Here’s How Women Define Success in 2015
A recent study conducted by Citi and LinkedIn explores the differences between how men and women define success in 2015. Of the 1023 men and women surveyed, both sexes prioritize work/life balance (women at 47% and men at 48%). However, when it comes to the question of defining “having it all,” the statistics were rather surprising. According to the study, 79% of men equate “having it all” with being in a loving marriage, compared to only 66% of women. In addition, 86% of men factor children into their definition of success, compared to 73% of women. This study got us thinking: How do women define success in 2015? Scroll through to find out what success means to some of our favorite female leaders.
For Taylor Swift, success is about forging a path unlike anyone else’s. She told Time about women she looks up to in other industries and why she sees them as successful: “We’re taught to find examples for the way we want our lives to wind up. But I can’t find anyone, really, who’s had the same career trajectory as mine. So when I’m in an optimistic place I hope that my life won’t match anyone else’s life trajectory, either, going forward. I do have female role models in the sense of actresses like Mariska Hargitay. I think she has a beautiful life, and an incredible career, and I think she’s built that for herself. She’s one of the highest paid actresses—actors in general, women or men—on television, and she’s been playing this very strong female character for, what, 15 years now, something like that. And Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I really love her business, and how she sticks to who she is, and how people relate to it. In other industries, I have female role models. I just struggle to find a woman in music who hasn’t been completely picked apart by the media, or scrutinized and criticized for aging, or criticized for fighting aging—it just seems to be much more difficult to be a woman in music and to grow older. I just really hope that I will choose to do it as gracefully as possible.”
Our Takeaway: You can look to others for inspiration and guidance, but you must define your own path to success.
In her Huffington Post article, “Why I Decided to Grow My Value,” Brzezinski states the personal nature of success: “There is no one, clear path for women to ‘success.’ There is no map, no obvious way forward because the definition of success is going to be different to each individual person. What is most important as a woman, a mother, an employee, is to figure out what you personally need to be happy and complete. It is not enough to build up everyone around you in order to create your own happiness. That will work on a superficial level, but in order to make sure that you are fulfilled you will need to dig in deep and do your own soul searching.”
Our Takeaway: Success requires soul searching and learning what you need to be happy.
In an interview with Forbes, Arianna Huffington discussed why it is critical that entrepreneurs should focus on a third metric of success—as opposed to the tradition definition of success as wealth and power: “Over time our society’s notion of success has been reduced to money and power. In fact, at this point, success, money, and power have practically become synonymous in the minds of many. This idea of success can work—or at least appear to work—in the short term. But over the long term, money and power by themselves are like a two-legged stool—you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over. And more and more people—very successful people—are toppling over. To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”
Our Takeaway: If you want to achieve sustainable success, you must consider wellness—in addition to wealth and power.
In an interview with Huffington Post, Julianne Moore, one of our favorite self-described feminists, admitted that she feels like she has achieved what she defines as success: “Success is personal. I think you feel successful when you’re doing something well that you enjoy. And that can be anything. It doesn’t have to be something that’s paid, it can be something that you really love doing. It can involve your family, it can involve your work, but it’s just the feeling that you’re accomplishing something that you want to accomplish. I feel very fortunate to have been able to support myself doing work that I love.”
Our Takeaway: You will feel successful when you find something you love to do and you do it well.
For Emily Weiss, her definition of success has evolved organically as she has grown beauty site Into the Gloss and sister online retailer Glossier into one of the most respected and lovable beauty brands in the fashion world. But making Into the Gloss a profitable company is definitely something the entrepreneur deems to be successful. She told the Huffington Post about her confidence in her company: “I always thought Into the Gloss would be successful, but I didn't really know what my definition of success was. And I think for a lot of first time entrepreneurs and people starting their companies, I hear that a lot. With Into the Gloss and now Glossier, the reason it was successful was because there were so many like-minded women out there who were also dissatisfied with their beauty experiences. But the idea that it was profitable via advertising or anything like that, I mean I had beginner’s knowledge because I was always on the editorial side. So how I [made Into the Gloss profitable] was through a series of happy accidents and just through the evolution of that.
Our Takeaway: Defining success as profitability is wise. But don’t stop there. See how successful your company can be beyond profitability.
Gwyneth Paltrow admits to having days when she feels very far from success, which she defines as a balanced lifestyle. “Some days I just think I am failing everywhere,” Gwyneth told Viva. “Like today I was making lunch and saying to myself ‘this lunch is so bad,’ throwing pasta in the lunch bag, yelling ‘get in the car.’ I was losing my cool. I think it’s very hard to try to find the right balance and I think we all aspire to that balance, but it’s easier said than done. It’s just a matter of trying your best each day and not being too hard on yourself about things.”
Our Takeaway: Try your best each day, but don't chastise yourself for having an imperfect day.
We love Ali Wentworth’s honest and altruistic definition of success. "I define success not financially or if you're in Us Weekly. I define it by the quality of life," Wentworth said. "My family and friends is how I look at success." Wentworth also mentioned the importance of impacting others in order to maintain a fulfilling life. She considers giving back to be a major component of personal success. "I also think that if you're a successful person you're a spiritual person, a person that does give back to your community [and] a person that cares about the world," she told Huffington Post.
Our Takeaway: Success is all about quality of life and helping to make the world a better place.
Like Arianna Huffington, Katie Couric is a strong believer in the third metric of success. But in order to make that third metric a reality, she believes that young women need to “support and help other people have a healthy perspective and a balance.” She told Brzezinski at The Third Metric conference, “It’s really about how we relate to each other and look at ourselves.” Additionally, Couric told Huffington Post that success is “loving what you do.”
Our Takeaway: In order for women to be successful, we need to help one another and foster an environment where balance is the goal.
For Ivanka Trump, success does not have a one-size-fits-all definition. "I know plenty of people who are outwardly highly successful and inwardly miserable—and to me that is not success, that's the opposite of it,” she tells Glamour. “Success is setting goals that feel true to who you are, not to what others expect of you. And that can change. My husband and I are both incredibly career-oriented. But the day Arabella was born reset my priorities. I became efficient in ways I never knew were possible—having a beautiful little person at home waiting for you will do that!"
Our Takeaway: Having children changes your definition of success, but it also enables you to do things you never thought possible.
Well-being expert Lucy Danziger believes in the power of introspection. “Success is understanding what makes you happy and then pursuing that goal,” she told Huffington Post. “That's a two-pronged process—I know plenty of people who start on a career path and then think, ‘You know what? I don't want to be a lawyer or a doctor; I really care about fitness, or I want to be a baker.’ When you're in your 20s or 30s you have a lot of preconceived notions about what you should do that have been imprinted on you since childhood. The hardest point is shutting out those other voices.”
Our Takeaway: You have to shed society’s definition of success in order to find your own.
For Randi Zuckerberg, the mean of success has evolved over the years. "Success means something a lot different to me now than it did when I first started my career," she tells the Huffington Post. "I valued success by what society told me it was: money, a big title, owning a big house. But as I've grown up, and now that I have a son, my priorities have definitely changed a lot. Now, success means being the best person I can be, and watching my three-year-old son grow into a lovely man who gives back, and is respectful to women."
Our Takeaway: Your definition of success can evolve as you evolve. Wanting different things at different points in life is part of being human.
Below, shop some of our favorite books from women who've fulfilled their own definitions of success.
We want to know: How do you define success? Share with us in the comments.