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Inspiring women | Image: Man of Many

Inspiring Women to Celebrate This International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on March 8, providing an opportunity for women around the globe to join forces to celebrate empowerment, promote equality and drive progressive change. First celebrated in 1911, the annual event has inspired many women to fight oppression, denounce gender-based violence and work towards a more inclusive, equal and harmonious future.

In recent years, International Women’s Day has evolved to incorporate a greater focus on developing nations. Organisations such as the United Nations and UNICEF have worked gallantly to create programs, rallies and conferences dedicated to the advancement of women in areas that have not traditionally provided avenues for education or growth.

The role of women, in sports, politics, activism and business has never been more important, but it’s not a one-sided fight. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women around the world, while also acknowledging that everyone, regardless of gender, has a role to play in creating an equal-opportunity world.

Inspiring Women to Celebrate

For International Women’s Day this year, we honour the unique legacies of the remarkable women who helped shape the world around us. From athletes changing perceptions to businesswomen leading their industries, the women on this list not only propel their message forward, they also work to leave the world a better place in the process.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have compiled a list of 10 inspirational women from around the globe, each dedicated to driving the continued advancement of their chosen industry or sport. These are the pioneering women who changed the world, in our eyes, this year. Through their example, we hope the next generation of women and men are inspired to follow their lead and continue to push the boundaries in whatever their chosen field.

Leena Nair - Global CEO, Chanel | Image: LinkedIn
Leena Nair – Global CEO, Chanel | Image: LinkedIn

Leena Nair – Global CEO, Chanel

The British-Indian business executive has an impressive portfolio to her name. Nair was the Chief Human Resource Officer of Unilever, becoming the first female, first Asian and youngest person ever to hold the position. In December 2021, she was appointed the global CEO of one of the most reputable brands in the world, Chanel. She is also responsible for increasing funding for their charitable arm, Fondation Chanel, in an effort effect positive change in the world. Breaking the glass ceiling at every level, she is the epitome of inspiration.

  • Occupation: Global CEO, Chanel
  • Nationality: Indian
  • Known for: Only woman of colour leading a major global luxury brand
Melinda Gates - Chairperson, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | Image: LinkedIn
Melinda Gates – Chairperson, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | Image: LinkedIn

Melinda Gates – Chairperson, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates has been at the forefront of philanthropy since the mid-nineties. Passionate about making the world a better place by eliminating injustice and championing equity, she and the foundation’s team have worked tirelessly to advocate for women and girls’ rights. Through the foundation efforts, Gates has committed to improving the quality of life for millions around the world, illuminating the path for so many others.

  • Occupation: Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Nationality: American
  • Known for: Co-founding one of the world’s largest charities for the advancement of women’s and girls’ rights
Sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad | Image: Instagram
Sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad | Image: Instagram

Ibtihaj Muhammad – Sportsperson

Featured in Time Magazine’s Most Influential People List in 2016, Ibtihaj Muhammad is a pioneer in the representation movement. Muhummad is an Olympic bronze medalist and world champion in fencing, becoming the first American woman to compete in a hijab. Since her trailblazing victory, she has also published 2 books titled The Proudest Blue and The Kindest Red: A Story of Hijab and Friendship, with Mattel even releasing a Barbie doll inspired by Muhammad. A true all-star, she has made great strides towards inclusivity.

  • Occupation: Sabre fencer
  • Nationality: American
  • Known for: First Muslim American woman to wear a headscarf while competing for the United States in the Olympics
USA Footballer Megan Rapinoe | Image: Instagram
USA Footballer Megan Rapinoe | Image: Instagram

Megan Rapinoe – Sportsperson

One of the most talented soccer players in the game, Megan Rapinoe is the breakout star of the United States women’s national soccer team. An Olympic gold medal holder and winner of the 2019 Ballon d’Or Féminin 2019 award, Rapinoe is equally renowned off the field for her social activism efforts. A proud ally for LGBTQIA+ rights, she also took a firm stance against racial injustice and pay inequality in soccer. This resulted in a historic decision where prize money for both gender squads was equally divided, making sure her voice was heard far and loud.

  • Occupation: Footballer
  • Nationality: American
  • Known for: First women’s soccer player – and one of the first women in sport ever – to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Disability activist Judith Heumann | Image: Judith Heumann Organisation
Disability activist Judith Heumann | Image: Judith Heumann Organisation

Judith Heumann – Activist

A fighter in every sense of the word, Judith Heumann led the path for the disability rights movement and took on the New York Board of Education when she was denied the right to teach because she couldn’t walk. In a landmark decision, they reconsidered and she became the first person in a wheelchair to teach in the state. Heumann also served in the Clinton and Obama administrations and worked as an advisor in the World Bank, championing for people with disabilities. With 2 books, a podcast and an impressive career under her belt, Heumann’s legacy as a pioneer lives on.

  • Occupation: Disability rights activist
  • Nationality: American
  • Known for: Helped lead the mainstreaming of disability rights into international development
Amika George MBE | Image: FGIRLS Club
Amika George MBE | Image: FGIRLS Club

Amika George MBE – Activist

Widely recognised for driving much needed change around period poverty, Amika George founded the Free Periods movement in 2017, which campaigns for making sanitary products accessible for everyone. Her consistent efforts through petitions and protests resulted in the decision that high schools and colleges in England would receive funding to provide free sanitary products to young people of a lower socioeconomic status. Her passion has earned her a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, making her the youngest recipient of this honour. Showing no signs of slowing down even after a major policy change, Amika truly imbibes the “youth are our future” spirit.

  • Occupation: Founder of the non-profit Free Periods
  • Nationality: British
  • Known for: Campaigning against period poverty in the United Kingdom
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni | Image: Getty Images
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni | Image: Getty Images

Giorgia Meloni – Italian Prime Minister

With a few “firsts” to her name, Giorgia Meloni was elected Prime Minister of Italy in October 2022. She has a longstanding history with political activism, becoming involved in a youth movement at aged 15. Since then, she has seen a steady rise in the world of politics, becoming the Youth Minister at 31, making her the Italian Republic’s youngest ever minister. According to Forbes, Ms Meloni was the world’s fourth most powerful woman in the world in 2023. 

  • Occupation: Prime Minister, Italy
  • Nationality: Italian
  • Known for: First female Prime Minister of Italy
Cathy Freeman
Cathy Freeman | Image: Commonwealth Games

Cathy Freeman – Sportsperson

A homegrown sports legend that needs no introduction, Cathy Freeman is an icon on and off the track. Starting her sporting career at aged 16, she burst onto the sprinting scene by participating in the Commonwealth Games Selection Trial and getting selected into the Australian team, where she took out the gold medal in the relay team. Freeman also lit the beacon for the country, lighting the flame at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. In 2007, she launched the Cathy Freeman Foundation, in an effort to inspire Indigenous Australian children and families to pursue their goals and dreams through education. 

  • Occupation: Former sprinter
  • Nationality: Australian
  • Known for: First woman to serve as French Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry.
Kimberly Ng
Kim Ng | Image: Sam Navarro

Kim Ng

With an impressive career in baseball spanning 30 years, Kim Ng has well and truly earned her household name in Major League Baseball. Having previously served in the front offices for Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, she was appointed the general manager of the Miami Marlins in 2020, becoming the first Asian American to hold the position in the MLB. Also an avid golfer, Ng first became interested in softball as a child and cultivated her passion into a stellar career. Known for breaking barriers in sports, she continues to inspire the next generation of sport-lovers.

  • Occupation: Former General Manager of the Miami Marlins
  • Nationality: American
  • Known for: First woman to become the general manager of a major North American men’s sports team
Melanie Perkins
Melanie Perkins | Image: Daria Shevtsova

Melanie Perkins – Entrepreneur

Melanie Perkins knew she had business acumen from the age of 14, when she started selling handmade scarves in the local markets of Perth. Fast forward to 2024, she is co-founder of one of the most influential tech companies, Canva, making her one of the richest women in Australia. However, Perkins believes true success lies in using this influence to make the world a better place for everyone. Confidently going up against the skepticism over Canva’s Sydney-based headquarters, Melanie Perkins is a born innovator with philanthropy at her core. It’s no surprise she makes our list of inspiring women.

  • Occupation: CEO and Co-founder of Canva
  • Nationality: Australian
  • Known for: Being one of the youngest female CEOs of a tech-based start-up valued over AUD$1 billion

International Women’s Day

It goes without saying, but there are an endless number of inspiring and incredible women deserving of recognition. In industries across the globe, women are working to promote empowerment, drive equality and bridge the gender gap. The common thread that binds them, and indeed all the women on this list, is an unwavering dedication to their cause, no matter the criticism.

When International Women’s Day rolls around this year, get the conversation started by telling the important female figures in your life that you appreciate them. After all, while James Brown may very well have noted that it is a ‘man’s world’, it truly would be nothing, without a woman or a girl.

Get Involved This International Women’s Day

With the world collectively joining forces to promote empowerment, champion equality and celebrate the accomplishments of women globally, International Women’s Day (IWD) marks the perfect time to show your support. To get involved and reinforce your commitment to women’s development, you can participate in a vast number of IWD events, workshops, lectures and grassroots activations. The events are listed on the official IWD website and promoted through the IWD online community.

Additionally, the organisations responsible for aiding the development and progress of women worldwide are often underfunded and under-resourced. If you want to make a significant difference, you can donate to one of these many amazing female-focused charities and organisations working to support women around Australia.

International Women’s Day FAQs

Why are green and purple the colours of International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day uses a green and purple motif to represent the event’s key themes. According to the International Women’s Development Agency, purple was traditionally a colour that denoted justice and dignity and is now used to represent women, while green is a symbol of hope. Today, purple is the colour of International Women’s Day, and combined with green represents the feminist movement.

What are the origins of International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day was first conceived in 1910 when Clara Zetkin, the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, introduced the idea at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. According to UN Women, the proposal received unanimous support from over one hundred women representing 17 countries, with the first official event held the following year on March 19.

When is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated globally on the 8th of March every year.

What is the theme for International Women’s Day 2024?

The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is “Invest in women: Accelerate Progress”. This overarching message highlights the importance of gender equality, empowerment, and human rights.