‘Dream a Bit Bigger’: Influential Leaders Share Advice with PIH Community on International Women’s Day

Six inspiring women give insight into their personal journeys 

Posted on Mar 11, 2021

Despite hosting Top Chef for 15 years, co-founding a nonprofit, and publishing a handful of cookbooks, among other accomplishments, Padma Lakshmi has experienced impostor syndrome, along with many other high-achieving people.

But she never let her initial beliefs that she wasn’t qualified enough get in the way of her career. Her hope is that women and girls will do the same, feel less self-doubt than she did, and not be dissuaded from careers they want to pursue.

“Women, young women, and girls need to dream a bit bigger,” Lakshmi, TV host and producer, author, and UNDP Goodwill ambassador, told thousands of viewers on a livestream organized by Partners In Health (PIH). “We have to find somewhere deep within us...to say...I’m going for it. I’m going to let someone else tell me ‘no.’ I’m not going to let myself tell me ‘no’ before I even get started.”

Panelists shared advice on overcoming roadblocks, pursuing leadership opportunities, and growing a career during a lively, hourlong discussion to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. Lakshmi was one of six influential women—who are in a range of fields and at different points in their careers—who participated.

Dr. Jimena Maza, director of teaching and clinical care at Compañeros En Salud, as Partners In Health is known in Mexico, moderated the event. The panel included Dr. Paula A. Johnson, president of Wellesley College; Dr. Ijeoma Kola, public health historian and founder of Cohort Sistas; and, Nadya Okamoto, author and founder of August and PERIOD. The event also featured a special video message from Tsion Yohannes Waka, chair of the Center for Gender Equity at the University of Global Health Equity, a PIH initiative in northern Rwanda.

Aligning with the UN Women theme for the 2021 International Women’s Day Celebration—“Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”—the panelists discussed racial equity, the impact of COVID-19 in professional and personal settings, diversity and inclusion, and more.

“Having more women in leadership is not a ‘nice to have’—I think we have to view it as essential, truly essential to the future of our world,” Johnson said.

A recording of the discussion is available above or on PIH’s YouTube channel.

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