Growing up in South Africa, I was raised by a strong, confident, energetic and intelligent mother. She competed for her country in Tennis, received some of the top grades in education and had a dream of becoming a pharmacist. The reality settled in when her father told her ‘women become teachers so they can be at home to look after their children’. Poof – just like that, the dream vanished. It was the common practice in South Africa back then. Society just wasn’t ready for the change and certainly not just in South Africa.
Over the last few decades, we have seen women fighting for equal rights. While some have worked tirelessly, some companies have fought to bring subsidies and support to encourage this movement. What we are seeing now are women succeeding in their positions because they are the best at what they do. This is a new, inspiring wave of success. Deserved and taken.
Here are my Supreme Women paving a New Wave.
Ketanji Brown Jackson - Judge
Ketanji has been nominated as the first Black women to be a US Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit. There have been many disputes over Ketanji’s status. From claims she is only being nominated as she is a woman and of color, to claims that she is not “street” enough. Whatever your feelings for this woman and disregarding any political leanings, this woman is being placed in this position for her qualifications and expertise.
34 years ago, she wrote in her yearbook that she wanted to be a judge. Graduating from Harvard in 1992, she was a reporter for Time Magazine, served on the Harvard Law Review and did eight years on the DC District Court. All this while juggling family, friends and raising children in a highly pressured and time draining career. Whether Ketanji’s nomination is successful, this is a wonder woman, short in stature but mighty inspirational.
Angela Merkel – German Chancellor
Angela Merkel, while now retired from her political position, we still see her work continue to ripple through Europe. Known for her strong leadership, not just in her own country but strongly influencing the entire European continent.
At school in East Germany, Angela excelled in Math and Russian and graduated with the best grade possible. Extending into Science and receiving a Doctorate in Quantum Chemistry, when the Berlin Wall fell, Angela used her experience of East Germany and Eastern Europe to tie all of Europe together.
She has been a major influence on many women both in politics and outside, taking on many male politicians, even those with nuclear threats. Angela gravitated to the centre of any political discussion, constantly surrounded by male politicians listening to her. She never had to ask for respect - she was given it - because of who she was – a woman changing a continent for the better.
Christine Lagarde – President of the European Central Bank
Christine is President of the European Central Bank and before that, from 2011 – 2019, she was the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.
Christine started off in law with Baker & McKensie (a Chicago based law firm) working up to become the first female chairman. Then, in 2005, she stepped into politics soon taking appointment to the IMF. During her time there, she conducted some fantastic work during a time that many European countries were struggling with debt, in particular Greece, Spain and Portugal. Her revolutionary lending program for distressed countries was a change from the norm and many perceived that she saved many countries from financially ruin.
Unknown to many, she did all this with two boys and often had concerns that she missed raising them. Both boys, however, outlined how proud they were of the work their mother had conducted in her lifetime. I’m sure many more countries would agree with that thought.
Beyoncé Knowles – Singer
All the single ladies - all the single ladies. I naturally love to recognise Beyoncé for singing songs that promote strength to my girls, instead of those needy love songs. Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z, have managed to grow a family, business and their relationship over the years. Surviving difficulties like many marriages and yet coming out inspiring others. Singing is a talent like any other, but that talent requires hard work and that seems to have been reciprocated in their business as well. On their tour ‘The Run II’, Beyoncé and Jay-Z generated in more than $250 million. She also just announced a partnership with Adidas to relaunch her activewear line Ivy Park.
Reese Witherspoon – Actress
How can you not be a Reese fan?! Legally Blonde, that ditzy blond who is actually intelligent takes control of her life and decides to succeed in her own way. Ok, maybe you’re rolling your eyes at this, but Reese went on to launch her own production company Pacific Standard when she was being offered frustrating acting roles.
After launching Pacific Standard, she then launched Hello Sunshine, an American media company that focuses on female-driven stories. This project recently sold a majority stake to Blackstone Media and was valued at $900 million last year. So I guess, “Being true to yourself never goes out of style”.
USA Women’s Soccer Team
The US Women’s soccer team has been the bigger soccer team in the US for the last decade, at least. Seeing attendance more than match those of the men’s league yet saw their wages not equally compensated. In the US, the women’s soccer team creates more revenue, commands greater television viewings and sells more jerseys. This team, rightly campaigned and filed a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016, winning the case and being rewarded for equal pay (even back-dated).
All these women have had to face adversities in life. They had to show everyone how great they are at what they do. They had to work hard to achieve what they did. Most importantly, they had to choose not to give up.
Everyone struggles in life and faces adversities. That should never stop us from achieving our dreams in life, from shouting out I want to be a lawyer, an actress, a singer, a manager of finance, to oversee a nation, CEO of a Fortune-500 company, a mother or even a pharmacist.
So, if you’re sitting here wondering if it’s all a little too late - go find that sexy red dress, step out the door and walk in confidence with the knowledge that these next steps are the first steps to your success.
Be You. Be Strong. Be Supreme.