This post almost didn’t happen. I kept going back and forth on whether to publish it because it’s the beginning of February. It seemed odd to talk about women who inspired us in the past year so deep into the new year. Typically, we publish this type of post the first week of January but life got in the way and we didn’t get to it on time.
So why did I decide to do it? Because there’s no time limit on inspiration. Plus, these women are badass and deserve mention anytime – yesterday, today, and in the future! I have no doubt they will continue to inspire young girls and women across the globe for generations to come.
From a young talented musician who has morphed into one of the most successful businesswomen, a teen who refuses to back down from the fight for our environment, and a woman who embraces all of who she is, to a fierce political leader, a writer who challenges our perceptions of racism, and a soccer team that refuses to accept gender pay inequality, these women are the epitome of courage, leadership, fearlessness, badassery (made up word), poise, determination, persistence, and grace.
They say you can’t be what you can’t see. Lucky for us, we have these women to show us what we can be, what we can achieve, where we can go, and beyond. They are athletes, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, leaders, journalists, TV personalities, astronauts, and more!
Here are 13 women and one man who inspired us the most in 2019 and who will supercharge your 2020.
“Be a girl with a mind, a b**ch with an attitude, a lady with class.” – Rihanna
When I grow up, I want to be Rihanna! No, seriously! Sexy, unapologetic, fierce, edgy, and talented, Riri (I feel like we’re this close!) is all that and some. She has become a powerhouse in her own right building a multimillion-dollar business that serves millions of women, long ignored by the beauty and fashion industries.
Whether it’s through her beauty brand, Fenty Beauty, for every shade of woman, or her lingerie line, Fenty Savage, for every shape and size of woman, she’s proof we must never allow others to define who we are or to pigeon hole us into a category they think we belong.
We are in awe of her success and dedication to uplifting children through education across the globe.
2. Megan Rapinoe
“Sometimes it’s worth risking it all for a dream only you can see.” – Megan Rapinoe
Her swagger along makes me smile and feel a little taller. U.S. Women’s soccer star, Megan Rapinoe, reminds us that it’s okay to be confident, to take risks, to not care what anyone else thinks about you, to speak your mind, to embrace yourself, and most of all, to let your work and talent speak for themselves.
3. Gail King
“I don’t care who you are, how big you are, everybody always has something to learn.” – Gayle King
Gail King’s humility and wisdom always come through. It’s not surprising she’s able to stay calm even in circumstances that would have most of us freaking out. I mean, who can forget her iconic photo calmly sitting down and waiting for a visibly angry and erratic R. Kelly to settle down. I kept thinking to myself “how is this woman so unfazed?” And “I must practice that!” There is so much power in having control over your emotions. Every day, women are told we’re too emotional (cast in a negative way.) Yet, time and again, we have shown that we DO have control over our emotions. Thanks, Gayle, for driving the point home.
4. Nancy Pelosi
“Organize, don’t agonize.” – Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi is gangsta! (read: fearless!) She doesn’t care what you think, especially when it’s related to how people define who women should be! She believes women should embrace and exercise their power to bring about the changes they want for themselves and their communities. When I think of effective, evenhanded, and consistent leadership, I think Nancy. She’s strategic, visionary, calm, compassionate, and poised. She never backs down from the bully pulpit and has a gracious way of putting them in their place. Most importantly, she reminds us to stand up for ourselves, to hold our values in high regard, and to speak truth to power. She draws sharp criticism from most and is constantly vilified because they are afraid of her confidence and power.
5. Australian Women’s Soccer Team
“Any move like this for equal pay – and for such a prominent team as the Matildas – is a real boost in the arm to show that times are changing and women’s sport is being seriously valued. It will encourage girls to potentially keep active during those teen years when they normally drop off. ” – Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia.
One of the bright spots for women’s rights in 2019 was witnessing the Matildas, the 8th ranked Australia’s women’s soccer team, win their fight for equal pay. Despite reaching the round of 16 in the Women’s World Cup, compared to the men’s team, which finished last in their group in 2018, they were paid less and played in far worse conditions than the men’s team. Kudos to them for their persistence and paving the way not only for the U.S. Women’s soccer team, which is still fighting for equal pay but also for the next generation of players.
6. Christine Lagarde
“Think about it. Women control 70 percent of global consumer spending… when women do better, economies do better.” – Christine Lagarde
The first female Finance Minister of France, former head of the IMF, and now President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde’s pragmatism, intelligence, confidence, and passion for women’s issues is the perfect model for women and girls. She challenges us to work together, to recognize our strength in numbers, and to encourage girls to take risks. Now that’s something we can all rally behind.
7. Toni Morrison
“If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees then you have a very serious problem.” – Toni Morrison
We were so saddened to loose acclaimed novelist, essayist, and Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison in 2019. She told stories no one else was willing to tell about the black experience, especially for black women. Her perspective on race is refreshing and eye-opening. Although we mourn her loss, we are also thankful she left us so much wisdom in her books and essays.
8. Jessica Meir and Christina Koch (First Female Spacewalk)
“In the end, I do think it’s important, and I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing. In the past women haven’t always been at the table…There are a lot of people who derive motivation from inspiring stories of people who look like them, and I think it’s an important story to tell.” – Christina Koch
We couldn’t have said it better! There have been 220 spacewalks in NASA’s history and Jessica and Christina’s walk would be the first one performed entirely by women! Imagine the impact that image has on a little girl with dreams of becoming an astronaut or anything else for that matter! Thank you to these two amazing women and many before them who are paving the way for girls and women everywhere.
10. Coco Gauff
“My short-term goal is to improve. I’m doing well right now at 15 and still have so much more I can get better on. I don’t even think this is close to a peak for me.” – Coco Gauff
Okay, can we admit we weren’t this wise at 15! Coco uttered these words after loosing at the 2020 Australian Open championship. No tears, no regrets, no complaints, only poise, grace, and a commitment to work harder. What an amazing role model for all of us (young and old.) Go coco! You definitely have a bright future ahead of you! 🙂
“I love creating shapes with my body, and I love normalizing the dimples in my butt or the lumps in my thighs or my back fat or my stretch marks. I love normalizing my Black-ass elbows. I think it’s beautiful.” – Lizzo
Every time I see Lizzo, I find myself smiling and feeling energized…oh and I can’t help myself but think “I’m 100% that b**ch! In an industry where many come off as inauthentic, this Time Entertainer of the Year recipient is the exact opposite. True to herself, she embraces who she is wholeheartedly and asks us to come along for the ride; to love and care for ourselves every step of the way. Honestly, sometimes I wish I had her confidence!
12. Greta Thunberg
“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!” – Greta Thunberg
Yes! When your message and movement are so impactful that it scares grown, powerful, old men to insult, belittle, and ridicule you, you know you’re onto something great. No wonder Greta Thunberg was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019. Her passion to fight for our environment and to rally people (both young and old) to the same is awe-inspiring. It renews our belief that there’s hope for our world.
13. The Women of LONA
“I believe in every woman and girl’s ability to transform her own life regardless of the hand she has been dealt.” – Amy Gragnolati, LONA Co-founder
Ever think you’re too small to make a difference in this world? Think again because the women of LONA prove you can accomplish a lot with very little. This organization, founded by women and fueled by women volunteers, is giving women the hand up they need to invest in themselves and their communities. Within one year, they have helped women jumpstart their businesses, create more jobs for their communities, provide healthcare, and even enroll in college! We admire their resolve, ingenuity, and determination to do whatever it takes to uplift women’s lives. Working with them as a volunteer has been one of the most honorable and fulfilling experiences of my life.
14. Marc Benioff
“Companies, and the people who lead them, can no longer afford to separate business objectives from the social issues surrounding them. They can no longer view their mission as a set of binary choices: growing vs. giving back, making a profit vs. promoting the public good, or innovating vs. making the world a better place.” – Marc Benioff, Trailblazer
I strongly believe we can’t advance women’s rights without the help of men (our brothers, fathers, cousins, nephews, colleagues, friends, you name it! This is why I love (yes I used that word), Marc Benioff. He is the model of how change should happen; using data, action, and advocacy. Once he ensured that women at Salesforce achieved pay equality, he didn’t stop there! He has made it his mission to change the culture in Silicon Valley, the heart of the tech industry. In his latest book, “Trailblazer,” he shares how he did it, which means there’s no excuse anymore that it can’t be done.
Every time I venture into a grocery store or bookstore, I browse through the magazine aisle to get a feel of what’s out there. And whenever I find a magazine cover with a woman (young or old) I admire, especially a black woman or girl, I pick up the magazine and bring it home. I toss it on the coffee table and leave there for anyone in the house to read. Sure enough, one of my girls will pick it up, study the cover and start to browse through it. They may or may not make any commentary. But that’s okay because there is no expectation for them to say anything about it. It should be normal for them to see every kind of person represented out there.
You might be asking, why do I single out the magazine with people that look like me? Isn’t that exclusivity? The answer, yes and no. I still browse magazines that feature people that don’t look like me but I’m not as motivated to bring them home.
Growing up, I never saw images of people who looked like me on the cover of glamorous, business, entrepreneur, science, entertainment, academic or lifestyle magazines. Neither did I see them on TV, movies, or theatre. Having an impressionable young mind, I didn’t aspire to be like any of these people because there didn’t seem to be room for me in their world. Anytime I saw images of people like me, it was usually in a negative light (starving, on drugs, poor, in crime, at war, etc.) Luckily for me, I had parents who instilled in me that I could be anything I wanted to be.
I buy these magazines so my girls can see themselves represented in every facet of life. I want them to know they can be whatever they want to be. That’s also the reason I publish this post every year. It always includes a diverse group of women because we ALL have something special to offer regardless of our background.
Who inspired you in 2019? Please share so they can boost our 2020 too!