Cartoon image of three women's fists raised in defiance against a pink background.

Leadership Inspiration From "Everyday" Powerful Women

Leadership Inspiration From "Everyday" Powerful Women

Most famous powerful women highlighted in society today seem like they have moved mountains to get to where they are. To me, seeing these seemingly unattainable accomplishments has made the road to success appear a bit intimidating. Although I have high aspirations for myself, I have often felt fearful of the change that would arise if I really tried for this success. Through all this occasional self doubt, I’ve found comfort in looking to role models. As an ambitious woman, having other women who inspire me is what keeps me motivated. I think we can all agree that nothing is more encouraging than seeing other “everyday” women, who were just like us at one point, opening up doors for themselves that even they probably never thought imaginable. 

Powerful women are present in every walk of life. It is never too early, or too late to empower yourself. The road to becoming a powerful woman and a compelling leader often follows the same relative cycle — adoring it, seeking it, then working hard to achieve it. It is important to remember that any woman can be a powerful woman. Sometimes, we just need that extra push. So, here’s a little bit of advice and inspiration from some of my favorite “everyday” female role models on how to place yourself into this cycle. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing two seniors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Jasmine Bogojevic and Sabrina Dahlen, as they explained their journeys and highlighted some of the key ways they were empowered as college students. 

“My mom always says: balance between your brain and your heart."

Jasmine Bogojevic

Second semester senior, Jasmine Bogojevic, serves as an exemplary role model through her commitment to staying motivated throughout hardship. Coming into college as an integrative biology major with a double minor in psychology and chemistry, Jasmine will be graduating this year having served as membership chair of premedical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon, a certified EMT, and a future medical school student. Jasmine told me that at first, medicine seemed like such an unattainable route. She was able to overcome this self-doubt when she took her first EMT class, saying that it changed everything: “I got to see what it was really going to be like being a doctor,” she explained, “I got so much excitement from EMT. I then ended up teaching the class. It was so cool that they appreciated me enough that they wanted me to come back and teach it.” Jasmine showed me that having a sense of direction is essential to empowerment, even if it isn’t crystal clear at first. 

When asked if she thought her gender made it more difficult to have certain opportunities, Jasmine responded with a resounding yes, “Definitely. I am a first generation college student and a woman. There definitely is a stigma that you are not as capable of holding positions as a man.” 

It was comforting to know that someone so accomplished had felt this way too. She went on to describe that “it is important that people see the good in you. It is intimidating when it's male against female in the medical world or anything professionally. Believe in yourself and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and what you’ve done. Confidence and how you present yourself is everything.” 

She confidently assured me some advice for other women looking for empowerment: “In times like today, it can be hard sometimes to be kind to people, but it’s always important, no matter what. Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t change yourself or your beliefs personally as a woman just to get a job or position because you’re worried you won’t get it just because you’re a female. Stand your ground and go with your gut. My mom always says: ‘balance between your brain and your heart.’” 

Jasmine showed me that having a sense of direction and choosing to be confident about it will propel you forward in your journey to success. Even if you don’t know it right away, it's never too late to find your passion. We don’t have to be afraid of change, even if it might mean stepping onto an unknown path ahead. If you know your goal, you know enough to start. The steps along the way will fall into place if you want it enough. Jasmine’s story inspires us to be confident in who we are, and to really trust that we know ourselves best. 

“My proudest accomplishments have come out of situations I’m glad I didn’t let myself back out of.” 

Gies College of Business senior here at the University of Illinois, Sabrina Dahlen, sheds some more light on what it means to her to be a strongly motivated woman. Sabrina is majoring in finance and minoring in German and technology and management. She introduced herself by sharing with me that throughout her four years at UIUC, she has “taught a freshman level business class, been a course manager, mentored underclassmen, made amazing friendships, and more.” 

As she reflected upon her time in college and all that she has accomplished, I was immediately inspired. Interestingly enough she shared that although landing prestigious positions, such as her dream internship and her presidency of Business Council on campus, her proudest accomplishments can be attributed to her “do before you think” mindset. She told me, “when it comes to big life decisions, all of 

Sabrina Dahlen

my proudest accomplishments have come out of situations I’m glad I didn’t let myself back out of before doing.” As young women trying to establish a path to success of our own, we shouldn’t be afraid of taking risks or let fear get in our way. She also stressed the importance of being yourself: “I think no matter what your personality type is, you should lean into it because success comes in many different ways.” Sabrina felt similarly to Jasmine on her experience as a woman in the workforce: “Being a woman in business school, you face discrimination daily. I also happen to be a woman studying finance and minoring in engineering, both heavily male dominated fields. I often hear my male counterparts talk about how a woman got an internship over them ‘because the investment banking firm needed more girls.’” She went on to assure me that “it can be hard not to internalize this and let it stop you from going for certain opportunities. Every time I saw a job application and doubted for a second if I was qualified enough, I would remind myself of how awful it would feel giving those men the satisfaction of getting the job over a more qualified woman, because she was too scared to apply.” 

Sabrina shows us that internalizing these invalidating feelings is not productive to our progress no matter how hard it can be to block them out. We can’t give up just because we are told to by someone who has no idea how badly we want it. She inspires us to try even when what we desire seems like a hopelessly unattainable dream. She vocalized that “it’s okay if the first opportunity you go for denies you. It’s also okay if the 47th one doesn’t want you. Every “no” I’ve gotten has pushed me in a new direction.” We are all capable of this if we’re not afraid to be told no. Sabrina’s story inspires to take “no” as a redirection instead of a rejection. 

Any woman can be successful. 

Whether you took away the same things as I did from these women or not, the point isn’t that we all look up to these role models in the same way. The point is, however, that whether you choose to look up to them or not, these women exist, and they are everywhere everyday. Jasmine and Sabrina do what they do because they are empowered women with self-confidence and the belief that they can accomplish whatever they put their mind to. I’m not saying you have to follow in their footsteps directly, because again, any woman can have the capacity to be successful. At the end of the day, these two women are examples that it is possible to break barriers and achieve our goals. I look at them and think: if they can do it, so can I…and so can you!