The Way Forward: Highlights from the Forbes Women’s Summit


In June, Forbes hosted its annual Women’s Summit – a celebration of female visionaries, innovators, connectors and builders who are redefining the future for women in America and around the world. From the women’s marches to #TimesUp to #MeToo, this is a defining moment for women in America. The forum—bringing together 300 diverse perspectives from business, entertainment, media and government—could not have come at a more pivotal time. The Summit featured keynote conversations, panel discussions and one-on-one interviews from women leaders spanning various generations and industries, including designer Victoria Beckham, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, and Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi.

From reflections on Sex and the City to the power of a well-crafted e-mail, there was an abundance of useful advice. Here are our favorite pieces of advice shared at this year’s summit, as well as some standout moments from years past:

On Sisterhood…

On a panel with actress, producer and activist Priyanka Chopra titled “Breaking Barriers, Engaging Billions,” PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said, “The biggest takeaway [from binge watching all 94 episodes of Sex and the City] was the sisterhood of the women. The more I looked at that show, I said man, we have to create our own sisterhoods. We need an environment where our sisterhood doesn’t judge us but gives us constructive feedback. And where we can talk about Mr. Big!”

Desiree Gruber, founder and CEO of Full Picture, discussed her initiative, Time’s Up Plus One, which “encourages professional women to bring other women into the room where it happens.” She explained to her audience that they already “have a network,” but “we’ve just got to use it for other women and bring them to the top.”

On the Tango…

Judge Judy Sheindlin, from the reality TV show Judge Judy, offered life advice on finding joy in what you do: “Pure satisfaction is something that gives you confidence. If you can’t do it every day from nine to five, learn to Tango; do something spectacular for your soul.”

Carolyn Everson, Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, advised that “you have to somehow maintain who you are and have confidence in yourself. It’s not all linear, and it’s not all perfect.”

On the Role of Business…

Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen, examined the role of business in social change movements: “Recognizing that we rise and fall together, business has to lead some of the change. We have to ask ourselves the purpose of business fundamentally and it’s got to be about contributing to society.”

Katrina Lake, CEO of Stitch Fix, described the importance of inclusion: “Decision makers are realizing that being more inclusive of women, on every level, is simply good business.”

On #MeToo…

Gretchen Carlson has been fighting to end workplace sexual harassment for years. Her advice centered on raising the next generation: “I work more for my son than for my daughter. I want him to see a courageous, strong woman at home, and respect me in that way so in 12 years when he’s in the workforce, he’ll respect his female colleagues in the same way that he respects his mama today. And that’s what we need to work on. We need to empower our boys to turn into enlightened men in corporations.”

On Seizing Opportunity…

Co-screenwriter of Ocean’s 8, Olivia Milch advised women to “say what you want out loud, write a letter. I feel like so many things have happened in my life because I wrote a well-crafted email.”

Heidi Heikenfeld, OppenheimerFunds portfolio manager, described her career path in a profession dominated by men: “When you get the shot, no matter what it looks like, take it and make it work for you.”

Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, discussed taking risks on a panel about female disruptors: “If you’re taking the safe path, you’re definitely not going to grow.”

On Hiring…

Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle, weighed in on her approach to hiring and retaining top talent: “We’ve been very aligned on ten things we stand for internally and we say all the time we hire more for attitude and aptitude and alignment with our values than we do for experience. We invest a ton in training and development and ongoing retention of our teams because once we find you and we have you as part of the culture, we really want you to stay with us and we’ll teach you anything you need to know.”

On Networking…

Desiree Gruber, founder and CEO of Full Picture, gave frank advice on networking: “If they haven’t seen you, they won’t think of you for a deal or a job. It’s not magic, it’s just being seen.”