Today, women are having a bigger impact on our society than ever before. From arts to activism, an increasing number of women are opting to become frontrunners for change. Many are using their talents to express their emotions and have their voices heard across the globe while others are sharing their personal life stories to inspire others who are walking their same shoes. To recognize these and other impressive women, we have gathered a list of 9 brilliant women, who are not only changing the world, but inspiring other young women to make their marks.
1. Sabrina Pasterski
Born in 1993 in Chicago, IL, Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski is a first generation Cuban-American, who is known for her high intelligence. Nicknamed the “Next Einstein”, the 25-year-old has already earned a degree from MIT, is a Harvard Ph.D. candidate and is also a theoretical physicist. She studies black holes and spacetime, with a focus on explaining gravity in the context of quantum mechanics. Pasterski began taking flying lessons in 2003 and in 2006, started building her first kit aircraft.
After her grandfather gifted her a Cessna 150 airplane for her 10th birthday, Pasterski, with the help of some mechanics, used the parts to make a new frame for the aircraft. They also reconstructed the engine for the newly built aircraft. Then, two days before her 14th birthday, Pasterski flew the plane by herself in Canada. World renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking followed her work and even cited two pieces of research co-authored by Pasterski and one written solely by her. (source)
2. Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall, a world renowned primatologist, activist and conservationist, was born on April 3, 1934 in London, England. Her groundbreaking research changed the course of scientific history. In November of 1960, Goodall, who was studying a group of primates, discovered that chimpanzees make and use tools; an ability previously believed to belong only to humans. After her discovery, the famous paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey said, “Now we must redefine ‘tool,’ redefine ‘man,’ or accept chimpanzees as humans”.
She was the first scientist to give names to her research subjects instead of the conventional practice of assigning them numbers, and also the first person to obtain a doctorate without receiving a bachelor’s or master’s first. Among other titles, Dr. Goodall is also a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, an UN Ambassador for Peace, and the recipient of countless awards and honors for her scientific, humanitarian, and animal welfare work. (source)
3. Ellen Ochoa
Astronaut Ellen Ochoa was born on May 10, 1958 in Los Angeles, California. She always dreamed of becoming an astronaut and moved towards achieving her goal. Ochoa applied to be an astronaut three times before being accepted by NASA in 1990. In between applications, she got her pilot’s license and continued her research in optics. In 1993, Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in the world to fly to space where she served a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery. Since then, she has spent a total of almost 1,000 hours in space aboard four different missions.
Apart from being an astronaut, Ochoa also created optical systems for performing information processing; opening doors for the use of robots in production. For her achievements as well as contributions to mankind, four schools were named after her; two in her home state of California, one in Texas and one in Washington. (source)
4. Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates, the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, is estimated to have a net worth of US$89.9 billion; and she has put her billions to good use. In 1994, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was started. Since then, Melinda has turned it into the world’s largest philanthropic organization; with an endowment of $36.4 billion. According to reports, in 2012 alone, the foundation gave out $3.4 billion in grants.
After traveling across the globe and talking to mothers, the women’s health advocate realized that she could significantly improve their lives by giving them access to birth control. Since then, Melinda has put forward a plan that raised more than $4 billion, which is estimated to provide more than 120 million women access to contraceptives by 2020. Part of the fund is also used to find new, advanced and safer ways of developing contraception. (source)
5. Malala Yousafzai
The 21-year-old from Pakistan is an activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. At a young age, Yousafzai started writing for the BBC under a pen name. She wrote about the country’s hostility towards women and how the ruling party oppressed them. Women were not allowed to attend schools but nevertheless, Yousafzai continued to attend school. When other young women saw her courage and started stepping forward, more than 150 schools were destroyed in an effort to stop women from attending. Among the wreck was a badly injured Yousafzai.
She survived the ordeal and has since become a symbol of resistance in Pakistan. Today, she fights for human rights, the right to education for women, authored 2 books and inspires other young women to follow their dreams. (source)
6. Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese politician, diplomat, author, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Ms. Suu Kyi went from being a housewife in England, to a Nobel peace prize laureate, to being detained for 15 of the last 21 years because she chose to fight for democracy in the former Burma. Born in Rangoon (now Yangon) in June of 1945, both of her parents were prominent figures in society. She studied politics in New Delhi and philosophy, politics and economics at Britain’s Oxford University, and in 1972, married British academic Michael Aris.
In April of 1988, when her mother’s health worsened, she returned to Yangon to take care of her. After she passed away, Ms. Suu Kyi decided to continue her father’s legacy and entered politics. Within the next few months, she helped set up the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, whose mission was to end military rule of the country. In 1989, the NDL won 392 of 485 parliamentary seats in Burma but the military refused to relinquish power. She was then thrown in prison or forced into house arrest off and on for the next 15 years; becoming one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners. Even during her arrest, she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. (source)
7. Yusra Mardini
Yusra Mardini was born on March 5, 1998, in Darayya, Syria. The 20-year-old Olympic swimmer didn’t always like swimming. When she was 4, her father Ezzat – who later became her coach – would push her into the water until she managed to learn how to swim by herself. However, when her uncle saw that, he interrupted and made him choose another method. Fourteen years later, she found herself in a similar situation in the middle of the ocean. When her house was destroyed during the war, she decided to flee Syria through Greece with 18 other migrants.
As the boat was heading through the Aegean Sea, the motor stopped running and the boat started to take in water. Most of those on board did not know how to swim so without hesitation, Mardini, her sister and two other strong swimmers jumped into the water and swam next to the dinghy, in order to prevent it from capsizing. The sisters swam with the boat in tow for three and a half hours until they reached the shores of a small island in Greece. The sisters then travelled through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria before finally arriving in Germany.
Today, Mardini, who lives in Berlin, is a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, was a member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team and also took part in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (source)
8. Ava DuVernay
DuVernay is the critically acclaimed director of Selma, Queen Sugar and the upcoming A Wrinkle in Time. While she has earned a lot from her amazing work, few understand just how impressive an individual she truly is. Given her incredible ability to produce powerful films and shows, DuVernay has no degree in film production. However, she attended and graduated from the prestigious University of California where she earned a double major in English and African American Studies.
Her role as a leader in the movement towards equality in the entertainment industry has earned her the privilege of having a test named in her honor. The DuVernay test is a way to measure whether a film has characters of importance portrayed by actors of color. She is also the first African-American woman to direct a film that had a $100-million-plus budget and grossed over $100 million. (source)
9. Steph Gabriel
Steph Gabriel is an entrepreneur, a marine activist and scientist, who focuses on saving the environment. When she was 20 years old, she set out on a journey that changed her views and life, forever. After traveling to more than 60 countries, she realized that items like straws, plastic bags and plastic bottles don’t biodegrade and cause a large amount of destruction for our oceans and marine life. So, Gabriel founded a company that makes swimsuits from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets from the world’s oceans. Her slogan is “saving the ocean, one bikini at a time”. (source)