The majority of people who we find inspirational did not set out to be that way. Courage and a desire to make a difference often help.

Sometimes, this results in changing things for others as well as themselves. It can also simply be a case of being in the right place at the right time. As parents of daughters, we always like to share stories with them proving that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to being inspirational and courageous. Hearing about these powerful women can help boost self-esteem and confidence.

Here are seven inspirational women who showed exceptional courage.  

1. Helen Keller 

Losing both her sight and hearing as a toddler, she did not let her disabilities prevent her from achieving. In fact, she was the first deaf-blind person to be awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her initial fame came about because of the story she wrote in her book about the journey to learning. However, she was also a firm advocate for people with vision loss around the world as well as a supporter of many other issues.  

2. Rosa Parks  

Famous for taking a stand (or not!) and remaining seated at the front of the bus rather than giving up her seat to a white male passenger, Rosa Parks changed America forever. Prior to this (and even afterwards), many people taking such a stance against discrimination faced serious injury or even death. Rosa’s courage means that she put herself in grave danger hoping that her actions would impact the rest of society. And, she was right.  

3. Indra Nooyi  

Being the first female CEO of Pepsi was bound to be a tough role for anyone, but Indra Nooyi did amazingly, boosting revenues by 80% during her time there. Stepping down after 24 years, Indra offered support to others via LinkedIn sharing inspirational and courageous wisdom linked to ensuring a work/life balance.  

4. Christiane Amanpour  

Travelling the world as a CNN consultant, Christiane has experienced a lot of conflict and trauma throughout her career. Holding interviews in war zones or other challenging situations, she rises above her fear, offering a uniquely honest insight into everything that is happening.  

5. Yoani Sanchez  

One of Time Magazine’s most inspirational people in 2008, Yoani Sanchez has practised what many other journalists within the oppressive Cuban regime have been unable to: freedom of speech. She reports her observations about everyday life there via her blog Generacion Y – providing insights to people around the world about the totalitarian regime.  

6. Mary McAleese  

Elected the second female President of Ireland, Mary McAleese’s term was known as “Building Bridges” due to the significant work she carried out in terms of social justice, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation. This was a particularly rocky time for the country and so many of her decisions and changes imposed took significant courage. However, overall, McAleese was a popular president for the most part and stood unopposed for her second term. She and her husband received the Tipperary Peace Prize in 2012. 

7. Irena Sendler  

Following the Nazis’ invasion of Poland, Irena Sendler resolved to do something, even if it resulted in her death. Together with dozens of others, she helped to rescue thousands of Jewish children who were sent to Christian orphanages and provided with new identities. Despite being captured and tortured, she managed to avoid giving further details to the Nazis, showing immense courage. After the end of the war, Irena worked hard to reunite families torn apart by the conflicts.  

These women were certainly both inspirational and courageous. It goes to show that the average person could have an impact on the lives of others if courage is shown and adversity is faced and overcome. Whatever you are doing in life, you have the opportunity to change things for yourself, your loved ones and the world around you.