March 8 marks the 106th annual International Women’s Day, a wonderful opportunity to applaud some amazing accomplishments, successes and triumphs, all a testament to the incredible progress women are making right now.
Here are just seven of the women who have made major strides over the past year and who can inspire all of us.
1. Malala Yousafzai (pictured above)
One of my favorite embodiments of female heroism can be seen through the actions of education activist Malala Yousafzai. This courageous teenage activist, an outspoken advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan, survived a gunshot to the head for speaking out for her beliefs, but in spite of incredible obstacles like this near-death experience, she keeps on fighting. “I want every girl, every child, to be educated,” she has stated.
The world needs the strong voices of young people like Malala if we are going to make progress on the big issues facing us.
2. Janet Yellen
Photo Credit: International Monetary Fund
In January 2014, Janet Yellen made history. Although finance and economics are industries in which women are reportedly falling behind, Ms. Yellen began her role as Federal Reserve Chairman this past January. She had held the position of Vice Chair for the previous four years. She is the first woman to hold this position in the 100-year history of the U.S. central bank.
3. Angela Merkel
Photo Credit: Cabinet Office
Angela Merkel is a German politician best known as the first female chancellor of Germany. Born in 1954 and trained as a physicist, Merkel entered politics after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. After rising to the position of Chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union party, she became Germany’s first female chancellor and one of the leading figures of the European Union, following the 2005 national elections. She is now known as not just one of the architects of the European Union, but also a pivotal figure in its operation.
4. Mary Barra
Photo Credit: zennie62
A big shout-out for Mary Barra! Women now hold the top spots in some of the country’s largest tech firms, from HP to Yahoo, and are dominating the defense industry with a female executive in charge of the three biggest contractors — Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and BAE. Most recently, Mary Barra was named CEO of General Motors, the first female chief of the world’s largest automaker.
5. Wendy Davis
Photo Credit: thetexastribune
The state senator from Fort Worth, Texas, made headlines last summer for an 11-hour filibuster to block a bill that would limit access to abortion. Americans across the nation took to social media to voice their admiration and support for the senator who stood up, literally, for something she believed in. Though the courts eventually upheld the law, Wendy Davis has earned popular support and is now running for governor of Texas in the 2014 election.
Photo Credit: mp3waxx.com
Beyoncé has been pushing the boundaries of feminism recently; just check out the track “Flawless” on her new album. The raucous number samples Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, titled “We Should All Be Feminists.” (Adichie recently published a book, Americanah, about love and race in Nigeria.) In interviews the musician has been voicing support for feminism, calling herself a modern-day feminist in Vogue.
7. Barbara Lee
Photo Credit: lee.house.gov
Who doesn’t know the name of Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), so often a lone voice on progressive causes? Lee is a tireless supporter of women’s rights and has spent much of the past year making important strides in pro-women legislation. The congresswoman recently introduced a bill (HR 3774) which would repeal abstinence-only program funding and support comprehensive sexuality education. In September 2013, President Obama nominated her to be a representative of the United States to the United Nations, making her the first African American woman to hold that position.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Malala Yousafzai Photo Credit: United Nations Information Centres