Since TIME released their 100 Most Influential People in the World List this week, we thought we’d highlight 5 women on the list you may not have heard of.
Elinor Ostrom was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009 — the first woman to achieve the distinction — for her analysis of economic governance, especially the governance of common property like air, water and public spaces.
Ai-jen Poo, the 38-year-old daughter of pro-democracy immigrants from Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, has been growing into that role ever since she was a student outraged by the stories of domestic workers, often immigrants or women of color, who labored long hours for low pay as maids, nannies and other household workers.
Through her work at the Naz Foundation, Gopalan, 54, has done more than anyone else to advance the rights of gays and the transgendered in India, successfully petitioning the courts to get rid of a British-era law against sodomy. But her work isn’t just in courtrooms. She also runs a home for HIV-positive orphans.
It takes toughness to drill through more than 10,000 ft. of water and rock for oil, but Maria das Graças Silva Foster — the new CEO of Brazil’s Petrobras and the first woman to run a major oil-and-gas company — is nothing if not tough. Foster, 58, spent her early childhood in a working-class favela on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro and collected recyclable cans and paper to help pay for school. A chemical engineer by training, she joined Petrobras and stayed for more than 30 years.
Her tireless work habits earned her the nickname Caveirao, slang for the armored cars Brazilian police use to clear out slums. Foster was helped to the top job by President Dilma Rousseff, a longtime friend — and, not coincidentally, a fellow female leader in a country known for its machismo. But with Petrobras spending $225 billion over the next decade to unlock oil off the Brazilian coast, Foster’s experience — and her toughness — will be even more important than her political acumen.