7 Influential Women Changing the World Today

Women across the globe are driving transformative change, challenging norms, & inspiring communities with their tenacity, innovation, & compassion.

Published February 22, 2024
Elizabeth Smart | Getty Editorial

Every morning, as part of my personal routine, I dedicate time to immerse myself in a motivational book, reflect on inspirational quotes, or listen to influential women making remarkable strides in their fields. Looking for inspiration of your own? These are some of the remarkable women changing the world.

1. Jane Goodall: Advocating for the Environment

Jane Goodall | Getty Editorial

Jane Goodall is a force to be reckoned with. She's a renowned primatologist and anthropologist who has dedicated her life to conservation. She is the Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, which focuses on community involvement and youth empowerment. Her program, known as Roots & Shoots, was launched in 1991 and has since inspired youth in 50 countries to make local change. These projects have allowed youth to take the steps necessary to help animals, people, and their surrounding environment. 

As an impassioned speaker and activist, Goodall continues to advocate for environmental preservation, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all living things and the urgent need to respect and protect the planet. Her lifelong dedication to her cause serves as an inspiration for women worldwide. 

Quick Tip

Goodall was the first to observe chimpanzees using tools. Before her discovery, it was believed that only humans used and made tools, which was a defining characteristic that separated us from other animals.

2. Katie Ray-Jones: Making a Difference in Domestic Violence

Katie Ray-Jones has been a life-changing advocate in the fight against domestic violence. As the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect, she has been instrumental in offering immediate support to survivors and those in crisis. With Katie leading the charge, those helplines have really spread their wings and become more user-friendly. So, anyone dealing with domestic violence now has an even better shot at getting the help, guidance, and comfort they need. She's made sure there's always someone there to pick up the call.

Katie has been super active in getting the word out about how complex domestic abuse really is. She's all about sparking important chats on how we can prevent and handle it better. And her dedication? It's been a game-changer. She's not just highlighting how much we need more resources and support but has genuinely made a difference in the lives of so many survivors.

3. Wendy Kopp: Changing Public Education

Wendy Kopp is a total powerhouse when it comes to shaking up the education world. Back in 1989, she turned her college thesis into an amazing program called Teach For America (TFA). The goal is to get the brightest college grads to teach in under-resourced areas for at least a couple of years. Wendy didn't just stop with the United States. She saw that kids everywhere were facing the same challenges, so she co-started Teach For All in 2007 to take the idea global.

She's all about making sure every kid, no matter where they come from, gets a top-notch education. And it's not just about getting teachers in classrooms today, but about building up leaders who'll push for fair education for years to come. She truly believes that with the right folks in charge, we can totally change the education game.

4. Dolly Parton: Making Books Accessible

Dolly Parton, with her larger-than-life personality, isn't just a country music legend; she's a genuine force for good in the world. One of her standout contributions is the Imagination Library, which she started in 1995. This program mails free books every month to kids from birth until they start school, regardless of family income. It began in her home county in Tennessee, but Dolly took it global, and now millions of books are given away each year.

Beyond her work in literacy, she's been a generous philanthropist, like when she donated a million dollars to help fund research for a COVID-19 vaccine. Dolly stands up for inclusivity, kindness, and the power of education. She uses her fame and resources to advocate for a world where everyone has a chance to shine, no matter where they come from.

Need to Know

Investing in the education of children can create opportunities and open doors for future generations.

5. Jennifer Doudna: Reducing Genetic Disorders

Jennifer Doudna is revolutionizing the world of genetics with her groundbreaking work on a technology now known as CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. Together with her partner, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer has created a method that essentially allows scientists to "edit" DNA, which holds great potential for helping reduce genetic disorders. Her work not only applies to genetic disorders in people, but also impacts medicine and agriculture. For their incredible discovery, Jennifer and her partner won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.

Her impact isn't limited to just her scientific achievements. She's also a strong advocate for the responsible use of gene-editing technology. She understands the ethical implications of CRISPR and is determined to ensure this technology isn't abused. Not only is she shaping the future of genetic research, but she is also leading conversations about how science must be used carefully, ensuring that advances benefit humanity responsibly.

6. Elizabeth Smart: Raising Awareness About Child Abduction

Elizabeth Smart, having endured a traumatic kidnapping as an adolescent, has transformed her personal tragedy into a beacon of hope and advocacy for others. Rather than allowing her past to define her, Elizabeth has become an instrumental figure in raising awareness about child abduction, sexual violence, and human trafficking. Through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, she provides resources and support to prevent future crimes against children and assists in the recovery and reintegration of survivors.

Her book, My Story, offers an in-depth account of her experiences, serving both as a testament to her resilience and as a call to action. As an advocate, Elizabeth emphasizes the importance of recovery, healing, and empowerment for survivors, proving that even in the face of profound adversity, one can find strength and purpose.

Quick Tip

Sharing personal stories, no matter how painful, can inspire and provide solace to others going through similar experiences.

7. Malala Yousafzai: Extending Access to Education

Malala Yousafzai | Getty Editorial

Malala Yousafzai, a beacon of resilience and determination, is relentlessly championing the cause of girls' education worldwide. Surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban for her advocacy, Malala transformed her harrowing experience into a global movement. She co-authored the memoir I Am Malala, offering a profound glimpse into the challenges many girls face in accessing education. In 2014, her steadfast dedication earned her the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest-ever laureate.

Through the Malala Fund, which she co-founded, she strives to ensure every girl can complete 12 years of free, safe, and quality education. More than just education, Malala advocates for a world where girls and women are recognized, respected, and can realize their potential unbounded by oppression or fear. Her voice, story, and actions continuously inspire and push for transformative change.

Let Women Changing the World Inspire You

If you want to make a difference, it starts with realizing that we all have the power to change lives. Think about what really fires you up — maybe it's saving the environment, fighting for equality, or boosting education. Once you find what makes you tick, you can dive in headfirst. This might be helping out in your neighborhood, donating to a cause you believe in, or just talking about it on social media. And don't forget, just being kind and understanding in your everyday life can make waves, too. When you mix real passion with action and team up with others who feel the same, you can truly reshape the world into a better place for generations to come.

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7 Influential Women Changing the World Today