Being a Brave, Bold Female Leader Across All Challenges

by Sue Hawkes

Being a Brave, Bold Female Leader Across All Challenges

The worlds of business and entrepreneurship weren’t built with female leaders in mind. On top of the high social barrier to entry, it can feel like adversity is thrown at you from all directions as you struggle to get ahead or even get started. More often than not, the odds are stacked against us. This month, my awesome Intentional Greatness guests and I explored how those challenges manifest and the key to conquering them: bravery.


The Bravery of Compassion 

Raising a family is one of the most stressful and rewarding jobs out there. Don’t believe me? Try doing it as a CEO, like Marnie Ochs-Raleigh, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Marnie is the CEO of branding and design agency Evolve Systems, a stellar community service member with 5,500 hours of volunteer time, and a mother and wife. All of this is enough to fill most people’s plates and then some, but Marnie doesn’t stop there.

Perhaps Marnie’s greatest feat of bravery occurred when her family befriended a local boy from their neighborhood. The boy’s father was absent, and his mother was unable to give him the care he needed. As his bond with Marnie’s family grew, Marnie saw the opportunity arise to make a difference in this boy’s life. Taking care of kids of your own is hard enough. Taking care of a child that’s not yours? It takes a saint, and Marnie has been that for this boy. Caring for him took profound bravery from Marnie and her family, and at 28 years old, the boy recognized the courage that his new family had just for him. He legally changed his last name to Raleigh, solidifying his forever bond to Marnie’s family. 

Compassion, bravery, and kindness emanate from Marnie Ochs-Raleigh, and you can experience it for yourself in our podcast episode.


The Bravery of Letting Go

Responsibility is around every corner for female leaders, and it can get overwhelming at times. Ali Stieglbauer, my daughter and marketing manager, has plenty of experience juggling responsibilities and feeling like she has 10,000 things to do on any given day. Her bravery comes from her willingness to step up, face the problem head-on, and come up with solutions to make her life easier. For example, she now sets aside three increments each day where she focuses on the dreaded email inbox, which can get bottomless pretty quickly. Once her time is up, she turns on 

an autoresponder to help her avoid getting bogged down in little tasks so she can focus on big projects.

I’ve had to summon up my own bravery as I let go of responsibility and take Fridays off. Taking a day off may sound like a walk in the park, but it can be a tall order to unplug and relax as an entrepreneur. I have a constant need to be productive, be working, and be advancing my business. However, I’ve found that through journaling, painting, and a general sense of “letting go”, I’ve become more creative, productive, and motivated to crush any task when I do go into work.

Ali and I talked a lot about letting go and how to approach new projects. We’d love for you to hear all about it here.


The Bravery of Battling Cancer

Cancer. It might be the most terrifying word in the English language. It’s the diagnosis that has ruined and taken lives across the globe without remorse. Standing up to a mountain as insurmountable as cancer requires bravery of the highest caliber. This mountain is exactly the one Amy Ronneberg found herself standing before, and that bravery is precisely how she got through it.

Amy’s cancer rocked her world and delivered her a rude awakening: she had been living in fear and allowing her work to consume her life. Amy is the CFO of The National Marrow Donor Program at Be The Match, so she regularly handles the emotional toll of people struggling with diseases like blood cancers and sickle cell anemia. When you’re constantly hearing about these battles, there’s often very little room for joy. On top of that, fear of disappointing others meant Amy couldn’t say no, leaving her no space to take care of herself. 

Integration of work and life was needed in Amy’s life, and she resolved to spend more time with her family and let her work motivate her without overwhelming her. She frequently brings her daughters with her on business trips, and she has learned the power of vulnerability.  After crying on stage about the loss of a person she had worked with who had cancer, she finally understood how bringing her whole, authentic self to all of her dealings in life would benefit her.

You can donate to Amy’s organization here and listen to her inspiring story in this episode.


The Bravery of Being a Woman in Tech

Technology remains a male-dominated industry across the board. Women like Lisa David are working to change that and smash the status quo every single day. A partner at performance management and business analytics firm eCapital Advisors, Lisa has to stay on top of her game under the added pressure of being a woman in tech. Her goal is to continue learning about emerging technologies and keep her clients up-to-date on the rapidly changing discoveries that were once just science fiction.

Lisa blazes a trail for other women to follow in the hopes of evening out the disparities in the tech field. Lisa recently hosted a luncheon for female leaders to gather and discuss the challenges they face in their industries, and it was extremely well-received. Challenging that status quo and working to break the glass ceiling in tech is the pinnacle of bravery, and Lisa is an incredible person for accepting this undertaking.

On top of all this, Lisa has laid out her list of “untouchables”, or priorities in her life that she will not skip out on. One of the most important is attending her daughter’s dance recitals. This list is short, giving her flexibility while still enshrining her most important values above all else.

You can hear more motivation from Lisa’s podcast episode here.


The Bravery of Discussing Mental Health

Society is getting there, but we still aren’t quite as certain and understanding of mental health concerns as we should be. This is a problem, especially in the world of entrepreneurship. Burnout comes easily, particularly when paired with the added pressures of being a female leader. Amy Zaroff knows this firsthand, as she struggles with anxiety while maintaining her role as Creative Director of Amy Zaroff Events and Designs. 

Amy is passionate and driven, taking every opportunity to create perfect moments for her clients. Switching from weddings and bar mitzvahs to corporate events has helped ease some of the anxiety associated with more personal events, but Amy still stresses the importance of self-care and avoiding burnout. She is firmly grounded in the ideal of dispelling mental health stigmas and transfers that ideal into her family life. They have open, honest conversations about mental health and never shy away from taking care of their minds. 

Amy’s son started a charity at his school to end the stigma around mental health, which Amy is extremely proud of. These kinds of movements and ripples need to be happening all over, and starting the conversation with your friends, family, and coworkers is the best way to do it.

For more information and to hear more from Amy about her life and perspectives, tune in to her episode of Intentional Greatness.



Adversity is one of our greatest teachers in business and in life. With the special circumstances of female leadership comes special brands of adversity. In the face of all different kinds of challenges, one constant holds true: be brave, be bold, and you’ll succeed. It helps to hear the empowering stories of women who have encountered a variety of challenges and come out on top. I hope these women will remind you of how brave and unf♥<kwithable all of us female leaders are capable of becoming. 


Sue HawkesBeing a Brave, Bold Female Leader Across All Challenges