Do you know an influential woman—a woman who, by her character and actions, changes people’s lives? She may not see herself as influential, and probably won’t advertise any influence she has. Perhaps she’s too busy getting on with transforming lives and communities to stop and give herself a definition. But when you look at who she is and what she does, you see a woman shaping the world around her.
Influential women are everywhere. There are the women who’ve stepped into the highest roles of political leadership in their countries. In recent years we’ve seen Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom (known as the Iron Lady for her style of leadership) and Corazon Aquino and Gloria Arroya of the Philippines lead their respective nations. Benazir Bhutto was the first woman to lead a Muslim state. Other female heads of state include Michele Bachelet of
Chile, Ellen Sirleaf of Liberia, Luisa Diogo of Mozambique, Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia, Tarja Halonen of Finland and Mary McAleese of Ireland, and there are others. Forbes has named Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, the world’s most powerful woman for four consecutive years.
Influential women are not limited to the political sphere either. There have been forty female Nobel Prize winners from 1901 to 2009. Marie Curie, the physicist and chemist, won it twice: the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 and for Chemistry in 1911. Other women have received awards for their contributions to the scientific world (most recently Ada E. Yonath), but also in literature, and economics, medicine and world peace. Women have played their part in changing the way we look at the world. Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat and became a catalyst in the civil rights movement which would change the face and shape of the United States. Wangari Maathai of Kenya, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Green Belt Movement, is known for her commitment to democracy, human rights and environmental conservation.
In the arts and popular culture, female musicians, entertainers, authors and talk show hosts form and inform our worldview. In 2008 the Daily Telegraph ran a series of articles naming the fifty most influential Britons in the United States. Far above the titans of industry, finance and technology, lodged at number two was Jo Frost, more commonly known as Supernanny-with a popular TV show and three bestselling books.
Then of course there’s Oprah. More than a talk show host, she’s a magazine, a TV network, a book club, a philanthropist, a U.S. presidential candidate endorser—she’s almost a way of life! It’s said that when she was asked about a possible career in politics, her response was that she’d have less influence that way. And with millions of people tuning in to her shows and buying her magazine, she’s got a point.
It’s not only women who are public figures who are influential. It’s estimated that over 60 percent of the world’s farmers are women. In sub-Saharan Africa that figure rises to about 80 percent, As a result, international bodies have increased their efforts of investing in women. Peter Greer of Hope International (a Christian nonprofit organization seeking to alleviate poverty through microfinance development) notes:
Women are key in rebuilding communities around the world—and in the developing world, carry a disproportionate amount of the responsibility for family and community well-being. With HOPE, we’re currently serving 300,000 entrepreneurs in 14 countries—and 80 percent of them are women. A woman is the heart of the home. It’s more likely that when you help a woman start or expand a business, a greater percentage of her income will be used for school fees, nutrition, housing improvements.
In a very different part of the world, Time magazine ran a feature called “The Rise of the Sheconomy.” It noted that in the United States, the increasing earning power of women was causing businesses to change the way they operated in order to attract the powerful female consumer. Furthermore, in the United States, women have control over 51.3 percent of the nation’s private wealth. The article noted that such was the growing economic influence of women globally that studies now viewed women as the next emerging economy.2
All over the world, in education, in schools, in homes, in shops and offices, influential women are everywhere. Some are married, some are single, some are parents, and some are not. They’re young; they’re senior citizens. They’re every shape, size and color, and they’re found in every strata of society. Such women are incredibly inspiring! I wonder if you see them in your family, among your friends, at work.
I wonder if you see an influential woman when you look in the mirror.
(Taken from More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World by Jo Saxton. Copyright(c) 2012 by Jo Saxton. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press PO Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.)
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