There are many great women who changed the world as we know it and fought off adversity to reach fame, fortune, justice and untouchability. We look at 50 of the most influential women today; the women reaching new feats and fighting new challenges; women who put their lives on the line for others or their life on hold to realise their dreams.
Inspirational Women of the 21st Century
Meet the women who have helped make a thriving society where equality duly prevails. Meet the the inspirational women of today, the women who are going further, doing more, breaking through barriers and giving people courage. We have assembled a list of inspirational women from various areas of expertise. Here’s the second half of our 50 women who are changing the world:
Activists, Campaigners & philanthropists
1. Oprah Winfrey
What superlatives haven’t been used to describe Oprah Winfrey? America’s sweetheart overcame a background shrouded in poverty and abuse to become the biggest name in entertainment. A tireless activist, campaigner and television host, the superstar became the richest African American of the 20th Century. She was also the youngest female billionaire in history. Today she is a respected philanthropist and recently received worldwide acclaim for her passionate, inspirational #MeToo speech. Oprah is undisputedly one of the most inspirational women of the 21st century.
2. Demi Lovato
A Campaigner for LGBTQ rights and mental health awareness and a top philanthropist, singer-songwriter Demi Lovato is one of the biggest influencers on human rights. A great advocate and inspiration to young people, Demi is one of the most famous female leaders.
3. Mother Teresa
It is a tribute to Mother Teresa that her name has been used to describe people who do acts of kindness nowadays. The late-great Roman Catholic nun and missionary ensured there was food and service for the poorest of the poor throughout her lifetime and received the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as being recognised by the church as a Saint. Wow.
4. Malala Yousafzai
“I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”
This modest young lady, just 21 years old, is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate the world has ever seen. This incredible woman overcame an assassination attempt by the Taliban in occupied Pakistan at the age of fifteen to campaign for women’s rights and children’s rights to an education. But to do it in an area where the Taliban reign supreme makes her a contemporary heroine. She has fought life and limb for what she believes in.
5. Maria Shriver
One of the leaders in the fight against Alzheimer’s, Shriver has used her influence as a journalist and author for the greater good. She won an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Award for The Alzheimer’s Project and a Pathfinders to Peace Award for her continued commitment to peace and compassion.
6. JK Rowling
We can scarcely imagine a world without the witchcraft and wizardry of Harry Potter. It is almost inconceivable how one mind could imagine a world so complex and engaging. A world that so many have fallen in love with. One so layered and so magical that it not only entertained millions to become the best-selling book series of all time but also inspired and supported people with its themes of courage, love and bravery. JK Rowling is so much more than one of the greatest storytellers the world has ever seen- she is a national treasure and a global inspiration.
7. Emma Watson
It was always going to take some doing to come out of the spotlight of her fame as Hermione Granger in the hit film adaptation of the Harry Potter series. Emma Watson showed the resilience and talent to do so, making herself an icon through her work as an actress, model and activist. The star has had no end of successes in film and fashion as well as being chosen as the Woman of the Year by British GQ in 2013. She was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill ambassador in 2014, reflecting her assiduous campaigning.
8. Dame Judi Dench
One of the most naturally gifted actresses in British history, it is no surprise that Dame Judi Dench has become one of the most decorated stars of the screen in our country. The seven-time Oscar nominee was a popular theatre performer before she became a megastar as M in the James Bond film GoldenEye. Her success in the role saw her cement her place in the franchise for 20 years. She was made Dame Judi Dench in 1998 and has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to arts.
9. Victoria Wood
The late great Victoria Wood undoubtedly deserves as a place on this list. Though her exploits did not pass over the Atlantic, the comedy legend changed the genre forever and allowed future female stars to emerge. Writer, comic and director of Dinnerladies fame, Victoria was an inspiration to generations for four decades from the mid-seventies onwards.
10. Jennifer Lawrence
The modern-day Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Lawrence beats off competition from the likes of Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus for a place on this list as a person with a defining influence on young people and women today. Fearless and brave like her character from the hit film, The Hunger Games, Jennifer is relatable to modern men and women and is not afraid to speak out for others.
11. Kylie Jenner
The social media mogul, entrepreneur, television star and model Kylie Jenner has made waves over the years, picking up legions of fans on social media channels on her way to becoming the most influential teenager in the world. In 2017, she became the youngest person on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list and a year later, at twenty, she was named the next ‘youngest self-made billionaire’ in the world by the same publication. What a future this star has.
12. Baroness Karren Brady
The ‘first lady of football’, Baroness Karren Brady is a successful businesswoman in the construction industry, West Ham United FC’s Chairwoman and a representative in the House of Lords. Her success has known no bounds and she has regularly featured as a dragon on BBC‘s entrepreneurial television show, Dragon’s Den and as an advisor to Lord Sugar on The Apprentice.
13. Ann Daniels
Ann Daniels has led men and women into the most dangerous terrain on the planet. A world record holder, she is considered to be among the top British adventurers of all time. Along with her teammate Caroline Hamilton, she was the first woman to reach the North Pole and the South Pole in an all-female team.
14. Dame Freya Stark
This extraordinary traveller and inspiring woman circumnavigated the Middle East and Turkey in the 1900s, reaching areas that had scarcely been seen before. Her terrific journey saw her map out some of the first accurate maps of these landscapes. Stark was the writer of a host of travel books which became part of the blueprint for the modern day.
15. Margaret Thatcher
No one divides public opinion quite like Margaret Thatcher does. But one thing is for certain, she is one of the best female public speakers and female leaders history has ever seen. She was strong and fearless and though she was controversial in many of her endeavours, her impact can still be seen in the City of London and further afield, while her impact on women opened the door for further strong women to follow her into politics.
16. Aung San Suu Kyi
Burmese politician, author and diplomat Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the most important faces and pilots of change in the world today. She won the country’s 1990 elections as leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma. The military instead put her on house arrest for fifteen years, making her the most high-profile political prisoner since the World Wars. Her stand against violence earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
British model and symbol of the swinging sixties, nobody quite summed up the era’s fashion and musical evolution quite like Twiggy. She was named ‘The Face of 1966’ by the Daily Express and voted Woman of the Year that same year. Ask your parents or grandparents about her – they’ll tell you she was the Kate Moss of the sixties.
A symbol of power and independence among women, Beyoncé is a true icon. The American singer-songwriter has a belting voice and a songbook that has inspired generations. She has used her fanfare to become a superpower influence on young people today. She has shown her support for the LGBTQ community on many occasions, as well as tackling matters such as feminism. When Beyoncé talks, people listen.
Legal and Security
19. Baroness Shields OBE
One of the leading names in the technology and security sectors, Baroness Joanna Shields OBE acts as the UK Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Internet Safety, after serving as Minister of Internet Safety and Security under David Cameron. She has been lauded as an inspirational leader and top tech personality.
20. Amal Clooney
A leader in international law and human rights, British-Lebanese barrister Amal Clooney is one of the most high-profile names in law. She is currently representing Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder engaged in a legal battle against extradition. She has also represented Prime Ministers and famous journalists and happens to be married to Hollywood megastar George Clooney.
21. Princess Diana
The people’s princess was welcomed into the hearts of the people when she married Prince Charles to become British royalty. The princess of Wales earned admirers for her charity work for the likes of London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. Her work to raise awareness of Aids/HIV, mental illness and cancer left an unforgettable legacy. Her legacy is continued today by her loving sons, Prince Harry and Prince William and their spouses.
22. Meghan Markle
The newest addition to the immediate royal family, Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in a ceremony which had the world watching in awe. The first person with African American ancestry to become a member of the British royal family, the feeling is that this represents a new chapter for the monarchy. Now the Duchess of Sussex is one of the most influential women in the world and has the potential to inspire those watching on.
With many years’ experience as a campaigner for women’s rights and human rights behind her-balanced alongside her former acting role- there is little doubt among spectators that she will fulfil her potential as one of the most inspirational royals the country has ever seen.
23. Serena Williams
Time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams is an American tennis player who has broken records to be considered by many as the greatest female tennis player of all time. In addition to her great feats on the court, she has inspired many with her support for the LGBTQ community and the Black Lives Matter campaign.
24. Martina Navratilova
Right there beside the last tennis great is Martina Navratilova, another tennis star who can claim to be one of the greatest female tennis players of all time. Like her contender for the title of the biggest name in tennis, Martina is a committed activist. She has worked with charities on animal rights, LGBTQ rights and for underprivileged children. She won a National Equality Award in 2000 for her commitment to these causes. She is a star and an inspiration to generations.
25. Gabby Logan
With the FIFA World Cup having only just sauntered out of view, it was a surprise to learn that Gabby Logan was working as a reporter on her fifth World Cup. The former gymnast has become an authority in what was for so long considered a ‘man’s game’ and she has helped bring about sweeping change in the mentality regarding female sports broadcasters.
Missed part one of our list of great women who changed the world? See 50 Women who are Changing the World- Part One.
More and more women are pouring into roles of high authority within society and that is down to the outright diligence of many of these inspirational women and their high ambitions.
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