Queen Latifah, Mary J Blige, Gloria Steinem and more spill their secrets on how to be successful women

Queen Latifah was honored  at the Matrix Awards for her work as a women in communication. The award was presented to her by singer Mary J Blige.
Queen Latifah was honored at the Matrix Awards for her work as a woman in communication. The award was presented to her by singer Mary J Blige./Credit: Maryanne Russell Photography

Some of the most successful women in the field of communications gave us their best advice for making it in the industry at the 2014 Matrix Awards, held last week in New York City.

Queen Latifah
Musician, actress and TV host

Did you overcome any struggles in your career because you are a woman?
I know for sure that there were obstacles I had to overcome being a female in hip-hop. No. 1: It was a male-dominated field, so I had to make a name for myself as a woman in hip-hop. And even then the record labels wouldn’t spend as much money on marketing female rappers as they did on male rappers, so that was another hurdle we had to overcome. It really just made me want to create my own company and not have to work for anyone and be my own boss. I was fortunate to partner with a male, a guy who is the right side of my body. If you see him, you basically see me too. We respected each other’s dreams and goals and supported each other. It should never be an anti-guy thing, but we have to, as women, be pro-woman.

Jane Mayer
Journalist for “The New Yorker”

What advice can you give to women who want to succeed in their careers?
Try to define it the way you want it to be. Don’t take no for an answer. Look for work you love and then try to shape it the way you want it to be. It takes a lot of pushing back sometimes. But when my daughter was really little, I managed to work part-time by just kicking and screaming and just saying I needed to spend some time with her. And I really am glad I did that, and yet I wouldn’t give up my job at the same time. So I just say: Fight really hard for what you want. Define it in your own mind and then fight for it.

What advice were you given that you found useful?
Back in the ’80s — the dark old days — there was a bunch of young women who got together and the advice we were given was: Nice is a vice. We were told to be a little tougher. But there was also some good advice I didn’t listen to. I wished I would have known when they told me that the high heels would hurt my feet when I got older. Because they really do!

Mary J. Blige
Singer

What advice can you give to women who want to succeed in their careers?
I would definitely say that you have to believe in yourself. And you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else does. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do. It will work for you at the end of the day. The self-love thing is not cliche. It’s real! If you don’t have it, you will not survive.

Dyllan McGee
Founder and executive producer of “MAKERS: Women Who Make America”

What advice were you given that you found useful?
Don’t give up! “MAKERS” is a perfect example of that. Gloria [Steinem] said no, she didn’t want the story of the women’s movement to be told through one person, so I had to rework it. And then lo and behold, we finally got a yes.

Did you have any struggles to overcome in your career because you are a woman?
I think the biggest struggle I had to overcome was myself, knowing that I had a voice. I was afraid. Did my opinion matter? It took me some successes in my career to have that confidence — and I could have saved a lot of years in my career if I had spoken up 10 years ago.

Gloria Steinem
Journalist and activist

What advice were you given that you found useful?
I guess it comes under the general heading of “Do it anyway.” You’re not supposed to go to India by yourself at age 22 when you don’t know anybody there, but do it anyway. You’re not supposed t have your own byline or write a particular kind of piece, but do it anyway.

Do you think it’s easier or harder for women to be successful in the workplace today than it was when you started out?
It’s much easier. We’ve gone from one token to a minority. But we’re still not 50/50. The people in power have to overcome their prejudices.



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