Women & Leadership Links: 5 women from the Time 100

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

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.

Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan is often called the spiritual home of the Taliban. It is also a home to thousands of NATO troops who, alongside Afghan soldiers, do daily battle with Taliban fighters. Kandahar province is a place where it pays to stay quiet. That is not Maryam Durani’s way. As the owner and operator of a radio station that focuses on women’s issues and as a member of the Kandahar provincial council, Durani stands up for the region’s women with remarkable bravery. She is, inevitably, a target for the Taliban, who believe in a highly restricted role for women in Afghan society, and has survived several assassination attempts.
Once in a while, there comes along a gifted organizer — think of the radical empathy of Jane Addams or the populist tactics of Cesar Chavez — who knows how to create social change from the bottom up.

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.

In 1995, doctors and nurses in some Delhi hospitals would not touch people infected with HIV. Gopalan not only touched them; she took them into her home and danced with them. She escorted me to the hidden places where gays and lesbians met: in Nehru Park on Sunday evenings and at a party where men arrived garbed as Bollywood heroines from the 1950s and ’60s. It was a threatened world, and Gopalan had returned home from Brooklyn to protect it.

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.

Maria das Graças Silva Foster

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.


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