Traits of influential women (and 4 ways you can become one)

Portrait of a young African woman who rides the subway.

By Geraldine “Gerry” Viggiani

How might you identify a woman who is an influencer? Is it the way she looks and acts, the words she says, or is it something else? There are many great women who are identified as influencers, such as Rosa Parks, the Suffragists, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Gloria Steinman, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Beyonce, and Oprah Winfrey, to name just a few. Influencers can be businesswomen, politicians, artist, cultural icons, scientists, and activists. Let us discover what qualities and characteristic these women possess that lead them to become influencers.

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Women who are influential are often found to possess traits of creativity, vision, passion, and most importantly—persistence. They are outside-the-boxers, possessing the ability to see a path and a vision that may not be the norm. They are often considered revolutionary, or in some cases even downright dangerous. They not only believe in their ability to make change, invent, or create, but they also live and breathe it. Many face failures along the way, but they remain committed despite those failures, critics, and roadblocks.

Let us break down the above traits even further. When we talk about creativity in an influencer, we identify that these women can step out of the norm and see another vision. Society often dictates a herd mentality that is evolutionarily programmed. Belonging breeds acceptance and acceptance feels good. Cooperation with the majority feels safe as nonconformity is usually met with strong resistance. What happens though when the status quo marginalizes minorities, resources become extinct, or we are simply feeling bored and unmotivated? Conformity will eventually lead to a stifling and stagnation of the group.

Creativity and vision are what helps to advance insight and the spark that eventually motivates a person to bring about change. Take Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who spent a lifetime working toward her dreams and goals of becoming a Supreme Court Justice. She envisioned using her position to advance gender rights despite strong opposition. First though, she had to envision a future that defied gender roles, then she had to create an agenda with goals and action steps. Always inspired by her vision, she kept her eyes on the prize. In 1993 Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court and served until her death in 2020.

Passion is what takes an idea and spark and turns it into a fire. It is what moves you to persevere at something despite fear, unhappiness, or pain. It is the determination and motivation to push through suffering for the sake of an end goal. It is the “why,” and is often based on values or a moral compass—but not always. This passion can often be contagious and spill on to others who have like-minded thoughts. Emmeline Pankhurst, for example, was a passionate feminist who dedicated her life to the promotion of women’s rights. Alongside her three daughters, she created the “woman’s social and political union,” better known as the Suffragettes, an army of women who fought to win women the right to vote in the UK. So much was their passion, that her army used violence and was often persecuted and even jailed.

Lastly, there is persistence—despite all, it’s having the will to fight on, over and over, until your goals are met. Oprah Winfrey is a dazzling example of persistence. Born in abject poverty, shipped from grandmother to mother and eventually her father, Oprah was often neglected, and starting at age 9, was raped and sexually assaulted by many different men. Despite this, Oprah found her spark, leaned into her resilience and strength, and persisted. She believes, “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” She also believes in the power of mistakes and what you can learn from them to take yourself to the next level. Oprah’s persistence and the belief that she was going to be successful continue to drive her even today.

Do you want to become an influencer? Whether it is in business, socially, or through advocacy, there are some steps that can start you on your journey.

  1. FIND WHAT INSPIRES YOU What is your spark? Journal, vision board, make lists. Discover you.
  2. IDENTIFY YOUR COMMUNICATION STYLE Are you more the director type who uses expertise to get your needs or goals met? Then become an expert. Do you find you are more of a collaborator? Then find your village. Does your style utilize persuasion? If so, start convincing! Is your strength inspiration? Use emotion to inspire those around you.
  3. DEVELOP A REPUTATION THATIS IN LINE WITH YOUR GOALS Reputation is based on your interactions with others. Behave, talk, and surround yourself in ways that enhance the way you wish to be perceived.
  4. BECOME RESILIENT Compartmentalize through mindfulness. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Learn the power of saying no or yes when it serves you and your goals.

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