37 Women with Interesting Things to Say about Leadership

by Jennifer Miller on February 7, 2013

in Leadership, Workplace Issues

leadership written in chalk

Where are all the women leaders?

Whenever I read a “top” or “best” list for leadership, my reaction is typically, “Hmm. Not a whole lot of women on this list.” These lists often tout sophisticated methodologies that describe how they selected those on the list. I wonder: to what degree does the inititial candidate pool include women? If qualified women are not included in the original sample, then all the science in the world won’t make the data accurate.

Typically, when I read these lists, I notice the absence of women, shrug my shoulders and move on with my day. After all, they’re only lists, right? My viewpoint has been that speaking out only serves to make the person who speaks up look guilty of sour grapes.

You know what?

Taking that approach makes me part of the problem.

By not speaking out, I am reinforcing the perception that there are few women with interesting things to say about leadership.

In my personal experience, this is patently untrue. There are many women out there, all across the globe, talking about leadership – and more importantly – leading. There is research to back up my anecdotal observation that women are skilled leaders. Here’s what I find curious: whenever an article appears with data that supports the effectiveness of women in leadership roles, the conversations invariably center around debating the merits of the research methodology and whether or not the studies are flawed. To me, the science of “proving” who “should” be on the list gets in the way.

There is a larger point to be made:

What’s important is that people with diverse opinions about leadership are heard

Participating in the book project The Character Based Leader has broadened my view of leadership – what it is and how it’s played out in our everyday lives. Yes, it’s true that women are underrepresented in senior-level positions in corporations, government and non-profit sectors. But that’s a very narrow definition of leadership. By using that context as the frame from which we create the list of “top leadership thinkers” we are excluding many vital, interesting people.

If I want to see a change in these lists, the first step is to start with myself. I must claim the title of leader and believe I have a right to discuss leadership issues just as much as the next person. My claim is justified, having led as a:

Sticky Note with I Am a Leader

I claim my right to be heard as a leader.
Will you?

– Manager in Corporate America

– Committee chairperson of a non-profit

– President of a large networking group (and the first woman elected to that post)

– Project team leader

– Entrepreneur

– Mother

There are many other women out there who can lay claim to their leadership experience. In an effort to widen exposure to women who talk about leadership, here are some names to consider.  My criterion: these are women I believe have something interesting to say about leadership. Many of them have mentored me. They may or may not have an impressive job title or write for a well-known publication. They have all taught me something that has, in turn, bettered my leadership abilities.

My Mentors and Role Models

Some of the my most influential female leaders aren’t women you’d ever know. Of the 13 leaders I’ve directly reported to in my professional life, 11 (yes, eleven) have been women. I’ve learned something from every single one of them.  Many other women (and men) have been my mentors.

Co-Authors, The Character Based Leader

Women aren’t well-represented with bookseller lists. On Amazon’s list of best-selling business books in management and leadership a female author’s name first appears in the 22nd place. That’s why I’m so proud of the Lead Change Group’s book project. Of the 21 authors who contributed, 14 were women.

Chery Gegelman

Christina Haxton

Deb Costello

Georgia Feiste

Heather Coleman-Voss

Jane Perdue

Lisa Petrilli

Mary Schaefer

Meghan Biro

Mónica Diaz

Sonia DiMaulo

Susan Mazza

Tara Alemany


Women Whom I Admire that Talk About Leadership

I met many of these women through interactions on social media. Others I’ve met during project work and still others are women whom I’ve never met, but nonetheless enjoy their writing and other contributions.

Angela Maiers

Anne Perschel

Becky Robinson

Cori Curtis

Dana Theus

Denise Blair

Dorothy Dalton  
Erika Anderson

Erin Schreyer

Gwyn Teatro

Jean Johnson

Jennifer Huff

Jesse Lyn Stoner

Joan Koerber-Walker

Julie Winkle Giulioni

Kare Anderson

Karin Hurt

Kathy Ormiston

Lisa Rosendahl

Liz Strauss  

Lolly Daskal

Martina McGowan

Mary Jo Asmus

Misty Smalley

Kate Nasser

Sharlyn Lauby

Staci Miller

Susan Packard

Wendy Appel

Whitney Johnson


Lists by their nature will exclude people. I do not characterize everybody I’ve ever met as “someone with something interesting to say” about leadership. But’s it’s also possible that I would include you on the list, if I was aware of your contributions. For example, as I review this list, it’s heavily skewed in favor of Caucasian women. I don’t want that to be the case, so please, let’s add to this list.

Yep, it’s an extremely unscientific list. What I find “interesting” may bore you to death. But at least I’m not silent any more. And who knows, if you think my list is bunk, maybe you’ll write your own list.  Your list will bring more women leaders into the spotlight.

I encourage you to join in. Don’t stay silent.  Put the names of women who have positively influenced you through their leadership into the comments section.

Are you a blogger? Write your own blog post. Not a blogger? Write something and I’ll publish it. For the men who are reading this – I’d welcome your thoughts as well. What women have influenced your leadership?


Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Mazza February 7, 2013 at 10:10 am

Thanks for stepping up Jennifer! I have quite a few to add starting with Jennifer Olney (@GingerConsult) who founded the fabulous #bealeader chat and community and writes at http://www.gingerconsult.com/, Alli Polin (@AlliPoln) who writes at http://http://breaktheframe.com/, Laura Goodrich (@LauraGoodrich) Author of Seeing Red Cars http://www.seeingredcars.com/ and Meridith Bell (@meridithmbell) who writes at http://www.yourvoiceofencouragement.com/ and is a coowner of Prostar Coach http://www.prostarcoach.com/n/leadership.html

I wonder if many women who have compelling things to say about leadership don’t get identified because they don’t really brand themselves as leadership experts per se.

Erin Schreyer February 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

Wow. Thank you for sharing this perspective and honoring all these amazing women. I’m so touched to be named among them.

Jennifer Miller February 7, 2013 at 11:51 am

Thank you Sharon, for joining us here at The People Equation. And thank you for adding names of women who have taught you through their leadership.

Jennifer Miller February 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm


Hello! Thanks for speaking up. I’m heading over to your blog right now. . .

Chery Gegelman February 8, 2013 at 12:26 am

Jennifer ~ Thank you for this post and for including me! It is an interesting topic that I have paid so little attention to! After reading your post I realized almost of the leadership books I own and have devoured for years were written by men! And then realized that the last two years have introduced me to so many women leaders that I learn from DAILY!

Now you have me pondering…

Susan ~ I love your list of additions – I follow nearly everyone of the women you mentioned and agree that there is much to learn from each of them!

Jennifer Miller February 8, 2013 at 11:17 am


Thanks for adding to the list!

Jennifer Miller February 8, 2013 at 11:20 am


You raise a good point – I do think that many of the women I personally cite in this post aren’t those typically associated with “leadership”. Having said that, I also know that several on the list *do* have a focus on leadership. It’s also telling that women aren’t well-represented on the book best seller lists – I find it difficult to believe that NO women are publishing books with a leadership title.

Deb Costello February 8, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Hi Jen,

Thank you so much for the shout out and a great list of wonderful people to learn from. The diversity of the list reminds me that I have much to learn and that women are a untapped resource. In fact, most women are leaders in many diverse contexts, and if we were able to reconize and gather their wisdom, we might learn even more.


Jennifer Miller February 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm


One of the things I most appreciated about connecting with you during the Character Based Leadership project is that you opened my eyes to a broader context of what it means to be a leader. Thank you.

Denise Blair February 11, 2013 at 10:43 am

Thank you for including me. As I thought about “Leadership” I realized that I have also had many women ‘leaders’ in my life and have led a lot as well. I was lucky enough to grow up with strong, loving role models in the women in my family. A few years after college, it was another woman, Sharon Inman, who led me to check out a Master’s Degree program in Organizational Development, which I subsequently completed and met lots of inspiring women along the way, including you. A fellow female student, Karolyn Smalley, happened to be the Dept. Head of the Human Resources Development Dept. at Amway Corporation and I contracted with her for many years and was coached and encouraged by her. Once I left the Corporate World, my focus was on my kids and their education. Then, it became my turn to take on leadership roles including President of PTA’s at the elementary and secondary levels.

Jennifer Miller February 24, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Hi, Charlotte! I look forward to learning more about your contributions. Thanks for adding your name.

Jennifer Miller February 27, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Hello, Ada!

Welcome to The People Equation. Thank you for joining the conversation!

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