Offer: Call for Nominations: The Guardian's top 100 Women
Aung San Suu Kyi? Oprah Winfrey? Tanni Grey-Thompson? JK Rowling? Even, dare I say it, Margaret Thatcher?
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day this year, the Guardian is planning to compile a list of top women in the world and would like you to help. Given the abundance of choice, about half of a roughly 7 billion-strong global population, how do we choose? As a general rule, we think the 100 women who make the list should be there for their ability to inspire. They should be successful in their own right, but also have achieved something for other women – whether through their work or by acting as role models.
Most lists emphasise power and influence (and, of course, economic and political clout matter), or the way a woman looks or dresses. But the ability of women to inspire, either by improving the lot of others, or acting as a role model, is also important for the next generation of women over the coming 100 years.
On the First International Women's day 100 years ago, people marched across Europe campaigning for women's rights to vote, work, be trained and hold public office. Much has changed since then. These basic rights are taken for granted in large parts of the world. Women have risen to pole political positions in many countries, including the UK. Yet discrimination persists. Women make up between 70% and 80% of the world's poor, illiterate and refugee populations, and sexual and domestic violence continues to cause alarm. A girl growing up in Chad today has about the same chance of dying while giving birth as she has of going to secondary school. Pregnancy is the biggest killer of women aged 15 to 19 in the developing world. While girls often do better than boys at school, women working full-time in the UK are paid on average less per hour than men – 40 years after the Equal Pay Act – and fill just 12.5% of boardroom posts in leading companies.
Yet the ability of women to rise above such discrimination has also persisted – whether in the fields of arts, science, education, health, commerce or politics. Indeed, there are a number of women in positions of political authority this year from Angela Merkel in Germany to Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, and Michelle Bachelet – the first female Chilean president who became the United Nation's first executive director of women. The UK's only female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was named in a recent poll conducted by YouGov and AOL UK as this country's most influential woman. Would it be possible to exclude her, even though few argue that her politics did much to help women? And how about Beyoncé, or Cheryl Cole.
Then there are stories that inspire. Some, such as Shirin Ebadi, the human rights activist and first Muslim woman to win the Nobel prize, have already won recognition. Others are less well known: the Indian lawyer who took on the case of a destitute woman who died giving birth in a Delhi street and won a landmark ruling from the high court last year for women in a similar position. There are so many others, from writers to teachers to community workers, as well as those who have risen to national prominence by being the first to do something.
This isn't an attempt to provide a definitive list, but a chance for you to tell us about women who inspire you. Women too often fail to make standard power lists and this is an attempt to redress that, while celebrating a good cause. The list will be published on 8 March. The nominees must be alive, but can live anywhere.
It won't be difficult finding 100 inspirational women. The tricky bit will be narrowing them down. Nominate an inspirational woman by clicking the link below.