Women around the world share lessons learned during the pandemic

By Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 6:17 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022
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12:13 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Kristine Rodriguez, founder of GRL Collective

From CNN's Veronica Rocha

Kristine Rodriguez, founder of Latina-owned lifestyle brand GRL Collective, said the pandemic has taught her to save some compassion for yourself.

“What’s one lesson I've learned is to not only have empathy, compassion, and patience for others but to save some for yourself.”
12:17 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Dawn Ostroff, Spotify chief content officer

From CNN's Molly Shiels

Dawn Ostroff, Spotify's chief content officer.
Dawn Ostroff, Spotify's chief content officer. Rick Loomis

Spotify's chief content officer Dawn Ostroff reminded us about the importance of boundaries.

"Find the space to think big picture. In order to be your best self professionally and personally, compartmentalizing your time and establishing a finite end to the work day and the beginning of the evening is crucial," she told CNN.

Ostroff's advice comes as many people, both men and women, are working from home, blurring the lines between our personal and professional lives.

"Try to take yourself off of the zoom screen hamster wheel and make time for visionary and creative thinking about your business and your life," she added.

1:10 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Alexis McGill Johnson, CEO Planned Parenthood

From CNN's Madeleine Fitzgerald

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said one lesson she learned during the pandemic is to "stop apologizing."

"Despite everything the pandemic has thrown at us moms are still taking on way more labor on top of managing work and remote learning. I want to stop apologizing because my eight-year-old zoom bombed my calls with my team," she explained.

"This year let's try to introduce a mental trick every time we feel like the need to apologize for imperfectly juggling our jobs in our homes and our kids."

"I'm not just doing this for my own sanity, I'm doing it for my staff, for my two daughters who are learning how to advocate for their needs and manage their boundaries in the year ahead. I hope I can model those skills well for them and for everyone else," she added.

11:30 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Dr. Tarika Barrett, incoming CEO of Girls Who Code

Dr. Tarika Barrett, incoming CEO of Girls Who Code.
Dr. Tarika Barrett, incoming CEO of Girls Who Code. Luciana Golcman Photography

Dr. Tarika Barrett, incoming CEO of Girls Who Code, said she's made a "conscious effort" during the pandemic "to guard my time and be fully present with my friends and families."

“Between work, my kid’s remote learning and my very cute dog that thinks she is a wolf – pandemic days feels simultaneously too long and too short. So I’ve made a conscious effort to guard my time and be fully present with my friends and families. There is nothing more precious or healing than being with your loved ones.” 

10:55 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

American fashion designer Eileen Fisher

From CNN's Poppy Harlow and Nora Neus

Fashion designer Eileen Fisher said one thing she learned during the pandemic is the need "to stop and slow down."

She said it allowed her to "un-clutter and sort through what matters to me and what doesn’t matter and just kind of let go of a lot of things."

"It was interesting cause in doing that I found that I started to notice a lot of things. As my life got simpler, I started to notice the little things. Just like how something tastes, or how a garment feels, or how it is to be in conversation with someone, or just to take a deep breath." 

10:41 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Natalie Robi Tingo, activist fighting to end Female Genital Mutation

"Msichana Empowerment Kuria" founder Natalie Robi Tingo.
"Msichana Empowerment Kuria" founder Natalie Robi Tingo. Courtesy Natalie Robi Tingo

Natalie Robi Tingo is the founder of "Msichana Empowerment Kuria," an organization she founded at 19 years old. Her organization reaches more than 30,000 people from her community in Southern Kenya with End Female Genital Mutilation, education, human rights, youth and women empowerment programs.

"The world needs the leadership of women, especially now as we navigate the pandemic," she told CNN.
"Throughout the pandemic, women have been immensely affected by the caution of a shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls looming. Still, also we have experienced the power of women in leadership, as frontline workers working farms to produce food, delivering healthcare, keeping vulnerable girls and women safe from violence like FGM, and leaders in government and organizations. We must keep believing that our leadership is essential in navigating crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic."

10:08 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Vanessa Ruiz, International Association of Women Judges

Judge Vanessa Ruiz is the president of the international association of women judges, an organization spread across some 100 countries with more than 6,000 members.

She explained how challenging the pandemic was at first given that "our lifeblood is communication, networking and exchange."

However Ruiz also said there were valuable lessons that had been learned.

"Covid did not destroy us, Covid taught us and we have learned quickly by moving to a virtual format, we have been able to include more voices and reach more people than before."

"Going forward, we are not going to give up the warmth and the joy of being together in person – that is irreplaceable. But we will continue to use technology and virtual communication to be vibrant, grow stronger and be more inclusive of women judges everywhere in the world," she added.

9:41 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist and author 

From CNN's Catherine Carter

Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist and author of "Maybe You Should Talk To Someone," said something she learned during the pandemic is that women "need to listen to how we talk to ourselves."

"We need to be kinder to ourselves. We are doing great, and we don’t give ourselves enough credit for that."

She explained how often the things we say to ourselves we would never say to a friend, and that we need to be kinder to ourselves, adding that women need to "have more compassion for ourselves."

9:31 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Fatmata Binta Bah, social worker, Sierra Leone 

Fatmata Binta Bah, a social worker at AdvocAid in Sierra Leone.
Fatmata Binta Bah, a social worker at AdvocAid in Sierra Leone. Courtesy Fatmata Lamarana Bah

Fatmata Binta Bah, is a social worker at AdvocAid in Sierra Leone, an organization providing access to justice for women and girls in the country.

Bah described the "psychological and economical vulnerability of women" in society, especially as the pandemic subjected women to "no work or access to food and water, and arrests for petty offenses."

However, she stressed that women must keep fighting to be treated as equals.

"Despite this, women have still proven to be the epitome of global growth and development. We are the light to a brighter future, as such we must be given access to opportunities or resources to grow and we should be treated as equals."