Women of Substance (Part 2)

By Ayesha Khan

Published: Wednesday, May 01, 2013    

Welcome back, readers, to the second installment of Women of Substance. This time around we're looking at "Women Who Changed the World."

While I can't mention every single motivating, inspiring and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (in the words of Mary Poppins) woman who ever walked the Earth, let's just have a look at several women who have changed the world we live in.

Silicon Valley is commonly thought to be the abode of tech-savvy, world-changing (yet slightly antisocial) entrepreneurs in the public consciousness who all happen to be guys. But Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg are two women who buck the trend. Mayer is the president and chief executive officer of Yahoo!, who, at 37, became the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She's not afraid to make bold choices either, such as her recent and controversial decision to eliminate the work-at-home option for the company's remote employees.

My current hero(ine) is Sheryl Sandberg, chief financial officer of Facebook. Yes, she's the second-in-charge of one of the world's most recognizable and popular organizations, and she took good old Facebook from 70 million users to a truly whopping 800 million. She also gave an amazing talk at a TED event in 2010 that led to her writing a book, Lean In, which is considered to be a modern-day "feminist manifesto," according to some critics.

Any article about powerful women would be incomplete without mentioning Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom who recently passed away at age 87. She was at the top of her country's leadership for 11 consecutive years, and the decisions she made earned her the famous moniker 'the Iron Lady.' Another less commonly known nickname is 'Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher,' a name bestowed upon her when, as the education secretary, she abolished free milk for schoolchildren in a bid to cut costs and focus on academics. Not only did she have the Cold War to contend with during her time in office, in 1982, she also had to deal with the Falklands War. She's an admirable leader who won't be forgotten anytime soon

literature is definitely one of those areas where women have caught up with their male counterparts, and then some. Long gone are those days when women like the Brontë sisters had to use male pseudonyms just to get published and be taken seriously as writers. If we push past the Stephenie Meyers, there are quite a few remarkable female writers out there.

First off would be Jane Austen, who so perfectly captured the trials, tribulations and family drama that ensues when nosy neighbors and relatives realize that "a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." More than 200 years later, new editions of her books are being printed, plays are still being staged, and movies inspired by her timeless stories are being made, some recent ones being a Tamil Indian film starring Aishwarya Rai, and Prada to Nada, an adaptation of Austen's Sense and Sensibility that is set in Los Angeles' Mexican community. Talk about borderless!

Fast-forward to the 1960s and Sylvia Plath, an American writer who struggled with the idea of being both a serious writer and living up to society's expectations at the time of a 'perfect' woman. Her poetry and writing is powerful and dark, a potent mix for which she rightly won the Pulitzer Prize, albeit posthumously.

Lastly, the one writer who has most affected the world of books and beyond in the last two decades must be, without doubt, JK Rowling. The simply magical nature of her tales and their monstrous success has put her at the top of the lists of the most powerful, most successful, and richest authors time and time again.

There's no other way to put it: the Harry Potter series defined the childhoods of a generation. Rowling had a difficult life, and while she was writing the first book, she was an unemployed single mother who at times struggled to pay for her daughter's diapers. However, she persevered, and the emotions, the adventures, the friends and the creatures in her books all came together to deliver an exhilarating experience like no other.

In the course of my research for these articles, I came across so many inspirational women, and although, unfortunately, I could not fit them all in here, I hope that the gender imbalance that is present when it comes to coverage of the successes and triumphs of women has tipped a little in our favor.

Ayesha Khan is a high school student with an eye for both the mundane and the oddities in life.
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