3 career lessons from 'TIME Firsts' women | Ladders

The collection of women's stories also happens to be a treasure trove of work wisdom. Here's what a few members of the list can teach you about your career.
Gender at Work

3 career lessons from TIME’s ‘first’ women

Yesterday, TIME released a list called TIME Firsts: Women Leaders Who Are Changing the World, highlighting the accomplishments of 46 icons in their respective fields.

The collection of women’s stories also happens to be a treasure trove of work wisdom. Here’s what a few members of the list can teach you about your career.

Oprah Winfrey: Why you should trust yourself

As “The Titan,” Winfrey was deemed the “first woman to own and produce her own talk show,” and demonstrated that when it comes to work, the answers lie within.

During the TIME interview, she said, “I made every single choice of my career based on my gut. I would literally ask myself, ‘Does this feel right?’ So when I got my show in Chicago, I built it around myself and the producers. We were young women in our 30s who were trying to figure it out and find our own way. We’d literally sit around and say, ‘What’s going on in your life? What happened at the beauty shop this week? What’s your mother talking about? What are your friends saying?’”

She also made it clear that it’s important to stick up for those who report to you and that women have the power to lift each other up at work.

Winfrey mentioned how when The Oprah Winfrey Show was syndicated — which TIME mentions is “the highest-rated talk show in TV history,” with a 25-year run — she was making much more money than before, unlike her producers whose salaries hadn’t changed.

Her boss didn’t want to give them a raise when Winfrey requested one for them, but said she would refuse to work unless they got one. She got her wish. She said she took money from her own pocket when she was waiting for them to start getting more money.

Melinda Gates: Why we need to take women’s issues more seriously

As “The Philanthropist,” Gates was called the “first woman to give away more than $40 billion.” The co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation demonstrates that women aren’t getting all the attention they deserve in philanthropy.

“I’ve come to learn that, as in business, we haven’t had good data in philanthropy. We’re getting it now. But even when the world says they invest in data, they don’t invest in data around women. And if we don’t invest in collecting statistics about women, we don’t know how and where to act. So I’m making sure that we take these business principles to women’s issues. Then we can get the world to invest,” she said in the TIME interview.

Sheryl Sandberg: We have a long way to go in terms of gender equality

As “The Mogul,” Sandberg was named the “first woman to become a social-media billionaire.” She hammers home the point that we haven’t reached the finish line when it comes to women’s representation at work — especially in higher-level jobs.

In the interview, the Facebook COO and first woman member of the organization’s board of directors mentioned how when she started working in 1991, there were “equal men and women. The women were just as smart, sometimes smarter (no offense, gentlemen).”

However, Sandberg said that there were fewer women in meetings she attended as time went on.

She continued: “[T]his stalling of progress for women in leadership led to my writing Lean In. Women had moved forward from the ’60s or ’70s till about 10 years ago, and they have stopped. We need to fix that, be alarmed by that, proclaim it as the really urgent crisis it is.”

The women on TIME’s list further demonstrate that women have made incredible strides in work over many decades, but they’re not done yet — not even close.

Jane Burnett

Jane Burnett is a reporter for Ladders. She is based in New York City and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.