July 12, 2018
We believe so strongly in the importance of role models for today’s young girls. After all, the saying is true: “you can’t be what you can’t see.”
So whether you’re looking for ideas for an elementary school biography assignment or want some fun and useful facts for the dinner table, here’s just a few of the amazing real-life heroines who rock our world. We hope you share these stories with the impressionable young ones in your household.
“I’m competitive with myself. I always try to push past my own borders.”
Tyra is a force to be reckoned with — one of four African Americans and seven women to have repeatedly ranked among the world’s most influential people by TIME magazine. She began her career as a model at age 15 and became the first African American woman on the covers of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue; by the early 2000s, she was one of the top-earning models in the world. Subsequently, she moved onto acting and then in 2003, she created and became the host of the reality television show, America’s Next Top Model. Tyra also hosted her own talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, for which she won two Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Talk Show Informative. She currently co-hosts the talk show FABLife.
Kimberly Bryant started Black Girls Code to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders and provide girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills. Since 2011, she has helped Black Girls Code grow from a local organization in the Bay Area, to an international organization with seven chapters across the U.S. and in South Africa. In 2013 Kimberly was named one of Business Insider’s “25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology” and was invited to the White House as a “Champion of Change” for her work in tech inclusion and for her focus on bridging the digital divide for girls of color.
“The Path To Your Success Is Not As Fixed And Inflexible As You Think.”
Misty Copeland is a ballet dancer for the American Ballet Theater, one of three leading classical ballet companies in the country. In June of 2015, Copeland became the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the history of the American Ballet Theater. In addition to her dancing, Misty represents many brands, has toured on Broadway, and has written two books.
“I would never be so arrogant to think that someone should model their life after me. But the idea of possibility … the idea that I get to live my dreams out in public, hopefully will show to other folks that it’s possible. So I prefer the term ‘possibility model’ to ‘role model.’”
Laverne Cox is an actress, producer, and LGBT advocate, known best for her role as Sophia Burset on Orange is the New Black. Her work in the series led her to becoming the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the acting category. In addition, Laverne was the first openly transgender person to be on the cover of Time magazine. Her prominence in the media and her personal activism have inspired more widespread conversations about transgender people, especially in connection to race and identity. She was honored in 2014 by GLAAD for her work as an advocate for the transgender community.
“Things will change, and very soon.”
Geena Davis is an award-winning actress, film producer, and writer, known for her roles in movies such as The Fly, Beetlejuice, Thelma & Louise, A League of Their Own, and The Accidental Tourist. In 2007, Geena founded The Geena Davis Institute, the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to improve gender balance, reduce stereotyping, and promote character diversity in entertainment targeting children. Geena is an official partner of UN Women and serves as Special Envoy for Women and Girls in ICT for the UN’s International Telecommunication Union.
“The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
A critically acclaimed actress and producer, Viola Davis has received numerous nominations and awards in theater, television, and film. Most recently, Davis became the first black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder. Throughout her career, Viola has been vocal about the lack of opportunities for women of color in the acting industry. In 2012, Time listed her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
“I was dreaming since I came out of the womb.”
Taraji Penda Henson is an actress and singer known for her roles in Baby Boy and Hustle & Flow. In 2005, she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She currently stars as the ferocious Cookie Lyon on the popular FOX drama series Empire, for which she won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
Mellody Hobson is an impressive role model, and a great example of how far hard work can take you. Coming from a single-parent family in Chicago, she earned her way into Princeton and is now President of Ariel Investments, Chairman of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., a financial contributor for CBS News, and one of Time Magazine’s Time 100 for 2015. A vocal and consistent advocate for financial literacy and education, Mellody co-founded Ariel Community Academy, a public school on the South Side of Chicago that includes coursework on financial literacy. She also serves as board chair of the Chicago non-profit, After School Matters, and she is a board member for the Chicago Public Education Fund and The Sundance Institute.
“A lot of people ask how to get to where I am, and the single biggest thing, which is not profound, is that I work like a dog. And I work seven days a week. I have done that since forever. I can’t stress that enough.”
Mindy Kaling is an accomplished actress, author, comedian, and producer. She is best known for her work on the television show The Mindy Project, of which she is the creator, executive producer, writer, and star. She is also well known for her work in the U.S. version of The Office, where she served as writer, executive producer, director, and actress in the role of Kelly Kapoor. In addition, Mindy is the best-selling author of two books, Why Not Me? and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Most people know Gayle King as Oprah Winfrey’s best friend, but she is also an established news anchor and talk show host. Currently, she co-anchors CBS’ This Morning and is an editor-at-large for O, The Oprah Magazine. She has won three Emmys and received the American Women in Radio & Television Gracie Award for Outstanding Radio Talk Show and in 2010.
Advice to my 7-year-old self: “Dare to be different, brave, and courageous. Even in the awkward phases you will shine.”
Stacy Brown-Philpot is the Chief Operating Officer of TaskRabbit where she leads operational, analytical, and strategic execution for the company. Prior, she spent nearly a decade at Google, leading global operations for Google’s flagship products, including Search, Chrome, and Google+, and serving as Head of Online Sales and Operations for Google India. Brown-Philpot also founded various diversity initiatives at Google including the Black Googler Network. Stacy brings a background in finance from her time at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Goldman Sachs. She is #29 on Fortune’s 2015 40 under 40 list and was recently appointed to the Hewlett Packard Board of Directors. Originally from Detroit, Stacy now resides in Palo Alto with her husband, two daughters, and Zeus, the greatest Yorkie in the world. She holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and an M.B.A. from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.
“People remember my last name because it’s different, and people remember me in meetings because I dress differently from other people just because I’m a woman. Those kinds of things give you an opportunity and a spotlight, so use that to your advantage. Use it as a platform to demonstrate your knowledge and your capabilities.”
Padmasree Warrior is the former Chief Technology and Strategy Officer (CTO) of Cisco Systems and Motorola, Inc. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and a master’s in chemical engineering from Cornell. During her 23-year tenure at Motorola, Padma served in multiple leadership roles and stands as one of the highest-ranked female executives in the company’s history. In her time at Cisco, Padma helped the company grow its strength and influence, particularly through acquisitions and the focus on the Internet of Everything. She is ranked #84 on the 2015 Forbes Most Powerful Women list.
Advice to my 7-year-old self: “You ARE right! Never give up trying to make the world better!”
A noted speaker, advocate and activist, Teresa Younger is CEO and President of the Ms. Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the collective power of women and advancing social change. Teresa has been recognized with numerous awards for her commitment to civil rights and civil liberties and was the first woman and the first African-American to serve as executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. Teresa believes what defines her as a feminist is “the core belief that all individuals – men, women, and anyone who defines themselves in between, should access to the social, political, and economic equality that this world presents to us.”
This is by no means an exhaustive list. We know there are countless women who are out there inspiring the next generation of heroes — tell us who inspires you in the comments section below!