A leg up: 16 uplifting quotes on the power of women helping one another at work

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Moya Crockett
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“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

Those famous words were printed on Starbucks coffee cups long before we relied on the internet for inspirational quotes. Coined decades ago by US politician Madeleine Albright, the phrase has been repeated so often that it tends to be accepted as motivational gospel. 

In recent years, the soundbite has undergone some re-evaluation. In an episode of political TV drama Scandal, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) tells a woman who uses it that actually, “There's a special place in hell for women who spout that tired quote to justify their bad behaviour.” And when 79-year-old Albright recycled her own quote while campaigning for Hillary Clinton, she was slated for trying to “shame” American women into voting for the only female candidate. 

But there's a reason why Albright’s words still resonate. Feminism means giving a leg-up to others when you can, rather than pulling up the ladder behind you; it means backing other women's goals, even when you're doing just fine. When it comes to female power, particularly in the workplace, there should be enough to go around – and there are few things better than collaborating with a crack team of brilliant women.

Below, we've rounded up 20 inspiring quotes about the importance of woman-on-woman support. Because, what better way to move forward than with the help of the sisterhood?

Images: Getty, Rex

  • Caitlin Moran, writer

    “There are two ways to be, as a woman who has been given some power. You can either go through the door and close it behind you, and enjoy being in the room that no-one else is in, or you can stand there and hold the door open to let other people through.” 

  • Michelle Obama, lawyer and writer

    “When you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back.”

  • Roxane Gay, writer and academic

    “If you and your friend(s) are in the same field and you can collaborate or help each other, do this without shame. It’s not your fault your friends are awesome. Men invented nepotism and practically live by it. It’s okay for women to do it too.”

  • Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook

    “We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women's voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.”

  • Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo

    “Women helping each other – coaching, mentoring and providing tips – is a great way for us to be our own force.”

  • Melinda Gates, businesswoman and philanthropist

    “If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”

  • Audre Lorde, writer and activist

    “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

  • Gloria Steinem, activist

    “The best way for us to cultivate fearlessness in our daughters and other young women is by example. If they see their mothers and other women in their lives going forward despite fear, they’ll know it’s possible.”

  • Isabel Allende, writer

    “I can promise you that women working together - linked, informed and educated - can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet.”

  • Margaret Fuller, journalist and activist

    “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.”

  • Malala Yousafzai, activist

    “I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard... We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

  • Crystal Renn, model

    “We women are a lot more powerful if we see each other as fighters on the same side. But it’s easier to judge others – their choices and their bodies – than to think about the struggles we share.” 

  • Gloria Vanderbilt, artist and author

    “I always believed that one women’s success can only help another woman’s success.” 

  • Katharine Weymouth, CEO of Washington Post Media

    “Women are often meeker in meetings and afraid to ask for raises and promotions. I’ve told countless female colleagues to stop apologising when they ask for more. It’s not personal, it’s business.”

  • Whoopi Goldberg, actress

    “We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” 

  • Sonia Sotomayor, associate justice of US Supreme Court

    “Remember that no one succeeds alone. Never walk alone in your future paths.”


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Moya Crockett

Moya is Contributing Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk and Deputy Editor of Stylist Loves, Stylist's daily email newsletter.