Women leaders are extremely important. They contribute a lot to our business industry and bring a unique perspective. They also inspire other females that being a successful women leader is possible. Female leaders contribute towards our growth and make the world a more diverse inclusive community. Our world has seen its share of female leaders. Some who have made history. And some who have shaped the path for other women to succeed.
After some extensive research and careful consideration, we have created our list of the Top 20 Female Leaders of All Time. Each of these women have contributed to the success of women in one shape or another. Whether it’s by fighting for women’s rights or embracing #GirlPower, these women are true role models.
Top 20 Inspiring Female Leaders of All Time
1. Oprah Winfrey (1954 – )
Her show is the most successful daytime TV program in history. And lets not forget her multiple Emmy wins. She is the first person (male or female) to have made history with daytime TV program. Her network OWN has been hugely successful with a net worth of $2.6 Billion, making her the most successful TV host of all time.
2. Estee Lauder (1906 – 2004)
Cosmetics genius Estee Lauder is the first women to have launched a successful cosmetics line. Launched with her husband in 1946, it’s become one of the most successful cosmetics brands in the world. The company has also launched other beauty lines such as Clinique and MAC. Lauder was the only woman to make the New York Times list in 1998 of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century.
3. Aung Sang Suu Kyi (1945 – )
Standing up for what she believes in, Aung Sang Suu Kyi is the most prominent female politician of all time. Leader of the National League for Democracy, she won 81% of the election in 1990. However, her results were nullified as the military refused to hand over the power. She was in house arrest from 1989 to 2010 making her the world’s most prominent political prisoner. She was released in 2010 after an international campaign to set her free. During her house arrest, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
4. Billie Jean King (1943 – )
The female athlete who went on to prove that men are not better athletes then women. This US Tennis Legend won 20 Wimbledon titles throughout her career as a professional Tennis Player. More notably, in 1973 she won the “Battle of the Sexes” opposite Bobby Riggs for the $100,000 prize after he had told her that men were superior athletes.
5. Princess Diana (1961 – 1997)
The whole world cried when Princess Diana passed away in 1997. Beloved by the whole world, Diana was known as the “People’s Princess” since she dedicated her entire life to charity work. Although her life was cut tragically short and she never actually got to win her Nobel Peace Prize, she did lead a Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaign to ban landmines.
6. Benazir Bhutto (1953 – 2007)
Benazir made history by being the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country. The 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan (1993-1996), she freed her country from military dictatorship and fought for women’s right in her country and across the world. Her story was cut short unfortunately when she was assassinated in a suicide attack in 2007.
7. Michelle Obama (1964 – )
Who doesn’t love Michelle Obama? Her husband made history as being the first African-American President of the United States and she herself made history as being the first African-American First Lady. However, she did more than just making history by holding that title. She’s fought many causes and still continues to do so after leaving the white house. Her main causes include fighting childhood obesity and making education accessible to girls everywhere.
8. Madonna (1958 – )
The Queen of Pop, Madonna has changed the entertainment industry for women. Giving women a level of power and control in the entertainment industry that was never possible before, she has made history. With over 300 million records sold world wide, she is the most successful best-selling female artist of all time.
9. Marie Stopes (1880 – 1958)
While many don’t know her name, she was quite the controversial female of her time. This british scientist is known for her achievements in birth control. She is also known for being the first female to bring up sex education and address romantic and sexual happiness in marriage.
10. Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)
She revolutionized the world of fashion for women. One of her famous traits is freeing women from the long dreaded corsets and bringing in the pant suits for women. She stood for what she believed in and created a fashion empire making her one of the greatest fashion designers the world has ever seen.
11. Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013)
Known as the Iron Lady, Margaret was the first female Prime Minister of Britain (1979 -1990). She was the country’s fifth longest serving leader. Her leadership was known to be uncompromizing and she broke many barriers by proving that female leaders can also make “tough” decisions.
12. Malala Yousafzai (1997 – )
Famous for being the youngest person in the world to win a Nobel Prize, Malala is known for her hard work and dedication to make education accessible to girls. She survived a gunshot wound to the head after an attack was made on her while on her way back from school in 2012. Her attack made the news world wide and brought awareness to the situation in Pakistan. Since then, she has been actively working to bring education to women everywhere.
13. Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 – 1928)
A passionate feminist and female activist, Emmeline fought for women’s rights. She founded The Women’s Social and Political Union with her three daughters which basically fights to give women the right to vote. She eventually won that fight and was named by Time’s in their list of 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century.
14. J.K. Rowling (1965 – )
She is the genius mind behind Harry Potter. Who knew that by writing Harry Potter she would be creating a whole new genre and worldwide success? Her books launched the movies and created a whole new generation. With over 400 million copies sold in the world, she went from being broke to a multi-millionaire in under 5 years.
15. Katharine Hepburn (1907 – 2003)
Popular for playing strong-willed women in her movies, she went on to win 4 Oscars. The most any female actress has ever won in that category. She was also the subject of controversy by having a preference for masculine fashion. She made wearing trousers acceptable to women which was largely frowned upon at that time.
16. Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005)
Known as the First Lady of Civil Rights, Rosa Parks was the pioneer of civil rights in Alabama in 1950s. The simple act of refusing to give her seat to a white passenger in a bus initiated the boycott of the Montgomery Bus which crippled the state’s public transportation.
17. Kathryn Bigelow (1951 – )
American film director Kathryn Bigelow made history in 2009 when she became the first ever female director to win an Oscar. Her movie The Hurt Locker based on the Iraq-USA war goes on to prove that not only men can direct war movies and be recognized for them.
18. Marie Curie (1867 – 1934)
Famously known for being the first female physicist and chemist, Marie Curie was the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes. She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris.
19. Hilary Clinton (1947 – )
Former First Lady of USA, Hilary Clinton shaped the way for future female politicians in America. She was the first First Lady to be a candidate in elected office in 1999 for which she won and served for two terms. She’s also been recognized for her numerous charity works for women, children and health.
20. Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937)
First female to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932, Amelia became the first female pilot. Her life was cut short unfortunately after her flight went missing in 1935 while on her trip to fly across the world.