International Women’s Day is one of the most important days of the year because it celebrates the achievements of women around the world who dared to make a difference. It reminds us how far we have come, yet how much further we have to go. Although there are still improvements to be made, we continue to make bigger strides in the fight for women’s rights, and when the days seem difficult, we are reminded of the women before us who made sacrifices for us to be where we are today.

These are the ten ladies that we would like to take a moment to acknowledge for inspiring us and leading us to a brighter future. Everyday, they make choices in their lives that encourage us to take chances in ours, and for that we thank them.

1. Michelle Obama

“Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.”

As America’s first lady, some may feel as though they have a moral obligation to like her, but we just genuinely love her! Michelle Obama is a powerful woman who uses her position in life to empower other ladies, taking on causes close to her heart. She insists on taking the time to visit schools, talking to young women about education, healthy lifestyles and learning to balance career and family, all while doing it herself – amazing!

2. Ellen Page

“The relationships I’ve had with my girl friends are so powerful and meaningful. Without them I truly don’t know what I’d do.”

You likely love Ellen for her quirky and endearing roles in films such as in Juno and Inception; her success as a Canadian actress is truly commendable in itself. Yet, Ellen’s recent brave choice to ‘come out’ at a recent LGBT conference is the kind of action that truly paves paths for others to follow. “It was exhilarating,” she said in a recent interview about the decision, reminding us that following your truth is key, encouraging others to do the same.

3. Lizzy Yarnold

“There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the gold medal. I understand that. It was always my aim to go into schools and inspire them and to say, ‘You can do it; whether it’s arts or music or sport, you’ve got to follow your dream and dedicate a lot of time’.”

The hard work and unbelievable determination of Olympic athletes is unquestionably motivating in every sense of the word. Just watching the Olympic games is invigorating and makes us want to do bigger and better things with our lives; when an Olympic athlete such as Lizzy Yarnold comes along, it’s not only motivating but can be a game changer. Some disciplines still have a way to go when it comes to women’s rights, and sports is one of them. For instance, this was the first year that Olympic ski jumping allowed women to compete. Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold wants to change that. When she won her Olympic gold medal in Sochi for Skeleton, she vowed to use it to promote the cause of women in sport and encourage girls “not to worry about the media image of the perfect woman”.

4. Tory Burch

“My biggest challenge every day is to be a great mother and a great businesswoman.”

Not only does fashion designer Tory Burch give us an extra boost of confidence by making us look and feel fabulous, but she is also making it her priority to give women a chance to take their careers into their own hands and follow in her footsteps. In 2009, she started the Tory Burch Foundation to help aspiring female entrepreneurs get the support and advice they need to pursue their dreams. This year, she took her passion a step further by developing an initiative that will be providing $10 million in loans to women starting new businesses.

5. Malala Yousafzai

“They are afraid of educated women. They are afraid of the power of knowledge.”

Malala will surely be one of the most influential female of the 21st century. It’s hard to say how many women would risk their lives to develop a brighter future for others, but Malala does just that; she is the definition of courage. After being shot in the head and neck by the Taliban for blogging her support of educational rights for girls, she continues to voice her opinion, even though it almost killed her. Barely a young women herself, she did it all by the age of 16 and even received a Nobel Peace Prize nomination; an honor she is more than worthy of.

6. Oprah

“Though I am grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn’t changed who I am. My feet are still on the ground. I’m just wearing better shoes.”

She may be the world’s most famous talk show host, but she uses her platform to be an incredibly selfless woman and make a difference in people’s lives. Everyday, Oprah would use her talk show to better the lives of other women creating movements in all areas of life. Her visionary views on life have incredible merit and an amazing effect, leading many to live their real truth, pursue their passions and believe in ‘ah-ha’ moments. Watch one episode of her show or ‘life class’ and you will immediately feel motivated and ready to take on the world. She believes strongly in education for girls, builds schools around the world and beyond her brilliance, Oprah is the ultimate trailblazer.

7. Ellen Degeneres

“For me, it’s that I contributed,… That I’m on this planet doing some good and making people happy. To me, that’s the most important thing…”

If there’s one thing we love Ellen for, it’s her ability to make us laugh. Any time you are having a bad day all you have to do is turn on her show and you are guaranteed to be smiling within minutes. There’s just something about Ellen! Her wit never gets old and she has an innate ability to make people feel good just by being herself; something that we find commendable and hope to aspire to. She is also incredibly brave, at a time when she had her own TV show and knew she risked losing it all, she came out. She showed the world her true self, paving the way for the entire entertainment industry and a generation of women who may have been lost without her.

8. Hillary Clinton

“We need to understand that there is no formula for how women should lead their lives. That is why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her family. Every woman deserves the chance to realize her God-given potential.”

When we think powerful ladies, Hillary Clinton comes first to mind. This is one woman who has the ability to out-smart anyone and that’s definitely one thing we admire about her. She came so close to changing the political game by becoming the first woman president of the United States and we are rooting for her to make it happen 2016. She levels the playing field for women in the professional world, inspiring us to do the same and become proud leaders, impartial to the previously set stereotypes of the generations before us.

9. Sarah Jessica Parker

“As a woman, I have an inherent need to be all things to all people, to make certain everybody’s taken care of. I know I can’t sustain that level all the time, so I’m finding the proper balance and it’s made me infinitely happier.”

It’s been 10 years since the last episode of Sex and the City, but SJP is still our girl. She’s the best friend we always wanted and through her character Carrie, we have laughed together, cried together and of course shared a closet. Really though, we love her because she is so relatable and her show reminded us that’s it’s okay to stumble along the way, and embrace who we are. She’s also a smart and savvy business woman, turning her love of fashion into an enterprise… and we can’t forget she introduced us to Manolo’s – you’ve gotta love the girl for that!

10. Kate Middleton

“I really hope I can make a difference, even in the smallest way. I am looking forward to helping as much as I can.”

She’s the princess of our generation and we love her for it; it’s likely not as easy or glam as it seems! Yet, this leading lady does it all with class while still showing the world her true personality, her grace and compassion are admirable. Following in Princess Diana’s footsteps, her generous and philanthropic nature is beginning to take centre stage. Dedicating her life to helping others while standing by the love of her life sounds like our idea of the perfect fairytale – and we love being able to watch it unfold!

(Image credit: Oprah, Kate, SJP, Michelle)