Women’s History Month began 40 years ago this March, when a handful of schools in Sonoma County, California, gathered for their first annual “Women’s History Week.” A few years and a presidential proclamation later, that week grew into a month-long, nationwide celebration of the women who shaped our world.
In 1978, the year it all began, I was 13 years old. At the time, I didn’t know many women who worked outside the home, but I knew I wanted a career when I grew up, so I had a special fascination with the women who did. One of the things I love about this month is the reminder that my own daughters have more examples of footsteps to follow in and shoulders to stand on than I did at their age. They don’t doubt that women can change the world because they’re surrounded by stories of the women who already have.
As we honor the contributions of the women who came before us, let’s also recognize the women who are making history right before our eyes. We might not know all their names — but one day, I hope we will. And so will the generation of girls they inspire to follow their own dreams.
Here are a few I’m excited about.
Jess Tomlin is the CEO of The MATCH International Women’s Fund, which supports grassroots innovators and organizers who are working to advance gender equality. As part of Jess’s mission to “shift power and resources into the hands of women driving change,” she is connecting local women’s movements with the financial backing they need to put homegrown solutions into action.
Emily Pilloton wants to see a future built by women — literally. As the founder of Project H, Girls Garage, and Unprofessional Development, Emily is teaching girls design, engineering, and other skills they need to bring their big ideas to life.
Because of Susan Mueni, the founder of Making A Difference (MAD) Sisters, young women in one of Nairobi’s poorest neighborhoods have a safe space to learn, give voice to their ideas, and take charge of their futures. Her reasoning is simple: Strong girls, she says, make strong communities.
Carolyn Rodz believes that diversity in the workplace is essential because “homogeneity is kryptonite for innovation.” That’s why she created Alice, a virtual business advisor that connects entrepreneurs to the people, networks, and funding they need to grow their businesses — making the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem more accessible and inclusive.
Devi Leiper O’Malley and Ruby Johnson
As co-directors of the FRIDA (Flexibility, Resources, Inclusivity, Diversity, Action) Fund, Devi Leiper O’Malley and Ruby Johnson are helping young feminists harness their collective power to transform their communities. FRIDA has declared war on the funding gap for young feminist movements, directing its resources to girls around the globe who are working to end violence, promote human rights, and disrupt the status quo.
Ayanna Howard is a lot of things: a successful entrepreneur, a pioneering roboticist, the head of Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing, and one of Business Insider’s “Most Powerful Women Engineers.” These days, she’s working to design a cutting-edge robot that can help children with special needs live healthier, better lives.