Feeling your most confident self in the workplace is something every woman wants. Luckily for us, we’re living at a time when there are so many successful women to look to for inspiration and as role models.
In celebration of this - and the upcoming launch of our new organiser tote with its fresh, new profile - we’ve put together our pick of inspiring businesswomen and female leaders with the freshest take on female confidence today.
Because every Sarah Haran bag is designed to support women to feel confident in any situation – from workplace to weekend, from day to night – we think confident women are something worth shouting about!
Here, our icons of female confidence feature alongside the best books and documentaries to read and watch if you want to find out more. We hope you’re inspired…
Who: Paula Scher, graphic designer and Partner at Pentagram
Watch: “Abstract: The Art of Design”, Season 1, Episode 6 on Netflix
Paula Scher is an icon of design who runs ground-breaking NYC design agency Pentagram. She’s created logos for Windows, the New York Philharmonic, The Met and many more, and was famously tasked by Citibank with rebranding the company.
While in a meeting with the bank’s leadership discussing what they hoped to get out of working with her, Paula started doodling on her napkin. Five minutes later she handed the napkin – and the doodle - over to her clients, stating simply, “This is your logo”.
The bank accepted and paid $1.5 million for the logo and five minutes work, as part of a wider $10 million deal.
A masterclass in incredible confidence and knowing your worth, we love this story for the sheer audacity Paula exhibits, but also crucially, for having the talent and skill to back it up.
Who: Mary Portas, retail consultant with her own TV shows and founder of the Portas agency
Read: “Work Like a Woman: A Manifesto for Change”, by Mary Portas
Mary Portas is one of our icons – not only because of the inspirational way she’s reached the top of her profession, including carrying out a review of the future of the British high street for David Cameron – but because of the honest way she’s shaping the conversation around female confidence.
In her own words:
“By most people's standards I would say I've had a pretty good career… But at what cost? At the cost of who I truly was. I played the business game for years, where the rules were set by men for men. I was tough and aggressive… But I suppressed my natural energy, sensitivity and instinct. I worked like this until I couldn't any more. And then I changed.
“My team and I rebuilt my business on the values that matter: collaboration, empathy, instinct and trust. Values not always associated with leadership or winning… Now I want to share what I’ve learned through my own experiences, and am still learning, to change the way you work so that female energy and power will be seen as the most valuable currency in today’s new world of work.
“It’s time to create an unstoppable force for change. A feminine force. It’s time to #WorkLikeAWoman.”
We love Mary’s confidence in changing every aspect of her business to be true to her real self, while paving the way for other women.
Who: Lizzie Edwards, personal stylist and image consultant
Read: “Look Like the Leader You Are: A 7-Step Style Strategy for Ambitious Women”, by Lizzie Edwards
An ex-model and fashion journalist, we’re celebrating Lizzie for the incredible work she does giving women style confidence, including advice on how to dress for leadership with gravitas and flair - support women sometimes need to step up in their careers. Her book means everyone can benefit from her expertise. As our founder, Sarah Haran says:
“What women wear has always been a hot topic and one that comes with all sorts of emotional and, often, sexist baggage. What I love about Lizzie’s approach, explained so well in her book, is that it cuts past all that and tackles the topic with clarity, in a methodical way that works.
“Here, your wardrobe becomes what it should, another tool in your armoury for empowerment and self-expression on your path to career success - whatever that looks like for you today.”
Who: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
Read: “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”, by Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg famously urged women to ‘lean in’ in her pioneering book of the same name, published in 2013. In the book, Sandberg calls on women to recognise the internal obstacles that hold them back, one of which is pulling away from senior roles and (because of society’s influence) having less ambition to lead than men. (Another thing she champions is getting your partner to do half the childcare and housework… we thought you’d like that one.)
Still an important book, Sandberg is one of our female confidence icons for admitting that even she has had to work on her self-confidence over the years, and for speaking out to support women to imagine what they’d do if they knew they couldn’t fail. Then urging them to go out and do it.
Who: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Congresswoman
Watch: “Knock Down the House” on Netflix
A fireball of poise and self-assurance, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s incredible run to power as the youngest women to serve in the US Congress (aged 29) is captured in the Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House”. Like Mary Portas, she pioneers a more emotional, inclusive and - above all competent – form of leadership that’s as inspiring to men as it is to women.
AOC is our undisputed icon of female confidence as a woman in power who’s succeeded by embracing traditionally ‘feminine’ qualities of emotion and empathy. These are the same qualities women have often had to repress to be taken seriously. In doing so, she’s pioneering a whole new style of leadership that both men and woman can follow.
We hope you liked our icons of female confidence. Who are yours?