It’s a time to reflect—and move forward. 17 female leaders from across industries share their personal and professional reflections on the singular spark of RBG.
As we reflect on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we can’t help but focus on the attributes that made her one of the most extraordinary giants of our time.
Ginsburg fearlessly dedicated her life to gender equality, propelling it to front and center in people’s minds. Her pursuit of justice is something everyone can learn from. Instead of having a sense of grievance over the barriers she faced, she let them fuel her moral courage and drive her mission to ensure that others wouldn’t have to endure the same roadblocks. Through RBG’s remarkable career, she showed that glass ceilings can be broken not only for individuals but also an entire nation.
The true impact of Ginsburg’s life is seen in how she shaped and paved the way for other achievers to rise. At the news of her death, I asked power women, who in their own way have broken barriers, to reflect on how RBG influenced their careers and inspired them to create opportunities for others, as she had done for them.
All of our successes are built on the foundation that Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave us through her victories. We each have a responsibility to not only carry forward her fight of the past eight decades but also take it further for future generations.
The world’s most powerful women tell Forbes about how Ruth Bader Ginsburg inspired them
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959, she was first in her class–and she couldn’t find a job. So she did what brilliant, ambitious women have always done when the doors of power slammed in their faces: she found another way. She built a world-changing career fighting for women’s legal equality one case at a time, taking apart systemic gender discrimination piece by piece. Then she became a Supreme Court Justice and defended equal rights and opportunities for everyone. She was a 5’1″ giant. I don’t know what my life or my daughters’ lives would look like if it weren’t for her.
Indra Nooyi, Former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo
Women don’t belong on pedestals. They don’t belong on the sidelines or behind the accomplishments of others. They belong in the ring—fighting. Ruth Bader Ginsburg dedicated her life’s work to this belief, and generations of women past, present, and future are stronger for it. We lost a genuine heroine, and we shouldn’t skirt over how much it hurts. But as we mourn, we must also make sure that our gloves are ready, so that we can put them back on and fight to keep her legacy alive.
Tory Burch, Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Tory Burch LLC
Justice Ginsburg was an American hero and an icon around the world to all of us committed to equal rights. She paved the way for generations of women, opportunities our mothers could only dream of became real for so many. And she was a beacon of hope–her fierce courage and unwavering commitment to justice inspire us all to embrace our ambition and never give up. She used her power to lift up women and never let them fall.
Julie Sweet, CEO, Accenture
When I was a second year law student at Columbia, I was in the final round of our moot court competition, and she judged the round. It was an incredible privilege to meet her and so inspiring to see how she commanded the respect and admiration of all. It reinforced that I could not allow any barriers to stop me from achieving the best I could be. Watching her unflagging and persistent advocacy for women, for equality and for our responsibility to help others has been a career-long inspiration. By the way, I lost in the finals—and that inspired me too—to work even harder, so I could meet her standards.
Roz Brewer, Group President and COO, Starbucks Coffee Company
When faced with tough social or ethical decisions, I would often ask myself, “What would a leader like Ruth do?” Justice Ginsburg was my hero. She was that voice in my head, reminding me to be objective, to know the facts and to lead courageously.
Although I might feel rudderless without her in that seat, I am choosing to be a fighter. Ruth would want me to stand my ground, represent the underserved and do it with poise. And I will. For myself and for future generations.We lost a trailblazer.
Mary Barra, Chairman, and CEO, General Motors Company
I join the nation in mourning the passing of Justice Ginsburg. She was an incredible trailblazer who fought to the end. She showed us that all women belong in any industry. My condolences are with her family—we will continue her work for equality and justice for all.
Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, thank you for your legacy. You inspired generations of women, including myself, my sisters and my daughters. Thank you for leading the way and showing all of us that we can work together to uphold justice.
Sara Blakely, Founder and CEO, SPANX
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy will live on in the achievements of all the women who, because of her work, were given an opportunity to fulfill their dreams and greatest potential. Her impact will live on in these women and their daughter’s daughters ongoing, and should forever be celebrated and protected.
Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO, JPMorgan Chase Asset & Wealth Management
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a pioneer who broke barriers with her intellect, determination, passion and prose. She gave a voice to many in society that are often underrepresented. She inspires me as a leader to do the same—by listening, by asking why and why not, and by being intentional. My three daughters will have more opportunity in this world because of her resilience, confidence and grit. To the “Notorious RBG”—thank you for all you have done for generations to come. We are eternally grateful.
Adena Friedman, President and CEO, Nasdaq
Ruth Bader Ginsburg dedicated her life to be an advocate for equality. Her career paved the way for countless women to expand their professional ambitions, and her actions as a trailblazing Supreme Court Justice opened new doors of opportunity for so many while strengthening societal protections for millions of women and underrepresented groups.
In my own career, I benefited from the actions that Justice Ginsburg took to ensure women have an equal opportunity in the workplace, and as a result, I have carried with me the conviction that I could reach the highest levels in my field. Because of her strength and courage, Justice Ginsburg leaves a legacy that will benefit our country for decades to come.
Meg Whitman, CEO, Quibi
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an iconic Supreme Court Justice and woman of purpose whose incredible tenure forever changed how we view the highest court in the land. She blazed a new path when there was none, triumphed in the face of adversity, and tirelessly advocated for every voice to be heard. Her ability to rise above and persevere with uncommon grace will continue to inspire us all.
Diane von Furstenberg, Founder and Chairman, DVF
Only six months ago, at the Library of Congress we honored RBG with The Lifetime DVF Award. What an honor and a privilege to know this extraordinary woman. She had strength, dignity, empathy, humor and fought for justice and equality. She is a role model for all women and humanity in general.
Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman, IBM
Ruth Bader Ginsburg did more than fight for equal rights for women. With her unapologetic self-confidence and courageous career choices she demonstrated why women deserve to lead. She will continue to be a source of inspiration to future generations.
Beth Ford, President and CEO, Land O’ Lakes, Inc.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed the lives of many by working within, outside of and around the biases of the few. Her lasting impact, particularly for women, the gay community and the underrepresented, will be celebrated today and felt by our children for all the todays to come.
Donna Langley, Chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group
Through her acumen, tenacity and wit, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a graceful warrior who embodied the very human and civil rights she used her power to fight for. She lived an historical and beautiful life, and as a female leader, I will always be grateful to have had such an inspirational role model to learn and draw strength from.
Kirsten Green, Founder and Managing Partner, Forerunner Ventures
There are not enough, nor adequate, words to honor the unyielding force of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her life, her persistence, her purpose, has given so many women the fearlessness to build a path of reason and of personal design. She worked tirelessly to frame a world that favors big thinking, improved ideas, and fought for women in a world run by men. RBG is a hero to many, me included, and my hope is that generations to come will heed her example internalizing that anything is possible, and more importantly, that women…everyone, matters.
Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought so hard for all of us, for more years than she needed to. Her strength guided us through the big fights for equity and justice, and the small ones too (“in every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf”—I use that one everyday.) For now, we grieve. And then, we fight. We will not let you down, Justice Ginsburg.
–By Moira Forbes, Forbes Staff
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