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 Playwright

Young Jean Lee

First Asian-American woman to write a play produced on Broadway

The Playwright

June Canedo for TIME

The Skier

Lindsey Vonn

First American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing

The Skier

Kendrick Brinson for TIME

The Trader

Stacey Cunningham

First woman to become president of the New York Stock Exchange

The Trader

Adrienne Grunwald for TIME

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 female engineer with an advanced degree at Ford Motor Company

Paid Content from

The Groundbreaker

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 Nominee

Hillary Rodham Clinton

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

Interview

‘The fight was worth it.’

It’s fair to say that being the first of any adventure or achievement does have added pressure. You want to be the first to open the door to others, and you hope you’re not the last.

This is a necessary conversation to be having. I wrote a whole chapter in my upcoming book about being a woman in politics because I wanted people, particularly young women and men, to have some sense of what it is like to break through barriers. I tried to put in context what my life was like before I ever stood on the stage in Philadelphia to accept the nomination of the Democratic Party. My husband had a powerful story to tell about his upbringing and his background, and Barack Obama had a unique and powerful story to tell. Few people would find my story quite so compelling or dazzling because I came of age as a young woman in the middle of the country in the middle of the last century. But I think my story, like the stories of so many women of my time, is as inspiring as any other—and it really is the story of a revolution. I came of age at a time when things were starting to change dramatically for women. It’s an important piece of our history that needs to be retold and understood so that the young men and women coming behind us understand that the movement toward women’s equality is just as urgent and vital as ever.

Sexism has not disappeared from our society, let alone our politics. There are numerous real-world examples in business, in politics, in other fields of women not being treated equally. If you have a wife in the workplace, or a daughter, or a sister, or a mother, you have a stake in speaking out and standing up for women being treated respectfully and equally. Sexism still exerts a pull on our lives and our choices. It is a very subtle but clear continuing challenge that has to be acknowledged, and confronted. Because we do our work on the public stage, women in politics all have stories to tell. We are often demeaned or belittled or insulted for pursuing our interests and our careers. So we have to be doing all we can to open the aperture of understanding and acceptance. My gender is my gender. My voice is my voice. I love to quote the first woman in a presidential Cabinet—Frances Perkins, who served under FDR—who said, “The accusation that I am a woman is incontrovertible.” So embrace that, and be proud of it.

Firsts Women Who Are Changing the World Hillary Clinton Time Magazine Cover
Photograph by Luisa Dörr for TIME

The fact that I was a woman advocating for women’s rights and for equality and for health care made my passion for these issues even greater. My hope for young women coming up is to develop that confidence and that commitment about what you want to make of your own life, and to support other women as they pursue their own ambitions and dreams.

There is a great opportunity in politics and public service to be rewarded by the impact that you can make. Being in the room makes the government more representative of the people. I found that to be the case in the Oval Office and the Senate chamber, and as the Secretary of State in some foreign capital, as an advocate for issues that matter to me.

It is better than it used to be. The institutional, structural obstacles have largely been eliminated, although I fear that the current Administration may try to reinstate some of those. At the moment, what we are up against is more attitudinal than institutional, and therefore everyone can play a role. But I think it also must happen in classrooms, starting at a young age. We know that oftentimes girls are not as encouraged, or aren’t confident enough to raise their hands and speak out. We know that girls as young as 6 believe that boys are smarter. We know that as young girls become young women, pressures increase about how they look and how they dress and how they behave. All of that can be very disorienting and lay the groundwork for the kind of cultural mistreatment of women that is all too acceptable.

We have to guard against backsliding, especially with this Administration—turning the clock back on women’s roles in everything from business and politics to the military. But we also have to just recognize that we still have work to do to change attitudes. And we need more role models. You can’t, as the saying goes, imagine doing something that you can’t even see. How do you plan to be an undersea explorer or a general in the military or a great scientist if you don’t see role models? All of this is part of the challenge that we face going forward.

Another concerning phenomenon is online bullying. So much of it is aimed at girls, and so much of it comes out of a sense of nasty behavior, mean-girls syndrome, whatever you want to call it. But a lot of the girls who are being mean to other girls are doing it because they’re trying to curry favor — they’re trying to get some kind of position in their own young society that helps to assuage their insecurities. We have to recognize that this is an ongoing issue. It’s not just about politics. It’s about every single woman’s story. And every girl’s dreams.

These cultural barriers have persisted even though we’ve knocked down legal barriers. And part of the challenge is that you do have to be well prepared and highly competent and work hard. All of that is true. It should not be an impossible task for more women to achieve their own goals, but we face what is a pernicious double standard that is aided and abetted by the idea of perfectionism.

The curse of perfectionism is an issue I’ve spoken about in the past. So many young women feel like they have to be perfect—that the world is telling them they’re not pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, nice enough, likeable enough … whatever it may be. That somehow they fall short. I’ve tried to make it as clear as I can that they shouldn’t be held back by this imposition of perfectionism. Nobody can achieve that. Yes, you have to be good, you have to be competitive. But don’t let it paralyze you. Don’t let it undermine you. Don’t give in to those who are constantly demanding more and more of you when frankly they don’t demand the same of your male counterparts.

There are no perfect people. So many articles about me always say, “Oh well, she’s flawed.” Well, name a person who isn’t! But that was part of the whole diminishment: Don’t listen to her, don’t follow her, don’t vote for her. Let these other guys entertain you and go on their merry way, flaws front and center. Embrace the fact that you’re not perfect—nobody is. Every one of us is flawed. Every one of us has challenges that we have to overcome. Embrace the fact that you’re going to do the very best you can, to produce good work, to be a good person who is understanding and empathetic. We’ve got to get to a point in our society where you expect excellence and you deliver excellence, but women should not be judged by a different set of standards about how they produce their work and how it’s judged.

I want to support people whose values I share to run for office, to wage campaigns, to advocate for public position, to be supported both in politics and government to do what is right. I have a new organization, Onward Together, where we are taking these small startups that came out after the election and looking to encourage more people, particularly young people and young women, to run for office at all levels of government. But we also want to encourage people to get more engaged in our civic life—to understand what a town hall meeting is, to use your voice and your vote to influence politics and the people who represent us. I’m very committed to doing everything I can to help the Democrats take back the House and to maintain if not grow our position in the Senate as a check and balance on the current Administration.

I don’t want anyone to be discouraged by my defeat or say that they shouldn’t try or support others who will try. We can’t give up trying. This past election was unprecedented in so many ways. In my upcoming book I try to sort out what I could have done differently, what my campaign could have done differently. But you also have to recognize that you had the unprecedented intervention by an FBI director. You had a foreign adversary successfully influence the election. You had voter suppression aimed primarily at African Americans and young voters. And you had sexism, which was front and center. We have to prevent those things from ever happening again. And some of those are long-term challenges.

I’m going to spend time during my book tour, and for many years to come, talking about what we need to learn about what was done to us in this election. Every day that goes by, we seem to learn more about the interference and the profound impact of that on the outcome. And that should terrify every American. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democratic or what your independent leanings might be, what party you might belong to, we cannot tolerate being manipulated by a foreign power, especially one that is so bent on destabilizing democracy as Russia and its current leadership is.

I also want my presidential campaign to have helped pave the way for young women who come behind me. Because even though we didn’t win, we made the sight of a woman nominee more familiar, and we brought the possibility of a woman President closer. We brought into the mainstream the thought of a woman leader for our country—and that’s a big deal. Everyone who played a role in making that happen should be deeply proud. We ran into some big speed bumps right at the end, and I believe I would have won but for those, and that’s what I want people to believe. We have to get back up and get back out there. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. The fight was worth it.

Clinton, who has served as First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State, was the Democratic Party nominee for President in the 2016 election.

Back to Firsts

TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.