Before getting started, here’s wishing all women a Happy International Women’s day! Commemorated from 1908 after a march by 15,000 women through New York City demanding less work hours, better pay and the right to vote, the International Women’s day was originally celebrated on February 28th until 1913, when a suggestion to shift the day to March 8th was made and accepted. Since then, the day has been commemorated every year and the United Nations officially recognised the day in 1975, issuing a theme every year for the International Women’s day. This year’s theme is ‘Press for Progress’ aimed at addressing disparities in gender representation at the workplace, disparities in pay and fighting sexual harassment.
Here’s a look at some of the most outstanding women of the past decade and how they’ve changed our world.
1. Angela Merkel
- Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor for four successive terms now and the world’s most powerful woman leader, is steering her country through a turbulent time following Brexit and a surge in right wing populism across the European Union (EU).
- Germany’s economy has seen positive growth under Angela Merkel’s leadership except for a brief foray into the negative in 2015. Merkel is also seen as a powerful pillar of the European Union (EU).
2. Melinda Gates
- Though the Melinda Gates foundation, Mrs. Gates has played an immense role in enabling path breaking achievements in the field of public health throughout the world.
- The foundation has improved the lives of countless people worldwide by providing free health care services, subsidised drugs, innovative healthcare solutions and funding massive vaccination drives.
- For instance, maternal mortality rate has fallen by 57% in Ethiopia thanks to the foundation’s work.
3. Sheryl Sandberg
- Former Google Vice President and Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg is credited with developing Google’s lucrative advertising program and has also helped improve Facebook’s revenues dramatically after taking over as COO.
4. Christine Lagarde
- Christine Lagarde, a French lawyer and politician, is now serving her second term as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- She is the first woman to head the IMF and also the first female finance minister of a G8 (group of eight leading world economies) economy.
5. Indra Nooyi
- PepsiCo CEO since 2006, Indra Nooyi is one of the world’s most powerful women and a top business executive with numerous awards and accolades to her name.
- An Indian American born in Chennai, she has received the Padma Bhushan award and is also the first independent female director of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
6. Malala Yousafzai
- Malala Yousafzai, the young education activist from Pakistan rose to global prominence after being seriously wounded by terrorists. She has since then been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and has been a strong advocate for female education and literacy.
7. Jennifer Doudna
- Biochemist and professor of Chemistry Jennifer Doudna and her research team invented CRISPR/Cas9, a revolutionary gene editing technique that could someday be used to correct genetic mutations.
- She is the recipient of numerous awards for her accomplishments in science and is also a member of multiple prestigious science societies.
8. J.K Rowling
- J.K Rowling, wildly popular author of the Harry Potter series is one of the most successful writers and the movie spin offs alone have grossed more than $7.7 billion in revenues (as of 2015).
- She also runs Lumos, a charity organisation that combats child poverty and social inequality.
9. Taylor Swift
- One of the most successful pop music artists over the last decade, Taylor Swift has topped the charts many a times since her debut in 2006.
- She has also been variously listed as one of the world’s most influential persons, top 100 celebrities, best selling music artists etc.
- The pop artist famously won a sexual harassment suit against a DJ last year and has also donated a quarter million dollars to support music artist Kesha’s lawsuit over complaints of sexual harassment. Taylor Swift was featured in the Time Magazine last year as a vocal forerunner of the ‘MeToo’ movement against sexual harassment.
10. Serena Williams
- A sporting tour de force, Serena Williams has dominated the women’s tennis landscape over the last decade. With 39 Grand Slam titles under her belt, Serena Williams is one of the greatest sportswomen of the 21st century.
- She has also established a fund to support victims of violence and create equality through education.
Besides these International trailblazers, India has produced some great female superstars too. Here’s a brief look at some of them
11. Priyanka Chopra
- Successful bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra made her debut in hollywood with popular TV series ‘Quantico’ and movie ‘Baywatch’ last year and has become an international star since then.
12. Saina Nehwal
- Only female Indian badminton star to have achieved the world Number 1 ranking, Saina Nehwal has won over ten superseries titles with a total of 23 international titles to her credit.
- P.V Sindhu is another rising badminton star who won the silver medal in badminton at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
13. Chanda Kochhar
- A banking industry veteran, Chanda Kochhar has been CEO of ICICI bank since 2009. She has played a pivotal role in shaping Indian retail banking.
14. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
- She founded India’s biggest biotechnology firm Biocon in a garage at the age of 25 years.
- Besides huge success as a biotechnologist and a businesswoman, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw also manages NGOs aimed at finding new cures for a number of diseases including cancer. She also provides free health insurance to 100,000 Indian villagers every year.
15. Arundhati Roy
- An internationally acclaimed author and recipient of the Man Booker prize, Arundhati Roy is still active as a writer in a career spanning over two decades.
- She is also a political and environmental activist.
Though only a few women have been listed here due to constraints of space and time, there is no dearth of female talent as evidenced by the rise of women in all spheres of public life. While there has been great progress in addressing the problem of gender inequality, this year has also thrown up some shockers in the ‘MeToo’ and ‘Time’s Up’ movements as women speak out against abuse of power and harassment at the workplace. Keeping in tune with this year’s theme for the International Women’s Day, let’s ‘Press for Progress’ as men and women united in the pursuit of gender equality and justice.