Throughout history, the rights and roles of women have changed beyond all recognition. From the right to vote, to the rise of female CEO’s - the continuous improvements in women’s perception in the world are something to be admired. Despite these advances towards gaining gender parity, there are still areas of injustice that need attention.

Over the last century, staggering amounts of women have changed the norm and continue to smash the glass ceiling, paving the way for girls and women everywhere.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, we’ve made a list of 10 of the most inspirational women. From first ladies to suffragettes, social media stars to climate change protesters; they have all made an impact to change the perception and place of women in the world.

International Women’s Day is a time to appreciate some truly inspiring women the world over who are advancing women’s rights as well as questioning the status quo. This is also a time to reflect and ask some challenging questions about how far we still have to go before reaching a truly fair society.

1. Michelle Obama

Known for being the previous first lady, Michelle Obama is also a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, intellectual property lawyer and working mother. In her time as first lady, she served as a role model for women and worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition and physical activity, to name but a few causes. She has created her own legacy – including the “Let Girls Learn” initiative, with the goal to educate the 62 million girls around the world who aren’t in school.

She continues to be an inspiration for women and young girls everywhere whilst encouraging the message, ‘spread your wings and soar’. She once stated that “there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish” and these messages of encouragement are instilled in everything that she does - affirming her place in our top 10 inspirational women.

2. Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst is remembered as one of Britain’s most accomplished political activists and women’s rights campaigners as a main figure in the Suffragette movement. Through militant campaigning, her efforts led to the vote being granted to women in 1918.

Suffragettes protested with a controversial approach, chaining themselves to railings, storming parliament and starving themselves for the right to vote. Their tactics have been questioned by both contemporaries and historians, but these actions undeniably helped pave the way for women’s suffrage in Britain.
Pankhurst and other suffragettes aided the way for women fighting for equality all over the world and taught us to never underestimate the power of a fearless woman.

3. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah is the ultimate media tycoon; a talk show host, motivational speaker, philanthropist and social media star amongst tens of other careers. After rising from a life of abject poverty, Oprah used television as a medium to make her voice and the voice of others heard. An undoubtedly successful women, she is now ranked as one of the richest African American women in the 20th Century.

At the age of 66, she continues to be fiery and passionate about everything she does and believes that “your true passion should feel like breathing, it’s that natural.”

4. Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is known for her straightforward speaking manner, both in public assemblies and to political leaders, in which she urges immediate action to address the climate crisis. As an 18-year-old activist, she appears widely in the news and has been making headlines since she first left school in order to dedicate her time to protesting.

Thunberg describes herself as a “climate activist with Aspergers.” According to her, this condition is one of the reasons she is able to focus so deeply on the ecological crisis and be a more effective campaigner – to “see through environment lies”.
Regardless of her age, she has inspired thousands of people to act with her, collecting numerous accolades for her courageous attitude as a young woman.

5. Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a pioneering, two-time Nobel prize winning scientist, whose research into radioactivity saved countless lives. Her story highlights the importance of perseverance. Curie was rejected from attending University in Poland because she was a woman, so decided to move to Paris just to continue her education. Her defiant nature teaches us not to let rejection negatively affect us, but instead, use it as motivation to find another way to succeed.

6. Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks is rightly considered as a very important figure in American history because of her contribution to the civil rights movement. Born as an African-American in 1913, Parks was among the many blacks across America who protested for equal rights and was given the nickname ‘Mother of the Movement’.

Her significant action was when she refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white man, which sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott – an important symbol of the civil rights movement.

7. Melinda Gates

The wife of American magnate and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates has been referred to as ‘the first woman of women’ and as such deserves a place in our top 10.

Melinda is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which strives to improve global health and education. As part of her charity work, in 2012, Melinda pledged $560 million toward improving access to contraception for women in third world. Melinda also remains committed to changing the state of education in the United States and the foundation helps students fund their studies.
Melinda highlighted in 2018, “it’s time for a new era for women” and since, has made every effort to help empower women around the world.
She said “with a new focus on women’s economic empowerment, connecting women to markets, making sure they have access to financial services, and empowering them to help themselves, we aim to help tear down the barriers that keep half the world from leading a full life”.
She announced the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s plan to spend $170 million to help women exercise their economic power.
"When you get women in roles of leadership, we make things happen," Gates says. "It takes us using our voice, and it also takes us making investments, huge investments, in women and girls."
We’ll second that!

8. The Kardashians

Love them or hate them, the Kardashians have created an incredibly successful brand out of their family name. Despite constant media scrutiny and criticism, each one of the Jenner/Kardashian daughters have created a successful business career, with their collective net worth being in excess of £350 million. They have highlighted the importance of ignoring hate and negativity and rising above this.

9. Princess Diana

After marrying into the royal family, Princess Diana could simply have sat back and enjoyed a life of luxury. However, she took it upon herself to use her celebrity status to help as many people as possible, becoming the figurehead for campaigns around the world including AIDs charities and anti-landmine movements. Referred to as ‘The People’s Princess’, Diana was eager to share her riches with as many people as possible. Her selfless attitude was an inspiration to people in all walks of life, and her death was met with worldwide mourning. Her impact and life can be summed up by one of her most famous quotes; "Anywhere I see suffering, that is where I want to be, doing what I can."

10. Sarra Bejaoui

Of course, we must mention our fearless leader, Sarra Bejaoui as number 10 in our list of the most inspirational women.

Sarra is an innovating, motivating and nurturing leader who has grown her vision of transforming the way admin support is valued into the global business that is SmartPA; all centred around supporting and empowering people. With undeniable drive and determination, Sarra has grown from humble beginnings to an inspirational female business leader who is focussed on supporting her team, fostering talent and driving performance.

Sarra has combined her passion for people with fearlessness, to produce an innovative, transformational business that is SmartPA. As a leader, Sarra is incredibly compassionate and inspiring. As well as being a global business leader, Sarra is a working mother who is passionate about managing her energy, not her time, to make sure that she is not only present in the business but brings the best version of herself every day. She encourages her team to do the same, adopting a growth mindset and promoting continuous learning. A truly inspirational woman!