Across the world, women and girls are blazing trails, kicking ass, speaking up and making a difference on issues that matter. Over the last century, the role and rights of women have changed significantly. And, while we still have a way to go on achieving gender equality, it is getting easier to point to examples that signal a positive change.
The recent Football Federation of Australia’s equal pay deal for female soccer players and the record-breaking interest in FIFA’s 2019 Women’s World Cup (a whopping 1.12 billion viewers tuned in) serve to remind us of the impact and influence women are having in domains traditionally dominated by men.
Women are achieving great things in all aspects of society – as they have done throughout history. Each time a woman has a win, their legacy expands what we believe to be possible, and helps to shape the next generation of superstars.
Let’s take a moment to celebrate a few of the intelligent, adventurous, capable and curious women who inspire us.
At 38 years of age, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the world’s youngest female head of state. Ardern’s age and gender have informed her progressive ideals and her unifying leadership style has won the hearts and minds of many. Committed to leaving a legacy for future generations, Ardern recently unveiled a plan to reduce her country’s carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050.
Inspired to instill curiosity and a passion for nature and the environment in her children, Hayley Talbot travelled the length of the Clarence River (where she grew up). Solo, unsupported and living off her surroundings, she travelled by water and by land to where the river eventually meets the sea.
Ashleigh Barty is ranked first in the world in singles by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and is the second Australian WTA singles No.1 after Evonne Goolagong Cawley. The 23-year-old also landed her maiden grand slam crown in Paris and became the first Australian since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002 to secure the year-end top ranking. No other Australian woman has achieved the feat since rankings were introduced in 1975.
The 2019 Strongest Woman in the World award went to 38-year-old heavy-weight Jessica Fithen. She earned her title in Palmer, Alaska where she completed a dogsled drag, pushed a van, pressed kegs, hurled a 25 kilogram salmon more than 4 metres, and repeatedly dead-lifted nearly 227 kilograms.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg spent her school days outside the Swedish parliament, calling for stronger action on global warming by holding up a sign saying (in Swedish) “School strike for the climate”. Since then, Time magazine named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and she was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
In October this year, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir became the first all-women team to space-walk. They now have their sights set on being the first women to walk on the moon.
Abbey Holmes became the first woman to kick 100 goals in one regular season of Australian Rules football, while Peta Searle became the first woman appointed as a development coach in the Australian Football League when she was chosen by St Kilda.
In 2014, Amy Hughes, from England, ran 53 marathons in 53 days and set the record for the most marathons run on consecutive days by any person, male or female.
UFC 157 took place in February 2013 and featured not only the first women’s fight in UFC history but also the first UFC event to be headlined by two female fighters (Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche).
Young Australian dancer Stephanie Kurlow became the first Hijabi ballerina, and Misty Copeland became the first African-American female to be promoted to principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theater.
Natalia Molchanova holds 41 world records in freediving – diving without breathing apparatus – and could hold her breath for nine minutes.
Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has been crowned the fastest woman on the planet four times with a personal best of 10.70 seconds over 100 metres. At the 2019 World Championships, at the age of 32, she became the oldest woman and second mother in history to win 100 metre gold at a global championship.
Enriqueta Basilio, a Mexican sprinter became the first woman to light the Olympic flame at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City.
Daphne Ceeney was Australia’s first female gold medallist at the 1960 Summer Paralympics where she won two gold medals in swimming events.
Terra Roam became the first woman to walk solo and unsupported around Australia (17,000 kilometres). Meanwhile, Polly Letofsky crossed four continents (22,531 kilometers) on foot to become the first woman to walk around the world.
Marie Skłodowska-Curie, was the first woman to win a Nobel prize in 1903 (physics) and the first person to win two Nobel prizes, a feat accomplished by only three others since then.
Jeanne Baré was a French sailor and botanist in the 1700s and became the first woman to circumnavigate the world. (However, she did it disguised as a man to stay close to her lover, Philibert de Commerson.)
Al-Omair will go down in history as the first female fencer to have ever represented Saudi Arabia. She was one of four female athletes representing Saudi Arabia in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Brisbane’s Jacqui Bell is the youngest person to have ever completed an ultramarathon on all seven continents.
The first Australian woman to row solo across any ocean was Michelle Lee.
The oldest person ever whose age has been independently verified is Jeanne Calment (1875–1997) of France, who lived to the age of 122 years, 164 days.
Lucy Barnard is on track to be the first woman to walk the length of the world. She is hiking with her dog (Wombat) and kayaking over ocean crossings.