5 Women Who Inspire Us on International Women’s DayMarch 07, 2014
As Ban Ki-moon said in his address on the topic of International Women’s Day 2014, “The evidence is clear: Equality for women means progress for all.” We couldn’t agree more.
Having just celebrated the 125th anniversary of our fellowships and grants program, we think International Women’s Day is a nice opportunity to take a step back and think about some alumnae who act on the belief that women’s equality is a boon for society as a whole. While it’s difficult to choose from so many bright, inspiring, and courageous women, we’ve brought five women spanning many decades and professions to the forefront.
1. Jane Chen
Jane Chen (2007–08 Selected Professions Fellow) told us back in 2008 that she believes everyone should “follow [their] passions and dare to dream to change the world.” Already an impressive student with clear vision, the low-cost baby warmer inventor’s success has since taken off. Chen participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos, shared her story on the Huffington Post, and continues to set new goals in business expansion and product distribution — all while splitting her time between the United States and India. Confident in her business and entrepreneurial acumen, she saw a need and tackled it. Her work is truly promoting “progress for all,” with immense benefits to the communities using her product. Lives are saved, and more families get to see their babies grow up strong and healthy.
Jane Chen’s fellowship was sponsored by three California American Fellowships: Anna Burns Nevin, the Anne Carpenter/Palm Springs (CA) Branch, and the Fresno (CA) Branch.
2. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (1977–78 International Fellow), globally recognized Nigerian economist, has worn many hats in her field. From positions at the World Bank to the ministry of finance in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala is a powerhouse. We recently caught her TedX talk entitled Don’t Trivialize Corruption, Tackle It. Both in her field and her region, Okonjo-Iweala is a strong example of women pushing forward to break barriers.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s fellowship was sponsored by the Junia W. Brown International Fellowship.
3. Marcia Grant
Marcia Grant (1963–64 American Fellow) began her career in international relations, inspired by the profession after reading about the United Nations as a child. After a career in education and diplomacy that spanned many countries, Grant helped found Effat College (now Effat University), a school for women studying the arts and sciences in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Founding the college is one of Grant’s proudest achievements. When the college later became a university, the dean of the school, Haifa Jamal al-Lail, took on the title of president, making her the first woman in Saudi Arabia with that title.
4. Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson (1956 Achievement Awardee) is a woman who almost needs no introduction. Author of Silent Spring, Carson was largely responsible for the modern environmental movement that has led to countless changes in environmental regulations in the United States, not least of which was the banning of destructive and toxic insecticide DDT. We recently were thrilled to discover a link between her AAUW award and then-upcoming book, Silent Spring.
5. Florence Seibert
Florence Seibert (1943 Achievement Awardee) has had a lasting impact on the advancement of medicine: She was responsible for inventing the first reliable tuberculosis test. Furthering Seibert’s legacy, the AAUW Clearwater (FL) Branch established a fellowship in her honor, ensuring that more young women are able to pursue a higher education.
For all of these women, professional success has translated directly into social progress and innovation. We count ourselves fortunate to have had some part in so many remarkable careers, and to be able to continue sharing our support and work on a global field.
To close, as we opened, with Ki-moon, “We are highlighting the importance of achieving equality for women and girls not simply because it is a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but because progress in so many other areas depends on it.”
Happy International Women’s Day!
AAUW has been funding women’s graduate education since 1881. By 2013, nearly $100 million in fellowships, grants, and awards had been given to 12,000 women from over 130 countries.
AAUW is making sure that U.N. policies include women and girls, and even giving a presentation (by our own researcher Andresse St. Rose) at the Commission on the Status of Women — a rare honor.
On International Women’s Day, organizations around the world celebrate women’s equality successes and issues. But for 365 days of the year, AAUW’s International Project Grantees are addressing issues in their communities head-on.