7 Kickass Female Immigrants Who Will Inspire You
With all the anti-immigrant rhetoric being thrown around, we finally had a bit of good news Thursday when President Trump's temporary refugee ban was frozen by a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Whether Trump will win when the case hits the Supreme Court remains to be seen. But in the meantime, it's worth looking for a little more positivity. How about some female immigrants who came to the U.S. and kicked ass to inspire you? That's what I thought.
Success stories of female immigrants to the U.S. aren't rare. Fortune back in 2015 ran a story analyzing "why immigrant women make great entrepreneurs," pointing out the rapid success of many entrepreneurial ladies in various bits of American businesses. (Part of it, they theorized, was fearlessness and a freedom from male control.)
Female immigrants have always played a huge role in the building of modern America (and, of course, every person in the U.S. who doesn't come from a Native American family has migrant roots). It's worth celebrating just how awesome they can be, so here are some contemporary examples to give you faith in why there is no need for walls, real or legal.
Ilhan Omar's road to the House of Representatives, where she'll start at its first female Somali-American lawmaker in 2017, is a little different than most. She came to America as a refugee with her family, who had fled Somalia's civil war and spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before being given asylum in the United States. Yep: the House of Representatives currently has a member who wouldn't currently be allowed into the country under Trump's ban. Chew on that for a second.
Omar's path to the House has been an interesting one by any standards, but one of her most notable achievements has been working as director of policy at the NGO Women Organizing Women, which hopes to get women, including first-generation immigrants, engaged in the political process and local community. If you're thinking of running for office at some point in the future, she's probably a good source of information, y'all.
Albright is not only an immigrant — she was a child refugee. Her family fled their native Czech Republic in 1948 for America after the rise of Communism, and resettled Colorado. Albright herself became one of the nation's foremost diplomats, the highest-serving woman in the U.S. Government and the first female Secretary of State (Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton, of course, followed in her footsteps). She served as America's UN envoy during the Clinton years in office, the top-ranked diplomatic office, and was renowned for sending subtle signals to other diplomats through her formidable brooch collection. If you were attempting to get anything done in the highest levels of government in the '90s and 2000s, Albright was there, and you needed not to piss her off.
These days, Albright hasn't really slowed down, despite retiring as a diplomat. She was one of the signatories of the blistering declaration against Trump's travel ban filed in the 9th circuit court fight on it. Say it with me: Bad. Ass.
There is virtually no better immigrant success story than Indra Nooyi's. She's currently ranked as number 14 on Forbes' list of the most powerful women in the world, a position she's earned as the CEO of the massive multinational PepsiCo. She was born and educated in India before migrating to the U.S. to do a business management degree at Yale, and has been at the helm of Pepsi since 2001, being named its CEO in 2006.
Nooyi is also, as a huge business force, influential when it comes to politics. Back in 2016 she made headlines just after Trump's election with her declaration that Trump's sexism on the campaign trail was appalling: "How dare we talk about women that way," she told the New York Times. However, it's now been reported that Nooyi is also on Trump's Business Council, attempting to shape the economic policy of the new administration. (That'd be the Council that the Uber boss had to quit after #DeleteUber ran riot on social media.)
Julissa Arce's story made headlines last year as she revealed her progression from illegal Mexican immigrant to one of the leading lights at Goldman Sachs (who didn't know her immigration status at the time). She migrated to the U.S. with her family, saw her visa expire as a teen, and obtained false papers. With those in hand, she climbed the ladder to earn rapid respect and huge rewards at Sachs, before changing direction and deciding to help the fight for immigrant rights. In 2016 she helped found a scholarship for immigrant students and started to sit on the board of the National Immigration Law Center, and she's also working as a director at Define American, a non-profit that tries to protect the rights of illegal immigrants. Perhaps most importantly, though, she's also sharing her story.
Azar Nafisi is perhaps most famous for her memoir, Reading Lolita In Tehran, which records her experience in her native Tehran as a professor of English attempting to teach literary classics under the surveillance of the Iranian government — a problem she famously solved by teaching them secretly to female students, in her house. The book was written after Nafisi left Iran for America, and set off a firestorm of argument in both countries. She's since published essay collections on democracy and the crucial nature of literature.
In 2014, she told the Guardian of her decision to leave Iran permanently: "It wasn’t a decision taken in haste. There reached a point where I couldn’t do what I did for a living. I realized that whatever I wrote would have to come out in a mutilated form. That was one of the final blows. I felt that if I came here [to the U.S.] I could connect to my own people in a way that I could not in Iran."
If you've been inspired by the Women's March movement and the rise of new political power to run for office (might I suggest "nevertheless, she persisted" as a slogan?), Pramila Jayapal is a good inspiration. She's the first Indian woman to ever serve in America's House of Representatives, representing one of the few bright sides of the colossally worrying 2016 election results. Jayapal was born in India, and immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager to have an American education. She's been an advocate for migrant rights all through her political career, too. She also grabbed headlines in January as the last politician standing to question the legitimacy of Donald Trump's election via the electoral college system, citing potential problems with voting in Georgia. Talk about a way to enter the House with a splash.