What Power Really Means to Influential Women

"I think people try to hoard it, and I think it's interesting when those who have it make sure others do as well."

Nia Batts and Sophia Bush side by side in front of a step and repeat at the Marie Claire power play event
(Image credit: Ralphy Ramos; BFA)

Merriam Webster defines "power" nine different ways. It's physical and mental strength; it's a source of energy; it's a form of influence. Still, there's even more meaning to draw from those two little syllables, according to high-profile attendees at Marie Claire's Power Play summit.

In conversations with innovators like Tina Knowles, Diana Flores, and Nia Batts, power took the shape of pursuing one's own goals with abandon while creating equal opportunities for others whenever possible. In quieter moments between events, women from all industries swapped stories where power was a manifestation of confidence, grit, and an acceptance of change. Dorsey founder Meg Strachan thought of power as acting authentically in every situation; Mary Pryor, co-founder of Cannaclusive, equated power with inner peace. No two women found the same meaning in the word—and many noted that power has its downsides, too. Everyone agreed it's more deeply personal than the dictionary lets on.

Ahead, entrepreneurs, actresses, and creatives explain what power means to them. Forget stale definitions: Their takes are much more inspiring.

Tina Knowles, vice chairwoman of Cécred: "Power means fuel for me. It means that I am self sufficient and I feel strong and that I can put out good energy."

Mary Pryor, co-founder of Cannaclusive: "Peace. Too many people chase after things that kind of cause you to forget that you need peace to be powerful."

Jesse Draper, founding partner at Halogen Ventures: "Power is the confidence to use your voice, smarts, and energy unapologetically."

Tina Knowles onstage with Nikki Ogunnaike at Power Play to discuss Cecred

Tina Knowles (right) thinks of power like fuel. It helps her feel her best, for herself and for others.

(Image credit: Ralphy Ramos)

Richa Moorjani, actress: “Power to me is uplifting others.”

Courteney Cox, actress, director, and founder of Homecourt: "Power means confidence to me. It means that you feel good about yourself and feel that you could do anything."

Nia Batts, investor and activist: "Power to me means opportunity. I think people try to hoard it, and I think it's interesting when those who have it make sure others do as well. When we have conversations regarding equity, power also comes into play. And for me [there is] an opportunity for us to understand, as women, as business leaders, how we can take the privilege that we have [...] and figure out how to make the world more equitable."

Hillary Kerr, Sophia Bush, Nia Batts at the 2024 Marie Claire Power Play Conference

Nia Batts (right) views power through the lens of opportunity: who receives it and who chooses to share it with others.

(Image credit: Ralphy Ramos)

Meg Strachan, founder of Dorsey: “To me, power is operating from a place that feels authentically you through thick and thin.”

Irene Liu, CEO and co-founder of Chiyo: "I think power is understanding how the system works to know where you're going to play."

Kathleen Griffith, author and founder of Build Like a Woman: "Power means to claim and then unapologetically go after what you want. This comes from designing an authentic, integrated life that is true to you and you alone."

Ingrid Murra, founder of Two Front: "Power is unlocking the ability to make change. Making change is real power."

Rupi Kaur performs at the 2024 Marie Claire Power Play Summit on March 18, 2024.

Poet Rupi Kaur defines power as a collective action: "It’s stepping into my light and knowing my worth while acknowledging others' light as well."

(Image credit: Ralphy Ramos)

Rupi Kaur, poet: “Power means being able to use my voice and have my voice be heard. It’s stepping into my light and knowing my worth while acknowledging others' light as well. We shine brighter when we shine together.”

Denise Vasi, founder of Maed Beauty: "To me, true power lies in confidently embracing your identity, standing firm in your beliefs, sparking positive change through your actions, and lending support to encourage other women to step into their power."

Taye Hansberry, founder and creator of By Taye: "There is power in doing exactly what you want to do and creating a life in which you allow yourself the space to do just that."

Halie LeSavage
Senior News Editor (Fashion & Beauty)

Halie LeSavage is the senior news editor at Marie Claire, where she assigns, edits, and writes fashion and beauty stories. Her reporting has ranged from in-depth designer profiles to fashion week reviews and research-backed shopping guides. (She justifies almost any purchase by saying it’s “for work.”) Halie has previously held fashion writer and editor roles at Harper’s BazaarMorning Brew, and Glamour. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard College. You can follow Halie on Instagram and TikTok.