Incredible, Intelligent Women Who Are Changing The World
2018 has been an incredible year for womankind. Giant leaps have been made in the fight for equality, while the ousting of notorious producer Harvey Weinstein at the end of last year has opened up the conversation on a variety of issues that we need to discuss.
It’s not always easy being a woman, but these incredible, intelligent and inventive powerhouses are proving that we can – and we will – be the change we want to see in the world. Prepare to be inspired as we take a look at some awe-inspiring women.
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As a force to be reckoned with on and off the court, Serena Williams has been making waves for longer than we can remember. The 36-year-old has more tennis titles than you can shake a stick at. Last year she tied the knot with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and gave birth to their first child.
Williams is strong, beautiful and fierce and has never been afraid to show her passion for her sport, often getting emotional on court. She continues to be an idol to many, proving you can have it all if you want it bad enough.
Next: this woman is so successful she’s been known to strike fear in people.
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If you know fashion at all – or even wear clothes – then you’ll know who Anna Wintour is. The longtime editor of Vogue has been making her mark on the industry for decades, with no signs of stopping. But Anna’s not just about making us look good.
She famously gave $2.7 million dollars to Barack Obama’s campaign, making her the fourth biggest fundraiser. There was talk of Anna giving politics a go herself, but it looks like being the editor of Vogue and the Artistic Director of Conde Nast is enough for the moment. Wintour is teaching girls to follow their dreams, even if it seems unachievable.
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Lena Dunham is the creative mastermind behind the popular HBO series Girls. Dunham challenged the stereotypical ‘friends living in New York’ sitcom, including topics that we could actually relate to and women of all shapes and sizes.
While Lena has often come under fire for controversial remarks, the actress and writer is an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, teaching us all it’s okay to say what we want when we want. Recently, she was vocal about her decision to undergo a hysterectomy after struggling with endometriosis for years. Dunham is open, honest and brilliantly talented, bringing some much-needed girl power to Hollywood.
Which former First Lady made our list?
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Michelle Obama was no ordinary first lady. While her husband was busy running the country, Michelle had plans of her own. Not only were she and her husband the first African-Americans to hold the coveted positions, but she’s a Harvard grad who is passionate about equal opportunities.
These days, Michelle has gone on to be an inspiration to women the world over, encouraging children from all walks of life to pursue education with all their might. When Barack enquired about a restaurant owner whom Michelle knew from her teenage years, he jokingly said, “If you had married him, you’d now be the owner of this lovely restaurant.” Michelle responded, “No. If I had married him, he would now be the President.”
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Lyons may not be a household name, but she is the president of one of America’s favorite fashion outlets, J. Crew. The designer caught the attention of the founder CEO of the famous brand Mickey Drexler, who was bowled over by her talent.
“Her collections were unlike nothing I’ve ever seen,” gushed Drexler, who couldn’t wait to get her on board. Her expertise has seen J. Crew’s sales double in the past seven years. Now, the company is worth around $1.7 billion dollars thanks to Lyons. In an extremely competitive industry, Jenna is bringing home the bacon.
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Now and then, a girl boss comes along that ruffles some feathers in the best way possible. Jill Abramson was the first female executive editor at The New York Times, making history from 2011-2014. In 2012, Forbes included her on their list of most powerful women.
Jill is an incredible journalist, flipping the script on what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated industry. Her credits include The Wall Street Journal, The American Lawyer, and most recently, The Guardian US. A few years ago a POLITICO article slammed her management style, but she didn’t let it get her down.
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Katherine Bigelow is a director, producer and screenwriter, responsible for the box office hits The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Back in 2008, The Hurt Locker was so well-received that it won six Oscars. Katherine herself scooped the Best Director award, becoming the first woman ever to get the honor.
In a time when the Harvey Weinsteins of Hollywood were still controlling the silver screen, Bigelow had huge success and continues to be a shining beacon in her field. With her movies she opened up the conversation around military operations, even leading Senate to consider reopening investigations. She’s a babe with power who isn’t afraid to use it.
This next woman has been doing her important work for decades now.
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Famous primatologist Jane Goodall may be approaching her mid-80s, but her life’s work isn’t over yet. Having studied the social and family interactions of chimpanzees for decades, the effect she has had is palpable.
“I’m gradually starting to realize this impact is bigger than I ever could have dreamed,” says Goodall. “When you’re brought into this life, you’re given certain gifts and you have to use them.” Despite her age, Jane is still on the road for around 300 days a year, inspiring future generations in how important conservation is to protect the rainforests and their inhabitants.
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As an actress, America gifted us with Ugly Betty and a character that redefined beauty and success. While she continues to act, the avid Hillary Clinton supporter decided to make changes of her own after “feeling really despondent” following the 2016 election.
The 33-year-old, alongside her husband Ryan Piers Williams and actor Wilmer Valderrama, created Harness. It’s an organization that wants to change the current narrative around social issues by bringing community leaders of color together with Hollywood producers to tell stories that matter. Talk about being the change you want to see in the world. America is taking no prisoners.
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Actress and singer Janelle Monae is taking on the world, unafraid and proud. With her organization Fem the Future, the 31-year-old wants to bring professional women together to inspire and aid the next generation of powerful females.
“It’s a grassroots movement about making sure that those in a position of power are actively including more women who can compete at a high level,” explains Monae. Janelle is also the head of Wondaland Records, and practices what she preaches by hiring female producers and engineers. The star also gave an impassioned and incredible speech at last year’s Women’s March.
Tracee Ellis Ross
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45-year-old Emmy nominated actress Tracee Ellis Ross is currently portraying the mother of five Dr. Rainbow Johnson on black-ish, but her talent doesn’t start and end on the screen. Ross is all about empowering women of color.
“I didn’t see textured hair like mine in the media, so I didn’t think it was beautiful,” she said, talking about her self-esteem as a child. “I spent years trying to beat it into submission – to get it to be silky and straight. But as soon as I started to nurse my hair back to health, I started to nurse my soul back to health too.” The star now publicly speaks at events like Beautycon to help other women feel comfortable in their own skin.
The next woman used her fame as a platform to educate others about mental health issues.
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Growing up in the spotlight isn’t always easy, and Demi Lovato has been the first to admit that she struggled with mental health problems. The star openly discusses her bipolar disorder diagnosis, as well as her battles with eating disorders. Rather than waste her experience, she’s using it help others.
Teaming up with Global Citizen and Save the Children, Lovato is sharing their Health and Education Through the Arts program in Iraq, for children profoundly affected by the ongoing conflict. “I’m really looking forward to hopefully changing lives over there,” said the 25-year-old. Good for you, Demi.
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45-year-old director Ava DuVernay is climbing to the top in Hollywood, having just directed A Wrinkle in Time. Formerly a publicist, Ava credits her mom for giving her the push to strive for success. “If you try and it doesn’t work out, you’re not a failure, you’re a risk taker,” said mama DuVernay.
As well as making her mark, Ava helps other directors of color make their dreams happen through Array Now which funds films by women and people of different backgrounds. For her drama series, Queen Sugar DuVernay employs all-female directors. “I refuse to believe the status quo,” she says.
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We love Janet Mock for so many reasons. The 34-year-old beauty is a television host as well as New York Times bestselling author, but her success didn’t come easy. While she’s confident and happy now, she struggled with her identity growing up before coming out as transgender in her late teens.
“I struggled with speaking my truth,” said Janet. “But when I did, I became part of a community.” Mock now works with organizations like BreakOut! Youth Project in New Orleans and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in NYC to ensure trans and LGBTQ youth have the resources they need in times of crisis.
Next up: a woman who’s dedicated her life to anti-bullying initiatives.
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Zoe Quinn was once the victim of an awful online hate campaign at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in 2014. The 30-year-old video-game developer endured death and rape threats after her ex posted a blog about her online. While it pushed her to the edge, she came out the other side swinging.
“Their plan was to get me to kill myself if they didn’t do it first,” recalls Quinn. These days, she helps people like her deal with and fight back against online bullying with her Crash Override Network website. If that’s not admirable, we don’t know what is.
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You might know Aduba best as Crazy Eyes in Orange Is The New Black, but there’s nothing nuts about her incredible humanitarian work. After her first Heifer International event, she decided to strike up a partnership with the organization that focuses on ending world hunger.
“It’s the next step from teaching a man to fish,” said the 36-year-old star. Together they give families a calf to boost their income, only asking that they pay it forward by giving away the calf’s first born to another family who is also in need. What a fantastic way to make a difference.
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Karen Spencer isn’t an actress or a star in the conventional sense. Instead, she’s a mother that had a eureka moment that went on to change lives in the best way possible. After attending a parenting class for her firstborn, Karen realized how pivotal educating parents is.
She founded Whole Child International, an organization that teaches caregivers and government officials in developing countries how vital it is to create loving and nurturing parent-child relationships. The efforts are working, with huge health benefits recorded. Height and weight have all increased, with no changes to diet.
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The former First Lady of California has been fighting the good fight for years. After her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2003, Shriver has put all of her efforts into developing awareness and education on the subject.
As well as producing HBO’s Alzheimer’s Project and testifying in Congress, the 62-year-old had a big part to play in finding out that two-thirds of sufferers are women. She went on to found the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, a committee that wants to uncover the reasons why women are more at risk and crucially, finding a cure.
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Jessica Alba once had an allergic reaction to a hair product which saw her land in the ER. When she had children, her babies had the same intolerance as her, prompting her to take matters into her own hands and found the Honest Company which produces beauty products with nontoxic ingredients.
Now, the company is a billion-dollar business that gives people with allergies the ability to pamper themselves with high-quality products without worrying how it’s going to affect them. “My goal is to make a positive impact,” says Alba who welcomed her third baby last year. The brand started from just 17 products to now include dozens.
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Speaking out about sexual harassment can be tough, especially if you know your abuser. Gretchen Carlson, the former host of Fox & Friends, took a big leap when she brought a lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes in 2016.
Her move, which many would’ve been too scared to do, led to his resignation. Now, Carlson is an advocate for sexual harassment victims. Her courage inspired women across the world, but men who are aware of issues happening need to make it known “that they’re not going to tolerate it on behalf of women,” says Gretchen. Amen to that.