DR Rhona Mahony and RTE's Miriam O'Callaghan urged women to "keep going" – even when others say they can't succeed.
The master of the National Maternity Hospital made a rare appearance alongside leading Irish females at an event to mark International Women's Day
Dr Mahony said that education is the key to helping people overcome adversity.
The Dublin maternity hospital chief – who recently claimed she was vilified during the top-ups controversy when she clarified how her €40,000 extra allowance is from her own private practice – said women and men needed to push for new opportunities.
"I have made loads of mistakes along the way which may not have helped but maybe it has. Adversity in the right amount is good for us," she said.
Dr Mahony was speaking at a lunch in The Shelbourne Hotel organised by An Cosan, an organisation in Tallaght, Dublin, that offers education and other services to women from disadvantaged areas.
And she said her all-time heroines included right-to-die campaigner Marie Fleming, former President Mary Robinson, Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Denham and writer Edna O'Brien (below).
She said that she believes that a lack of education "paralyses us and takes away our opportunity".
Earlier, Prime Time presenter O'Callaghan said women faced many barriers when it came to surpassing male colleagues. "There's no secret to success. It's 99pc hard graft. When people say you can't do it, just keep going," she said.
"Don't moan. It's an unfair world. Just accept that from the get-go." O'Callaghan joined more than 800 people at Accenture Ireland's celebration of International Women's Day at the RDS in Dublin yesterday before attending the lunch in The Shelbourne.
And her RTE colleague Keelin Shanley admitted she had doubted her own abilities throughout her career.
The Morning Edition presenter said: "I'm as guilty as anyone else of thinking, 'I wouldn't be able to do that'. But I think as you get older, you begin to realise you were wrong, that you should have had a bit more self-belief."
The Morning Edition presenter urged young women to find a career that they loved, and work hard in order to succeed.