Every year, 8th of March is celebrated as the International Women’s Day, to facilitate women and appreciate their achievements. Women may have come a long way in their struggle for equality, but adversity still entails a long distance that is yet to be covered. This year, the IWD 2017 is asking you to #BeBoldForChange, call on yourself, and Call on the masses or to help forge a better working world – a more gender inclusive world-, in an attempt to empower women to be more powerful, stronger, and bolder in all spheres of life. While last year, we gave you 20 Designers’ Take on Contemporary Women, we want to include superwomen from all walks of life this year. To inspire you to celebrate women in all their glory, we have accumulated 50 awe-inspiring women from over the globe, who are inspiring change and working for the betterment of other women:
1. Sahara Ketabi
As a health coach, designer, and nutritionist, Boston native Sahara Ketabi inspires women with her work. This inspirational brain behind the fashion company, Saraswati Couture, wanted to help the victims of sexual trafficking in India. Ketabi aspires to empower women, so that they are more apt to command the respect they deserve. 10% of proceeds from her company go towards self-empowerment workshops for trafficked women, to help them get back on their feet and allow their inner goddesses to shine through.
2. Cynthia Salim
Highly discontent with the scarcity of wardrobe options for working women, Cynthia Salim founded Citizen’s Mark centered on just one product- the blazer. Salim felt that the blazer is a workplace staple that when adorned by women, measured up to men’s options. Touting the ability of this garb to add instant gravitas to any outfit, she wanted to create an ensemble that would elevate women throughout their careers and help them grow. By committing to a sustainable business model, she labored to set a new precedent in the fashion industry.
3. Sarah LaFleur
Sarah LaFleur veered from her career in the male-dominated realm of private equity, when she decided to abridge the chasm she noticed between function and fashion in professional clothing for women. She envisaged a line of jackets, skirts, and dresses that would enable women to express their individuality in the workplace, instead of being shrouded in the sea of ill-fitting pantsuit clad women. Her brand MM. LaFleur hopes to dress women for professional success. This translates into outfits that help women succeed in all facets of lives.
4. Zeina Abou Chabaan
After visiting the Al Baqaa refugee camp in Jordan, Zeina combined her love for her country women and fashion design, and collaborated with her brother to start the fashion brand Palestyle. Zeina was deeply affected by the deplorable living conditions she saw in the camp, and saddened by the fact that those women couldn’t find decent jobs despite being qualified. Zeina’s social luxury fashion label has worked towards empowering more than 400 Palestinian women within the refugee camps of Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordon so far, by giving them jobs within her company and a percentage of sales to help them get back on their feet.
5. Shannon Keith
When Shannon visited India back in 2005, she was dismayed by the appalling living conditions of women in more impoverished societies, leaving them no option but to become victims of sex trafficking. To help those women earn a decent living, the women of her brand, Sudara, are taught the crafts before they are recruited to create gorgeous Indian design inspired apparel. Sudara has employed more than 200 women across various sewing centers in India over the years, and was successful in freeing them and their children from their bondages.
6. Norma Kamali
While Norma has always been focused on designing clothes that empower women, she took her feminism a notch up by endeavoring to be a catalyst for social change. Through her website, StopObjectification.com, and the accompanying short film, "Hey Baby," she is sparking dialog about female objectification in day-to-day life. Norma has asked women to post photos of their most becoming body parts with captions that tell people what makes them more than just that physical attribute, such as "My mouth is used to kiss my nephews and voice my opinions."
7. Sarah Beydoun
Sarah Beydoun designs bags that are distinctive statement pieces, and so is the cause that formed the building block of her business. Underprivileged women, who have just been released from prison, are the dexterous hands behind the gorgeous bags. After women have served their time in prison, Sarah Beydoun offers them a sustainable source of income, providing then with social integration in addition to financial independence.
8. Erica M.
Erica M. had always dreamt of designing a line that makes the wearer feel sexier, boosts her confidence, and empowers her to do the great things that she was destined to do. Since her garments fit many body types and have a lot of stretch, her patrons would love to feel comfortable in their own skins.
9. Candy Basomingera And Linda Mukangoga
Co-founders of the fashion brand Haute Baso, the mission of Linda and Candy is to empower youth and promote women through mentorship, training, and job creation programs. These can help the women artisans who work with them innovate in their art, improve business skills and communication, and build self-esteem. According to Candy, “We want to show women that you can be young, be a woman with a vision and dreams and actually achieve what you set your mind to and succeed as an entrepreneur.”
10. Karoline Dowson
Founder of Isai58, Karoline Dowson, wants her patrons to feel comfortable and effortless, while always looking like they run the show. All the garbs designed by her brand empower women to conquer the world, yet are practical enough to enable them to succeed. For instance, their blouses are fabricated with cupro fabric, which is famous for its moisture-absorbing and breathing qualities, keeping the wearer stay cool in high-pressure and risk-taking moments. In addition to empowering their patrons, the label also empowers the women who work with them by collaborating with a highly skilled production unit that trains and employs defenseless women in India. Not only does this unit help women get out of their unfortunate circumstanced, it offers them financial independence.
11. Angélica Fuentes, CEO Of Omnilife
Angélica Fuentes is one of the most famous businesswomen of Latin America. As the managing shareholder and CEO of the global nutrition company Omnilife, she is also the brains behind the cosmetic company, Angelíssima, which trains and employs armies of entrepreneurial saleswomen to help them garner financial independence.
12. Chetna Sinha, Founder Of The Mann Deshi Foundation, India
The micro-enterprise development bank, Mann Deshi Mahila, provides business loans to low-income women in India. To help those women succeed in their businesses, Chetna Sinha established a business school for rural women to inculcate them with entrepreneurial skills. Since 1996, Sinha has been vigorously training underprivileged women in the fight for property and land rights and also launched a community radio station to share important information and knowledge with women in the rural areas.
13. Rachel Sklar
Rachel founded #changetheratio, the raging social media movement/campaign to boost opportunity, access, and visibility for women in all walks of their professional lives. Every time a major industry event or power list lacks female representation, the Change the Ratio hashtag will inevitably remind people on Twitter.
14. Diane Von Fürstenberg
Furstenberg is a director of von Furstenberg Family Foundation- the Diller- which annually presents the "DVF Awards" to four deserving women who display courage, strength, and leadership in their commitment to women’s causes. Furstenberg designed shirts for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last year and also leads the board of Vital Voices, a women’s leadership organization. To put the cherry on top of the cake, she also served as one of the project chairs for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s review of the future of NYC’s Fashion industry.
15. Folorunsho Alakija
Folorunsho Alakija is a Nigerian businesswoman, one of the richest black women and one of the richest African women in the world. Her foundation, known as the Rose of Sharon Foundation, empowers orphans and widows through business grants and scholarships.
16. Sara Blakely
Prior to the founding of Spanx, Sarah Blakely launched the non-profit organization, Sara Blakely Foundation, in 2006 to help impoverished women breeze through entrepreneurial training and higher education. Richard Branson mentored Blakely, and offered her a staggering US$750,000 check at the conclusion of The Rebel Billionaire, to help her get the ball rolling. Since its inception, the foundation has offered scholarships to young women at the Individual and Community Development Association City Campus in South Africa. In the same year, Blakely also made an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where she publically made a contribution of US$1 million to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
17. Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO of diagnostics company Theranos, announced #IronSisters in the October of 2015, to empower women pursuing a career in Mathematics (STEM), engineering, technology, and science. During a Tech Event involving 100 Women, she used the hashtag to call on every woman in the room to commit to helping 100 other women upon returning to their home countries.
According to Holmes,
“I have spent the last 12 years working to build this 24/7—it’s all I do. What’s been so interesting to me as I’ve done it, is that there haven’t been women who have helped me in the context of building the company. We have an opportunity to change that and to show that we can build a new culture in which women help other women to be successful.”
18. Weili Dai
Weili Dai has partnered with the One Laptop per Child program (OLPC). She also holds an active role in STEM, touting that women are the future of technology. Technology has gone above developing ‘nerdy’ stuff towards creating more user-friendly and fashionable smart solutions.
According to Ms. Dai,
“A woman’s natural talent is design, and the look and feel, and making these things fit into our lifestyles. I believe by embracing STEM and leveraging inherent strength of women—the sense of responsibility, passion, compassion, and pride we dedicate to family and community—and applying it to business can make women the X factor in the new era of global growth and prosperity for the ‘Smart Life and Smart Lifestyle.’”
19. Adelaide Lancaster
Imagine a unique community where women could meet, learn, and work together. In a nut shell, that’s what you find In Good Company! The start-up offers full-time and part-time office space for its members, and regularly hosts workshops and classes to educate and empower female entrepreneurs. The co-founders Amy Abrams and Adelaide Lancaster nurtured a one-of-its-kind business center for women business owners, where they can connect with other entrepreneurs and find all the ingredients for success.
20. Carrie Hammer
Carrie Hammer took the New York Fashion Week by storm with her groundbreaking approach to women’s business fashion. Running a runway campaign featuring professional women and executives of all different abilities and sizes- touting Role Models, Not Runway Models- including a quadruple amputee.
21. Wendy Fox
Graphic designer Wendy Fox was intrigued by the wide diversity in shape and body size found amongst the elite female athletes of the Rio Olympics, and aspired to line them all up in her stunning illustration, next to the event, age, weight, height, and country of each. Through her project, Wendy Fox wanted to celebrate the vast variety of body types possessed by women, and to portray that women of all body sizes and shapes are capable of great things. The project pays ode to the expertise and skills of female athletes, and a depiction of the fact that no one body type is better or more capable than another when it comes to competing in highly prestigious levels of athleticism.
22. Maria Castillo
A rebellious Maria Castillo launched Warmi Paint, one of her largest events aimed at bringing women of all ages together in a four-day festival to empower and celebrate young Latinas through murals, graffiti, and street art. After shifting to Equador where a career in arts is looked down upon, she became aware of the need for women to thrive in the arts career department and took it upon herself to give them just that.
According to Maria Castillo,
“We have to show them that yes this girl wants to paint graffiti, she wants to become a graphic designer, she can become a muralist, she can become a speaker about the culture and social issues that occur in her community and this young woman could become a voice of the culture and so being an artist shouldn’t be looked down upon.”
23. Tori Hinn
After joining the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in 2013, Tori Hinn realized that while women accounted for 71% of the graphic design department, female designers made up just six percent of those designers covered as part of the academic curriculum. In keeping with this startling revelation, she launched Women of Graphic design, an ongoing online resource designed to be a platform to spark discussion and act a source for sharing and learning.
As Tori explains,
“It’s not the problem of just one institution. Though there were and are many men to impact the history and world of graphic design, there have been great female designers right alongside them. In fact, the National Education Association reports that 54% of working designers are women. But why is a whole group being ignored in institutionalized design history?”
24. Libby Vanderploeg
When Brooklyn-based illustrator Libby Vanderploeg’s created a simple GIF, depicting the moving image “Lift Each Other Up” paying homage to the International Women’s Day, it spread like wildfire across social feeds. This single scene on loop tells a powerful yet simple message: helping each other make it to the top is one of the greatest thing women can do.
25. Deva Pardue
The recent presidential election has cast the fight for reproductive rights in jeopardy, and so graphic designer Deva Pardue took it upon herself to launch social impact campaigns to promote activism. In the December of 2016, Tory launched a design initiative labeled “For All Womankind” that donates all proceeds to Emily’s List and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
As Pardue puts it,
“A lot of women didn’t think we had to worry about things like our reproductive rights. But here we are, and it turns out we do.”
26. Molly Ostertag
Creator of the webcomic Strong Female Protagonist, Molly Ostertag is a passion incarnate. Exasperated by the stereotypical portrayal of women in comics, she decided to create a few female characters who are cool, and not ‘nerdy’. Rather than depict her character as a “strong woman,” one who is capable of punching down the patriarchy, she instead develops characters whose womanhood in incidental to the story and ingrained deep within the storyline. A bunch of women coping with “non-women’s struggles”, can be an empowering story on its own.
27. Katherine Young
Katherine Young was appalled after witnessing an entirely stereotyped Girls’ Life magazine cover. In just a few minutes, Katherine put her graphic design skills to work, and swapped out the cover girl for Olivia Hallisey, the grand prize winner of Google Science Fair 2015. In addition, Katherine also photoshopped in some empowering, inspired, and new headlines so that people can be aware of the archetypical perceptions and messages they are sending to young girls. The result is a magnificent cover that tackles bigger problems than tips on “waking up pretty.”
According to Katherine,
“We can do better. I hope this cover inspires us all to do better every day and be more conscious of the imagery our children are bombarded with. I hope this sparks conversation with both girls and boys. They all need to know that girls are more than just a pretty face.”
28. Molly Williams
Molly Williams draws fictional and real women who are contesting sexism. Her Instagram account is replete with illustrations of historic and celebrated figures, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malala Yousafzai, Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and Frida Kahlo. Quotes addressing feminist issues, such as religion, body image, health, intersectionality, equal pay, and sexual identity, accompany each drawing.
According to Molly,
“I basically started this account on a whim one day because I was feeling frustrated with both the micro- and macro-aggressions that I experience and witness regularly as a woman.”
29. Carol Rossetti
Carol Rossetti is a graphic designer and illustrator from Brazil. She authored the ‘Women Project’, a series of women illustrators, accompanied by succinct and impactful captions that touch on some very sensitive issues affecting women. However, just because her protagonists are women does not make this project exclusively ‘for girls.’ She hopes to reach a wider public about the absurdity of stereotyping women behaviors and identities.
According to Carol,
“I feel very disturbed by the world’s attempts to control women’s bodies, behaviors and identities; so I’ve started a series of illustrations in a friendly tone hoping to reach people about how absurd this really is.”
30. Giovana Rodrigues
The 19-year old Brazilian artist, Giovana Rodrigues explores themes of female empowerment, black feminism, and social issues through her pastel-colored, vibrant illustrations. There is something simultaneously real and outwardly about her work that sets her apart
31. Kathleen Erin Davis
Kathleen Davis is the Editor of the Leadership Section at FastCompany.com, where she leads a team that covers all aspects of work-life, including Strong Female Lead, the women’s leadership series that takes a critical look at the issues surrounding inequality at work. She is also a member of the U.S. Speaker Program with the State Department and a speaker on women’s leadership topics.
32. Jessica Valenti
Jessica Valenti is the author of multiple books on culture, politics, and feminism. Her latest book, titled Sex Object, chronicles all sorts of daily assaults that young women are subjected to in America and how it shapes other relationships they have as adults; publicly, sexually, professionally, and for Valenti personally as a friend, colleague, sister, daughter, mate, and mother. While as her children are in the throes of exploring today’s culture, she may not be able to prevent them from falling prey to sexism, her book is a compass to navigate a sexist world.
33. Janet Mock
The transgender activist and feminist, Janet Mock, is an advocate for Trans-women’s rights, a sought-after speaker, and a founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media campaign that empowers trans-women over the globe. She capitalizes on her Twitter popularity to accomplish a wide array of things; advocate for rights campaigns over the globe, plug her web series, and be a feminist badass about the rights of women, especially transgender women and women of color.
34. Gloria Steinem
It’s hard to believe that Gloria Steinem, the lynchpin and figurehead for the second wave of feminism, is now 81 and still going strong. She has recently published her book of memoirs, and spends most of her time out on the road, meeting human activists and feminists, being an inexhaustible badass, and refining campaigns.
35. Dr. Amina
Tellingly, according to Amina’s profile, she is listed as being both a feminist and a "womanist," the term invented by Alice Walker in recognition of the fact that black women house certain feminist concerns as well. Being an academic at Goucher, Amina herself focuses on the intersectional aspects of feminism and how it needs to be constantly aware of racial diversity. Being a popular social activist, she frequently tweets about everything from contesting rights to ethnic minority representation in culture.
36. Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg explores in her book, ‘Lean In’, why women are more prone to holding themselves back at workplace. Leveraging tips she has learnt on her way to the top of her career, she empowers women to ‘sit at the table’. This inspiring read details the complexities faced by women when they aspire to shatter the glass ceiling.
37. Soraya Chemaly
Soraya Chemaly, a feminist, activist, and writer, focuses on women’s issues like sexual harassment and equal pay. She is the organizer of the Safety and Free Speech Coalition and Director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, both of which play an active role in expanding women’s freedom of expression, promoting tech and media diversity, and curbing online abuse. She speaks out and writes on a regular basis about the right to free speech, sexual violence, women’s rights, education, tech, media, and gender equality.
38. Aisha Saeed
Contributor to the anthology Faithfully Feminist and author of Written in the Stars and, Saeed’s Twitter profile is a repository of tweets in support of other women, meaningful feminist jokes, and commentary on the up-to-the -minute political climate from her perspective as a Muslim author, feminist, and a mother.
39. Alyson Noel
Alyson Noel is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Riley Bloom series, the Immortals series, the soul Seeker series, and eight previous novels for St. Martin’s Press. What her books have in common are female protagonists who are independent, curious, and intrepid. She also speaks out strongly about violence against women.
According to Alyson,
“I think it should be an end question right that every girl is able to grow up in a safe environment and never feel threatened by the people around her and I’m speaking emotionally and physically because there is emotional violence as well. I just think it should be a right and I think that we should strive for that to be a right. Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Everybody.”
40. Sarah J. Maas
Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times bestselling author of a collection of five Throne of Glass novellas, The Assassin’s Blade, and the Throne of glass series. The series is centered on a female protagonist Celaena Sardothien, a teenaged female assassin with a conscience who defends good people, children, and women in the face of adversity.
According to Sarah,
“I honestly find it absolutely absurd and disgusting that in today’s day and age there is still violence against women. I understand the cycles of abuse and things like that are so hard to break out of, which is why I support it, because it shouldn’t be going on any longer.”
Female Rights Activists
41. Johnetta Elzie
As a strong voice of the new civil rights movement and the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic, Johnetta “Netta” Elzie is one to watch. In order to reform the criminal justice system in the United States, she helped in creating the Campaign Zero. She also organized resistance in Ferguson after Mike Brown’s murder and played a proactive role in the Black Lives Matter movement.
42. Nanfu Wang
Activists for freedom and greater accountability in China are often imprisoned and detained. Similarly, Nanfu Wang came under government surveillance when she started documenting the efforts of activists against sexual violence. Nanfu worked in the face of diversity to bring to the fore a series of sexual violence cases that were being brushed under the table because they involved powerful local figures. Nanfu captured clandestine footage using covert cameras, and fled the country to complete her film “Hooligan Sparrow”, which revolves around an advocate for sex workers and depicts the vast restrictions on expression faced by the people of China.
43. Pavan Amara
Pavan Amara is the founder of My Body Back, a Rape survivors’ support network which focuses on healthcare, body image, sex, and how women feel about their bodies after being subjected to sexual assault. In addition to offering pastoral support on the network, the support group also hosts Café V workshops, the goal of which is to provide a safe haven for women who have experienced sexual violence and ensure the sexual wellbeing of those women. My Body Back launched a cervical screening clinic in 2015 for victims of sexual violence.
44. Sonita Alizadeh
At the tender age of 10, Sonita Alizadeh’s parents tried to marry her off, and tried again when she turned 15, but this time she rebelled. Having been studying music from a young age, she filmed a rap video to vent her outrage, which became a huge hit. Public outrage compelled her parents to back down and saved Sonita from the travesty. Sonita is currently studying in the US, and filming songs which are fiercely feminist and speak out against the barricades women have to face.
45. Bridget Christie
Bridget Christie is incredibly serious for someone who makes jokes for a living. Her works tackle themes of gender inequality and prejudice. She also hosted the award-winning Radio 4 series about feminism in 2013, known as the Bridget Christie Minds the Gap. Christie’s Edinburgh show, A Bic For Her, became the top-selling comedy show at the Soho Theatre of all time and won the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Show in 2013.
46. Julie Zeilinger
Activist, Blogger, and Writer Julie Zeilinger is the founder of the feminist online community "F-Bomb", which strives for equality and preservation of rights of college-aged people and teenagers. The community was launched by Julie while she was still in high school, in her attempt to reach out to other teenagers who felt the way she did. While she is labeled a feminist, she differs from the definition of feminist generations prior. Her website highlights common issues faced by women of today, such as street harassment and unhealthy body image.
47. Shelby Knox
You must be acquainted with the Sundance-award winning film about Shelby Knox’s activism at a very tender age. At the young age of 15, she testified before Congress about the failure and absurdity of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs being preached in schools. The movement rubbed the wrong way with the very conservative community of Lubbock, Texas, and even her family. However, she currently travels the country organizing workshops about sexual health and reproductive justice, offering others that which she had to earn for herself.
48. Nimko Ali
A survival of the female genital mutilation, Nimko is a fierce campaigner, leading the anti-FGM campaign in the UK. She has fought hard to propel the looming issue into the halls of parliament and onto the front pages of newspapers, advocating for policy changes and stronger legislation. She is a director and co-founder of Eve, a not-for-profit providing support to survivors of FGM and raising awareness about FGM. While she has had to contend with physical and verbal attacks for speaking freely, she remains steadfast to date. She is not a victim; she is a survivor, and one we can all learn a thing or two from.
49. Yara Sallam
Yara is a 28-year-old human rights activist in Egypt. She is steadfastly committed to defending human rights in general, and women’s rights in particular, in Egypt. Being a feminist, Yara aspires to provide a greater space for women to be free from sexual violence and exercise their political and civil rights. While been sent to prison for attending a protest in Egypt, she still champions the causes of vulnerable women who have been imprisoned and detained for unreasonable reasons.
50. Wagatwe Wanjuki
Here’s what the Feminist Wagatwe Manjuki aspires to create for the women of next generation:
“I hope that women of the next generation will be able to attend school under the leadership of administrators who won’t see sexual assault as a public relations issue, but rather a safety issue they can address. And I really hope that survivors of all identities of color, queer, low-income, with disabilities, Trans, gender nonconforming, from community college, in relationships, etc. — will find it easier have their stories heard.”
Can you think of more amazing women who are fighting tooth and nail for women rights? Do let us know in the comments below.