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10 Women Who Have Inspired Inclusion

10 Women Who Have Inspired Inclusion

Today is International Women’s Day, falling on the 8th of March each year. The annual observation encourages people to recognise and strive for better rights for girls and women around the world, and build a more inclusive and equitable society. There are a lot of important women who have made a difference or who continue to do so today, and at PILAA, we thought we’d mention a few who have inspired us. As difficult as this was to round it down to ten, we had great fun coming together as a team and bringing you these names:


Caroline Criado Perez (1984-) – The 2019 book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez has been very influential in making people aware of how women have been ignored or disregarded in research, policy and more generally in society. There is an Invisible Women podcast and newsletter, which continues this advocacy work.

Gloria Steinem (1934-) – Activist and writer Gloria Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine and has been an important figure in feminism, reminding people that the world will not be equitable or safe until all humans are treated with respect and fairness.

Kimberlé Crenshaw (1959-) – In 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw came up with the concept of “intersectionality”, which she used to explain that people are never just one thing (for example, their gender or educational level), but instead sit at the intersection of many different characteristics. How they are treated and how they feel about themselves depends on their own unique combination, and in EDI work, we need to remember that there are no homogenous groups. We’re all invidivuals and need to be treated as such.

Judy Singer (1951-) – Sociologist Judy Singer coined the term “neurodiversity,” which reflects the idea that all human brains work differently and that one type of brain is no better than another. She has been a pioneer in the disability-positive movement, particularly for her work on autism spectrum disorder.

Rosie Jones (1990-) – British comedian, writer and presenter is a staunch disability advocate. Being a woman with cerebral palsy, she incorporates this part of her identity into her stand-up comedy, thereby raising awareness about the condition. In 2023 she took the brave step to make a documentary based on the abusive language and the slur words used to describe disabled people. Her feelings of continuously being poked like a bear, due to peoples’ words, outweighed the controversy around her use of the ‘R-Word’ slur. 

Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1916-2000) and Golda Meir (1898-1978) – Politicians Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Golda Meir were some of the first female leaders of contemporary times. Bandaranaike was the prime minister of Sri Lanka for three non-successive terms, while Meir was the first female head of state in the Middle East, serving as prime minister of Israel and then later as the country’s the secretary of labour and housing. While neither leader was without controversy, their strength and knowledge inspired other women.

India Willougby (1965-) – Broadcaster, Journalist and the World’s 1st Trans Newsreader, Willoughby was also the co-host Loose Women. She is a trans activist, fighting for the community and women’s rights, and due to her campaign work, she was nominated in 2023 for Woman of the Year. In February 2023 she was a panellist on Question Time, discussing trans women using single-sex spaces and the Scottish gender Recognition Reform Bill. Despite some hostile questions, Willoughby was praised by the community with how she handled the audience.

Adrienne Rich (1929-2010) – Poet and essayist Adrienne Rich has not only been important for her creative writing, but also because of her idea of “compulsory heterosexuality”. With this phrase, she suggested that girls and women were forced into the institution of heterosexuality, regardless of how they actually felt, and this then structured their lives. She made the concerns of women, especially lesbian/gay/queer ones, more visible.

bell hooks (1952-2021) – was the pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins. hooks was a prominent thinker in unpacking representations of race, gender, feminism, love, class and overlapping ideologies of oppression. It was the essay The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators, which basically described black women’s experience of watching film, being the same as black men on the grounds of race, but separate at the intersections of gender, that is a reminder, that we all see differently.

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