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International Women’s Day spotlights a number of amazing women across the globe who are doing profound work to uplift, impact and propel their communities forward. From philanthropists and doctors to tech innovators and policymakers, let’s commemorate the women who step out on the front lines and dare to do the unthinkable, even when the odds are against them.
Whether it’s standing up for gender equality and reproductive rights or breaking barriers in the world of tech to create and develop accessible tools for students to excel in their education and careers, these changemakers have forged the way for so many women and today, NewsOne proudly amplifies their stories, bringing awareness to the passion and dedication they put into in their life’s work.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
The Nigerian economist and human welfare advocate became the first woman and first African to lead the World Trade Organization as Director-General in March 2021. Now, the environmental sustainability activist works with the agency to create and implement policies that will help strengthen the economy, especially amid the global pandemic.
“A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again,” Okonjo-Iweala told NPR in February of 2021.
“Our organization faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile, and better adapted to the realities of today,” she added.
The historic policymaker has nearly 30 years of experience in global finance and international economics. Previously, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister twice: one from 2003 to 2006 and again from 2011 to 2015. She briefly acted as Foreign Minister in 2006, becoming the first woman to hold both positions. The shooting star fought for two major reforms which “improved the effectiveness ” of “two Ministries and the functioning of the government machinery,” WTO’s website noted. Additionally, Okonjo-Iweala spent 25 years at the World Bank as a lead economist, rising to the No. 2 position during her tenure as Managing Director of Operations.
The influential makeup artist and bustling beauty model have changed the face of the industry with her inimitable brand Pat McGrath Labs. For over 25 years, McGrath’s creative vision has made her a tour de force whose legendary and creative power has transformed both beauty and fashion on a global scale.
The designer was a recipient of The Council of Fashion Designers of America Founder’s Award and the 2017 British Fashion Council Award for Fashion Creator. Time Magazine also featured the 56-year-old on their 2019 100 Most Influential People, referred to the UK native as a “Titan” of the fashion industry. This year, McGrath will be honored with her very own Barbie doll thanks to Mattel’s International Women’s Day campaign in celebration of female role models making significant strides in industries such as film, beauty, tech, and STEM. McGrath gushed about the honor to US Weekly telling the publication:
“It is an honor having a Barbie in my likeness and I would be so happy if it in any way inspires anyone to follow their dreams and believe that with hard work, creativity and perseverance, everything is possible.”
Ari Horie is the founder and CEO of Women’s Startup Lab, a founder development business providing first-time women business owners and entrepreneurs with the training and resources to scale their start-ups during the early phases of their soon-to-be booming business ventures.
Women’s Startup Lab’s core mission is to “guide women-led startups to victory and inspire change to impact the world,” Horie says on the company’s website.
The Silicon Valley-based businesswoman has been named one of CNN’s 10 Visionary Women of 2014 and was even been featured on the “40 over 40” Women to Watch in 2015.
In 2021, Florence Pan made history, becoming the first Asian Pacific Islander to serve as a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C. Previously, Pan made noise as an attorney and a former federal prosecutor serving in the D.C. Superior Court since 2009. The 55-year-old was nominated for the position in 2016 under the Obama administration. During the big announcement of Pan’s appointment, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois reportedly said on the Senate floor,
“The historic nature of Judge Pan’s nomination will help build a federal bench that reflects full diversity.”
Over the last nine years, Serena Williams and her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, have helped 60 diverse companies receive the financial resources they need to scale and disrupt the entrepreneurial world with their respective businesses. The company places a strong emphasis on supporting and representing women and Black-led businesses, with 76 of its portfolio made up of diverse companies. Serena Ventures has helped boost brands and consumer product innovators like Daily Harvest and Master Class.
The 23 time Grand Slam tennis champ said she was inspired to jump-start her venture firm after hearing inspiring talks from business influencers like Caryn Seidman-Becker, the chief executive of the security company Clear, and Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase. At one conference, Williams recalled Ms. Seidman-Becker say that less than 2 percent of venture money went to women. The startling fact instantly made her spring into action.
“I literally couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that 98 percent of all of this money we’re talking about — billions of dollars — goes to one type of individual,” she told the New York Times.
Additionally, in July 2021, Williams launched her fintech start-up Esusu, which gives renters the tools they need to improve their credit scores. The data solutions company allows people to report their rent payments to multiple credit bureaus, in the hopes of tackling the credit “invisibility” issue that continues to impact Americans. Failure to report credit data to the top agencies like Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, could be problematic for people looking to leverage their scores in order to purchase a home, take out a business loan or pursue their education.
The feminist activist and storyteller is the director of Purposeful, a feminist hub dedicated to providing women and girls with the tools, resources, and platforms they need to power their activism and remake the world. The initiative “center’s the political power of young feminists around the world,” allowing aspiring women activists to see that they too can make a difference.
The Nairobi-based women’s advocate develops curricula and programs to help women from under-resourced backgrounds achieve their dreams. Prior to joining Purposeful, Kagwiria was the Executive Director of Akili Dada, a leadership incubator for girls and young women who are passionate about social change. Purity previously served as a founding advisory committee member of the FRIDA and The Young Feminist Fund. In early 2015, she was named as one of the 18 Phenomenal African Feminists to know and watch. In 2016, she was named a finalist of the Most Influential Women in Governance and Business in Africa.