Influential women from around the world

To this day, women still fight to be treated equally with their male counterparts. Here are some remarkable women who continue to inspire and lead that change.

Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters is a fixture on American television working on The View, Today, 20/20, ABC Evening News, and ABC World News Tonight.

Walters was the first woman to be named co-anchor of a network evening news programme, paving the way for future female journalists.

Walters’ career began in the 60s, when she worked as a writer and researcher for CBS and NBC. She was soon tasked with reporting on light stories and quickly moved up to doing her own stories and interviews.

She worked her way to the top, only to stop short of achieving equal footing when her co-worker made certain demands: he had the right to ask the first question when conducting interviews; she would not be given the title “anchor”, etc.

It was not until his death in 1974 that Walters was given the title “co-anchor”. And even then, she was the subject of animosity among some of her co-workers.

Nevertheless, Walters’ career continued to thrive, and she was chosen to moderate one of the Presidential debates between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.

She also continued to do numerous specials and memorable interviews with celebrities and world leaders.

Currently, Walters co-hosts the all-women panel of The View, which she describes as a place for women of “different generations, backgrounds, and views.”

The show has enjoyed enormous success, albeit with a dose of controversy, and provides a forum for women to discuss the world from their point of view.

For all that she has been through, Walters is a true pioneer among women, breaking the glass ceiling in the world of TV journalism.

Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi was the longest serving president of the Indian National Congress and leader of the United Progressive Alliance — the ruling party in the lower house of India’s Parliament.

Gandhi would have been the PM of India had she not turned it down, choosing instead to retain her position in the nation’s legislature.

Her husband, Rajiv, served as India’s PM from 1984-1989. He was assassinated in 1991 supposedly by the Tamil Tigers in retaliation for sending peacekeeping troops into Sri Lanka. He himself gained the position after the assassination of his mother Indira, by her own Sikh bodyguards.

Sonia exerts an enormous amount of political power in the world’s most populous democracy. It was she who nominated the current PM, Manmohan Singh. Her son, Rahul, also won his bid for Parliament and is the current president of Congress. All this, despite not originally being from India.

The daughter of ethnically Indian parents, Sonia was born and raised in Italy and educated in the UK. She emigrated to India upon marrying Rajiv, and yet her popularity among Indians propelled her to the heights of power.

Had she accepted the post of PM, she would have been the Hindu nation’s first Roman Catholic leader.

Sonia popularity is evidence that nations can overcome prejudices of gender roles, religion, and ethnicity in leadership when the person in that position pursues the good of that nation over their own political ambition.

Christiane Amanpour

Currently working as CNN’s Chief International Consultant, Christiane Amanpour is most widely known for her up-close coverage of the Middle East, beginning with the Gulf War in 1990.

She is widely recognised as one of the most influential international correspondents in the world, due partly to her willingness to report from dangerous situations, usually in war-torn areas.

Amanpour began her journalistic career with CNN, covering events in Germany that signalled the end of the Cold War. She got her “big break” during the Gulf War and later covered the conflict in Bosnia.

Amanpour has seen controversy as well when she interviewed the late Yassar Arafat, as well as President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both of whom had less-than-friendly views toward the US and its allies.

The latter interview caused many to fear for her life since as a child she and her family fled Iran, her native country.

What Christiane Amanpour has contributed however, is a bold and honest look into some of the most difficult situations in the world. She also stands as an example of the strength, courage, and character that a woman journalist can have in the most tense of situations.

Mary McAleese

As a former president of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese presided over one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe.

McAleese also worked to improve relations between Catholics and Protestants in the once-war-torn country, including making regular visits to UK-controlled Northern Ireland.

As a child and young woman McAleese was well acquainted with the troubles in Northern Ireland – violent conflicts between Catholics and Protestants over the political status of the country (to join the Republic of Ireland or remain part of the UK, respectively).

She left Northern Ireland to pursue a career as a lawyer in the Republic, later becoming a Reid Professor at Trinity College in Dublin. Her professorship led to diplomatic opportunities, launching her into the political arena.

In 1997 McAleese was elected President of the Republic of Ireland, and won re-election in 2004 – her approval ratings being so high that no political party wanted to spend money to run a campaign against her.

One of the high points of McAleese’s administration has been the cooling of tempers between opposing factions in Ireland. She was said to be a popular figure in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

She also encouraged and realised investments, the growth of business, and economic improvement in the nation. McAleese is currently the longest-serving woman president in the world.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The only woman currently serving in the US Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg helps make the decisions of the highest court in the US.

One of the most influential parts of Justice Ginsburg’s appointment to the court is in what is now called the “Ginsburg Precedent”.

During her confirmation hearings, she refused to answer certain questions posed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Most of the questions she refused had addressed her personal opinions on issues that could potentially come before the court, including abortion, civil rights, gun control, school vouchers, and separation of church and state.

Years later, when John Roberts and Samuel Alito sat before the same committee for their own confirmation hearings, each cited the Ginsburg Precedent as justification for not answering similar questions.

The concept behind the precedent is that a Supreme Court Justice should go into any case impartially, with no pre-formed opinion of how they intend to decide so that their rulings are based on the law and the Constitution, rather than their own personal ideals.

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