17 Powerful Quotes from Women@INBOUND to Inspire You Today

Women remain dramatically underrepresented in business leadership roles. According to a 2022 report from Catalyst, despite making up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, women hold just:

  • 24% of C-suite positions
  • 27% of VP roles
  • 32% of senior manager roles
  • 40% of manager roles

So when women do ascend to prominent positions of influence, it‘s crucial to amplify their voices and hard-earned wisdom – both to inspire the next generation of female leaders and to push for greater gender equity in the workplace.

In honor of Women‘s History Month, we‘re highlighting some of the most impactful quotes from the incredible women who have spoken at INBOUND over the past decade. From entrepreneurs and authors to activists and actresses, their diverse insights continue to resonate and push us all to imagine a more equal world.

1. Beth Comstock, Advisor & Author

Beth Comstock has built an impressive career at the intersection of business and creativity. She was the first female Vice Chair at General Electric and also served as their Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer. She‘s now a corporate director, advisor, and author of the bestselling book Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity and the Power of Change.

Her 2019 INBOUND keynote focused on how to drive innovation and transformation by embracing uncertainty and change. This powerful quote encapsulates her push for corporate cultures to destigmatize failure:

"Fail is the F word for business. If failure is not an option, neither is success."

By reframing failure as simply part of the innovation process, Comstock emboldens individuals and organizations to take smart risks and iterate their way to breakthroughs. Punishing or burying failures stifles creativity and growth.

2. Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer, Netflix

Bozoma Saint John is a marketing trailblazer who has held executive roles at Uber, Apple Music, and Endeavor. In 2020, she became the Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix, making her their third-ever CMO and first Black C-suite executive.

Her 2018 INBOUND spotlight explored the inextricable link between human emotion, marketing, and business success:

"It is human emotion that drives all of our decision making. It‘s what drives us to be our best selves."

Far too often, companies get trapped in the features and functionality of their products/services. But as Saint John argues, the most effective marketing taps into human emotions and aspirations. People ultimately make decisions based on how something makes them feel, not a rational assessment of costs vs. benefits.

3. Brené Brown, Professor, Author, Podcast Host

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Her TED Talk "The Power of Vulnerability" is one of the most viewed ever with over 50 million views. She‘s also a prolific author, with six #1 New York Times bestsellers including Atlas of the Heart.

Her 2015 INBOUND keynote centered vulnerability as the key to innovation and transformation:

"Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change."

While vulnerability is often equated with weakness, Brown‘s research reveals it to be the foundation of social connection and progress. Only by embracing the risk of failure or rejection are we able to forge new paths. Individuals and organizations that shy away from vulnerability inevitably stagnate.

4. Brit Marling, Actress

Brit Marling is an actress, screenwriter, and producer known for crafting complex, original roles for herself in independent films like Another Earth and the Netflix series The OA.

Her 2019 INBOUND spotlight session wrestled with the scarcity of compelling roles for women in Hollywood. But rather than bemoan the lack of good parts, Marling focused on how to write your own:

"Maybe it‘s not about getting the part. It‘s about forging your own path through the wilderness. You chart a different course."

Women in business can take this advice to heart as well. When faced with limited opportunities for advancement or leadership roles that don‘t align with your values, focus on blazing your own trail and defining success on your own terms.

5. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Writer

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer whose works, including the novels Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, have garnered global acclaim and numerous awards. Her 2012 TED talk "We Should All Be Feminists" reframed feminism as a collective responsibility, not solely a women‘s issue.

During her 2021 INBOUND session, Adichie redefined how we evaluate potential vs. polish when assessing talent:

"I define talent in a particular way, I don‘t look for polish as much as I look for promise."

When hiring or promoting, companies often overvalue experience and existing skills, while undervaluing potential. But cultivating raw talent and investing in employee development not only increases diversity, it also builds loyalty and strengthens employer brand.

6. Emily Chang, Executive Producer, Bloomberg Technology

Emily Chang is a journalist, author, and executive producer of Bloomberg Technology. Her 2018 book [BROTOPIA: Breaking Up the Boys‘ Club of Silicon Valley] exposed the toxic "tech bro" culture of sexism and harassment plaguing the tech industry.

During her 2018 INBOUND session, Chang issued this wakeup call for anyone still denying the scope and severity of gender discrimination:

"Ignorance, at this point, can only be willful."

With high-profile incidents of harassment and discrimination dominating headlines for years, companies and leaders have no excuse for failing to take action. Passively hoping for progress while doing little to proactively create it means complicity in upholding inequitable systems.

7. Esther Perel, Psychotherapist

Esther Perel is a renowned psychotherapist and author of the bestselling books [Mating in Captivity] and [The State of Affairs]. Her TED talks have been viewed over 30 million times and she also hosts the popular podcasts Where Do We Begin? and How‘s Work?.

Her 2019 INBOUND session explored the dynamics of workplace relationships and how they shape organizational health and employee happiness:

"It is the quality of our relationships that determines the quality of our lives."

People who feel connected to and supported by their colleagues and managers report greater job satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty. In contrast, toxic or distant workplace relationships undermine cohesion and collaboration. Companies must prioritize and invest in fostering healthy, respectful connections between employees.

8. Joanna Coles, Former Chief Content Officer, Hearst Magazines

Joanna Coles is a journalist, producer, and board director who previously served as the Chief Content Officer at Hearst Magazines. Under her leadership, she oversaw the publication of 25+ titles including Cosmopolitan, ELLE, and Harper‘s BAZAAR.

At INBOUND 2018, Coles shared this critical guidance for ambitious women looking to rise through the ranks:

"Your best mentors are your peers, because you will rise together."

While senior-level mentors certainly have much to offer, Coles stresses the value of cultivating a deep bench of peer mentors. These relationships tend to involve more frequent interaction and two-way support over a longer period. Championing and making connections for one another can elevate the trajectories of your entire cohort.

9. Leila Janah, CEO of Samasource

Leila Janah was a social entrepreneur who founded Samasource in 2008, seeking to expand opportunities for workers in underserved communities around the world. Operating on the philosophy "give work, not aid," they secured contracts for digital services from major tech companies and employed women and youth in Kenya and Uganda to execute them. Over 50,000 people have worked with Samasource, earning over $15 million in living wages.

During her 2017 INBOUND spotlight session, Janah encouraged reframing challenges as opportunities for growth:

"Nothing great has ever come out of a lot of easy days."

The most rewarding and impactful achievements tend to be the hardest-earned. When we embrace adversity as an opportunity to test our mettle and expand our capabilities, even failures become lessons that propel us forward.

10. Lena Waithe, Actress

Lena Waithe is an Emmy Award winning screenwriter, producer, and actress known for co-writing and starring in the Netflix comedy-drama series Master of None. Her episode "Thanksgiving," based on her personal experience coming out to her family, made her the first Black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.

She lit up the stage at INBOUND 2018, energizing the crowd to dream even bigger:

"Don‘t ask if your dream is crazy, ask if it‘s crazy enough."

In a world of fierce competition and constant disruption, playing it safe is often the riskiest strategy. Waithe emboldens us to pursue the most ambitious, revolutionary visions for our careers and companies – to make a real dent in the universe vs. just keeping the lights on.

11. Payal Kadakia, Entrepreneur

Payal Kadakia is a tech entrepreneur and the Executive Chairman & Co-Founder of ClassPass. Founded in 2013, ClassPass now partners with 30,000 fitness studios across 28 countries to offer members flexible access to a wide variety of exercise classes and experiences.

Her 2018 INBOUND session stressed the importance of intentionally and unapologetically designing your schedule around your top priorities:

"Time is the most important thing we have. Every minute of your life should be spent doing what you want to."

In a culture that glorifies overwork and "the hustle," this advice feels both radical and essential. When we treat time as our most precious and finite resource, it‘s easier to weed out unfulfilling busywork and meetings that hijack our days. Instead, we can allocate more time for the people and projects that bring us joy and drive real results.

12. Shonda Rhimes, Television Producer, Screenwriter, Author

Shonda Rhimes is a prolific television writer, producer, and author who has created and executive produced hit series like Grey‘s Anatomy and Scandal. Her production company ShondaLand was behind a staggering eight series orders across ABC alone between 2018-2019.

She not only focuses on telling diverse stories on-screen, but also fiercely advocates for equity behind the scenes. Her 2018 INBOUND keynote was a rallying cry for women in power to pay it forward:

"What‘s the point of being a woman in power if you can‘t help women in power?"

Women in leadership positions have the opportunity and responsibility to uplift other women along their journeys. Whether mentoring, making key introductions, or pushing for more equitable policies and processes, their actions can create a powerful ripple effect and expand the pipeline of female leaders.

13. Tarana Burke, American Activist

Tarana Burke is a civil rights activist best known for founding the #MeToo movement to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault, especially for women of color. She has been an outspoken champion of health resources and leadership initiatives for sexual violence survivors for over 25 years.

During her 2018 INBOUND session, Burke urged leaders not to compromise their standards in the name of expediency:

"You don‘t have to lower your standards. There are people who share your values and have the skills to do the job well, you just need to take the time to look for them."

This is especially critical advice when it comes to increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Companies eager to improve their demographics may be tempted to relax criteria and make hasty hires, but this often backfires. Instead, focus on expanding your talent pools and allowing adequate time to identify candidates who are both values-aligned and well-qualified.

14. Sarah Paiji Yoo, Founder/CEO of Blueland

Sarah Paiji Yoo is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO & Co-Founder of Blueland, an eco-friendly cleaning products company seeking to eliminate single-use plastics. Prior to Blueland, she also co-founded the mobile shopping company Snapette and the subscription snack service M.Gemi.

At INBOUND 2019, Yoo detailed how waiting for conditions to be perfect before pursuing a new venture often means never starting:

"Start before you‘re ready. No idea is ever going to be 100% perfect, the timing is never going to be 100% right, I‘m a big believer that if you jump in and get started, you‘ll find your way and if you start today, imagine where you could be in just one year."

Women tend to underestimate their qualifications and readiness to take on new challenges like launching a business or vying for a big promotion. But as Yoo asserts, there is no such thing as the perfect time or circumstances. Taking action now and committing to continuous learning fuels far more momentum and growth than overcautious planning.

Progress toward gender equity in business and beyond requires steadfast allyship and actionable commitments. Here are a few ways you can honor these women‘s wisdom and amplify their impact:

  • Support women-owned businesses with your dollars and word-of-mouth marketing
  • Mentor young women just starting out in your industry, and connect them to opportunities
  • Speak out against gender discrimination or harassment if you witness it at work
  • Push your employer to conduct pay equity audits, offer generous parental leave, and invest in women‘s leadership development
  • Join or volunteer for organizations advocating for women‘s rights and empowerment

Women‘s History Month is an important time to celebrate strides and pioneers, but the work of advancing gender equity never ends. Let the powerful words and examples of these INBOUND speakers fuel your own commitment to creating positive change. Together, we can build a world where women‘s voices are heard, valued, and amplified in every arena.