On March 8, the world recognizes International Women’s Day, a day established over a century ago to celebrate the many achievements of women and to promote gender equality around the world. This year’s IWD comes at an important moment in U.S. history. Women’s rights have been at the forefront of the news this year, after hundreds of women came forward to expose sexual abuse in Hollywood, to fight pay disparities in the workplace, and to march together. Although women are raising their voices, and powerful men have been removed from their positions as a result, there is still much to be done to fight sexism and create equal working, economic, and social conditions for women. These are the women in politics, journalism, Hollywood, and sports who inspired us this year.
Emma Gonzalez, 18, is one of the student voices that has emerged from the Parkland shooting. After her impactful “We call B.S.” speech went viral, she has continued to use her voice to ensure that politicians and the NRA listen to the survivors of Parkland who are pleading for better gun control laws and justice for their slain classmates.
Greta Gerwig wrote and directed box office hit “Lady Bird.” She was the only female nominated for best director at the 2018 Golden Globes, making her just the fifth woman ever to be nominated in this category.
Senator Tammy Duckworth lost both of her legs in 2004 when her helicopter was hit by a RPG in Iraq. Since then, she has fought for women’s rights in a number of roles, including assistant secretary of veterans affairs under President Barack Obama and her current position as a U.S. senator of Illinois. Her current fight is for mothers and their right to decent breastfeeding facilities and better maternity leave as she is set to become the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office.
Serena Williams gave birth to her first child six months ago and has already returned to the tennis court to reach her goal of 25 Grand Slams (she currently has 23). The tennis pro has used her platform to talk about gender, race, and inequality throughout her career and is the face of a powerful new Nike ad in which she redefines what it means to be a woman.
Reese Witherspoon knew that if she wanted to see more interesting roles for women in film, she would need to make them herself. She founded her own production company, Hello Sunshine, to do just that. Since its founding, the company has produced the films “Wild” and “Gone Girl,” and the hit TV series “Big Little Lies,” and has several exciting projects in the works. Her speech from 2015 Glamour Women of the Year Awards went viral this year, and is worth a watch.
Chloe Kim, an American snowboarder, became the youngest woman to win an Olympic medal in snowboarding when she took home the gold in the women’s halfpipe at the age of 17 at this year’s Winter Olympics. Her performance was mentioned in Frances McDormand’s Oscar acceptance speech on Sunday night, and she is getting her own Barbie Doll.
Actress Lupita Nyong’o starred in Marvel’s first black superhero film, “Black Panther,” this year, proving that neither a film, nor a superhero need to be white to have success at the box office. In an industry in which women and African Americans are underrepresented, Nyong’o is helping break down barriers for women of color in Hollywood. She also wrote a piece on her own experiences with Harvey Weinstein and sexual harassment.
Nikki Haley made history when she was elected as the first female governor of South Carolina in 2011. While governor, she signed the bill that called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse and has since been impressing the nation and the world in her new role as the United States ambassador to the U.N.
Jodi Kantor is the investigative reporter who co-wrote the New York Times article that helped break the story of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assault. Her work helped launch the #MeToo movement and proved that good journalism can help change the world.
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Macon Bianucci is a student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She is an intern at Make It Better for her final quarter at Northwestern, and she enjoys writing about social justice issues and politics. Macon is a longtime supporter of The Foundation For Tomorrow, a NGO in Tanzania that provides education and support for orphaned and vulnerable children.