to, and get divorced if you want to as well. Make your choices based on your own value system – not anyone else’s. Men don’t even get asked these questions so clearly we still have a way to go in the 21st century.
  5. have 20 children if you want to without any obligation to explain that choice to anyone.
  6. never have children if you don’t want to, and never feel obliged to answer to anyone about this choice.
  7. become a stay-at-home mom if you want to, or take care of your parents if you want.
  8. return to work whenever the heck you want to – whether it be when your child is one month old, two years old, 18 years old or never (it really is your choice and no one else’s).
  9. leave your career in the middle of it or after receiving amazing promotions if you want to. Work outside the home if you want to or not at all (if that is an option you have).
  10. be innovative, make mistakes and fail then learn from it, and keep moving forward.
  11. take on high-demanding executive positions if you want to regardless of whether you have children or not. It is your choice.
  12. give your power away to whom and when you want to. Own it if you want to.
  13. lead how you want to. I am among those who regularly educate on effective leadership principles, but at the end of the day, you must set your own standards for leadership effectiveness and professional success. Do what works for you, for your team, for your organization, for your family.
  14. advocate for meaningful diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  15. invite other women to sit at the table without viewing them as competitors.

Confident women want to work with and uplift other women.

Confident women don’t put other women down in order to lift themselves up. They don’t judge women for leaving their careers behind to become stay-at-home mothers.

They don’t pressure career-focused women to have a family. They don’t compare the woman who gets married right after high school to the one who goes to college. We need to send messages every chance we can to girls and women of all ages and ethnic groups confirming that we actually do have the right to do whatever the heck we want to.

I suggest that we, as confident women, just go ahead and own the fact that we are indeed women first. Lead from there. Trust from there. Influence from there. Choose from there.

When we do that, we inspire other women to embrace their power. In time, they come to realize that doing so is rewarding and also necessary for personal and professional growth.