HERSTORY: 10 Trailblazing Women Who are Rewriting History

by Pranav Ramesh
February 03, 2021

History is rife with examples of obstacles, challenges, and bias against women since the beginning of time. Despite this, or perhaps in response to such adversity, women have risen to the challenge over the centuries. Progress has been slow but consistent, and our hope is that one day, in the near future, the women of the world will not have to fight to be paid equally or seen as equals in any industry or environment. A day when female role models will be abundant and no longer the firsts in every industry.

Here are 10 trailblazers who are sparking this hope in the hearts of millions of women and girls across the world with their diverse cultural, educational, and professional backgrounds.


Susan Wojcicki: Having Mastered the A-Z of Alphabet

52, CEO, YouTube

Susan Wojcicki has been serving as the CEO of YouTube, the Alphabet subsidiary since 2014. Wojcicki’s career progression is the perfect example of how you can start small in life and still end up spearheading a business empire with over 2 billion monthly users. It was in her rented-out garage in Menlo Park that the Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page developed the pilot of the Google search engine in 1998.

In 1999, Wojcicki joined Google as its 16th employee and hasn’t looked back since. She has handled everything in Google from Analytics and AdSense to Google Books and Images. She acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006 and has built its net worth to an estimate of $90 billion over the last 15 years. Educational Background:

  • BA History and Literature, Harvard University
  • MS Economics, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • MBA, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Career Journey:

  • Marketing Manager, Google
  • Senior Vice President, Google
  • CEO, YouTube


Jennifer Doudna: Altering Human DNA, Literally

56, Nobel Laureate for Chemistry in 2020

The renowned biologist Jennifer Doudna is best known for her contributions to CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) along with her colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier for discovering that genes can be reprogrammed or edited, a breakthrough that has altered the face of biology. This development of a method of genome editing won this duo the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Educational Background:

  • BA Biochemistry, Pomona College in Claremont, California
  • Ph.D., Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School

Career Journey:

  • Research Fellowship, Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Research Fellowship, Genetics, Harvard Medical School
  • Postdoctoral Scholar, Biomedical Science, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Research on ribozyme structure and function, Cech lab (1991) & Yale University (1996)
  • Assistant Professor, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Dept., Yale University
  • Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley
  • Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Professorship, Biomedicine, and Health, University of California, Berkeley
  • Chair of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, Biology, University of California, Berkeley


Christina Koch: Out-of-this-world Achievement

42, American Engineer, Astronaut

Christina Koch is an engineer and an astronaut who recently returned to Earth after spending 328 days in space, setting a record for the longest time spent in space by a woman. This record was previously held by Peggy Whiston, a fellow American.

During her time in space, Koch performed hundreds of experiments and worked closely with foreign protein crystals and plants. She also contributed to countless studies that would set the course for future space expeditions, including how female astronauts can adjust to weightlessness, the stress of isolation, and the pressure of prolonged spaceflight.

Educational Background:

  • BS Electrical Engineering and Physics, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC
  • MS Electrical Engineering, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC
  • NASA Academy program at GSFC

Career Journey:

  • Electrical Engineer, NASA GSFC’s Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics
  • Research Associate, Firefighter, Ocean/Glacier Search & Rescue, United States Antarctic Program
  • Electrical Engineer, Space Department, Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University
  • Field Engineer, NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division Baseline Observatory, Barrow Alaska
  • Station Chief, American Samoa Observatory
  • Astronaut, NASA


Kamala Harris: Leading with Pride, That too in “Sensible” Shoes

56, Vice President, USA

On November 7, 2020, Kamala Harris achieved what no woman in American History had until then—she became the first woman of color to be elected as the US Vice President. If we trace back her career journey, it is evident that Harris is no stranger to firsts— she was the first woman of Indian and Jamaican heritage to be elected to the US Senate. Prior to that, she became the first woman of color to serve as California’s attorney general.

Harris went viral for spotting her wide range of Chuck Taylors throughout the election campaign. According to her, they are not just sensible or comfortable, but also protect Americans from all walks of life.

Educational Background:

  • BA Political Science and Economics, Howard University, Washington, DC
  • JD, University of California, Hastings College of the Law

Career Journey:

  • District Attorney
  • Author
  • Attorney General
  • US Senator
  • Vice President of USA


Jane Fraser: Knocking Down the Walls of Wall Street

54, President, Citigroup

Jane Fraser will be creating history within Citigroup by becoming the first female CEO of a prominent Wall Street Bank. As announced in 2020, Fraser will be succeeding Michael Corbat in February 2021. She has been a part of Citigroup since 2014 has a served in multiples roles including mergers and acquisitions, and corporate strategy. In her previous role as the CEO of the Global Consumer Bank, Fraser handled all of Citi’s Wealth Management, Retail Banking, Mortgage, Credit Cards, and Operations and Technology across 19 markets.

Educational Background:

  • BA (Promoted to an MA) Economics, Girton College, Cambridge
  • MBA, Harvard Business School

Career Journey:

  • Mergers & Acquisitions Analyst, Goldman Sachs, London
  • Partner, McKinsey and Company
  • Head of Client Strategy, Citigroup
  • Global Head of Strategy and Mergers and Acquisitions, Citigroup
  • CEO, Citi Private Bank
  • CEO, Citigroup Latin America
  • President of Citigroup CEO of Global Consumer Banking (GCB)


Rosalind Brewer: To Greener Pastures

59, CEO, Walgreens

Former Starbucks COO Rosalind or Roz Brewer has been tapped by Walgreens for the role of the CEO, making her the first African American female leader heading a Fortune 500 company. Brewer will be taking over for Stefano Pessina, who served as the CEO of Walgreens for the last 6 years.

In a recent interview, Pessina has expressed his appreciation for Brewer’s expertise in operations, talent development, digital innovation, and client relationships. As a part of her “role upgrade”, Brewer will be receiving a signing bonus worth nearly $25 million, in addition to her annual $1.5 million salary.

Educational Background:

BS Chemistry, Spelman College Career Journey:

  • Research Technician, Kimberley Clark
  • President Manufacturing and Operations, Global President, Kimberly-Clark
  • VP, Senior VP, Executive VP for Southeast operations, Walmart Stores
  • President and CEO, Sam’s Club
  • COO, Starbucks
  • CEO, Walgreens


Kim Ng: Hitting Like A Girl, and Winning

52, General Manager, Miami Marlins Baseball Team

Major League Baseball made some major changes when the Miami Marlines hired Kim Ng as their General Manager, a decision that has created waves among baseball fans across the country. Ng happens to be the very first woman and the second person of Asian descent to have elevated to the role of a General Manager among North America’s Male Major Leagues teams. This is truly a breakthrough in the world of baseball steered by men, especially white men.

Educational Background:

    • BA Public Policy, University of Chicago

Career Journey:

      • Intern, Chicago White Sox
      • Director of Waivers and Records, American League
      • Assistant General Manager, New York Yankees
      • Vice President and Assistant General Manager, Los Angeles Dodgers
      • General Manager, Miami Marlins


Greta Thunberg: The “Striking” Voice of The Future

18, Climate Activist

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist who held strikes in front of the Swedish Parliament to bring the attention of the world leaders towards Climate Change. Her protests began in 2015 when she was still in school, and she gained popularity in social media with the hashtag #FridaysForFuture, as she skipped school every Friday to hold her strikes.

By 2018, more than 20,000 students joined her in protest from the US, UK, Japan, and Belgium. She was invited to speak at the 2019 UN Climate Conference, for which she traveled to New York on a yacht for over two weeks, as she refuses to fly due to the environmental impact of the aircraft. She was also named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019, making her the youngest person to hold that title.

Educational Background:

      • Secondary School (ongoing)

Career Journey:

        • Fritt Ord Award (2019)
        • Ambassador of Conscience Award (2019)
        • International Children’s Peace Prize (2019)
        • Time Person of the Year (2019)
        • Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity (2020)


Oprah Winfrey: The “Effect” That Never Wears Off

67, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist

Oprah Winfrey has worn many hats during her career including that of a talk show host, news anchor, author, television producer, actress, and philanthropist. Her world-renowned talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was broadcast from Chicago was one of the highest-ranked shows in television history and ran for 25 years (1986-2011).

Oprah’s story is truly impactful because she was born into poverty and fought her way through every adversity to become the wildly successful entrepreneur she is today. Her net worth is $2.5 billion as of September 2020. She was referred to as “Arguably the world’s most powerful woman” by CNN and Time.com, and we feel that it is arguably the best way to describe her. Educational Background:

        • BA Speech Communications and Performing Arts, HBCU Tennessee State University

Career Journey:

          • Minimum wage worker at a grocery store
          • Part-time newsreader, WVOL radio station
          • News co-anchor, Nashville’s WLAC-TV station
          • Talk show host, People Are Talking
          • Talk show host, The Oprah Winfrey Show
          • Producer, Actor, The Women of Brewster Place
          • Co-founder, Oxygen (Women’s Cable Network)
          • CEO, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)
          • Multi-year content partnership, Apple TV+


Amanda Gorman: The Young Girl Who Stole the Spotlight

22, National Youth Poet Laureate

Young and fierce, Amanda Gorman is a poet and author who has been thrust into fame with her poem The Hill We Climb, which she recited during the inaugural function of President Joe Biden in January 2021. Her first poetry collection, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, was published in 2015 when she was just 16 years old.

Gorman was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017. She also created history by becoming the youngest poet to have performed recited during a Presidential inauguration. Gorman has been trending on social media since her debut appearance on national television and has been rightly using her spotlight to highlight personal hurdles like getting over a speech impediment and larger issues regarding the discrimination against the colored communities across the nation.

Educational Background:

          • BA Sociology, Harvard College

Career Journey:

            • Author, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, (2015)
            • Founder, One Pen One Page (Non-profit youth writing & leadership program)
            • National Youth Poet Laureate
            • Author, The Hill We Climb (2021)


Each of these women has a story of firsts to tell us. More importantly, they teach us how they have reached where they are by self-advocating for themselves and building relationships throughout their journey. Oprah Winfrey started out as a helper at a grocery store; Kim Ng began as an intern, Susan Wojcicki took the risk of joining a company that started out in her garage — most success stories emerge out of nothing when you are ready to put everything into your passion. Take that chance today, and encourage the young girls around you to do the same.

Gear up to write your “Herstory”.

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