Happy New Year gapmusers! Yay! We made it into 2019! We hope your year is off to a great start!
Every beginning of the year, we recognize and honor women who inspired us the most in the previous year. These are women who exemplify what it takes to be a role model and advocate for women and girls across the world. We do it in the hope they can empower you and give you the tools to thrive in the new year.
Our list features a diverse set of women; from the FLOTUS, a Supreme Court Justice, and Metoo movement founder, to the fictitious Women of Wakanda, a tennis icon, and two of our dear friends. These superb women taught us how to be graceful, courageous, fierce, persistent, compassionate, funny, and brave.
Similar to last year’s post, we’re showcasing one man whose actions demonstrated his commitment to fighting for gender equality.
Here are the 10 women and one man who inspired us the most in 2018:
1. First Lady Michelle Obama
There were three achievements that I was most proud of in 2018; 1) creating gapmuseWomen, a safe community for women and girls to connect, collaborate, engage, and thrive together; 2) attending the Wall Street Journal Women in the Workplace Conference, and 3) going to the Michelle Obama Becoming Book tour. This last one was arguably the best thing that happened to me all year.
Everything I had always imagined about this phenomenal woman was affirmed not only by her honest, well-written, and captivating New York Times Best Selling memoir, Becoming, but also by listening to her tell her story in her own words during her book tour. She is the epitome of grace, class, compassion, and empathy, and a true champion for a better world for women and girls everywhere! Seriously guys! I came away literally drunk in inspiration if there’s any such thing!
Oh, and we will be publishing our key takeaways from the book and tour soon. Stay tuned for our post in the next few weeks or so.
2. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG)
Have you watched the CNN RBG documentary? If not, please do! I saw it once on my own and a second time with my teen daughter and each time I was electrified by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s grit, intelligence, and unrelenting fight for equal rights not just for women but for everyone. For me, it’s a story about love for equality, for your partner and family, and for the better good of humanity.
It gave my daughter and me a lesson in history, my teen a better understanding of feminism that I couldn’t achieve on my own, and stirred meaningful conversations. One such discussion was about reproductive rights. I overheard my daughter asking her dad (who happened to be watching snippets of it) questions while I stepped away. The moment was awe inspiring on so many levels. Not only were her questions thought-provoking but her dad’s responses were spot on! I was proud to hear him explain what it means and why it’s important for a woman to have the right to choose.
RBG is a great role model to women and girls and a true testament to what it means to rigorously fight for what you believe in. Our only wish is that she remains in good health and to continue to be the voice for women in the highest court.
3. Tarana Burke
Tarana Burke was quietly fighting for victims of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault before Metoo became a global phenomenon. As the original founder of the Me too movement, she’s been advocating for women from all walks of life who do not have the voice or power to fight the injustice and inhumanity of sexual abuse. She urges all of us to never relent and to ensure the narrative continues to focus on the victims. We applaud her bravery and dedication to bringing justice to ALL women affected by sexual abuse.
4. Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King has been championing gender equality in tennis and all sports for most of her lifetime. She used her notoriety as one of the best tennis players to shed light on the inequity in pay and expectation of women in sports. Without her, the U.S. Open and all other major tennis tournaments would not be paying women the same as men as they do today or treating them equally. Her achievements are phenomenal, including founding the Women’s Tennis Association, the World Team Tennis, the Women’s Tennis Foundation, and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative. She also co-founded womenSports Magazine. This Presidential Medal of Freedom and Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient is the personification of women’s leadership and advocacy. We’re forever indebted to her for her dedication and unwavering efforts to end gender inequity.
5. Winnie Mandela
Fighting for freedom is synonymous with Winnie Mandela! Fondly called “Mother of the Nation,” this iconic human rights activist and freedom fighter will go down as one of the bravest, outspoken, fearless, and formidable women in history. While most of the contributions for the fight to end Apartheid focus on her husband, Nelson Mandela, hers have not been lost to women and girls across the world.
We were saddened to lose her in 2018 but encouraged that her legacy and fighting spirit will live with us forever.
6. Women of Wakanda [Black Panther]
Strong, smart, no-nonsense, purposeful, brave, fearless, funny and oh so gorgeous! What was not to love about the Women of Wakanda, protectors of the Wakanda Kingdom, in Black Panther, the highest grossing film of 2018 ($1.3 billion baby!) And what a great moment to share with my teen daughter! We walked away from the movie feeling stronger, taller, and more beautiful than we had prior to watching the movie. It was a great representation of women of color and a proud moment for many of us! The overwhelming success of the movie served as a wake-up call for the patriarchy and homogeneity in Hollywood; people are hungry for diversity in the stories they’re telling. Let’s hope 2019 will bring more of these stories. And yeah, we get it, these women are from a fictitious Kingdom! But it doesn’t matter because we know we’re surrounded by women like them every day.
7. Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez
Ever been underestimated? It could be because you’re young, old, inexperienced, a minority, a woman. Whatever it may be, it often happens at the peril of the person doing it because it only makes you work harder and smarter. Often, it catches your opponent off guard when you prevail. Such is the story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who went from being a community organizer and one-time bartender to make ends meet to becoming the U.S. Representative for the 14th congressional district of New York that covers parts of Bronx, Queens, and New York. Yassss!! Whether you agree with her policies or not, she’s a true testament to young women and girls everywhere that if you’re passionate about what you believe in, stick to your values, and fight for what you believe in with zeal, anything is possible.
8. Ellen Degeneres
Recently, I asked a friend which women inspired her the most in 2018. Without hesitation, she said “Ellen Degeneres!” Now, why didn’t I think of her! Of course, she would be a perfect person for our list! She’s witty, smart, brave, compassionate, fun, relatable, and makes us feel good. And let’s not forget she’s a Presidential Honor of Freedom recipient and played Dory, one of our favorite characters in the movie, Finding Nemo! I bet you I’m not the only one who sees her as one of those celebrities you could casually grab a cup of coffee! We love Ellen!
9. Shannon Lee Knorr
We’re surrounded by extraordinary women every day and sometimes we don’t even know it! This year, we’re featuring one of those women, my friend, Shannon Lee Knorr for her bravery, courage, vulnerability, and transparency during her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2018. She could have retreated into her own world to deal with the illness with her family. Instead, she chose to share her journey with her friends on Facebook taking us through trying, frustrating, and triumphant moments with honesty, frustration, and even humor. She continued to practice yoga and pilates when she could and went right back to teaching both after treatment. There are not enough words to describe how inspiring she has been to me and the women who know her. Bravo, Shannon! You are a true survivor and the embodiment of women’s strength and courage!
10. Precious Proscovia
Talk is cheap! There are many who say they will do something to change the world but few actually take on the challenge. Precious Proscovia is not in this category. As a registered nurse, she cares for people every day, but it’s not enough for her. She wants to extend this care, healing and nurturing to the underprivileged who have no access to medical care, education, and basic necessities we take for granted. Through her non-profit organization, Precious Kids Foundation, she provides medical resources, education, food and clothing, and more to children and widowed women in Uganda. She is so dedicated to ensuring their survival and success, she will sometimes dig into her own pocket to bring these resources to the women and children in need herself. We’re empowered by her compassion, selflessness, and generosity. To support her foundation, please click here.
11. Benedict Cumberbatch
We know we cannot achieve gender equality on our own. We need men – our brothers, fathers, cousins, friends, colleagues – to be our allies and advocate for our rights. Brave men, such as Benedict Cumberbatch who refuses to take on a movie role if his female co-star is not paid the same as him! His actions are worthy of recognition and inclusion in our list because he is setting an example not only for other actors, but also, for all men to take a stand and fight for what is right. We applaud him and appreciate his efforts!
We hope you feel empowered by the women and man in our 2018 most inspiring list to make a positive impact in the world in 2019. You don’t have to be a celebrity or wealthy to do it because even the smallest gesture can make a difference.
Want to meet more inspirational women, click on our Pinterest “Women Who Inspire” Board below.
Have we missed a woman or man that should have been on our list? Please share so we can honor them and be inspired too.
Best wishes for the New Year gapmusers! 🙂
Be inspired. Be strengthened by hope…