A
Special Project
WOMEN WHO ARE CHANGING THE WORLD
Presented By

Videos by Spencer Bakalar and Diane Tsai

Photographs by Luisa Dörr

‘She broke the glass ceiling.’

What a jagged image we use for women who achieve greatly, defining accomplishment in terms of the barrier rather than the triumph. There she is up where the air is thin, where men still outnumber women, but where the altitude is awesome. Our goal with Firsts, which we will continue to update as new barriers are broken, is for every woman and girl to find someone whose presence in the highest reaches of success says to her that it is safe to climb, come on up, the view is spectacular.View Full List

The Writer

Lena Waithe

First black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

The Writer

Heather Sten for TIME

The Model

Halima Aden

First hijab-wearing fashion model to walk international runway shows

The Model

Dafy Hagai for TIME

The Lawmaker

Danica Roem

First openly transgender woman to be elected to and seated in a U.S. state legislature

The Lawmaker

Susan Worsham for TIME

The Restaurateur

Dominique Crenn

First woman to receive two Michelin stars in the U.S.

The Restaurateur

Molly Matalon for TIME

The Cadet

Simone Askew

First black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets at West Point

The Cadet

Molly Matalon for TIME

The Cinematographer

Rachel Morrison

First woman to be nominated for an Oscar in Cinematography

The Cinematographer

Joyce Kim for TIME

The Groundbreaker

Damyanti Gupta

First degreed female engineer at Ford Motor Company

Paid Content from

The Groundbreaker

Amy Rio

The Nominee

Hillary Rodham Clinton

First woman to win a major party’s nomination for President

The Nominee

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Titan

Oprah Winfrey

First woman to own and produce her own talk show

The Titan

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Tastemaker

Selena Gomez

First person to reach 100 million followers on Instagram

The Tastemaker

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Pro

Serena Williams

First tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the open era

The Pro

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘There is plenty of room in the world for mediocre men, but there is no room for mediocre women.’

Madeleine Albright

The Diplomat

Madeleine Albright

First woman to become U.S. Secretary of State

The Diplomat

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Setbacks

15 women on sexism and double standards

The Auteur

Issa Rae

First black woman to create and star in a premium cable series

The Auteur

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Leader

Nikki Haley

First Indian-American woman to be elected governor

The Leader

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Actor

Rita Moreno

First Latina to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony

The Actor

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Singer

Aretha Franklin

First woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Singer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Mogul

Sheryl Sandberg

First woman to become a social-media billionaire

The Mogul

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Commander

Lori Robinson

First woman to lead a top-tier U.S. Combat Command

The Commander

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Showrunner

Shonda Rhimes

First woman to create three hit shows with more than 100 episodes each

The Showrunner

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Chef

Alice Waters

First woman to win the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef

The Chef

The Driver

Danica Patrick

First woman to lead in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500

The Driver

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Animator

Jennifer Yuh Nelson

First woman to solo-direct a major Hollywood animated feature

The Animator

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘I said to my dad, “This doesn’t look like the America you promised.”’

Ilhan Omar

The Legislator

Ilhan Omar

First Somali-American Muslim person to become a legislator

The Legislator

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Motivations

14 women on how they stay inspired

The Senator

Mazie Hirono

First Asian-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate

The Senator

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Artist

Cindy Sherman

First woman to break $1 million in a photography sale

The Artist

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Pitcher

Mo'ne Davis

First girl to pitch a shutout and win a game in a Little League World Series

The Pitcher

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Boss

Mary Barra

First woman to become CEO of a major car company

The Boss

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Journalist

Barbara Walters

First woman to co-anchor a network evening news program

The Journalist

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

First woman to become Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

The Speaker

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Astronaut

Mae Jemison

First woman of color in space

The Astronaut

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Lawyer

Loretta Lynch

First black woman to become U.S. Attorney General

The Lawyer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘I’m bolstered by folks who create their own ceilings.’

Ava DuVernay

The Director

Ava DuVernay

First black woman to direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar

The Director

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Families

8 women on the balancing act

‘The women, we were aqua-babes, aqua-chicks, aqua-naughties. But we didn’t care what they called us, as long as we had a chance to go.’

Sylvia Earle

The Oceanographer

Sylvia Earle

First woman to become chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Oceanographer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Executive

Ursula Burns

First black woman to run a Fortune 500 company

The Executive

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Comedian

Ellen DeGeneres

First person to star as an openly gay character on prime-time TV

The Comedian

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Bishop

Katharine Jefferts Schori

First woman to be elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church

The Bishop

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The General

Ann Dunwoody

First woman to rise to four-star general in the U.S. military

The General

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Scientist

Elizabeth Blackburn

First woman to become president of the Salk Institute

The Scientist

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Philanthropist

Melinda Gates

First woman to give away more than $40 billion

The Philanthropist

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Inventor

Patricia Bath

First person to invent and demonstrate laserphaco cataract surgery

The Inventor

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Pilot

Eileen Collins

First woman to command a space shuttle

The Pilot

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘Being the first always creates a pressure that you don’t want to be the last.’

Rachel Maddow

The Anchor

Rachel Maddow

First openly gay anchor to host a prime-time news program

The Anchor

Photograph by Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Histories

19 women on the people who shaped them

‘Raising hackles means you’re not being ignored; you’re pushing the conversation forward.’

Rita Dove

The Poet

Rita Dove

First black U.S. poet laureate

The Poet

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Adviser

Kellyanne Conway

First woman to run a winning presidential campaign

The Adviser

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Gymnast

Gabby Douglas

First American gymnast to win solo and team all-around gold medals at one Olympics

The Gymnast

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Chair

Janet Yellen

First woman to chair the Federal Reserve

The Chair

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Sculptor

Maya Lin

First woman to design a memorial on the National Mall

The Sculptor

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Engineer

Geisha Williams

First Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 company

The Engineer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Entrepreneur

Michelle Phan

First woman to build a $500 million company from a web series

The Entrepreneur

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Coach

Kathryn Smith

First woman to become a full-time coach in the NFL

The Coach

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Librarian

Carla Hayden

First woman and first African American to be Librarian of Congress

The Librarian

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘It was like I could breathe for the first time in my life.’

Candis Cayne

The Performer

Candis Cayne

First transgender woman with a major role on prime-time TV

The Performer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Ceiling

12 women on shattering the glass

‘The notion that women might menstruate in orbit drove the whole place up the wall.’

Kathryn Sullivan

The Explorer

Kathryn Sullivan

First American woman to walk in space

The Explorer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

Presented By

The Diplomat

Madeleine Albright

First woman to become U.S. Secretary of State

Interview

‘It’s important to have more than one woman in the room.’

Before I became Secretary of State, when I was teaching at Georgetown University, I always told my female students to be prepared to speak and to interrupt when necessary. When I walked into my first meeting of the United Nations Security Council, there were 15 seats and 14 men—all looking at me.

I thought, Well, I don’t think I’ll talk today. I don’t know who everybody is … I want to figure out if they like me, and I want to kind of get a feeling for things. Even though I had advised all of my female students to speak, I myself hesitated. You are worried that whatever you say could sound stupid. Then some man says it and everybody thinks it’s brilliant, and you think, Why did I not talk? Which is why I used to advise my students all the time to be ready to interrupt.

That day, I looked down at the table and saw a plaque that read THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. And I thought, If I do not speak today, the voice of the United States will not be heard. When I finally did speak, it was the first time that I represented the country of my naturalization, the place where I belonged.

An experience I think all women have, and I have often, is of being the only woman in the room. But if we are in a meeting, we are there for a reason—not to just sit there and absorb but to state what we believe in. We can and should contribute. If you do not, then you should not be in the meeting. If you are there but you are not speaking, you may create the impression that you are not prepared to be there or that you have no business being there. Then you are made to feel inferior, because you are just a fly on the wall.

If you are going to speak, you need to know what you are talking about and you need to do it with a firm voice. And if someone disagrees with you or you disagree with them, try to understand where they are coming from—compromise is not a bad word. But I do think that women have to earn respect. It is unfortunately true that there is plenty of room in the world for mediocre men, but there is no room for mediocre women.

It’s important to have more than one woman in the room, because we can agree with each other. What men do is say, “As Bill said …,” which strengthens them. With another female voice in the room, we can act as a team.

I went to an all-girls high school, which I loved, and then to Wellesley, which continues to be a premier college. Being at a women’s college meant that we had leadership roles and felt we could really run things. We worked very hard in the classroom, and our views were respected—you did not have to hide your light.

There were periods of my life when I was not sure if I would be able to carry out the desires that I had when I was in college. I had twin daughters when I was 24—they were born prematurely—and I initially stayed at home with them. But as much as I loved being a mother, I could not figure out why I had gone to college just to figure out how to get them in and out of the apartment or give them baths. I went through a time when I did not see any value in what I had done. I recently found a letter that I wrote at the time:

When I stepped off the platform after accepting my B.A. degree, I was confident that I was stepping into one or a series of interesting jobs. It was not the life of a career girl I was after, exactly. I was already up to my ears in plans for my wedding, three days hence. Still, I believed that in the natural course of events it would not be difficult to find interesting work that fit in with my political-science major. Two years later, I’m obsolete. Now it seems incomprehensibly naive for me to have thought a woman could compete on an equal basis with men for interesting jobs.

My desire had been to become a journalist. I worked on my college newspaper as an editor, and while my husband was in the Army I worked at a small newspaper in Missouri. When we moved back to Chicago, where my husband already had a job as a journalist, we were having dinner with his managing editor, who said, “So what are you going to do, honey?” And I said, “I’m going to work at a newspaper.”

He responded, “I don’t think so. You can’t work at the same paper as your husband because of labor regulations.” I mentioned that there were three other papers in Chicago at the time, but he said, “You wouldn’t want to compete with your husband.” I know what you are thinking, and I know what I would say now. But at the time I simply saluted and went to find another life.

Other women were very critical of me when I was in graduate school, saying things like, “Wouldn’t it be better if you were in the carpool line instead of the library?” And that my hollandaise sauce was not as good as theirs. And then, when I was working full time, they wondered what I was doing. That is where my statement originated—there is a special place in hell for women who do not help each other. We have to give each other space to be able to do what makes us feel that we are responsible and helping others, and doing what we want to be doing. We need to support each other in the lives that we have chosen. Men do not do that to each other, in terms of projecting their own ideas of weakness. Women need to take advantage of being women.

Albright served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. from 1993 to 1997 and U.S. Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001.

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