Wonder Women Special: The Women Changing Our World Today

Updated 03/07/18

Women are incredible. Take a moment to look back on history at the powerful females who helped shape it: Florence Nightingale, whose work shone a light on the problems with healthcare in Britain and helped to make changes in the 1800s. The suffragettes, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, who fought for the right for women to vote. Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama led her to be known as the “first lady of civil rights” and as a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement. The list of inspiring women that helped us get to where we are today is pretty lengthy. What they all had in common was pure grit and determination to fight for a truth they believed in.

Throughout history, women have often had to fight—fight to be heard, fight for equality—and in truth, even though it’s 2018, women are still fighting today. We’re striving for equal pay (still), and we’re battling for our tampons to be tax-free (note to Theresa: They’re a necessity, love, drop the tax). Of course, the battles are different depending on where you live: In the United States they still haven’t had a woman president, in Afghanistan, nine out of 10 women are illiterate, while in Turkey 500,000 girls are out of school.

There is still work to be done, so it’s lucky that there are so many inspiring women out there today championing change. Some are high profile, while others fly under the radar. In fact, if you spoke to the women in your life, you would probably discover that many of them are fighting their own gender-based battles every day. Below I’ve listed seven inspirational women, and whether they inspire you to start your own fight or to perhaps support a new cause, use today to think about what’s important to you and what’s worth striving for to make the world a fair and equal place.

Amika George

The 18-year-old hit headlines last year for launching the #freeperiods movement, which culminated in a march in central London. George was shocked to hear that, according to Plan International UK, one in 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products. The movement’s mission is to raise awareness and money for the period poverty that’s occurring in our wealthy country.

Sabrina Pasterski

influential women: Physicist Sabrina Pasterski
Rich Polk /Stringer/Getty Images

Sabrina Pasterski is an American physicist who has caught the attention of Stephen Hawking. The famous scientist has cited Pasterski’s work in a paper he co-authored. The thing is that Pasterski is just 24. She made it onto the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2015 for science and was on the panel of judges for the 2017 list. Hopefully, Pasterski will inspire young girls to get into science, as it has been found that fewer women are going on to study science in higher education, even if science and maths were their best subjects at school.

You can follow Pasterski at physicsgirl.com.

Paula Johnson

Paula Johnson looks at health from a woman’s perspective. Women are misdiagnosed 30% to 50% of the time, according to her TED Talk. Diseases affect people differently depending on gender. “Every cell has a sex. Men and women are different down to the cellular and molecular levels,” she says. “Women’s health is an equal rights issue as important as equal pay.” Who knew? The thing is that 20 years ago, there was little data on women’s health, and even today, women are not fully represented in clinical trials.

Cardiovascular disease affects men and women differently. Women metabolise drugs differently. Lung cancer is particularly prevalent in young, nonsmoking females, and it has a lot to do with oestrogen. More needs to be done when it comes to researching the gender differences in disease, but at least we know Johnson has our back.

Memory Banda

Banda is a girl’s rights activist who influenced the Malawi government to raise the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18 (the age she was at the time). In Malawi, there is a tradition called kusasafumbi, which sees young girls forced into marriage when they start menstruating.

You can watch Banda’s TED Talk entitled “A Warrior’s Cry Against Child Marriage,” below.

Kathryn Bigelow

Bigelow made history as the first women to win Best Director at the Oscars in 2010. She famously said, “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.” 

The trouble is that it took until this year for another woman to be nominated in the category, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird. Bigelow’s win, whilst it was a welcome first, highlights the sad fact that most of the stories coming out of Hollywood are still shown through a male-dominated lens. The Alliance of Women Directors is constantly and tirelessly working to help affect change.

influential women: Film Director Kathryn Bigelow
Jason Merritt /Staff/Getty Images

Zodidi Jewel Gaseb

Events manager Gaseb discusses her relationship over the years with her hair and how it was impacted by Western beauty ideals in the below TED Talk. She reveals how she tackled her daughter’s hair being dubbed “offensive” and she explores and debunks the stereotypes surrounding natural hair. Ultimately this TED Talk is about how our hair does not define us and the journey to self-acceptance—something we can all relate to regardless of our hair type.

Leïla Slimani

36-year-old Moroccan-born Slimani, who now lives in France, is not afraid to explore taboo subjects, according to Byrdie UK’s associate social media editor Alyss Bowen, who is a fan of the author. Her 2014 debut novel, Dans le Jardin de l’Ogre, explored the subject of female sex addiction, while her new book, Lullaby, asks the question, “Who can really say, ‘I know my nanny’?” Scary thought for any parent.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron is so taken with her work that he has appointed her ambassador for Francophile affairs to promote French language and culture around the world. “Everyone was exhausted with these old men giving us lessons,” Slimani told The Guardian of the old political regime in France. “It is very refreshing to see this new generation: a lot of women, a lot of young people.”

influential women: Author Leïla Slimani
Stephane Cardinale in Corbis /Contributor/Getty Images

Buy Slimani’s latest book, Lullaby, below. 

influential women: Leïla Slimani Lullaby
Leïla Slimani Lullaby $9
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Are there any women who particularly inspire you? Join us in our Facebook group The British Beauty Line and let us know.

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