Next Generation Leadership Academy

Leadership Academy participants drink in some great advice.


The most inspiring lessons from the Next Generation Leadership Academy

Anyone who attended the Women in the World Next Generation Leadership Academy on July 29 came away energized,  charged up and ready to change the world.

Fifty young women, ages 18 to 25, came to New York City for the event held at Barnard College and sponsored by the Women in the World Foundation in partnership with the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill and Vital Voices. They got lessons in how to achieve from luminaries like Chief Joanne  Jaffe, the highest ranked woman in the New York City police department, Barnard president Debora Spar, and Newsweek/Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown.

And if you weren't at Barnard that day, you can still get inspired. We've culled the most memorable words of wisdom from the day's speakers, to set you on your upward path. Prepare for lift off!

Read more at Women in the

The power of "I don't care"
"One of the great things Hilary Clinton has done is going, I don't care. I don't care what people say, this is right, and I'm going to push it forward in front of the camera when people are watching, I'm going to push it forward behind closed doors. That's what we need: more women who are willing to take risks and stand up for what's important." —Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices

Your thighs are not what's important
"What's so scary about anorexia is it's seducing millions of young women who should be influencing, impacting other parts of the world and instead we're turning in and focusing on our thighs." —Debora Spar, president of Barnard College

My mom made me believe I could do anything
"My mother was the kind of person who watched Oprah, would see some kid on Oprah do something crazy and be like, 'Oh, ok,' and throw a bunch of notepads at me and say, 'You make a videogame, you do this.' So the biggest sadness was when Oprah went off the air and I was like, 'Mom, I failed you. I never got on Oprah!' And she was like, 'It's okay. Oprah has a new show.'" —Jessica Matthews, co-inventor of the energy-generating ball Soccket and co-founder and CEO of Uncharted Play

Success is sequential
"Success takes on a different patina in every decade. For me, when I was your age [22], success meant getting a job, getting a paycheck, not relying on my parents, actually getting that job. Success in my 30s was more intensely about ambition and success and drive. Forties and now 50s, success is different. Success is defined differently, and so you have to give yourself permission to redefine success and know that it will change." —Susan Mercandetti, vice president of ABC News

Vote to end sex in politics
"There's still a lot of sexual harassment in politics. A lot. And when we ask ourselves, why do we have only 17 or 18 or 19 percent [of politicians who are female], well, it's because a lot of women have these experiences and turn their back on politics because it's disgusting. And so it's up to us, us who are running, that we win and we make sure that that behavior doesn't continue." —Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code and candidate for NYC Public Advocate

Feminism: It's not about hairy armpits
"For me, personally, feminism is hearing your pain and your struggle in another women's voice and suddenly realizing there's nothing wrong with you, and there's nothing wrong with her, but there's something wrong with the world that's trying to make you think that there is. It's not about hairy armpits and hating men, it's about making each other feel less crazy and getting together to do something about it." —Shelby Knox, director, women's rights organizing,

"Always say 'yes.'"
"Don't start messing around with 'I can't do it because I don't have anywhere to live, I don't have an air ticket'—you just have to say yes and then figure it out. It was winter and I was on vacation with my husband and I was asked to come edit Vanity Fair. I said yes and I came to New York with a wardrobe full of bikinis and sundresses from my holiday vacation." —Tina Brown, editor in chief, Newsweek & The Daily Beast

"My family was mortified when I joined the police force."
"They were embarrassed, and it was not something they supported. I did not come from a family of police officers, and it was nothing they wanted for their daughter. They thought I should do more; they didn't think it was an acceptable job for one of their kids. My sister is Dr. Margot Jaffe and my brother is a lawyer and I was like the black sheep of the family. But you know what? After I passed the sergeant's test, over time they got acclimated to it and their attitudes changed." —Chief Joanne Jaffe, head of the Housing Bureau, New York Police Department 

No one can intimidate you
"I had confidence at age 6. I don't know where that confidence came from, but I had a teacher [who said that] with hard work, you can achieve anything, and nobody can put you down. And I realized that these people that I met in my life, whether it's Silvio Berlusconi or another prime minister, whoever they are, they're equal to me. So I'm not intimidated. Nobody should be." —Rula Jubreal, author and journalist

Have to survive the toughest assignment
"Have confidence, go out there and do the job. Once you're doing the job, I think all eyes are on you, but it's how you field the ball." —Deputy Chief Theresa Shortell, head of the Gang Division for the New York City Police Department

Choose or lose
"There were times when I'd taken too long to make a decision, and one of the pieces of advice [my husband] always gives me is, when you don't make a decision, someone else will make it for you. Just by waiting, you lose the opportunity and you lose control." —Rachel Sterne Haot, Chief Digital Officer for New York City

What I learned from women in war-torn countries
"They have taught me the true meaning of courage, and I think of them when I see injustices in front of me and I say, 'If I don't have the courage to speak the truth in my silly, safe, New York place, how can I even stand in front of them? They have so much courage; who am I to not have the courage to speak up?" —Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International

Oblivious? Good for you!
"To be honest one of the reasons I started my organization, is I didn't know how difficult it would be. They say ignorance is bliss, and my obliviousness to the legal imbroglios of starting an organization is what enabled me to just go ahead and start it anyway." —Sejal Hathi, founder of GirlTank

Free isn't easy
"When I was in college, I actually tried to start a nonprofit to bring [my food-preserving invention] FreshPaper to the people in Africa and India. I really thought it could be transformative, and I ended up failing several times. Throughout college, I learned how hard it can be to give something away for free." —Kavita Shukla, inventor of FreshPaper

What Eleanor Roosevelt can teach us about courage
A black school child who was subjected to a brutal racial beating wrote Eleanor Roosevelt;  scholar Allida Black recounts her reply: "Eleanor wrote him back a personal, confidential, not-for-publication letter that said, 'I can only imagine the fear you must be in. School is supposed to be a safe place. But I have learned from a very sad childhood something that I learned at a very early age. And that is all you have to have is the courage to look yourself in the mirror and take one step at a time.'" —Allida Black, Eleanor Roosevelt scholar