5 Characteristics of Successful Women

You see them all around you; women succeeding in every avenue of life. They seem to have direction and know what they’re doing. They seem busy, satisfied, and put together while you can barely coordinate an outfit. You wonder how they manage to look so calm and collected when you know they work full-time and yet somehow concurrently enjoy a full and happy home life.


How do these women do it? While there is no magical secret to success, there are certainly characteristics that most successful women share, and if you can adopt them in your own life, there’s no reason you can’t attain the same level of success.


1. Determined. Those who succeed are willing to try, fail, and try again. You’ve heard the saying “no risk, no reward” and truly successful women embrace this idea whole-heartedly. In order to advance in any area of your life, you have to be willing to go out on a limb. But more than that, you must have the willpower to pick yourself up when you fall flat on your face, and continue with even more resolve.




2. Resourceful. Let’s face it; women do not have the same advantages as men. True, they are light years ahead of where they sat just a few generations ago (presumably in the kitchen instead of the boardroom), but they still face a lot of hurdles when it comes to professional inclusion and progression. For that reason, women must use every tool in their arsenal in order to reach the same heights. They must garner a strong base of education and experience, and blend them with interpersonal skills to get ahead.




3. Engaging. Many women in office settings suffer from the same disorder; a woeful inability to speak up. Women are much more likely to downplay their own role and attribute successes to a team, whereas men seeking to climb the ladder will almost always take credit for their achievements (and make sure everyone hears about them). You must not only do well in your position in order to get promoted, you must be willing to market yourself as an asset and convince others of your value.




4. Ambitious. Women without ambition rarely achieve greatness. Queen Elizabeth I gave up the chance at a family (and had her own sister imprisoned) in order to rule England. Susan B. Anthony and many other suffragettes risked being ostracized and thrown in jail in order to spread the message of women’s equality. Throughout history, the most successful women have been willing to take control of their own lives and do whatever was necessary to reach their goals.




5. Confident. Without a firm belief in yourself, you cannot hope to achieve true success. Nobody wants to back someone who is uncertain about their own ability to follow through. Those who lack confidence may be seen as spineless, incompetent, and even lazy, whether they are or not. Women who are self-assured, on the other hand, inspire confidence in others. And believing in yourself, knowing that you are capable and self-sufficient, really makes material success more like the icing on the cake.

Protect Your Passion 2009

It has been said that “the surest way to keep a man in prison is not to let him know he’s there.” And the surest way to keep a woman from embracing her pure career ambition is to make her believe she’s already done it.

Don’t believe it. 

Heading into 2009, we women still are not advancing in our careers the way we should. We’re not getting the fulfillment we desire or making the money we deserve. And this time it’s not men who are holding us back. This time, sisters, we’re doing it to ourselves, because ambition—for us—is still a dirty word.

Do you unconsciously buy into our prevailing cultural paradigm, that double standard that says: ambitious men are go-getters, but ambitious women are bitchy, greedy, cold, arrogant females who attract enemies, repel lovers, make rotten mothers, live lonely lives and, in one way or another, miss out on fulfilling lives because of their ambition?

Are you not advancing in your career as quickly as you’d like? Are you not making the money you deserve and getting the fulfillment you desire? Are you afraid of what you might have to sacrifice if you pursue your big goals?


It doesn’t matter where we grew up, went to school, or go to work. It’s the same whether we’re in our twenties and new to our careers, or in our fifties and sixties and among the most highly-regarded professionals in our industries. Today, the greatest barrier to earning more money, getting the power and recognition we deserve, and feeling entitled to stay the course comes from inside of ourselves. We agonize over whether or not we deserve to be ambitious—and about what it will cost us.

High-achieving women of all ages and at all stages of our careers all harbor the same dirty little secret:
 we all struggle with socially sanctioned failure to embrace our ambition. We all have some version of the same pernicious audio loop playing between our ears:

“Will being as ambitious as I dream of being make me less of a woman? Can I? Dare I? Have I gone too far? Will it cost me my personal life? Will I make enemies? Is it impossible to be a great mother and as equally committed to my ambition as I am to the well-being of my children? Will it make those I care about suffer? Is it impossible to be ambitious and happy? Am I giving my employer or my clients their money’s worth? If I negotiate, if I ask for what I’m worth, will I lose the opportunity? Is it wrong to care as much about making money as I do about making a contribution and being fulfilled at work? Does taking credit mean I’m greedy, arrogant? Am I worthy of recognition and power? Do I deserve to go after my biggest, most precious career dreams?”

Ambition is not a dirty word, but as far as many of us are concerned, it might as well be.

Why do so many of us self-sabotage without noticing that we’re doing it?

Because everywhere, there are disempowering ideas about women disguised in positive, and even sometimes flattering terms. 
The ideas translate into seemingly desirable traits women should cultivate, and we buy into them and internalize them. But these views and attributes are not desirable—they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they lead to self-sabotaging beliefs and behavior. By accepting them, and action on them, we women compromise our ambition—but we don’t see what we are doing to ourselves.

Our culture encourages women to derive our sense of self from being selfless, by giving to everyone else first and foremost—even at the expense of our career dreams.
 Could there be a more confusing, contradictory recipe for self-satisfaction? No wonder we drop kick our dreams!

We women have been told—implicitly or explicitly—not to value our ambition as much as our other priorities. Instead, we’re spoon-fed a culturally acceptable, watered-down definition of success:

-”You don’t have to be unabashedly ambitious. You’re above all that. You’re sophisticated enough to realize that ambition isn’t as important as getting the life-balance equation right. Get balance right and you’re successful, even if you have to sacrifice your dreams.”

Few of us challenge the notion that the accepted definition of success might actually be holding women back because it is couched in such a positive way. 

How can we take seriously the necessary soul-searching required to discover what we were meant to do professionally when we’re rarely encouraged to explicitly acknowledge and to discuss our pure, unadulterated ambition? 

This year, tell yourself a new message: your ambition is not a dirty word. It’s the best of who you are.You owe it to yourself—and the world—to make the contribution you were born to make. You can be as ambitious as you want to be—with integrity, grace, and dignity. And being true to your ambition needn’t cost you a happy personal life.

Here’s my new year’s challenge to you: 

Go down just as hard for your ambition as you do for any other primary priority in your life, be it lover, friend, child, community. Don’t sacrifice your ambition for any reason.

In 2009, let’s reclaim ambition as a virtue by adopting three rules: 

1. You must love your work.
 You must be willing to aggressively pursue the professional work you were meant to do and to strive for any career opportunities that inspire you.

2. You must regard your deepest career aspirations as unconditionally sacrosanct. 
The real way to have a great life is to see your career ambition as a part of your value system to which you must give equal attention, along with other non-negotiable priorities in your life, including your partner, your unconditional dedication to your children, and your commitment to your friends and community.

3. You must feel entitled to earn your worth.
 You must charge your full marketplace value without self-reproach, without leaving money on the table, and without feeling like an impostor.

If you don’t go down hard for your ambition, you’re letting the best part of you, the part that the world deserves to have you contribute, rot in a basement. 
In 2009, let’s get her out.

Protect your passion. As the ambitious woman you are entitled to be, I encourage you to answer for yourself, every day, a question posed in Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”:

Tell me, What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

To steal a line from the musical “Rent”, “It’s gonna’ be a happy new year.”

Designing Between the Lines

I love, live and breathe fashion. I pick season’s colors, watch fashion trends, travel to Paris to source fabrics, and I sketch constantly.  Ah yes, and read fashion magazines and shop whenever possible.  All in the name of work.  Lucky?  Definitely.  Absolutely!  But getting here was a journey, and one that required a complete re-working of my ideas about career and success.

Having been raised by immigrant parents, I grew up in a household where education was highly valued, and having a stable, well-paying career was heavily encouraged.  I always loved fashion but it never occurred to me that it was a feasible career. So, my first choice was the law. And, I worked incredibly hard to get into a great college so that I could realize this pursuit.

Then, during my first semester at U.C. Berkeley, I discovered that lawyers actually have to think about THE LAW. Hmmm. Obvious, I know, but it was a shock to me… It’s funny – when you’re young, you formulate an answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” without really even knowing what certain jobs entail. And, over time, if you’re not careful, you can spend years moving towards actualizing a goal that occurred to you when you were a child. So, there I was, a college freshman, on the brink of giving my professional life up to a pursuit I didn’t fully understand when it struck me that, now that knew a bit more about myself and how the world works, I should probably investigate what I really wanted to be.

At Berkeley, I started giving credit to my passion for fashion, and began thinking about possibly building a career as a designer. After a couple of years of dancing around it, I started taking some costume design classes. This first structured foray into fashion was exciting and profoundly satisfying. When you start actually doing something that, for a long time, has been a bit of a fantasy, you experience great satisfaction, and – dare I say – power. You realize that you are ultimately a self-directed being, and you can choose your professional future. And so, I decided to choose mine.

When the end goal finally crystallized, I began planning. Unlike my discarded decision to become a lawyer, my decision to become a designer came with an understanding of what the path truly entailed. Fashion design is a true trade and craft, and I wanted to be designer in every sense – I needed to learn how to drape, make patterns and sew garments. So, after some very unglamorous, but practical, training at an LA trade school, I was ready to start my own little local line, Lanya.  My first order started as a final school project, and it turned into a birthday present for a friend working at a well-known boutique known as a launching ground for LA designers. The owner wanted 4 tops immediately. And so it began… I was a designer. Or so I thought.

After 2 years of being in the best boutiques, having clothes photographed with fashion dreams like Dries Van Noten, and being highlighted in Lucky magazine, I was frustrated. I realized that when you have your own label, you are not just a designer – you also have to worry about production, marketing and sales. Although I was a designer to the extent that I made clothes, I was, in many ways, an entrepreneur. And although that’s fine, that’s not what I wanted. So, I re-calibrated again. I was self-directed and I could choose my own path, remember?

All my thinking led me to an unmistakable conclusion – I would move to New York so that I could work for a designer… I would design clothes, while someone else worried about everything else. It was difficult to leave my close family and lots of life long friendships but, fortunately, my life in New York is fantastic – I’m in a cute, East Village apartment with a wonderful new love, and I work for a great company, run by a professional woman who encourages creativity and pushing the envelope. She gracefully manages the challenges of running a company, and inspires me to be impassioned by my role as a head designer. And, ironically, as a member of a team that supports and advances a brand built by someone else, I now have the freedom that I expected to have when I was the boss. I can create and have fun and not have to worry about keeping the lights on.

Did I ever think I’d be working for someone else and loving it? No, but it’s been a great turn of events, and I love the listener’s pause after I respond with, “I design lingerie.” So, it’s tough to know when you’re 12 what you’ll end up doing when you grow up, but it’s great to know that we all have the freedom to change our minds when we decide to stop, take stock, and be brave enough to make a decision that can make the difference between just having a job, and getting paid to do what you love.

Looking forward to sharing my designing details, and sprinkling some life in between the lines with all you Damsels in Success!