With only 4% of women in Fortune 500 boardrooms, it’s clear that we’re still trapped under the glass ceiling. Then there’s the problem of the gender pay gap—women earn roughly 20% less than their male counterparts at work. And don’t forget about the never-ending tales of sexual harassment, with Trump making headlines in 2016.
All that being said, there has been an impressive rise of women making it in influential positions, both in the public and private sectors. So maybe it’s fair to say that although the glass ceiling isn’t broken, it’s starting to show some cracks. Let’s hear it for these seven women who are paving the way.
Germany’s own “Margaret Thatcher” leads the fourth largest global economy after winning three elections, and even has an advanced physics degree under her belt. Angela Merkel has dealt with several major challenges in the past year, from keeping Europe united in the wake of Brexit to managing an influx of migrants and handling the terrorist attack on Berlin.
Having made history as Germany’s first female chancellor, Angela Merkel is now shaping a legacy of empowered women in politics.
Established in 2000 to address global development issues, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has shifted its focus to gender equality, with Melinda spearheading the movement. She’s made it her life’s mission to help women and girls around the world.
Melinda Gates left a successful business career in 1996 to focus on her family, and then came back as a philanthropist dead set on tipping the scales of opportunity.
A Silicon Valley native, Susan Wojcicki was Google’s 16th employee who skillfully pulled off Google’s YouTube purchase. As CEO of the popular video sharing site, she established herself as a key player in the video community and balanced parenthood at the same time.
After helping turn Google headquarters into a supportive environment for working parents, this top executive is now pushing for federally mandated paid maternity leave.
Of course, we have to mention one of the biggest media moguls ever. Oprah’s made a significant dent in the media glass ceiling: not only was she the first woman to own and produce her own TV talk show, she was also the first African American TV and film star to be featured in Vogue. As an advocate for gender equality, Oprah teamed up with Michelle Obama to host the “United State of Women” summit at the White House in 2016.
We think if Oprah wanted to make a run at politics, she’d have a fair chance.
In an industry deemed a man’s world, Mary Barra proved that hard work, courage and dedication don’t go unrewarded. She worked her way up from factory management to become the top executive at General Motors, and ensured the company stayed afloat at a time when it desperately needed stability.
Based on what she’s learned from the company’s 2009 bankruptcy, GM’s current CEO advises young women to actively seek out and tackle challenges head-on.
The former Democratic presidential candidate has built an impressive record as a First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State. Despite not winning the 2016 presidential election, Clinton did win the popular vote, taking a significant step forward for women in American politics.
America may not have been ready for Hillary, but she helped to close an important gender gap.
The rise of this Chinese entrepreneur is the quintessential rags to riches story. Zhou Qunfei grew up in rural China and worked in a factory making watch lenses. She learned all the processes, rose through the ranks and eventually founded her own company, Lens Technology, which is now worth around $8 billion.
As both founder and CEO, she’s landed deals with major phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung, showing it’s possible to climb your way to the top with talent and true grit.
It’s been a tumultuous time for women, no doubt about that. Gender inequality has once again been exposed in politics, entertainment and business. But inspirational women have struck blows at the glass ceiling, making it impossible to turn a blind eye. We’re just going to have to keep at it in the next few years.
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