Interview: Barbara Bush & Petra Nemcova On International Women's Day

by Danielle Rufrano · March 10, 2014

Genevieve Roth, Petra Nemcova, Barbara Bush

In honor of International Women's Day, Ann Taylor & Glamour Magazine co-hosted an event at Ann Taylor's Madion Avenue store on Saturday March 8th. Barbara Bush, CEO and a Co-Founder of Global Health Corps, Genevieve Roth of Glamour Magazine and Petra Nemcova, Founder and Chair of Happy Hearts Fund spoke at the event in an open panel. We had the opportunity to interview Nemcova and Bush and get their advice on achieving success and balancing some of life's biggest struggles. Though these two women have followed very different career paths, they both inspire us under a common theme: setting a positive example of what it means to be a successful woman.

How can we better serve, celebrate and appreciate ourselves every day? How do you celebrate yourself in particular?

Barbara: "Good question. Well, basically I am lucky that I get to do what I love to do- and that is to work on issues that I care about like global health issues. I get to work with amazing young people who want to work in this field, and work in women’s health issues, and global health issues. So every day I celebrate the fact that I am surrounded by people who care about what I care about, and doing great work to effect even greater change."

Petra: "I start every day with what I am thankful for. For every person it is something different, but we always have a lot to be thankful for. Even when I was in the hospital, and I couldn’t walk I was thinking about what I was thankful for the sky, to see the sunshine, to be able to have my arms, to see, to hear, for the loved ones that were still with me. There are so many things to be grateful for in general. But I usually start by being grateful for the day before, lessons, and being thankful for the things ahead of me in the day. I think starting with platitude we can empower ourselves and from that standpoint we can create positivity and create a life much better. Sometimes I don’t think we take enough moments to just appreciate ourselves and I think having gratitude and giving ourselves that moment to recognize that I am beautiful inside, I am beautiful outside, I feel like I am growing and learning. Taking a moment for ourselves every day is important. If you start with gratitude you step out into the world in a different way."

Petra NemcovaBarbara Bush

Best advice for women who have a goal in mind, but haven’t achieved it yet?

Barbara: "I think that’s a great question because goals always move. I mean it’s interesting when we were first starting Global Health Corp five years ago we didn’t know where it would end up. We had a vision, but it was a business plan on paper. And then when we started implementing it, we realized ways we could make a better impact and try different things. We learned, so our goals kept changing. I think that’s okay. So, if there is a goal you want to achieve, first of all be open to learning on the way so that the goal can change, and also find great people to work with so you can reach your goal, because there is no reason to work by yourself if you’re trying to do something."

Petra: "The best advice is to believe it, say it, and visualize it. The more you say it the more people will start saying it as well and the more it becomes a reality. There is a huge power in that, the power of the mind, saying things and visualizing things. Slowly we can create a reality. But, be careful with that, because whatever you truly believe, because you may say one thing, but truly believe another. If you doubt yourself may materialize too. So, you have to be clear in what you want. And actually it is not about wanting, because wanting leads to wanting. It is about really believing in yourself."

As women many of us are born multitaskers and strive to achieve so much. How do you balance everything you hope to achieve and approach everything in your life new and old?

Barbara: "Very good question (laughs), I don’t always do a great job of it. But I think, for me, I work a lot and I love working a lot, so that really makes me happy. But I think it’s also really important to take care of yourself, because if you get burnt out then that’s a disservice to the work you’re doing and the people you are working with. So ensuring that you are centered around what you need to be centered, and focused is important. And then, for me on top of that, family and friends are really important. I live in New York and I’m near so many people that I love so I get to see them regularly. But, I acknowledge that I am not always balanced, and it’s okay to not always be balanced it is just being aware of that and realizing what priorities you want to have."

Petra: "This is the question. Myself I am asking this question to, to my colleagues “how do you do it?”, to manage balance, because sometimes there is just a mass of things to do in one second, in one day and it’s not human- it is not human! And it’s like you still have to go through it. There was a cover story on Time Magazine this past January about mindfulness and how we can better balance a stressful life and it’s through meditation and through minding your mind, so watching your mind. Part of your mind is always traveling, your mind never stops, and even during sleep your mind works. Your mind is a machine that never gets oiling, rest, or the check-up it needs. But, through meditation your mind actually rests and can become more powerful and re-energized. I have been meditating for the last sixteen years, and it’s about finding a way to balance a stressful life through mindfulness and meditation and gives you a point of perception and strength that helps you deal with the rest of the pressure from the world."

Genevieve Roth, Petra Nemcova, Barbara Bush

Photo Credit: Astrid Stawiarz