Women around the world share lessons learned during the pandemic

By Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 11:48 a.m. ET, March 12, 2021
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5:19 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Padma Lakshmi, Indian-American author

From CNN's Madeleine Fitzgerald

Indian-American author Padma Lakshmi is also a television host and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.

She said the pandemic has taught her to stop confusing "being busy with being productive."

"You don't have to say yes to every single thing," she told CNN.

"What I learned is that a lot of the stuff that we do is actually not that necessary and we shouldn't confuse being busy with being productive."

She said we need to remember that, as Covid-19 restrictions ease and people go back to "normal" life, we don't need necessarily need to do all the things we were doing before.

5:01 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Christina Hernandez, Mars Perseverance Rover engineer

From CNN's Gloria De Leon

Christina Hernandez works as one of the Mars Perseverance’s payload systems engineers.

She told CNN how important it is to allow yourself to take a step back.

"In the last year, when faced in tough environments with uncertainty, doubt, anxiety or even fear, I realized how important it was to embrace in radical self love, vulnerability and patience. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and play your favorite song and just rock out!"

"That will help you create a sense of motivation and grit and heck, it might help you land a rover on Mars," Hernandez added.

4:47 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Actress Jill Marie Jones

From CNN's Kitty O’Keefe

Actress Jill Marie Jones said she always knew she was strong but the pandemic taught her just how resilient she is.

"I really surprised myself. My comeback, my falling down emotionally throughout all that we’ve had to deal with over the last few years – just that bounce back that I have. That’s what I learned about myself."
4:25 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Rebecca Minkoff, Fashion designer

From CNN's Molly Shiels

Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff.
Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff. Courtesy Rebecca Minkoff

Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff said one lesson she learned during the pandemic is "you can never discount the hard won lessons as an entrepreneur, of failure."

"All times I have failed, have prepared me mentally for the journey that this pandemic has taken me and my company on."

"I wrote my first book during this pandemic with these lessons in mind," Minkoff continued. "It was a way of recognizing that as an entrepreneur we need to fail, we need to continue to innovate and we need to continue to be fearless in our approach to life."

5:02 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Monica Simpson, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective

From CNN's Madeleine Fitzgerald

Monica Simpson, Executive Director of "SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective," said the pandemic has shown her that reproductive justice work "is now even more urgent."

"Women of color and pregnant people need access to holistic maternal health care, we need to access to comprehensive sex education and reproductive health care — such as contraception access, abortion care, fertility treatments and more our families need to know that they have access to the care that they need the resources that they need for their families to be safe and healthy."

She said, "no one deserves to live in a country where they fear being violated by any other individual or the state."

4:06 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Barbara Winston, UN Women for Peace Association

Barbara Winston, President of the UN Women for Peace Association.
Barbara Winston, President of the UN Women for Peace Association. Courtesy Barbara Winston

Barbara Winston, president of the UN Women for Peace Association, said that the pandemic has taught her "we are all interconnected – in our failings and in our success."

"In order to come back stronger and better, we must realize that we need each of us to be in the service of each other. That's where our connection comes through: in our service, in our kindness, and in our emotional intelligence." 

"Women and girls must realize the extent to which our protection and empowerment is key to overall human progress – we must all fiercely stand up for one another. Men and women alike, must take all opportunities to place women's success and gender equality into all conversations and agendas," she continued. 

"Let us work to uplift each other and let us all ensure we insert the movement towards gender equality and freedom from violence against women into all programs and projects. Let us move into this year ahead with deep breaths, clarity of mind, and absolute certainty of our value and worth," Winston added.

3:57 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Dr. Ravina Kullar, infectious diseases specialist 

From CNN's Robyn Turner

Dr. Ravina Kullar, infectious diseases specialist.
Dr. Ravina Kullar, infectious diseases specialist. Courtesy Dr. Ravina Kullar

Dr. Ravina Kullar, infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist, told CNN we should be "striving to do better" but not allow it to "dominate our lives."

"As women, we are very hard on ourselves. Have I done enough? What can I do better? How can I look better? We should be striving to do better, but not allow that "striving" to dominate our lives." 

"Show yourself fierce self-compassion," she said. 

"2020 was a very trying year and 2021 will be as well. I have learned to not be so hard on myself and to ask for help when I needed it. I encourage other women to do the same – we are powerful individuals, but we have to water ourselves by being kind to ourselves."

3:49 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Author Terry McMillan

From CNN's Monica Serrano 

Author Terry McMillan.
Author Terry McMillan. Matthew Jordan Smith

Author Terry McMillan said that the pandemic has taught women that "we have all had to learn how to make the most out of the time we do have."

"It has been a hard year for all of us. But as women, who may or may not have children, who may or may not have careers, we have all had to learn how to make the most out of the time we do have. I have not tried to pretend that I wasn’t feeling blue when I was feeling blue — and sometimes navy blue. Instead I gave myself permission to accept that what has been happening to me, us, is not our doing."

She said during the pandemic she has forced herself to get outside and walk. "I have read books I’ve been meaning to read. And I have watched stupid things on TV to make me laugh."

"But more than anything, I made myself believe that I will come out on the other side of this stronger for trusting that there is always something positive waiting for us."
4:05 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Olivia Culpo, actress and entrepreneur

From CNN's Jacqueline Rose

Actress and entrepreneur Olivia Culpo said this year she learned how important it is as a woman "to advocate for your health, do your own research and get the help you need."

"This year I was treated and diagnosed with endometriosis after years of lacking validation, not getting the help that I need, and I know that if I had listened to my own body, if I had pushed a little harder I would have avoided a lot of pain so everyone listening put yourself first and fight for what you need."