- Roxane Gay
- Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
- Laura Tully
- Mónica Ramírez
- Tarana J. Burke
- Liz Plank
- Haben Girma
- Leah Vernon
- Cecile Richards
- Ashlee Marie Preston
- Paloma Elsesser
- Leymah Gbowee
- Raquel Willis
- Jordan Marie Daniel
- Angry Asian Feminist
- Reshma Saujani
- Zainab Salbi
- Muniba Mazari
- Jessica Meir
We turn our focus to the women-identified leaders who have put activism first, dedicating their hours, talents, wisdom, and every drop of their energy toward nurturing communities, spaces, and systems that include us all. These influential activists tirelessly march, fight in parliament and courthouses, and rally in their communities to advance women’s rights. You may or may not have heard of some of them, but now is the time to explore the work of these inspiring and brilliant women. Follow and support them via their various channels, and show up in solidarity with them to effect systemic change. Start here to learn about the 20 women leaders you need to follow on Instagram.
Nebraska-born Roxane Gay is one of the women leaders you need to follow stat. There is a reason the New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist, and co-host of the Hear to Slay podcast gives a MasterClass on writing for social change. Each word Gay carefully crafts furthers the movement toward a more equitable society. “Writing is a way of contributing to the political climate and saying something meaningful while being yourself. You don’t need to be brave when you’re writing; you need to acknowledge that you’re terrified and do it anyway,” she says in a post. Mic drop.
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
Leading the charge for equity and social justice, Rachel Elizabeth Cargle is a public academic, social entrepreneur, and philanthropic innovator. With articles on feminism, projects like the free 30-Day #DoTheWork Challenge, and community efforts like The Loveland Foundation, Cargle shows up for Black women and girls while spending the emotionally arduous time (and effort) to educate those who seek to be better allies.
Laura Tully isn’t simply a wardrobe stylist. Tully’s service offering takes a minimalist approach to styling, and encourages women to see their wardrobe as a tool for empowerment, and a conduit for self-confidence. Her body-positive messaging leads with the mantra, “The way you dress tells YOUR story about how you choose to show up in this world. YOU get to craft your story.” Time to craft yours.
Monica Ramirez has been a powerful voice in the fight to reunite families who were separated as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy targeting people entering the U.S. illegally in the past few years. As a civil rights attorney and the founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women, Ramirez speaks up for and supports the rights of migrant women. Recognized on the 2021 Time100 Next list, Ramirez works toward pay equity for women, COVID-19 relief for migrant families, and social justice in every sense of the word.
Tarana J. Burke
One of the most influential and historically significant women leaders of our time, Tarana J. Burke is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization Me Too. With Burke’s leadership, what started as a movement has grown into a globe-spanning organization that has been working for many years to change policies, culture, and institutions that continue to perpetuate sexual violence against women.
With quirky videos and memes, Liz Plank takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to her feminist activism on Instagram. Plank is a columnist for MSNBC, board member of the Girl Up campaign, and author of For the Love of Men. In this book, Plank discusses how patriarchal systems and toxic masculinity not only impact the lives and livelihood of women, but also the health and well-being of men, with fatal consequences. With her entertaining, cheeky and thought-provoking posts, Plank is a must-follow on Instagram.
Haben Girma is a human rights lawyer whose work and leadership revolves around advancing disability justice. Honoured by many world leaders as a changemaker, Girma tells her inspiring story in Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. With justice on the brain, Girma believes that “disability is an opportunity for innovation,” and she works with organizations to prioritize inclusion.
If you grew up hiding your femininity because your culture or religion told you to, then a dose of what Leah Vernon is serving up on her Instagram account is exactly what you need. Vernon embodies intersectional feminism through the work she does as a plus-size model, author, and influencer. With inspiring and empowering posts, Vernon shares her personal journey to self-love while shedding a light on the ways that the Muslim faith intersects with feminism.
Gender-equity activist, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and co-founder of the women-led Supermajority community, Cecile Richards is a force for good in the feminist movement. Richards has contributed to the economic and social development of women in significant ways. She has “worked to increase affordable access to reproductive health care and to build a healthier and safer world for women and young people,” according to her TED Speaker profile.
Ashlee Marie Preston
Media personality and social entrepreneur Ashlee Marie Preston uses her influence to effect social change. Preston founded the social impact campaign and relief fund You Are Essential (YAE Org) with a mission to combat food insecurity, housing instability, and barriers to access for the most marginalized people in our communities. The YAE Org recently pledged its support for the #WeAsOurselves movement that is powered by the Me Too Movement, National Women’s Law Center, and TIME’S UP Foundation. YAE Org declared, “We believe that we can end sexual violence in the Black community by openly addressing the harms inflicted upon women, girls, gender nonconforming and trans survivors.”
As an advocate for visibility and inclusion in the fashion world, community is at the core of Paloma Elsesser’s work as a role model and a body-positive fashion icon. Growing up in a predominantly Black neighbourhood in Los Angeles, she struggled with body image. “I was this chubby weird brown girl from L.A., just figuring things out,” she explains in Vogue. With her outspoken nature, Elsesser speaks up about the ways fashion, art, and culture can intersect to provide much-needed visibility for underrepresented people in the community.
Author and executive director of the Women, Peace & Security program at Columbia University, Leymah Gbowee is a superhero in her own right, with multiple accolades including the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Her videos and posts inspire a new generation of leaders to achieve their dreams. In a recent post, she describes how this philanthropic work has had an impact on her life, as well as the lives of others: “As I have dedicated myself to this cause, I have been fortunate to meet some remarkable young women. Many of them, without a doubt, will leave indelible marks on society in the future.”
A Black transgender activist and the founder of Black Trans Circles, Raquel Willis is committed to “developing the leadership of Black trans women…by creating healing justice spaces to work through oppression-based trauma and incubating community organizing efforts to address anti-trans murder and violence,” according to her website. By following the accounts and work of activists like Wills, we can lean into the issues marginalized communities face while amplifying women’s leadership in impactful ways.
Jazz Jennings is an LGBTQ2S+ activist and YouTube personality who is young in her years yet carries the wisdom of the world on her shoulders. Jennings has shared the ups and downs of multiple gender confirmation surgeries on TLC’s I Am Jazz show, and has told Women’s Health magazine that televising her journey helps amplify the stories and experiences of the transgender community. Jennings is a fresh voice that cuts through the monotony of influencer content on Instagram, and is well worth the follow.
Jordan Marie Daniel
Jordan Marie Daniel doesn’t simply run for the sport of it, she runs for social justice. Many of her marathon posts start with a list of names to raise awareness for the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people of North and South America. The red handprint that she dons on her face during her races shows solidarity for the women in Indigenous communities who have been silenced by racial injustice and violence.
Angry Asian Feminist
Angry Asian Feminist’s Instagram profile will slice through the drawl of your feed with a powerful statement: “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” During a time when anti-Asian racism and discrimination have severely escalated as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis, Instagram accounts like this one set the record straight, emphasizing inclusion over xenophobia, racism, and prejudice.
Celebrated founder of Girls Who Code, a non-profit dedicated to supporting and advancing women in STEM, Reshma Saujani takes a brave and bold approach to improving the pipeline and access to tools that will lead to the initiation of more women in the computer science field. The Girls Who Code Instagram account is chockablock with inspiring and educational posts about women in STEM. And Saujani’s own Instagram showcases her many appearances and newsworthy perspectives on how we can support the advancement of women.
Zainab Salbi’s incredible story of courage, perseverance, and freedom is one she shares through her many inspiring posts on Instagram. Having been raised in Saddam Hussein’s inner circles in Iraq, she has seen first-hand how oppressive systems, politicians, and wars can silence women, rendering them slaves to power and injustice. This bestselling author, and the founder of Women for Women International, imparts motivational messages to followers despite all the hardships and atrocities she has witnessed.
It is inspirational enough to have Muniba Mazari as a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, full stop. However, Mazari doesn’t stop there. She wears multiple hats as an artist and speaker. Since 2008, after a traffic accident, she has relied on her trusted wheelchair to get around. Her TEDx Talk, “Turning adversity into opportunity,” inspires us to keep striving and standing up even when the world tries to keep us down. A mighty voice for women’s empowerment, Mazari shared this quote on her Instagram that should be a daily mantra: “You are not just a face or body. You are a free soul and a free mind. Know your worth and acknowledge your power!”
Following the historic all-female spacewalk she led in 2019, Jessica Meir continues to share out-of-this-world inspiration with her followers. During her mission, this NASA astronaut took us through her day-to-day on the International Space Station, from meal prep to isolation-busting techniques. Meir is one of the women leaders who inspires us to dream big and imagine the universe in our realm of possibilities.