To be honest, women are shattering barriers and breaking ground every single day out there. These past few years have witnessed a new era, an age of reckoning where women are recognizing the incredible power they hold. It is astounding to see these beautiful creatures go out there and claim what is rightfully theirs and be unapologetic.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) is the planet’s biggest celebration of female entrepreneurs and innovators, taking place in more than 140 countries each year on the 19th of November. This day was founded and implemented by Wendy Diamond, a best-selling American author, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and founder of many pets related businesses and fashion shows.
WED was officially recognized by the United Nations (UN) as a global celebration, and Diamond was awarded the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Pioneer Award in recognition of her lifetime achievements.
To mark this day, we made a list of 7 women trailblazers who carved their path and became an inspiring symbol of a female’s ambition and courage for generations to come.
Sudha Murthy – Born to inspire
Some women are born to become an inspiration and leave a lasting impact on the world, and Sudha Murthy is one of them. A revered philanthropist, social worker, prolific writer, and businesswoman, Sudha Is considered India’s pride and joy. As a chairperson of the multinational IT brand Infosys, Murthy operates to help people in need and provide aid to as many as possible.
“The most successful person is the one who has seen many failures and converted every failure into a step,” says the philanthropist. Through her foundation, Sudha Murthy has helped those living in flood-affected areas by building around 2300 houses. Being the first female engineer in India, she understands the importance of education in alleviating poverty and improving quality of life and works tirelessly towards providing education to women and underprivileged children.
She has built 7000 libraries to support the cause and 16,000 toilets to promote hygiene. She is a shining example of how one woman can uplift the whole society with the biggest smile on her face.
Arianna Huffington – A powerhouse
Named by the Times Magazines as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and listed as one of the Most Powerful Women on the planet by Forbes, Arianna Huffington is a force to be reckoned with. Co-founder of Huffington Post, Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of Thrive Global, and a best-selling author, Arianna leverages her platform to talk about mental health and well-being.
This Greek-American entrepreneur is on a mission to redefine success for women, “the idea that the only way to create an amazing start-up and build a company is to be always on, 24*7 and never stop is absolutely false,” she stated while speaking at Bloomberg’s Equality Summit.
“Anytime we buy into this myth of being 27*7 on to run a successful company, we are penalising women. Because women remain the primary caregivers at home, and we need to acknowledge that.”
She wishes that women who are hustling and working hard to make their space and be heard also take a breath and focus on themselves. Only if they are healthy and in a relaxed mindset will they be able to make the tough decisions they have to and take the risks required.
Zhang Xin – The one who dared to dream big
With An awe-inspiring ‘rags to riches’ story, Zhang Xin’s story has inspired countless women in China and around the world to pursue their dreams. Once a factory worker working 12-hour day shifts at a textile factory, she used her savings to study in England and later went on to work for Goldman Sachs in London.
After moving back to Beijing, she co-founded SOHO China, a real estate company, with her husband in 1995 and made history. Today, Zhang is one of the most celebrated women entrepreneurs in China and is dubbed “the woman who built Beijing.”
“I always see myself as fearless. I always tell my children that you should do the things that you want to in life and don’t worry about what other people what them to do. You would only do the best if you want to do it so badly, and that was the guiding principle of my life.”
She believes that the most critical factor that transformed her life was education, so Zhang, along with her husband, started SOHO scholarship. This scholarship provides financial aid to Chinese students getting an education outside of China. She studied in Sussex under financial aid and recognised that it was someone else’s generosity that helped her and the SOHO scholarship is her way of paying it forward.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw – Leveraging the power of education
Growing up in a middle-class, progressive family, Kiran Mazumdar was always encouraged to pursue education instead of getting married and “settling down.” She broke all glass ceilings by establishing Biocon India. After going through countless bureaucratic, political, and financial loops, she turned Biocon into a profitable entity.
She has won countless accolades over the years for her exceptional work, the recent one being named EY World Entrepreneur of The Year 2020. “If you are pursuing a strategy with purpose, then make sure you endure. If it is good, it is going to endure, and it is going to succeed in the end,” she says in a Forbes India interview.
Having gone through the grief of losing her best friend to cancer and witnessing her husband and mother battle the same illness motivated Shaw to support cancer treatment and research. She established Mazumdar-Shaw Medical Foundation, the world’s largest cancer care centre with 1400 beds in Bangalore.
She says, “I believe that health equity is something that gives me that raison d’etre and that sort of sense of business purpose to really drive my agenda of providing affordable access to the kind of drugs and medicines that we produce for patients anywhere and everywhere in the world.”
Mary Barra – Breaking barriers
Mary Barra, an American businesswoman, made history by becoming the first female CEO of General Motors (GM) in 2014. But that was just the beginning of her challenging journey. That very first year, GM saw a number of deaths caused by its vehicles and had to issue 84 safety recalls which involved over 30 million cars.
She was surrounded by grieving families unloading their anger and frustration on her, and she took it all in with grace and patience. Despite all the challenges, she pushed GM forward to produce the best automobiles in its history. Its four brands, Cadillac, GMC, Chevrolet, and Buick, are now ranked the highest in customer satisfaction.
From factory floors to industrial engineers, Barra is pushing for more women to be in leadership roles at GM. “I’ve engaged top 40 women in the company to specifically say, ok, what can we do to make sure we are building the pipeline of women” She was one of the three female CEOs of former US President Donald Trump’s Economic forum.
Barra works tirelessly to advance STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education for girls and funds organizations like the Institute of Play, Digital Promise, Black Girls Code, etc.
Barra hopes her career encourages young women and inspires them to get out there and achieve their dreams. She wants women to make sure their voice is heard, “no matter what you choose to do in life, pursue it with passion and hard work.”
Melinda French Gates – Empowering women all around the world
A name known to many, Melinda Gates’ works as a philanthropist and businesswoman has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. Co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and former General Manager of Microsoft, she has devoted the majority of her life’s work to helping people lead a healthy and productive life and empowering women.
French Gates teaches a class in philanthropy on the famous learning platform, Masterclass. Through this, she challenges the old norm of philanthropy that only the rich can lend a helping hand and gives a blueprint on how anyone can become a giver and create impact irrespective of what resources are at their disposal.
She says, “We all have something to give back, and I think people often don’t think about those other pieces beyond the money,” in an interview with Forbes.
Melinda has been dedicatedly working towards gender equality for years; in an interview with Good Morning America, she says, “Equality can’t wait. It takes women and men to look at what actions we need to take in our homes, in our workplaces, in our communities. Because, if you lift up women, and then you have men and women equal, it changes societies; I’ve seen it all over the world.”
Oprah Gail Winfrey – The woman who changed TV forever
Last but not least, Oprah Winfrey, the woman who changed the entertainment and TV industry forever. On top of being the first black woman to own a production company, Oprah is also an actress, author, television producer, and philanthropist.
Born into poverty to a single teenage mother, Oprah has persevered in the face of soul-crushing grief and mountainous challenges. Through her world-renowned talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, she celebrated the differences among people and help countless achieve their dreams and ambitions.
In her speech at Power of Women, she says, “true philanthropy comes from living from the heart of yourself and giving what you have been given. Any life and every life is enhanced by the sharing and the giving and the opening up of the heart space. Your life gets better when you can find a way to share it with someone else.”
Her impact on the world cannot be quantified, it will last for generations beyond, and she will continue to empower women and people around the world even after her time.
“The true reward is in the lives you can touch and the people you know you have impacted.” – Oprah.
So, on this Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, make a decision not just to break your boundaries and achieve your goals but also to help those who you can and pay forward what you have been given.