The world's most powerful women gathered in one place. Here are 5 things we learned.
This week, Fortune magazine hosted the Most Powerful Women Summit.
The leading women in business, health care, tech, education, government, and media converged on Washington, D.C., for the three-day summit filled with workshops, lectures, conversations, and fellowship.
The event sold out, but many of the sessions streamed for free online, where I watched from the comfort of my own home.
While I couldn't literally brush shoulders and network with the captains of industry, I decided to distill some wisdom from the brilliant, multi-talented women (and one man) on the agenda for you.
Here are five important lessons to remember as you embark on the road to success, which as I've learned probably isn't a road so much as a jungle filled with vines and spiders and other such obstacles. But on the other side? Success!
1. Go ahead. Kick ass all by yourself.
Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm, has always been a lone wolf of sorts. From playing quarterback on her high school football team to being the sole female camera operator at her first TV job, she's never been afraid to go it alone.
And when there wasn't a clear path for her, Kennedy forged her own. While it wasn't always easy, the risks and hardship paid off.
Today, Kennedy is a prolific film producer who hasn't just worked with George Lucas for years, she's produced 77 movies in her nearly 40 years in Hollywood. She has produced films like "Jurassic Park" and "E.T.," and, according to Box Office Mojo, is the fourth-highest-grossing producer of all time. She's currently producing "The Force Awakens," the latest film in the "Star Wars" series.
2. Walk the walk. Always.
Barra shared an important lesson we can all glean wisdom from, whether you're leading a company in crisis or just trying to make a good first impression:
"What I've learned, first of all, is to live your values. It's easy to put words on paper. What we had to do was demonstrate our values. We put the customer at the center, we were transparent. That has allowed us to emerge a much stronger company."
3. Think big. No, bigger.
Two years after college graduation, Jessica Matthews founded her company, Uncharted Play. The start-up develops products that use motion to generate electricity — like a jump rope that can charge a cellphone or laptop and a soccer ball that powers a lamp.
It's this kind of big thinking that will change the status quo and get real solutions to persistent problems. As Matthews said during the Tech for Good panel discussion, “I really, really want to disrupt the way we consume energy. Forever." With fans like President Obama, there's no doubt she's well on her way.
4. Bask in the amazing stuff that makes you you. Then go out and be the best damn you there is.
On Monday night, attendees heard from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the youngest woman elected to the House of Representatives.
She credits hard work and a willingness to try and fail as her keys to campaign victory, but she's especially proud that she never tried to tone down her personality or change her image, even in the face of criticism.
"Embrace your authenticity and your unique perspective as a woman," Stefanik challenged the crowd.
5. Go to school. Stay in school. Then help someone else do the same.
First lady Michelle Obama spoke at the summit Tuesday night about Let Girls Learn, the government initiative to break down the financial and societal barriers keeping an estimated 62 million young girls out of school.
"[These girls] have so much talent and so much to say, but they have no outlet, no voice in their societies. It's like they know the answers, but no one will call on them. And every single one of us in this room knows how that feels."
The economic benefits to educating girls are numerous, but the moral reason is clear: Everyone, regardless of gender, deserves a shot at living up to their potential.
As the first lady so eloquently stated, "Education is the single most important stepping stone to power to equality."
Five unforgettable life lessons aside, getting to the top isn't always easy, especially when you're a woman fighting an uphill battle to crack that glass ceiling.
But with hard work, passion, and a strong support system, you can get where you want to go — or at the very least, have a good time trying.
Now go out there and shake things up. You've got this!