Women We Should Pay Attention To

March 17, 2020

Ever since I started working—back as a junior in high school at the local Goodwill in Menomonee Falls, WI—I have always been surrounded by women in leadership positions. In my job as a sales associate at Goodwill, the store manager and the two assistant managers were all women. When I worked at a country club in my hometown, all my immediate supervisors were women. When I worked as a custodian at an elementary school in my hometown three summers ago, my two supervisors were women. When I was a marketing intern for the Minnesota Daily, the two marketing directors were women. When I was a graphic design research assistant, the professor I worked directly with who conducted and led the research was a woman. Since I have been with Backpack UMN, there has always been a woman at the top. And when I first started my internship at United Properties, one of the two presidents of the company was a woman, and my two immediate bosses on the marketing team were (and still are) women. 

The women I worked with in these roles made me wonder why women haven’t always been included in the workplace, and why, as a country, we are still lacking gender equality in the workplace. 

So, in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I’d like to take some time to recognize some trailblazing women who have made space for their fellow women and future female generations to feel represented and included not only at work, but also in their daily lives. These women range from top executives at companies and elected officials to ordinary citizens who work hard to make sure their visions are being heard. 

Note: These are women who I feel have made strides for other women and for other identities through my own research and findings. I wanted to not only include some women who don’t make national headlines everyday, but also include women that have inspired me personally. I understand that there are billions of women worldwide that make the world a little better everyday. 

Mellody Hobson

Mellody Hobson is the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments. She quickly rose through the ranks in her company from being an intern to earning the top spot as CEO, and she was adamant about including race and diversity in the conversations at work. In her TED Talks about the workplace, Hobson makes clear that we can cultivate inclusive and diverse work spaces if we just talk about topics that continuously make us uncomfortable. I believe her work and achievements have opened up the door for more women—particularly women of color—to be included at the table, saying that excluding women and people of color “threatens to rob another generation of all the opportunities that all of us want for all of our children, no matter what their color or where they come from.”

Portrait of Mellody Hobson

Anita Johnson 

Anita Johnson is the Wisconsin Voter ID Coalition Coordinator for VoteRiders, and is a driving force in the city of Milwaukee. According to Wisconsin Public Radio and 24/7 Wall St, Milwaukee is one of the worst cities in the country for people of color. Johnson works tirelessly to make sure that voters of color in the city of Milwaukee are educated, informed, and prepared for the voting process so that they feel empowered to make their voices heard. It is the quiet work like this that goes on behind the scenes that gets overlooked in the mainstream media, and quite frankly, we need more women like her in our communities to pave the way for voices for women and people of color. To learn more about Johnson’s work, view this video from 2018 about her role in mobilizing voters in Milwaukee

Portrait of Anita Johnson

Stacey Abrams 

Stacey Abrams gained national recognition when she was running for Governor of Georgia in 2018, which would have made her the first black woman to lead a state. She unfortunately lost, but her grit, intelligence, and vision for a more equitable country was not lost on the public. Since the 2018 election, she has been working across the country to make sure that people can have the right to vote and that people feel that their voices are heard through our democratic process. She has since founded two organizations, Fair Fight and Fair Count, which seek to make sure voters are heard and counted fairly in the 2020 census, respectively. 

Portrait of Stacey Abrams

Lindsay McCormick

Lindsay McCormick is the founder of the brand Bite Toothpaste Bits, a toothpaste product that serves as an alternative to traditional toothpaste tubes to reduce plastic waste from toothpaste tubes. McCormick created the formula for these toothpaste bits herself and actually created them in her own home as her business was growing. I believe she saw a problem in our world and worked hard to try and solve it, creating a new product that still satisfies something we do everyday. Her vision with this brand truly inspired me to buy some myself and continue to support her business in an effort to reduce our global waste problem. 

Portrait of Lindsay McCormick

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

A fierce Latina who ran for Congress in 2018 with all the odds stacked against her. Although she makes national headlines everyday, her congressional run truly inspired me. She was running against incumbent Joe Crowley, and he outspent her 18 to 1. However, her ability to connect with voters and place human rights and working families at the center of the platform was enough to gain support to defeat Crowley 10 to 1. Since then, she has become a driving force in Congress, advocating for the controversial Green New Deal, paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers, and guaranteeing healthcare to all Americans. Her identity as a young woman of color in Congress has set the tone for a new wave of young Americans to be represented in our government, and I believe her role as a woman in our government cannot be ignored. 

Portrait of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Evelyn Yang 

Evelyn Yang is the wife of former presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Near the end of Andrew Yang’s presidential run, Evelyn Yang spoke out about her experience being sexually assaulted by her OBGYN in an interview with CNN after being inspired by a supporter of her husband. She was brave enough to share her story that unfortunately too many women face on a daily basis. In the short time she has graced the media, I believe that her poise, confidence, and vulnerability helped other women come forward with their own sexual assault experiences, paving the way for more women to be heard and taken seriously in our justice system.

Portrait of Evelyn Yang

Isra Hirsi 

Isra is the daughter of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and a young climate activist. She is one of the executives for the US Youth Climate Strike and MN Can’t Wait, which is a youth coalition of organizations that pressure the Minnesota government to take action against climate change. Her continued activism not only for the climate crisis, but for an equitable and just world never fails to fill me with hope regarding the upcoming generation, and I think that her presence as a young Muslim woman is necessary for achieving not only full women’s rights, but human rights as well. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @israhirsi. 

Portrait of Isra Hirsi

These are just some of the many women who wake up everyday and change the world. It is worth it to note that you don’t need to start a business, run for Congress, or be an activist to be considered a strong woman. This International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, let’s recognize that the work women do every day, the opinions they have, the struggles they face, and the aspirations they strive for are all worthy and valid and deserve the support of their male counterparts. 

After all, they do make up half the world’s population. 

Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!