It's no surprise that bad sexist behavior is coming to light in politics, the entertainment industry, and the tech field. While I have never personally witnessed any illegal or overtly unethical activity, I have been in enough backroom male-only conversations that made my skin crawl. While I believe this sort of social change takes generations, I applaud the women who have been coming forward to point out the disrespectful behavior of my brethren. I didn't knowingly allow any disrespect at any of my companies and I support the eradication of such disrespectful behavior at any other (even if it suppresses expression or forces "Political Correctness.") 

And in case you're cynically wondering, you won't be seeing me in the scandal sheets anytime in the future. I work hard to live what I write.

I recently read about a study the journal Science published at the start of the year. It showed that by the age of six, most girls already believe boys are smarter than they are. Of course in my case, the bar was a bit low at that age. With statistics like that, it is hard to deny that ideas about gender play a role at all levels of society and throughout most people's lives.

I've been blessed to know and work with many very smart women in my life. I understand that each of them has her own story about how being female has impacted her business, politics, and daily life. Some are stories of sexism, adversity, and frustration; others are stories of triumph and success.

There's no one "female voice," so here is wisdom from many voices below. Many often appear on various "Most Powerful Women in..." lists. Several are among the richest people in the world. Others may be less familiar but are admirable thought leaders and pioneers. Most are smarter than I am, so better to learn from them. 

Rather than continue my preaching, here's what they have to say about leadership, innovation, and the future.

  1. "The most successful entrepreneurs I know are optimistic. It's part of the job description." ? Caterina Fake, Founder of Flickr
  2. "In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders." ? Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook
  3. "There is nothing like a concrete life plan to weigh you down. Because if you always have one eye on some future goal, you stop paying attention to the job at hand, miss opportunities that might arise, and stay fixedly on one path, even when a better, newer course might have opened up." ? Indra Nooyi, CEO PepsiCo
  4. "For CEOs today, it's all about achieving growth and efficiency through innovation. It's not about product innovation so much anymore as about innovating business models, process, culture, and management." ? Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM
  5. "After all, we are all immigrants to the future; none of us is a native in that land.... The very underpinnings of our society and institutions?from how we work to how we create value, govern, trade, learn, and innovate?are being profoundly reshaped by amplified individuals. We are indeed all migrating to a new land and should be looking at the new landscape emerging before us like immigrants: ready to learn a new language, a new way of doing things, anticipating new beginnings with a sense of excitement, if also with a bit of understandable trepidation." ? Marina Gorbis, Executive Director, Institute for the Future
  6. "Leadership is not about men in suits. It is a way of life for those who know who they are and are willing to be their best to create the life they want to live." ? Kathleen Schafer, Founder of Leadership Connection
  7. "I was asked what I thought about the recession. I thought about it and decided not to take part." ? Alice Walton, Chair, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
  8. "I had many high-powered sales and marketing professionals who reported to me, but I also had thousands of call center representatives reporting to me. I had to learn to communicate to very different types of groups of managers with different orientations, different priorities." ? Abigail Johnson, CEO Fidelity Investments
  9. "My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment." ? Oprah Winfrey, "Queen of All Media"
  10. "Don't confuse progress with winning." ? Mary T. Barra, CEO General Motors
  11. "Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, 'We've always done it this way.' I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise." ? Chien-Shiung Wu, Particle Physics Pioneer
  12. "We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist." ? Queen Victoria
  13. "Growth and comfort do not coexist." ? Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM
  14. "Good leaders organize and align people around what the team needs to do. Great leaders motivate and inspire people with why they're doing it. That's purpose. And that's the key to achieving something truly transformational." ? Marilyn Hewson, CEO Lockheed Martin
  15. "I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that's how you grow. When there's that moment of 'Wow, I'm not really sure I can do this,' and you push through those moments, that's when you have a breakthrough." ? Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo
  16. "We need to accept that we won't always make the right decisions, that we'll screw up royally sometimes - understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it's part of success." ? Arianna Huffington, Editor of Huffington Post
  17. "It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." ? K Rowling, Author
  18. "Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you're proud to live." ? Anne Sweeney, former Co-chair of Disney Media
  19. "I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody's passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn't mind learning." ? Amy Poehler 
  20. "I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn't." ? Dee Dee Myers, former White House Press Secretary
  21. "You manage things; you lead people." ? Grace Murray Hopper, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral
  22. "As a leader, it's a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow." ? Himanshu Bhatia, CEO of Rose International
  23. "No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens." ? Michelle Obama, lawyer and former First Lady of the United States