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Women of the Decade

The 10 Women Who Rocked the 2010s and Why

While news bulletins are rife with reports of women’s rights being violated worldwide, it’s also true that in recent times, women have reclaimed their power and made their voices heard like never before. The 2010s have seen the rise of so many women of substance — who stand up for what they believe in and who tell it like it is. Let’s now take a look back at the ten women who stood out.

Angela Merkel

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We couldn’t start this list without the embodiment of female power and leadership — German Chancellor Angela Merkel — currently the only female commander-in-chief of a G20 nation. She’s been consistently featured in the ‘most powerful’ lists across the last decade, and with good reason. Merkel has made some momentous decisions in the last decade, including phasing out nuclear power post the Fukushima disaster, and allowing over a million Syrian refugees to settle in Germany. The latter being especially relevant given the rise of right-wing, anti-immigration governments across the world. Simply put, her impact as a leader, not only in Germany, but all through Europe, has been irrefutable.

Naomi Osaka

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This 22-year-old phenomenon touched stratospheric levels of success at the US Open in 2018, when she vanquished 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams to become the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title. From there on, she only reached higher. Osaka is the first player to win back-to-back majors since Serena won three in a row back in 2015. Her ranking has of course reflected her incredible journey. Before her win against Serena in 2018, she was ranked 72 in the world, and today, she’s way up there at number 4. Basically, she is a superstar. Inspirational, much?

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

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A ‘fresh, new’ voice is an overused term — but it truly applies to Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She’s not only brilliant but also prolific, having created three of the most original shows on television — Fleabag, Crashing, and Killing Eve. She’s not afraid to explore dark places, is always refreshingly authentic, and is completely hilarious. What’s more, she’s even writing the new James Bond movie. Talk about making an impact on the industry!

Megan Rapinoe

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The captain of the United States’ women’s soccer team is a sportsperson par excellence — she’s helped her country win the FIFA World Cup in 2015 and 2019. She also received The Best FIFA Women’s Player award last year. But that’s not the only thing that makes her so incredible. Rapinoe is known for her activism and is an advocate for numerous LGBTQ organizations, including Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Athlete Ally. Along the way, she’s smashed stereotypes, spoken out against divisive politics, and become a leader like no other.

Lupita Nyong’o

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Lupita Nyong’o is the perfect example of what happens when a woman goes through a series of unfavorable circumstances but flips each of them over and turns them into sources of strength. One of the most acclaimed actors in the world (her filmography includes 12 Years a Slave, Us, and Black Panther), Nyong’o has always spoken out against injustice. She was one of the many women to speak up against Weinstein’s sexual harassment and has committed to work with women directors. The Kenyan-Mexican actress has also written a book that delves into the issue of colorism, drawing from her own experiences. Truly, there’s nothing greater than a woman who uses her fame to make a difference.

Shafali Verma

Late last year, this then 15- year-old made headlines by becoming the youngest Indian to score an international half-century. Breaking a record in itself is no mean feat, but when it previously belonged to Sachin Tendulkar, it becomes all the more special. What’s more, Shafali Verma’s road to success has been anything but easy. Growing up, she had to disguise herself as a boy to train at her hometown’s sports academy. It’s this resilience though, that’s helped her cement her place in the Indian women’s T20 cricket team. Varma is living proof that women can make a mark — a significant one at that — in any male-dominated field, and we love her for it.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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In a major upset, Ocasio-Cortez defeated Republican opponent Anthony Papas in the 2018 general election to become the youngest woman to serve in the United States Congress. But the real reason Ocasio-Cortez deserves to be on this list is that she is unapologetic — whether it’s about her opinions, her political ideology, her economic viewpoint, or her activism. It’s this brutal honesty and commitment to meaningful change that’s made her immensely popular among American millennials, and no doubt, inspired many little girls around to enter the traditionally masculine world of politics.

Malala Yousafzai

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This 21-year-old girl from Pakistan suffered a near-fatal bullet to the head simply because she stood up for her right to education. Today, Malala is one of the world’s foremost advocates for female education. In addition to being the author of two books, the youngest ever Nobel Laureate, she’s also the creator of a fund that enables 130 million girls around the world to go to school. We love a woman who lifts others up — and Malala’s a perfect example.

Hima Das

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This 20 year-old from Assam made history back in 2018 when she became India’s first ever track and field gold medalist at the IAAF World Championships. Little did we know back then, that she was only getting started. The following year, she won five gold medals in less than 20 days, when competing in athletics events across Europe. Remarkably, despite her immense achievements, she is known as someone who constantly strives to get better. In recognition of her wins, Das was given the Arjuna Award — India’s second-highest sporting honor — in 2018. Here’s a woman who goes to show that it is indeed possible to overcome even the toughest obstacles and achieve your dreams, no matter who you are and where you come from. And that’s definitely a lesson women can gain strength from, each time they are made to feel less than they are.

Gita Gopinath

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This outstanding economist and Harvard professor recently completed a year as the first woman Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This groundbreaking achievement isn’t all that defined her decade though. She was named one of the world’s top 25 economists in 2014 by the IMF and was chosen as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum back in 2011. The focus of her research includes International Finance and Macroeconomics, and her work has been published in top journals around the world. In recognition of her huge contribution to this space, Gopinath was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2019, which is the highest honor a person of Indian Origin can receive from the Indian government. Here’s hoping she inspires millions of little girls to follow their academic dreams!

So this was our pick for the women of the decade — love them or hate them, you can’t deny that each one of them has had a phenomenal impact on the world, in their own unique way. We would love to hear from you, who is your favorite female icon, let us know in the comments below!

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