Women Who Inspire...In Celebration of Womens History Month! 31 Days, 31 Extraordinary Women!

Updated: Apr 2, 2021



In March we celebrated International Women's Day and Women's History Month. What's Womens History Month? It's a month long celebration of the accomplishments and contributions of women throughout the years both to our culture and to our society.


My way of celebrating and acknowledging it was to spend as much time with as many women as possible...every day in fact. Whether it was watching their ted talks, listening to their podcasts, following them on social media or personally taking the time to be with them...listening and learning from them or leading, mentoring or coaching them.


Below I have come up with a list of 31 women I have been completely inspired by in March...the trailblazers, change makers, activists and leaders of tomorrow or just ordinary women doing extraordinary things. I simply want to celebrate these women, support them, encourage them, lead them and continually be inspired by them.


From conservationists, to the socially and environmentally conscious to young leaders of tomorrow to the brave and bold, standing up for what is just and right, to those who support, encourage and empower other women. From the influencers, to the philanthropists, to those who give a voice to the voiceless and those who simply speak their mind, it takes courage to know who you are and be unapologetically yourself.


To those who forged a path especially in the boardrooms, who revolutionised a male dominated industry, to those who challenged the naysayers, the status quo and the norms. To those who educate, advocate and lead with conviction, to those making everyone around us a little smarter, better and braver.


To those who sprinkle a little magic, or humour, laughter and light into our lives. To those who followed their path to success, who followed their passion and are doing what they love. And finally to those who selflessly help, who serve with humility, with love and without having to shout it from the rooftop. I hear you, I see you.


Here are my Shero's and the women I'm celebrating for Women’s History Month!



The Conservationists, Environmentalists & Eco-Concious

First up, Dame Jane Goodall, Conservationist + worlds leading primatologist and anthropologist. She redefined traditional conservation and works extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues through the Jane Goodall Foundation. She has received numerous international honours, including the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, and the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence. In 2002 the United Nations named her a Messenger of Peace. In a 2003 at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II conferred on Dr. Goodall the title of Dame of the British Empire (DBE), equivalent to a knighthood...now, that's impressive.


Next on my list is Aubrey Abanico, Founder of AbanEco, a social enterprise selling handmade eco-friendly products to the eco-conscious. What I love about Aubrey and Abaneco is how passionate they are about bringing back the ancestral and Indigenous art form of weaving. So they're not only helping the environment by selling sustainable goods but they're supporting the livelihoods of the indigenous and weaving community in the Philippines. What an absolute legend.


To wrap up the environmental work and also start 'the young leaders of tomorrow' list, is Ralyn (Lilly) Satidtanasarn. She is known as Thailand’s Greta Thunberg...waging ‘war’ on plastic, winning her first victory in June 2019 where she persuaded Central, a major supermarket in Bangkok, to stop giving out plastic bags in its stores once a week. I was first introduced to her at a Cancham Women in Leadership event and she absolutely blew my mind at what she has been able to achieve at such a young age. I mean she started campaigning at the age of eight (yes 8) after a seaside vacation in southern Thailand where she was horrified by a beach covered in rubbish. She saw a problem and she went about fixing it. What an incredibly inspirational young lady.



The Young, The Bold, The Brave, The Powerful

On my list of young leaders of tomorrow and certainly the bold, the brave and powerful we have Malala Yousafzai. She is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women and children in her native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, where the local Pakistani Taliban banned girls from attending school and getting an education. For doing so, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman but fortunately survived the assassination attempt. Yet that did not stop her. She continues to educate and advocate today and has been nominated for a plethora of awards but becoming the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 is just inspiring. What a brave, fearless and extraordinary young woman.


Speaking of fearless and brave, Grace Tame was recently crowned Australian of the Year on 25 Jan 2021. She is an Australian activist and advocate for survivors of sexual assault...shining a light on child sexual abuse, trauma impacts, and the warning signs of grooming. What makes this story interesting is that her story has been told many times by many people, including the maths teacher who groomed and molested her when she was just 15 years old. She rose to prominence via the #letherspeak campaign which in 2019, took her legal case to be able to publicly self-identify as a rape survivor to the Supreme Court of Tasmania, and won. It took her two years battling the Tasmanian legal system to finally have the right to reveal her true identity and tell her story. And when you read it, its harrowing, extraordinarily bold and brave but most of all, it is her voice, her story to tell. It is incredibly powerful.


Then we have someone taking on the powerful, the highest levels of power in Australia, the Australian Government. Former political staffer Brittany Higgins' allegation of rape by a male colleague in a government minister's office inside Parliament House in March 2019 rocked Australian politics. Since speaking out last month, several more allegations have surfaced against Australian politicians and political staffers which has then led to a movement of tens of thousands of people protesting in Australia against the sexual abuse and harassment of women in the country called #womensmarch4justice. Again, another powerful, brave and bold young lady.



Speaking of young lady, Hailey Bieber, is a model and media personality and now activist. What I love about Hailey is her inclusivity and ability to listen and learn. She is a big supporter and advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement and continuously educates herself. Just go to her instagram page its full of inspiring women taking over her account educating her millions of followers on social issues and current events. Its bold, its brave, its beautiful, just like her.



The Philanthropists

Melinda Gates really needs no introduction but she co-founded alongside her husband, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest private charitable organisation with $40B (yes billion) trust endowment. The foundation's mission is to help all people lead healthy, productive lives which includes eradicating some of the worlds worst known preventable diseases including diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and measles. However, most of her work is devoted to women's and girls' rights. Her latest mission is to close the funding gap for female founders, through her investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures which I absolutely love and admire because I work in the startup and SME space and know a lot of female founders.


MacKenzie Scott, Novelist & Philanthropist. A month after her divorce from Jeff Bezos and $38 billion dollars later, she signed the Giving Pledge where she pledged to give away majority of her fortune. In the past year alone she has given away $6 billion. Yep SIX BILLION. Majority of the donations were focused on those "operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital." I am just totally in awe of her and what she continually chooses to do which is to help others.



The Lionesses

On 21 March, I had the pleasure of joining a networking support group for women, called the Lionesses of Siam. It's not your usual networking event or your typical support group. These women are; women in business, entrepreneurs, mums, wives, women leading businesses, artists, painters, consultants, lawyers, accountants, financial planners, business and leadership coaches. You name it, they probably have it. The best thing about it is they share information and knowledge in a way I have not seen in other groups and networking events. They literally go out of their way to help one another to succeed and continuously encourage one another even sending business your way. It's an outstanding example of women supporting other women so if you get the chance, come see for yourself. They meet monthly usually on a Wednesday at 12pm. A huge shoutout and thank you to the lovely Marjo Abellar (networking extraordinaire) from The Peninsula Hotel for inviting me to the group and always introducing me to everyone in Bangkok. A shining example of women helping other women and a fellow Filipina.



The Real, Raw & Unconventional

Jada, Willow & Gammy, Red Table Talk (RTT). Firstly, I love the Smith family but I especially love the dynamic of the three generations Willow Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and, her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norri (Gammy). RTT is a TV talk show that premiered on Facebook Watch where they open their home, hearts and minds for a series of candid conversations with family and friends. It will make you laugh but also make you cry. You will feel inspired one day, learn something new the next. I love the flow of their conversations with their guests and just how genuine, real and raw they are. Constantly listening, learning and leading one another.



The Unfiltered, Outspoken & Unapologetically Themselves


Chrissy Teigen, is an American model, television personality, author, her Cravings cookbook has taken the world by storm. She is also one of the funniest people on Instagram. She doesn't take herself too seriously and I just love how family oriented she is. She is also a fierce feminist and activist alongside her husband John Legend. She details much of her life on social media and is quick to respond to national news and outspoken about her beliefs and passions especially her political activism.


Jameela Jamil, is an English actress, radio presenter, model, writer and activist. Only really learned of her because of "The Good Place" but then once I noticed her she seemed to pop up everywhere. At first, I was wasnt a huge fan. I only started to follow her when she sat down with Jada, Willow and Gammy on Red Table Talk and spoke about mental health, cancel or call out culture, womens rights, body insecurities and learning from her mistakes. Her "I Weigh" podcast challenges society’s definition of worth through weight. With hilarious and vulnerable conversations, I Weigh amplifies and empowers diverse voices in an accessible way to celebrate progress, not perfection and I absolutely love that.


Gabrielle Union, is an American actress, author and activist. Like Chrissy and Jameela, she is passionate and outspoken...advocating and educating her millions of followers on a multitude of causes she supports, from racial justice to ending violence against women, voting rights to eradicating poverty, and diversity to health initiatives. One of main reasons why I started following her was the way in which her and her husband Dwayne handled Dwyane’s 12-year-old child from a previous relationship, trans journey. Which is quite close to home for me because I have a nephew who has gone through the same TRANSformation. See what I did there. Both Dwayne and Gabrielle set out to educate themselves first then provided their unconditional love and support. Its a shining example of how parents should respond to their transgender and gender non-conforming kids.


For complete transparency, I don't agree with everything Chrissy, Jameela or Gabrielle say or do but they're entirely relatable, incredibly outspoken, unfiltered and just unapologetically themselves which I really love. They influence and create change, discussion or debate.



The Mummy Influencers


Speaking of influencers, I know Jameela, Chrissy and Gabrielle technically fall under influencers but Crystal Bailey, Founder and Creator of Boholuxehome is someone I follow because as most of you know I love Home Organisation, Styling & Design and from a purely aesthetic perspective every time I look at her page, she makes me want to go on holidays as she has this knack of turning homes into the ultimate holiday sanctuary. I also love how she speaks so openly and honestly about being a single mum and how her boys live with their fathers and that she's just trying to be the best mama she can be given the situation. Its a complicated story but one that resonates as I was a single mother for a very long time before I met my husband. She goes through the hardships, trials and tribulations as well as all her successes both in business and at home. She is entirely real and raw.


Next up is Marcia Leone, Founder, Creator and Author of Not So Mumsy. Not only do I love her sense of fashion and style but like Crystal, I just love how honest and transparent she is with her journey as a mum. In fact Not So Mumsy was created for the modern mama and has quickly become a globally renowned, community of like-minded mamas, award winning fashion and lifestyle destination for the modern mother. Essentially, its about embracing motherhood without losing your sense of self in the process (pre-babies). Her Instagram is a mix of pretty pictures and honest words. And some of her words cut through so deep, you end up crying. In a cathartic liberating 'I know how that feels' kinda way. Anyways, you've been warned.



The Change Makers & Industry Leaders

Penny Spencer is the Managing Director of Spencer Group of Companies building her business from the ground up into a multi awarding winning globally recognised travel management company. Penny has recently launched her own book, Love what you do and never work a day in your life” a book that uses her own experience to offer advice to others on business and career progression and is ideal for anyone looking to start a business, or has an established business. She has won many awards and accolades and is an industry leader and change maker within travel and tourism industry in Australia. A passionate advocate for mentoring, she also founded the not-for-profit Travel Industry Mentoring Experience (TIME) in 2009 to accelerate the careers of the next generation of travel industry leaders. What an inspiration and absolute powerhouse.


Jane Jie Sun is a Chinese businesswoman, and the CEO of Trip.com Group, the largest online travel agency in China and in 2020 was named one of Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women International”. She leads an industry heavyweight with 33,000 staff, a market valuation of $25 billion far exceeding better-known U.S. rival Expedia ($17 billion). She is the only female CEO in China's online travel industry and also one of only a few female CEOs in the Chinese tech industry. She spearheaded workplace gender equality and support for female employees by introducing several programs to benefit female employees: an 8,000 yuan gift for new mothers, free taxi rides to pregnant workers, and summer camps at its headquarters for staff who have preschool-aged kids. What a change maker and industry powerhouse.


Shonda Rhimes I had never really heard of her but apparently I have watched majority of her TV shows she has written, produced and created. From Greys Anatomy to Scandal to one of my favourites, How to Get Away with Murder. However it was her Ted Talk, My Year of Saying Yes to Everything which really captured my attention and I instantly fell in love with her. What she said, the journey she had gone through, it all resonated. She talked about loving her work and just her love of working and when she is in the "hum" she is unstoppable. The hum is a drug, the hum is music, the hum is God's whisper in her ear. But what happens when it stops? What happens when the hum is broken? The talk absolutely moved me and took me on her journey through her "year of yes" and how she got her hum back. It is also when I realised I had been on the same journey, I just didn't and couldn't articulate it as well as she did. Its powerful, raw and awe-inspiring.



The Trailblazers & Women In Tech


Megha Srisethi, Co-Founder of Dee Money, a Fintech company offering money transfers and foreign currency exchange services based in Thailand, licensed by the Bank of Thailand and operating since 2018. The service currently allows payouts to 35 different countries around the world and makes it easier to transfer directly to bank accounts around the world, For an expat like me, its been a godsend. Megha is also the very first person I met in Bangkok at a networking event. When we caught up a few weeks ago in March, we talked about the difficulties of being a working mother, the expectations placed on us by everyone around us from the people we lead to our families and quietening the inner voices in our head that seems to get louder the more success we experience. She is the epitome of compassion, kindness and startup fintech boss lady.


Whitney Wolfe Herd Founder & CEO of Bumble, a dating app where “women make the first move”. She also recently became the youngest female CEO to take a company public in the US raising $2.2 billion in an initial public offering. However her success was marred by her background story where she founded Tinder, she apparently came up with the name. According to reports, she left the company in 2014 and later filed a lawsuit against Tinder for sexual harassment receiving over $1 million plus stock as part of a settlement. Bumble’s growth, and the rising competition with her former company Tinder ultimately led to lawsuits involving Bumble and Tinder parent company Match Group...she later called them out in an open letter as bullies. Clearly it didn't deter her and she continued the fight and it looks like, she won. She rang the opening bell from Bumble's offices in Austin with her 1year old son by her side. The IPO makes her the youngest (31) woman to take a company public (and, according to Bloomberg, with a $1.5 billion payday, a rare self-made female billionaire. Now thats a powerhouse woman right there.


Melanie Perkins, is a 32-year-old co-founder and CEO of Canva, a free-to-use, online design platform and also one of my favourite Aussie unicorn stories because she's part Filipino. She stated Canva in 2013 in a bid to make design accessible to all — be it for logos, business cards or presentations. Within five years, she made headlines as one of tech’s youngest female CEOs, at just 30. Two years on, the Sydney-headquartered company is now worth $3.2 billion, giving Perkins and her co-founder and now fiance, Cliff Obrecht, an estimated personal fortune of $900 million. And to think, it all started with a high school yearbook business. What an inspiration.



The Leadership Whisperers

Brene Brown is an American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. She has spent decades studying the topics of courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is, to date, the author of five number-one New York Times bestsellers, namely The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and my all time favourite, Dare to Lead. In Dare to Lead she talks about four key skillset needed for courageous leadership...rumbling with vulnerability, living your values (rather than simple professing them), braving trust (and being the first to trust) and learning to rise. Meaning you need to start by embracing vulnerability, which opens you up to have tough conversations, building trust, and moving ahead towards organisational goals as one team. She speaks my language and I am here for it.


Isabel Valle was one of the very first people I met at my very first networking event in Thailand and continue to see at numerous events. One thing that struck me with Isabel is her energy and passion. She coaches Executives & Leadership teams here in Bangkok to maximise their performance as a peak performance strategist. She is authentic, absolutely fearless and the right mix of fun and consummate professional. I am constantly in awe of her and the way she has time to always introduce me to people.


Kelley Wacher from Corporate Magic is an Executive Coach & Leadership Development extraordinaire. She is a dynamic presenter, facilitator, business mentor, corporate trainer and inspirational speaker and, someone I like to call friend. After all she did help me get my hum back. Her ability to connect with others and show you how to focus on your strengths as a leader is one of the many reasons why I love her. That and her infectious energy and laugh.



The Solopreneurs, Passion Followers & The Doers


These ladies are some of my favourite people and friends.


Rosina, Founder and Creator of Forever Petal which is just pure joy in a frame. She grew up pressing flowers in her home country of New Zealand and has always had a great connection to all things floral. Coming from a family of florists and flower lovers, this business means she's the 4th generation in her family to be involved with a business that creates framed artwork. I've known Rosina for a long time now having worked with her in two companies and to watch her grow her own business, clients and sales as well as an incredible following on insta brings a happiness in my heart and a tear to my eye because I know what she has been through to get to where she is today. Proud is an understatement and I cannot wait to see her soar to new height because there is no one more deserving than Rosina when it comes to happiness and success. She is the embodiment of light and love.


Lil or Lillian, Founder of Magnesium Society which partners with Black Dog Institute and is a muscle recovery brand stocked in f45 gyms, physios and fitness centres around Australia. I remember speaking with both Lil and Rosina at the same time in March which we really should have done in Clubhouse. Some of the gold nuggets and learnings from the conversation 1) do what you love without concern for making money or pleasing people, 2) resilience and mental stamina is key to business, 3) t’s easy to give up and give in but have to go back to your why, the feeling when goals are achieved, 4) it’s not easy, you have to work hard, get up early, stay up late and sacrifice a lot and 5) have a vision and set goals to track and measure the small and big wins then celebrate them. That’s the thing in business and in life, we get so caught up overthinking things we forget to act and do. And yes it’s easy to start a business but it’s hard to maintain, to build, to grow and scale. It takes a level of mental stamina and resilience. Importantly sacrifices need to be made.


Kay, was my very first friend in Bangkok. She showed me the ropes here in Bangkok and helps me with my Thai, more like she just translates everything for me. One of the greatest lessons I have learnt from Kay is patience and resilience. She has it in spades. She's going through a lot of personal issues at the moment but always manages to focus on the kids, work, family and everyone else around her first. She even found the time to focus on her future becoming an insurance agent and doing a side hustle selling life, health and accident insurance. So by day you'll find her doing the events for Michelin Guide and in her spare time, selling insurance. Reach out to her if you looking for private health insurance especially for expats here in Bankgok.

Sylvia, Founder of Suwan Embroidery, and 1/5 of our childhood group LBJJS. One of things I am inspired by the most is her individuality and her ability to follow her own path. Like me, she's never been a follower but has seemingly led her life with purpose and passion only finding her true self in the last few years after her separation and divorce. When you read her stories and posts, not only does it resonate but it takes you on a path to self healing and self-actualisation. And just like our chats over the phone, it provokes, inspires and challenges me.


Speaking of challenging and inspiring me, there is none other than Miss Emily. We are very different people but also incredibly the same. She's just the younger prettier version. Like Rosina, she's worked with me in two companies and I have been incredibly lucky and fortunate that she's always been part of my team and by my side, helping me. But one of the things I love most about Emily is her ability to articulate in written words, what I cannot. We've had many discussions about her being a step-mum, choosing to raise two little boys that are not hers, having her own baby now and challenging the norms and family stereotypes. We also discuss things like mental health and social anxiety. Actually anxiety as a whole. But the thing I am most proud of is, on the very last day of March, she told me she had written a mini eBook "Living with Anxiety: written through an anxious mind. You can view and buy it here. Then after speaking with her, in an entire day she writes her second mini eBook on being a step-mum called "Things I Wish You Knew". I just had to add her into my list of women who inspire me for womens history month.



The Backbone & Lifelong Inspiration

Last but not least, mother dear, my mum, Josefina. The matriarch of the family. My mum has always been a lifelong inspiration for me and continues to inspire me everyday. She taught me the value of helping others by working in the community services sector for over 15 years where she supported women in abusive relationships and helping them get away from domestic abuse. She also helped newly arrived migrants especially women by linking them to services and resources such as finding jobs, access to training and education as well as accommodation to facilitate their settlement in Australia. After her many years at work, she then spent the next decade helping the community and continues to be an active and contributing member in community activities such as volunteering, fundraising in support of the Cancer Council and organising community events. She is also the Founder for the Filipino Womens Support Group in Macarthur, founding member of the Rizal Park Movement in Campbelltown and continues to support, empower and advocate for womens rights and wellbeing. She will always be my forever Shero.


And there you have it, 31 inspiring women, one for each day of March. What do you think?


- Joana x


#womenshistorymonth #shero #sheros #IWD2021 #internationalwomensday #women #womensupportingwomen #womenledbusinesses #womenwhoinspire #daretodream #choosetochallenge #trailblazers #changemakers #activists #philanthropists #environmentalists #simplescalablesolutions #findingjoanabutton #listenlearnlead


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