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5 Inspiring Quotes From Accomplished Women Leaders

The CalPERS Pathways for Women event was full of inspiring messages to motivate women in their careers. Here are a few of the key life lessons accomplished women shared during their chats.

1. Celebrate where you come from.

“I never planned on a career in Congress—most of us women don’t do that—but honestly I think we’re probably more prepared than anyone else. When I think about who we are as women and our various roles in our lives, we realize that there’s so much that we do that encompasses the totality of our community, our own personal life, our children’s, and the sense of who we are even as Americans.

When I first ran, it was deeply personal to me…. I really understood what makes Sacramento tick. It’s been the honor of my life when I got elected to be able to take it to another level and use the knowledge and experience that I’ve had just as a regular person walking around the community and knowing people and knowing their desires and their challenges to develop policies that really impact all of us.”

—Doris Matsui, Congresswoman, U.S. House of Representatives

2. Be conscious of the change you affect in the world.

“My career has never been planned. In my family when a girl becomes 10 it is a very important birthday. Not only do you get beautiful clothes and everything else, but my mother told me, ‘Because you are no longer a child, you’re going to adolescence and able to be a young lady. Remember wealth, fame—they don’t count. What counts is what you make of your life.’

She also said to me, ‘Your life did not begin the day you were born, because in you generations of your ancestors have embedded in you certain values, certain ways of how you should conduct yourself, how you make yourself.’ She said, ‘You are a link. You transmit what people way before you gave you. You add to the positive, [what] you do with your life to someone in the next link.’ Life is an endless chain; you are a link in that chain. So, what you make of your life, make sure you add something positive. You pass that on.”

—Linda Tsao Yang, Former Ambassador

3. Recognize your own value, ambitions, and boundaries.

“It was the fact that I didn’t know that I couldn’t do it [that helped me get to where I am]…. Back then, women, or young women like me, couldn’t even apply to 30 of the colleges at the Oxford University. Only five accepted women. So, I think focusing on the ‘can’ rather than the ‘can’t’ is probably the best advice I’ve ever had. If this is something you’re drawn to or you have a passion for, I would say just crack on and don’t let the naysayers stop you.

Be kind to yourself. Women, women of color, women with disabilities, women challenging society’s assumptions—it’s an exhausting thing, it’s tough work, and if we want to take care of other people or do the right thing, we need to bring energy and assistance and insight to our job. None of that’s possible unless you take care of yourself…. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

—Anne Simpson, Managing Investment Director, Board Governance & Sustainability, CalPERS

4. Take control of your career.

“Sometimes it sneaks up on you, the complacency, so you have to watch out for that. The one thing I would say is that you have to own your career; you have to be responsible for your career. You can’t wait and let others take care of it. You own it, it’s one of the most important things that you have in terms of your ability to design your path and figure out where you want to be. The theme is sort of be ready, so make sure that all along the way you’re growing relationships…. Relationships for me have been really important in terms of my career because you don’t know when the next opportunity is going to come up and lots of times it comes from somebody in your network.”

—Marlene Timberlake D’Adamo, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, CalPERS

5. Spend your time wisely.

“I think my lawyer’s training is very helpful. Not everybody has to have a lawyer’s training, but you can train yourself to not be afraid of tedious work, train yourself to pay attention to details. I think this is very helpful to the investment industry. Also, what has helped me is trying to be very efficient. I think as a woman, especially if you raise kids and take care of a household, you know how efficient you must be, especially in the earlier stage of your career. Time is of the essence, a very precious commodity…. But as you age you know to slow down. Earlier in your career this is how you accelerate your skill set.”

—Jean Hsu, Managing Investment Director, Opportunistic Strategies, CalPERS

For more inspiring content from this free forum, visit Pathways for Women, where you can find full recordings of the event sessions, biographies of the distinguished speakers, and more. Here is the welcome video to get you started: