Women Who Inspire – Part I

In the 2nd episode of my #girlpower series, I want to introduce you to women who inspire me very, very much. I think of them often and encourage you to do the same. We all need role-models. BTW, number 8 is my favourite 🙂

    1. Sheryl Sandberg: as the COO of Facebook, she cares about the brand and the operations of the company and is probably the most powerful technology mogul in the world. This only would be enough as the IT world is not known for being very female-friendly. But even more importantly, she changes the way the whole world discusses labour markets and the situation of employees, especially in the most competitive market in the US. With her bestselling book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” she brought the discussion on the women’s contribution to business to the whole new level. Thanks to her Lean In Foundation “Lean In Circles” started to pop up in companies in every corner of the world. With her “Ban Bossy” campaign she tried to make girls believe in their strengths. With her and Adam Grant’s “Option B”, she introduced the discussion on the need for employers to recognise loss, grief and other difficult situations their employees are going through. I am very much looking forward to observing the results of her newest campaign #MentorHer.
    2. Malala Yousafzai: a Pakistani girl, the biggest campaigner for the access to education for every child, especially girls, in the world. When she was just 11, she was already running a blog on life under the Taliban occupation. She was internationally known and nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize. As a result, she was shot by a Taliban gunman on her way back from school who wanted to punish her for her activism and who wanted all girls to be prevented from education. As a survivor, Malala became even more famous and therefore an even more effective campaigner. She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who spoke before the United Nations, at Harvard University, the Canadian House of Commons, at the World Economic Forum. She runs Malala Fund under which, for instance, she opened a school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Now she is just 21 and studies at Oxford.
    3. Melinda Gates: an IT engineer who inspires thousands of girls to fulfil their dreams of becoming coders (now conducts a campaign devoted to bringing more girls and women to STEM). She made a career at Microsoft but now focuses on chairing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She is the mother of three children whom she and her husband have tried to raise as remote to technologies and as close to the people in need as possible. Melinda Gates campaigns for girls and women around the world – for their access to healthcare and education, for domestic violence, early marriage and FGM to end, for equal opportunities in labour markets. She believes that gender equity can introduce meaningful, positive change in global affairs. Melinda Gates inspired the 1st episode of my #girlpower series on web pages with data and research on women.
    4. Maria Skłodowska-Curie: the most famous Polish scientist, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the first person to win it in two fields (physics and chemistry), the mother of another Nobel Prize laureate, a friend of Albert Einstein. I admire her for her genuine faith in science, knowledge and people. She never gave up on learning, even when she was dismissed by the Kraków University or the French Academy of Science because she was a woman. Yet she managed to defend her doctorate at the University of Paris and continued her scientific career in France. She conducted research and frequently published in France, often jointly with her husband (they won the first Nobel Prize together). She contributed largely to the medical treatment of French soldiers during World War I, when she developed mobile radiography units and urged for a quick medical treatment of wounded army men. A great French documentary “Women at War 1914-1918”, available on Netflix, explores this story. She also supported the Polish cause – the struggle to restore the independence of Poland.
    5. Arianna Huffington: I love her strong Greek accent. And so much more than that, obviously. I admire her stamina and turning her businesses into gold mines. She established “The Huffington Post” and was not scared to sell it when it was still developing when she decided to focus on herself more after fainting from overwork. Then she set up “Thrive Global” – a company with a simple idea that employers need to focus more on the well-being and health of their employees (and the employees need to take care of themselves, too). Her “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time” (2016) is a bestselling book that says one simple thing to over-competitive, burned-out Americans: sleep more (a good piece of advice to a Polish working mother of two :)). I liked her book “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder” (2014), even though I am not much fond of mindfulness fashion that the book is stuffed with. I respect the fact that she openly wrote about her divorce, her daughter’s addiction and the way she and her family could process these events and turned them into good lessons. I love this honesty, too.
    6. Serena Williams: one of the best tennis athletes in history, the one that probably does not have to be introduced to anyone. Serena dominates contemporary tennis as she holds 39 Grand Slam titles and has many years of career before her (even though she’s been professionally playing for more than 20 years). It is hard to count all the statistics proving her greatness in sports in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. And she still wants to become better and works very hard on every single title. She has been coming back to tennis courts after many injuries. Serena Williams is a symbol of a hard work, a determination, a passion and a sports spirit. She is an inspiration for many African American girls and boys wanting to pursue a sporting career. She is also a role-model for girls looking different than traditional top models – looking very sporty did not prevent her from appearing on the cover of the American edition of “Vogue” Her most recent sports achievement? Winning the Australian Open while pregnant. But how???
    7. Audrey Hepburn: my first teenage role-model. I have watched “Roman Holiday”, “Sabrina”, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, “Paris When It Sizzles” and “Funny Face” some million times. But these are not movies (or her wonderful Givenchy-made fashion style) that are most inspiring about Audrey Hepburn. She grew up in the times of World War II and almost got starved to death. She never forgot these experiences and devoted years to the role of the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (more on similar celebrity engagement: here), helping children in Ethiopia, Somalia, Turkey, Vietnam and several countries of Central America. She was all for her children. When she felt she wanted to have a family, she gave up on acting for years. She was making her own choices and had a very strong character, even though people wanted to see rather Princess Ann in her.
    8. You 🙂 You, who care for your families, your relationships, yourselves every day. You, who sometimes have to fight for people and things that are dear to you. Single mothers who bring up children on their own and bravely make ends meet. Professionals struggling with the impostor syndrome. Scientists not discouraged in fulfilling their dreams despite being constantly unappreciated and underrated at work. Teachers, nannies, nurses who do priceless jobs but their salaries do not reflect that. Journalists and activists speaking up about women’s issues that are so uncomfortable for the guards of the status quo. You don’t have to make the headlines to be role-models. We – your friends and colleagues – are watching you 🙂

The #girlpower series includes also following articles:

Podcast #1 Women Who Inspire – Nerds

Podcast #2 Women empowerment

Women who inspire – Part II

Women who inspire – Part III

Women who inspire – Part IV

Where to search for data about women?

Female Nobel Peace Prize laureates

Women in political science


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