WOMEN WHO ARE CHANGING THE WORLD
A
Special Project

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 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 Nominee

Hillary Rodham Clinton

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

The Nominee

The Titan

Oprah Winfrey

First woman to own and produce her own talk show

The Titan

The Tastemaker

Selena Gomez

First person to reach 100 million followers on Instagram

The Tastemaker

The Pro

Serena Williams

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

The Pro

The Leader

Nikki Haley

First Indian-American woman to be elected governor

The Leader

The Animator

Jennifer Yuh Nelson

First woman to solo-direct a major Hollywood animated feature

The Animator

The World Record Traveler

Cassie De Pecol

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‘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

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

The Actor

Rita Moreno

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

The Actor

The Singer

Aretha Franklin

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

The Singer

The Mogul

Sheryl Sandberg

First woman to become a social-media billionaire

The Mogul

The Commander

Lori Robinson

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

The Commander

The Showrunner

Shonda Rhimes

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

The Showrunner

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

‘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

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

The Artist

Cindy Sherman

First woman to break $1 million in a photography sale

The Artist

The Pitcher

Mo'ne Davis

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

The Pitcher

The Boss

Mary Barra

First woman to become CEO of a major car company

The Boss

The Journalist

Barbara Walters

First woman to co-anchor a network evening news program

The Journalist

The Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

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

The Speaker

The Astronaut

Mae Jemison

First woman of color in space

The Astronaut

The Lawyer

Loretta Lynch

First black woman to become U.S. Attorney General

The Lawyer

‘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

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

The Executive

Ursula Burns

First black woman to run a Fortune 500 company

The Executive

The Comedian

Ellen DeGeneres

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

The Comedian

The Bishop

Katharine Jefferts Schori

First woman to be elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church

The Bishop

The General

Ann Dunwoody

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

The General

The Scientist

Elizabeth Blackburn

First woman to become president of the Salk Institute

The Scientist

The Philanthropist

Melinda Gates

First woman to give away more than $40 billion

The Philanthropist

The Inventor

Patricia Bath

First person to invent and demonstrate laserphaco cataract surgery

The Inventor

The Pilot

Eileen Collins

First woman to command a space shuttle

The Pilot

‘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

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

The Adviser

Kellyanne Conway

First woman to run a winning presidential campaign

The Adviser

The Gymnast

Gabby Douglas

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

The Gymnast

The Chair

Janet Yellen

First woman to chair the Federal Reserve

The Chair

The Sculptor

Maya Lin

First woman to design a memorial on the National Mall

The Sculptor

The Engineer

Geisha Williams

First Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 company

The Engineer

The Entrepreneur

Michelle Phan

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

The Entrepreneur

The Coach

Kathryn Smith

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

The Coach

The Librarian

Carla Hayden

First woman and first African American to be Librarian of Congress

The Librarian

‘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

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

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