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Bobbi Brown, Ginni Rometty and more share their best advice for the next generation of women leaders

From embracing ambition to staying true to your values, this is what top CEOs say young women need to know if they want to climb to the top of their fields.
Bobbi Brown, entrepreneur, professional makeup artist and the founder and former CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.
Bobbi Brown, entrepreneur, professional makeup artist and the founder and former CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.Courtesy of Bobbi Brown.

This article originally appeared on Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow., a CNBC multiplatform financial wellness and education initiative, in partnership with Acorns.

Young women climbing the corporate ladder or trying to launch a new company have plenty of role models to look up to.

Yet women still have a long way to go to achieve equity in pay, leadership roles and in access to venture capital funding.

Those who have paved the way, like beauty icon Bobbi Brown and former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, are cheering them on. Here is their advice to the next generation of women leaders.

Bobbi Brown, Beauty Evolution founder and CEO

Beauty icon Bobbi Brown has mentored countless young women, first at her eponymous cosmetics company, which she sold to Estée Lauder in 1995, and now at her latest ventures. She founded Beauty Evolution, a lifestyle and content company, in 2017 and just launched a new makeup line, Jones Road Beauty, last October.

Her advice: Be nice and get rid of some of your fear.

That means not being afraid to speak up if you are struggling. You can say “this is too much for me” or “I’m not sure if I’m doing this right,” Brown said.

You can also never ask too many questions.

For example, there have been times when her employees don’t ask for guidance and end up doing a project incorrectly.

“The ones that come to say to me and say, ‘Is this what you are thinking? What do you think of this;’ that aren’t afraid to ask me [questions], are the ones who become very successful.”

Ginni Rometty, former IBM CEO

Image: Ginni Rometty
Ginni Rometty, former chief executive officer of International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), speaks during a panel session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 21, 2020.Jason Alden / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has faith that young women can continue the fight for advancement in the workplace.

“I’m consistently inspired by the next generation of leaders and what they have the power to accomplish,” said Rometty, who became IBM’s first female CEO in 2012.

“As more women take on leadership roles, I encourage them to stay true to themselves, take risks, let their values guide them and, most important, use their voice and influence to create more opportunities and access for different people to create lasting change within their organization,” Rometty added.

During her tenure, the company extended parental leaves and launched a returnships program to make it easier for women to return to the workforce. Rometty stepped down as CEO in April 2020 and retired as the company’s executive chairman in December.

Abigail P. Johnson, Fidelity Investments CEO

Billionaire Abigail Johnson, who runs one of the largest investment firms in the U.S., wants young women to make sure they are getting the most out of their work experiences, as well as their personal lives.

“Always have a hunger and intellectual curiosity to grow and learn, both personally and professionally,” said Johnson, who took over for her father as CEO of Fidelity Investments in 2014 and became chairman in 2016.

She also encourages people to not think of a career as a succession of job titles but instead as a stream of experiences. Learn new skills, become more agile in how you work, and get involved in your local community.

“Always bring your whole self to work,” said Johnson, who is worth $20.9 billion, according to Forbes.

“Bringing more vitality in all areas of your life can also benefit your career.”

Tory Burch, Tory Burch LLC executive chairman

Fashion designer, businesswoman and philanthropist Tory Burch.
Fashion designer, businesswoman and philanthropist Tory Burch.Brigitte Lacombe

Tory Burch, executive chairman and chief creative officer of her namesake fashion brand, has made it her mission to empower women.

Her nonprofit, the Tory Burch Foundation, invests in women-owned businesses and her global initiative #EmbraceAmbition challenges the stigma around women’s ambition and encourages women and girls to own their power.

“I always tell our entrepreneurs and my stepdaughters to believe in themselves and embrace their ambition,” Burch told CNBC last year.

“We need to have the courage to dream big and own our bold ideas,” she said. “And, of course, help other women along the way.”

Karen Fichuk, Randstad North America CEO

If you want to be a leader, don’t just wait for someone to appoint you as one, said Karen Fichuk, CEO of human resource consulting firm Randstad North America.

“Show them that you are willing and capable, and you will be recognized,” she advised.

Fichuk speaks from experience.

“I remember being frustrated too many times in my career because I was waiting for someone to give me that promotion or next role,” she said. “I knew I was ready and capable, but I was just waiting.

“Finally, a peer advisor told me to stop waiting for someone to tell me I had the job and to just do the job!” Fichuk added. “I followed her advice and, two months later, I was promoted into the role.”

Disclosure: Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow. is a financial wellness and education initiative from CNBC and Acorns, the micro-investing app. NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.