fascinating facts about women’s impacts and accomplishments

History texts and classes are often dominated by male figures, yet women have played and continue to play a major role in the world’s economy, politics, culture and discoveries and deserve their fair share of recognition as well. Run for Safety is women’s safer spaces campaign and there’s no better time to celebrate their contributions.
Raising awareness about women’s harassment on public spaces, although violence in the private domain is now widely recognised as a human rights violation, violence against women and girls, especially sexual harassment in public spaces, remains a largely neglected issue, with few laws or policies in place to prevent and address it. Which is exactly why it’s so important.

Here are some fascinating facts about women’s accomplishments, impacts and just how far they have come. 


Billion Women - a voice for equality, dignity & safety

In the UK, 376,860 women had applied for a place at university in 2014 compared to 282,170 men – a difference of a third (94,690, and up from 86,630 in 2013). In the US, nearly 60% of university graduates are women, plus 60% of master’s degrees and 52% of doctoral degrees are awarded to women. The same thing is happening in Canada, where 59% of Canadian undergraduate students are women, and where women’s over representation is happening in almost every faculty, with the exception of engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences. 

In China and India, men still outnumber women in higher education, but not by much: women make up 48% of the university population in China and 42% in India. The numbers are only expected to rise in the coming years, it does help show that women aren’t inferior to men in intelligence – as was claimed for centuriesMore women work in the education, health services, and social assistance industries than any other. It seems that while women are moving into the workforce in large numbers, they’re still taking on traditionally female positions like teaching, nursing and social services. These three industries employ nearly one-third of all female workers. Today, more moms with children work ,72% of moms with kids over 1 year old work vs. 39% in 1976.

Once upon a time, the idea of women working outside of the home was frowned upon and most women who did so worked as maids, seamstresses, took in laundry or worked in one of the traditionally female fields. Today, more women not only work outside the home, but hold a wider variety of jobs, with some even making it to the top of business, technology and science fields.

The current state of things is a far cry from a time when women weren’t even allowed to vote — a mere 90 years ago. Today, women play an active role in serving their country through military service, but many in years past would simply disguise themselves as men in order to gain access to the battlefield, including well-known examples like Frances Clayton in the American Civil War. In almost every country in the world, the life expectancy for women is higher than men. 

Check out these facts to learn more about women in sports throughout recorded history. 

No women or girls were allowed at the first Olympics, but the Games of Hera, featuring footraces for women, were held every four years. In fact, women were not even allowed to watch the Olympic games or encouraged to participate in athletics event. At the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924, the only event open to women was figure skating. Only 15 women participated in these games, something that would change drastically over the decades. Women were not allowed to compete in track and field events at the Olympics until 1928.

The ancient Greeks and Romans may have let women run in footraces in the Hera Games, but when it came to the Olympics, both ancient and modern, these events were off limits to women until 1928. Unfortunately, some of the events were too much for the untrained female athletes, and because many collapsed after the end of the 800-meter race, it was banned until 1960. Roberta Gibb was the first woman to run and finish the Boston Marathon in 1966. Of course, she didn’t get official credit for it, as women were not allowed to enter the race until 1972, but her wins, in ’66, ’67, and ’68 seriously challenged long-held beliefs about the athletic prowess of women. Mary, Queen of Scots is reported to be the first woman to play golf in Scotland. Golf today is still seen as a man’s sport, but this powerful and scandalous queen couldn’t have cared less.

 The world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji, was published in Japan around A.D. 1000 by female author Murasaki Shikibu. It is still revered today for its masterful observations about court life and has been translated into dozens of languages. In 1921, American novelist Edith Wharton was the first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She won the award for her novel The Age of Innocence, a story set in upper-class New York during the 1870s. Women often wrote under pen names in times when it was not seen as appropriate for them to contribute to literature.Even some female authors who are highly acclaimed today had to resort to fake names like Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, Mary Ann Evans (perhaps better known by her pen name George Eliot), and Louisa May Alcott. 


These amazing women make for some pretty inspiring facts, perfect for inspiring women and girls to stand up for women’s rights. Billion Women fighting to end violence against women and stand up for gender equality. 


 Emmeline Pankhurst was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement who helped women win the right to vote. One suffragette, Emily Davison, died under the King’s horse Anmer at the Epsom Derby on 4 June 1913. It is debated whether she was trying to pin a “Votes for Women” banner on the King’s horse or not. Many of her fellow suffragettes were imprisoned and refused food as a scare tactic against the government. Another prominent British Suffragette, Sophia Duleep Singh was almost forgotten for 70 years. Paving the way for generations to come, these women took down barriers to become the first of their kind in a wide range of fields. 

New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant national voting rights to women. The first woman to rule a country as an elected leader in the modern era was Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, who was elected as prime minister of the island nation in 1960 and later re-elected in 1970. She is still one of only a handful of female heads of states, though numbers are growing with female leaders being recently elected in places like India, Britain, Burma, Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rice, Lithuania and Gabon. 

The first person to make the daring attempt to go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel was a woman. On October 24, 1901, Annie Edson Taylor, a forty-three-year-old schoolteacher from Michigan plunged over the falls. She survived with only a small gash on her head, but swore to never take them on again.

In 1770, a bill proposing that women using makeup should be punished for witchcraft was put forward to the British Parliament. The use of makeup was frowned upon during this period for the effect it would have on men, and women who were thought to be luring men in with scents, makeup, wigs or other cosmetics were thought to be performing the devils’ work by inciting lustfulness. Even the Queen took a hard stance on makeup, calling it “impolite.


Think that factory work was always done by men? In fact, during the 19th century, factory workers were primarily young, single women. Men and married women stayed home to work the farm or manage the house. 


The first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was an Indian diplomat and politician, she headed the Indian delegation to the United Nations. In 1953, she became the first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly (she was inducted as an honorary member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in 1978 for this accomplishment. 

Susan Kare developed most of the interface elements for Apple Macintosh.You might not think that women have played a huge role in the development of computer technology, but in this case you’d be wrong. Kare helped develop the bulk of those little icons early Mac users clicked on every day. Kare left Apple in the 80’s, and is still working with innovating new technologies and improving design.

We’ve Come So far… Got So Far Left to Go, Too!
Over the years, women have fought tirelessly against discrimination to break down the social and economic barriers to gender equality. While it's time to celebrate and reflect, it is also important to recognise that much work remains to be done.


Mani Kaur Bajwa

CEO Billion Women

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