15 Insights from the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit

October 26, 2016

While the average Q&A lasted about 30 minutes due to the large number of people in attendance, somehow it still felt as though this was an intimate lunch where advice was exchanged amongst close friends. It is that generosity and openness of powerful women to mix and mingle, share stories and help each other make business connections that makes Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit so special.

When Sheryl Sandberg interviewed Priscilla Chan—I felt a new appreciation for the passion she brings to their foundation. When Barbra Streisand was introduced as an advocate for women’s heart health—you were exposed to a whole new side of her. And when Intel’s Diane Bryant opened up about her father’s incarceration and why she chose engineering—you see the fight and wit she must have exhibited when climbing the ranks.

In no particular order, here are 15 of my favorite quotes and insights from the two-day conference. I hope one or two of them inspire you the way they inspired me.

1. Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM (*client), talked about how hard it is to reinvent an iconic company of 400,000 employees, yet she proved it can be done. A good reminder that no ship is too big to turn with a clear vision.

2. Beth Comstock, Vice Chair of Business Innovations at GE, shared another example of what it takes to create change in a large company. She equated change with being alive and said, “When you innovate you can’t just layer on the new stuff, you need to edit and simplify.”

3. Wendy Clark, CEO of DDB NA, said the biggest shift from corporate to agency life was learning to lose more often. She often tells her people to “discuss the undiscussable” in the conference room and not outside in the halls.

4. Tamara Ingram, CEO of JWT, said, “Talent first, second, third and fourth to drive change.” She also pointed out leadership must represent the people on the street to be good enough.

5. Priscilla Chan, Co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, talked about she and Mark optimizing their chance of having an impact by making investments now. She believes, “You are capable beyond your wildest imagination, and there is a village behind you to help.” She seemed very genuine in their goals and passions, and inspired us all.

6. Barbra Streisand turned heads when she said, “Mind over matter and mind over my own self-doubt helped me believe I could sing 22 songs in a row on this past tour.” It reminded me to never doubt yourself and to always trust in how good you know you are.

7. Dr. Michelle Lee, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, reminded us, “Data is the currency of the new economy.”

8. Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, agreed when she discussed how using data at the enterprise level can catalyze problem solving and inspire creative solutions.

9. Ellen Kullman, former DuPont CEO, said, “Look at yourself as activists would look at you and prepare accordingly.”

10. Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet, who I personally found most impressive, also underscored the importance of anchoring your news in data. She encouraged us to be direct and concise, and was clearly complimented by her male counterparts for that trait. She also said, “Incrementalism leads to irrelevance.” And challenged us to, “Live your bucket list.”

11. Anita Hill, Women’s Studies Professor at Brandeis University, challenged every business school to have a course on how to manage a diverse workforce.

12. Shelley Broader, President and CEO of Chico’s, said, “Know your audience every which way to Sunday.” And, “Make sure if you do something bold it is believable.”

13. Diane Bryant, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Intel told us, “It does not help to be on the outside of the circle. To get inside you have to sell out a bit.” She admitted to not being afraid to curse, drink scotch neat and drive a stick shift. She reminded us that confidence is more highly correlated to success than competence.

14. Rima El-Husseini, Co-founder & CEO of Blessing said, “Power is the ability to make a difference for those around you.”

15. Pattie Sellers, Assistant Managing Editor at Fortune, said, “Real power is what you do outside your job description.”

Do you have a favorite quote from a powerful or inspiring woman? Feel free to share it in the comments section below.

Barri Rafferty is CEO of Ketchum, one of the world’s top communication firms, with offices and affiliates in 130 markets in more than 70 countries. Barri leads Ketchum’s Global Leadership Council to guide the strategy, client service and performance of the agency.

Outside of Ketchum, she participates in a number of groups including the sustainability task-force for the World Economic Forum and is a member of Arthur W. Page Society Page Up program. Rafferty sits on the board of StepUp, an organization with the mission of empowering girls from under-resourced communities to become confident, college-bound, and career focused and she is also a member of the governing body of OmniWomen, Omnicom’s Leading Women’s Network, for which she holds quarterly panel discussions featuring prominent women. She is the recipient of the Plank Center Milestones in Mentoring Award.

Barri is a graduate of Boston University (M.A) and Tulane University and enjoys watching soccer, volleyball, and dance – especially when her son and daughter are involved! Connect with her on Twitter: @barrirafferty