Women who inspire in the 21st Century

International Women’s Day (IWD) takes place annually on the 8th of March to celebrate achievements of women across the globe. Many organisations take part in the movement, thus contributing towards the development of gender equality. There are also some great resources on the IWD website to guide individuals or organisations who want to get involved. To celebrate today, I’ve put together my top list of inspirational women.

In recent years, however, I  have seen some negative backlash on social media calling it out for it’s “hypocrisy”, with some posts suggesting that the pure fact of having a single day dedicated to women went against the gender equality issue. There’s also been a lot of adverse reaction towards the label “feminist”. In one particular interview with actress Kaley Cuoco, where she stated she wasn’t a feminist. Unfortunately it’s misconstrued understandings like this that portray a negative light to a simple term.

Quite simply in my opinion, a feminist, is someone who believes in gender quality. 

To celebrate today, I thought I would share a handful of my personal choices of women/girls who inspire. Some women inspire by fighting for a cause, standing up against adversity or championing qualities of strength. On the other hand being a symbol of beauty and grace, someone who is adored for their talents can be just as inspiring.

Malala Yousafzai

The first of my inspiring women is none other than Malala Yousafzai. Probably one of the most inspiring young people this generation will ever see. From such a young age, she stood up for her passion for learning – even if it put her life at risk.

She has been a vocal activist fighting against the Taliban’s restrictions on girl’s rights to education.

There is still work to be done, and Malala is the voice for millions of young girls still fighting for their right to education. Read more about the Malala fund and the work she is doing here.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is many things – Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, activist and author. But the reason she’s on my list is for her advocacy of empowering women within the workplace. She often speaks up on issues surrounding the lack of women in the workplace, or more importantly the lack of women leaders in general.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg also called for a ban on the word ‘bossy’ in the #BanBossy campaign, stating that this labelling of what it means to be ‘bossy’ for a girl gives a negative connotation to an attitude that should be empowering.

She is also author of Lean In, a book encouraging women to achieve their goals, with advice and tips to inspire and motivate anyone.

You can find out more about the Lean In movement here.

Michelle Obama

The next inspirational woman to land on my list is Michelle Obama. The 44th First Lady of The United States, Michelle is well known for her proactive involvement in global campaigns due to her status.

Michelle Obama

Similar to Malala, she is also working to fight for girl’s right to education in the Let Girls Learn program, which is in collaboration with the US Peace Corps.

Michelle Obama was also actively supported the #BanBossy campaign and is an advocate for gender equality and the empowerment of women.


The final woman to appear on my list of inspirational women is Beyoncé. Just as much of an advocate of feminism and gender equality as the other women on this list.

Obviously she references female empowerment within her music. And she is one of the leading current mainstream artists still leading the girl power movement. Working in a male dominated industry, she embodies the feminism in a modern sense. She embraces her sex appeal and is proud of it as a woman. Not sex appeal for the purpose of a man.

(I actually dedicated a whole chapter of my dissertation talking about her. The topic was female aesthetics in the music industry, so I could go on about this for a while.)

Do you have your own inspirations to add to this list? Have you celebrated International Women’s Day today? Are you a feminist? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me at @arcasela.

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  1. 16th October 2019 / 1:47 am

    Impressive points in this article that we should be aware of. This would be a huge help. Thanks for sharing.

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