“The world is not kind to a woman”. – Marie Corelli
This was a statement made by the famous novelist almost 150 years ago, which unfortunately, stands true even today.
Gender discrimination is not just prevalent in poor neighborhoods or rural villages but it is equally rampant in the elite societies and white collared corporate empires. But while some women succumb the pressures of this unjust world, others rise from it and become eternal heroes!
Throughout history there have been such women. Women who refused to surrender. Women who raged with passion for what they believed in. Above all they are amazing people who became examples of human courage and integrity.
Here are a few of those women who packed a punch and won over the world !
1) JK Rowling
This world renowned novelist actually turns 51 today! Coming from humble beginnings, Joanne Kathleen Rowling taught English to children in Portugal to earn a living.
Unfortunately when her first marriage failed, a heartbroken Rowling returned to London, where she penned down the first books of the legendary “Harry Potter” series that went on to become a worldwide sensation!
She sold the rights of the book to a local publication for $4000 and within 3 years the book’s sales amassed over $480 million ! Rowling once survived on welfare funds given by the government, but now is the 13th richest woman in Britain.
Unlike other rags to riches success stories where people soon go head over heels and change for the worse, Rowling has used her success and talent for good. By making enormous donations to charity and helping people lead better lives, she has definitely mastered the magic of capturing hearts!
2) Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi
She was listed #14th in the Forbes Most Influential Women of 2016, and oh boy, does she deserve it!
Born in a middle class family in Madras, India, Indra had big dreams right from her childhood. After graduating from IIM Calcutta, one of India’s most prestigious colleges, she did her master’s degree from Yale. And to fund her studies at Yale, she started working as a receptionist from midnight till sunrise! She persevered and excelled in her academics and left no stone unturned to be the best at everything she did.
In the early stages of her career, she felt like had to struggle to prove her worth, in her words “Firstly I was a woman, and secondly I was not American”, but she aced every project she undertook and proved her worth.
Joining Pepsi Co. in the year 1994 she worked her way up and became the CFO in 2001, and later she was included in the Board of Directors going on to become one of the most powerful business women of this century.
3) Oprah Winfrey
I’m sure anything said about this amazing woman, will be an understatement. Throughout her life she has overcome innumerable obstacles to be where she is, right now.
From being born to an unwed teenage mother, and spending her first years on farm, Oprah Winfrey has had a long stretch of difficult teenage years. As per her accounts, she was a victim of sexual abuse during her early teen years which made her a rebellious youngster who lead a life of questionable morals. Until she gave birth to her son, who died in infancy. It was then, that Oprah went on to live with Vernon Winfrey, her father, who gave a new direction to her life.
And her life has only charted an upward curve since then. Winning the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant at merely 17, she started working at a local radio station and later went on to join a local television station as a reporter and anchor.
Her growing popularity got her invited to Chicago to host a dull and dying, half-hour morning show. But being the zesty host that she is , she turned “AM Chicago” into the hottest show in town which later gave way for her own talk show!
Her talk show “The Oprah Winfrey Show” received wordwide recognition and has been loved and followed by people of all ages, nationalities and genders. She has used it as a platform to proclaim compelling stories that need to be heard, and inspire people around the globe.
4) Priyanka Chopra
This bollywood gal, is known to be a lethal mix of beauty and brains. Identified globally for being a self made star, Priyanka Chopra has proved her mettle time and again.
Born into a family of doctors who were ambitious and had strong academic backgrounds Priyanka wanted to become a software engineer or a criminal psychologist since an early age. But little did she know that destiny had other plans for her. A casual stint at a local beauty pageant won her a lot of accolades and she later went on to participate in the famous beauty pageant Miss World 2000, of which she was the crowning glory!
Soon bollywood came calling and she instantly became a household name. She has recently gained global attention through her hollywood music and television career making her the first and only Indian actress to bag a leading role in a primetime american show. She has won four Filmfare Awards in her career and also the People’s Choice Awards India.
She has used her stardom to be associated with several philanthropic activities that include causes like female infanticide and foeticide, anti-addiction programmes for the youth to name a few. This good work got her the honor of being appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights.
5) Sonia Sotomayor
She is the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. What makes her story so special is that she grew up in the housing projects of South Bronx where she was repeatedly witnessed drug deals and gang crimes but did not let that affect her.
Her strained relationship with her emotionally detached mother did not help. Soon, Sotomayor learned to entertain herself with books from an early age. But despite her love for stories and knowledge, she still found herself slightly behind educational standards.
Even this setback did not kill her determination. She studied and learned around the clock in order to excel. And that determination was what got her out of poverty. She fought long and hard to overcome obstacles thrown her way due to her poor upbringing.
Sotomayor managed to excel in academics and eventually went on to attend Princeton University and Yale Law. She is now a federal judge and the first Hispanic woman to become one. Her story reveals hope and highlights the importance of determination. Respect!
6) Ursula M. Burns
At 58 Ursula Burns is a running, working powerhouse! Raised by a single mother in a poor neighborhood in New York, she learned the importance of a good education early in her life.
At a time when the engineering world was dominated by men, Ursula went on to do a master’s of sciences in Mechanical Engineering from a reputed institution. She worked twice as hard to fit in, and gave a tough competition to all her peers. On completion of her education she first started off as a summer intern for Xerox.
Ursula, known for her tenacity and incomparable work ethic, quickly made her way through the ranks at Xerox overseeing several areas of the company – engineering, manufacturing, product development, and marketing along the way.
In 2009, she spearheaded the largest acquisition in Xerox history, the $6.4 billion purchase of Affiliated Computer Services.
She is the first black-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. In 2014, Forbes rated her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world. This corporate woman is indeed an example of sheer will and perseverance!
It’s time we take some valuable lessons from these legendary women. They have proved that nothing in life should be able to hold you down. They have shown the world the power of dreaming big, working consistently and overcoming hardships.
Maitri is one such organisation that helps women realise their true worth, and take their place as rightful and equal members of the society. They work to eliminate gender based abuse in India and hope to create a country free of women related crimes. With the help of organisations like Maitri we can, and we will raise many more women who will go on to become the next Indra Nooyi or the next Priyanka Chopra.