It’s a shame that so many young girls point to reality TV celebrities as who they want to be when they grow up. In this celebrity-driven culture, those are the faces they see most on magazine covers as well as TVs and computer screens. In order to reverse this trend, we as a society need to give them alternative role models. You can do this by educating yourself on the accomplishments of women and starting conversations with your daughters — and sons! — friends and co-workers.
There are hundreds of women succeeding in every industry you can think of. Many of them are achieving levels of power and influence that were unthinkable a few decades ago. A little research on the web will yield countless articles profiling these women and their achievements and you can check out things like the Forbes “100 Most Powerful Women” or peruse lists with “successful,” “influential,” and “leaders,” and you’ll be sure to find some amazing women to celebrate.
Here are some role models to get you started:
Women in Government
While the US may be lagging behind in electing a woman to high office, other countries aren’t. Angela Merkel has been the Chancellor of Germany for almost a decade. Dilma Rousseff is the President of Brazil — and the first woman to hold that position. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has served as Liberia’s President since 2006. Will the US join these ranks in 2016? And will it be Clinton or Warren or some other woman who finally breaks that barrier?
Women in Business
The ranks of the top companies are (finally!) starting to include more women at the top. Current CEOs include Mary Barra (General Motors), Susan Wojcicki (YouTube), Meg Whitman (Hewlett-Packard), and Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo). Entrepreneurs are making their fortunes. In recent years both Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx) and Elizabeth Holmes (founder and CEO of Theranos) became the youngest(in different years) female self-made billionaires. One example of women entrepreneurs bridging international gaps is Elizabeth Mann (www.elizabethmann.com) whose brainchild, PhoenixMart will support companies wanting to import and export goods in the US. And women at the top of the financial sector include the first women named as Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen and Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first woman to Chair of the State Bank of India.
Women in Science
Some of the most powerful women in science are running large organizations, like Elizabeth Holmes (see above) and Ellen Kullmann, the first female CEO of DuPont. Also on that list is Margaret Chan, Director of the World Health Organization. When it comes to the future of science, Gwynne Shotwell is President of SpaceX and is overseeing the beginnings of commercial space exploration. And in “pure” science, look no further than Dr. Fabiola Gianotti, a physicist who has worked on the Higgs-Boson project and was spokesperson for the large hadron collider experiment at CERN.
Women in Technology
There is much overlap between business, science, and technology in this day and age. So some of these women might fit in other categories, but are here for those who are seeking specifically technologically-driven role models. Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg have long-established careers in the tech industry. Sandberg was recently named to the Facebook Board of Directors, increasing her influence at that powerful company. Megan Smith began her career at Google and is now the Chief Technology of the United States.
Other noteworthy women include Melinda Gates and Michelle Obama who have used their influence and intelligence to revolutionize philanthropy. Drew Gilpin Faust is the first female president of Harvard University and J.K. Rowling is arguably the most successful and influential female author of all time.