International Women’s Day is today, March 8, 2017. With the theme, "Be Bold for Change," the event's official website asks us to "Call on the masses, or call on yourself, to help forge a better working world—a more inclusive, gender-equal world."
In honor of this event, we’ve selected a short list of amazing women who've forged their own way to become leaders in professions previously considered "men's work." As educators, we find these women to be inspirational, and we think you will enjoy learning of their path toward empowerment.
Inspirational Female Engineer – Mae Jemison
Dr. Mae Jemison is not only an engineer—she is also a doctor, entrepreneur, and the first African-American woman in space. Intrigued by space travel as a child, Dr. Jemison ignored the people who questioned her decision to pursue the sciences and followed her passion, ultimately studying engineering at Stanford University. After NASA, she founded an international science camp and a culture-and-technology consulting firm, The Jemison Group.
We were lucky enough to feature Dr. Jemison as our Keynote Speaker for the Envision NYLF Explore STEM camp in the summer of 2015.
Inspirational Female Physician – Elizabeth Blackwell
The first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S., as well as the first woman on the UK Medical Register was Elizabeth Blackwell, who graduated from medical school in 1849. She was a pioneer for the education of women in medicine, as well as a renowned social and moral reformer.
Ironically, she wasn't always a fan of the field. Originally employed as a teacher, she said she "hated everything connected with the body, and could not bear the sight of a medical book." Her ultimate inspiration was a dying friend, who told her a female physician would have been able to save her life.
Inspirational Female Attorney –Sandra Day O'Connor
In 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. After earning an Economics degree from Stanford, Ms. O'Connor went on to graduate from Stanford Law School in 1952. Since opportunities for female lawyers were very limited at the time, she struggled to find a job and worked without pay for the San Mateo County attorney's office. She soon became deputy county attorney, and went on to be elected to two terms in the Arizona state senate. In 1981, Ronald Reagan nominated her to the Supreme Court, with unanimous Senate approval. Before retiring in 2006, she was a key swing vote in many important cases, including the upholding of Roe v. Wade.
Inspirational Female Educator – Erin Gruwell
Another trailblazing female near and dear to us at Envision is Erin Gruwell, who provided our keynote address at one of Envision's Leadership Conferences in the summer of 2015. A teacher, activist and founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation, Ms. Gruwell's educational philosophy has transformed hundreds of students' lives, in addition to inspiring the film Freedom Writers. At Wilson High School in Los Angeles, she motivated "at-risk" teenage students who, against what seemed to be insurmountable odds, graduated and went on to become aspiring college students, published writers and catalysts for change.
In closing, we'd like to quote Angela Duckworth, who will be presenting at Education Week's Leaders To Learn From event on March 31. A noted psychologist and author, one of her career goals is to help students find joy in their work, invest effort, overcome setbacks, and be open to feedback.
Ms. Duckworth tells us, “succeeding in school and in life depends on a lot more than talent… In the long-term, one thing that matters enormously to success is grit… passion and perseverance.”