Influential Women in Education From the Last 10 Years

Influential Women in Education From the Last 10 Years

Our list of influential women in education showcases the passion, creativity, and knowledge of those who have shaped, and who continue to shape, the field of learning, instruction, and enrichment. Through bold curriculum, progressive policy development, and transformative innovations in online instruction, these educators are driving the field forward and playing a key role in shaping the minds of students all over the world.

Top 10 Women in Education From the Last 10 Years

  1. Malala Yousafzai
  2. Michelle Rhee
  3. Laci Green
  4. Eva Moskowitz
  5. Deborah Meier
  6. Butet Manurung
  7. Adi Altschuler
  8. Muzoon Almellehan
  9. Deborah Bial
  10. Dianna Cowern

While some teaching positions require a four-year degree, many educators, especially at the collegiate level, hold graduate degrees; some even hold degrees or certifications in other fields and, consequently, offer specific expertise in areas like history, literacy, or STEM learning.

For decades, women have made up the majority of educators in the United States, and with job opportunities on an upward trend, we can anticipate that women will continue to play the lead role in bringing innovation and creativity to the field. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 10% job growth by 2030.

Although female professionals have been at the forefront of education for quite some time, their pay and career opportunities are not always equal to their male counterparts. The AAUW, a professional organization, is working hard to change that. The AAUW fight[s] for fair pay and economic opportunity for women through advocacy, training, funding, and education. To date, they’ve awarded over $115 million in fellowships and grants to support women in education all over the world.

Along with organizations like the AAUW, women have used their roles as educators to shape the future of learning. Dianna Cowern, a YouTuber once partnered with PBS, has used her skillset to create physics content in an accessible way. Laci Green also took to YouTube to share her knowledge on sex education and at one point partnered with MTV to create an educational series. Gloria Ladson-Billings is another notable educator who is praised for her dedication to furthering African American students’ education. Additionally, many know Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who at a young age fought for young women’s right to education.

From virtual classrooms to college campuses to charter schools, these influential women have changed the course of education and continue to provide new and exciting models for what it means to teach.

Influential Women in Education From the Last 10 Years

  1. #1

    Malala Yousafzai

    1997 - Present (27 years)
    Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani female education activist and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate at the age of 17. She is the world’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate, the second Pakistani and the first Pashtun to receive a Nobel Prize. Yousafzai is a human rights advocate for the education of women and children in her native homeland, Swat, where the Pakistani Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Her advocacy has grown into an international movement, and according to former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, she has become Pakistan’s “most prominent citizen.”
  2. #2

    Michelle Rhee

    1969 - Present (55 years)
    Michelle Ann Rhee is an American educator and advocate for education reform. She was Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools from 2007 to 2010. In late 2010, she founded StudentsFirst, a non-profit organization that works on education reform.
  3. #3

    Laci Green

    1989 - Present (35 years)
    Laci Green is an American YouTuber. Her content focuses on sex education; Green also hosted Braless, the first MTV YouTube channel, as part of a 12-week deal with MTV. The first episode aired November 4, 2014. In 2016, Time named her one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet. In 2017, she celebrated her tenth anniversary on YouTube.
  4. #4

    Eva Moskowitz

    1964 - Present (60 years)
    Eva Sarah Moskowitz is an American politician and education reform leader, who is the founder and CEO of the Success Academy Charter Schools. A member of the Democratic Party, Moskowitz served on the New York City Council, representing the 4th district on the Upper East Side, from 1999 to 2005. Moskowitz interviewed to be Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, but decided not to pursue the position.
  5. #5

    Deborah Meier

    1931 - Present (93 years)
    Deborah Meier is an American educator often considered the founder of the modern small schools movement. After spending several years as a kindergarten teacher in Chicago, Philadelphia and then New York City, in 1974, Meier became the founder and director of the alternative Central Park East school, which embraced progressive ideals in the tradition of John Dewey in an effort to provide better education for children in East Harlem, within the New York City public school system.
  6. #6

    Butet Manurung

    1972 - Present (52 years)
    Butet Manurung or Saur Marlina Manurung is a pioneer for alternative education for indigenous people in isolated and remote areas in Indonesia. Like other young Batak girls, she was called “Butet”. Therefore, she is well known as Butet Manurung.
  7. #7

    Adi Altschuler

    1986 - Present (38 years)
    Adi Altschuler is an educator and a social entrepreneur. She is the founder of the “Krembo Wings” youth movement – Israel’s “first movement for youths with and without special needs”. She is the founder of “Memories@Home”, an alternative gathering on Yom HaShoah . She formerly led “Google for education, Israel” where she would advise teachers on the use of IT. With the goal of transforming Israel’s education system, Adi left Google to found “Inclu-Inclusive Schools”. Inclu is a nonprofit that promotes inclusive education in Israel through a network of public inclusive schools.
  8. #8

    Muzoon Almellehan

    1999 - Present (25 years)
    Muzoon Almellehan is a Syrian activist and refugee resettled in the United Kingdom. She is known for her work to keep Syrian girls in school, and has been referred to as the “Malala of Syria”. In June 2017, she became the youngest GoodWill Ambassador of UNICEF.
  9. #9

    Deborah Bial

    1965 - Present (59 years)
    Deborah Bial is an education strategist, the founder and president of the Posse Foundation and a trustee of Brandeis University. Bial is known for the concept of her foundation, which is to send groups of around ten students to collaborating colleges so that they can support each other and achieve a greater success rate. She is also known for the Bial–Dale College Adaptability Index, an activity-based test of college readiness that incorporates Lego play.
  10. #10

    Dianna Cowern

    1989 - Present (35 years)
    Dianna Leilani Cowern is an American science communicator. She is a YouTuber; she uploads videos to her YouTube channel Physics Girl explaining various physical phenomena. She worked in partnership with the PBS Digital Studios from 2015 until 2020, when she discontinued her partnership. She has collaborations with other YouTube personalities, including fellow science communicator Derek Muller of the channel Veritasium, maker Simone Giertz, and mathematics animator Grant Sanderson of 3Blue1Brown.
  11. #11

    Gloria Ladson-Billings

    1947 - Present (77 years)
    Gloria Jean Ladson-Billings is an American pedagogical theorist and teacher educator known for her work in the fields of culturally relevant pedagogy and critical race theory, and the pernicious effects of systemic racism and economic inequality on educational opportunities. Her book The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African-American Children is a significant text in the field of education. Ladson-Billings is Professor Emerita and formerly the Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin–Madison...
  12. #12

    Tam O'Shaughnessy

    1952 - Present (72 years)
    Tam Elizabeth O’Shaughnessy is an American children’s science writer and former professional tennis player who co-founded the science education company Sally Ride Science together with her life partner, astronaut Sally Ridethe first American woman and third woman in space. The company was relaunched as a nonprofit entity, Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego, on October 1, 2015. O’Shaughnessy serves as executive director.
  13. #13

    Lamya Kaddor

    1978 - Present (46 years)
    Lamya Kaddor is a German writer and scholar of Islamic studies of Syrian ancestry who has been serving as a member of the German Bundestag since the 2021 elections. She is the founder and chairwoman of the Liberal-Islamic Association and is known for introducing Islamic education into German public schools.
  14. #14

    Allyson Jule

    Allyson Mary Julé is a Canadian academic and Professor of Education at the University of the Fraser Valley, in British Columbia, Canada. She has lectured worldwide in her field, and written and edited many academic publications on feminist linguistics and pedagogy.
  15. #15

    Jill Green

    Jill Green is an American dance educator and scholar who originated the Social Somatic Theory. Green served on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and was co-editor of Dance Research.
  16. #16

    Jamileh Alamolhoda

    1966 - Present (58 years)
    Jamileh-Sadat Alamolhoda , commonly known as Jamileh Alamolhoda , is an Iranian writer, scholar and lecturer who is the wife of President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi. She holds a doctorate in education from Tarbiat Modares University and is an associate professor at the Faculty of Educational Sciences and Psychology of Shahid Beheshti University.
  17. #17

    Pamela Gillies

    1953 - Present (71 years)
    Professor Pamela Gillies is a Scottish academic and educator who served as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University from March 2006 until January 2023. Education The first in her family to go to university, Gillies attended the University of Aberdeen, graduating in 1976 with a BSc in Physiology, a PGCE and a Masters in Education and Philosophy. In 1976 she was awarded a competitive Scottish Home and Health Department Fellowship to train in community health in England. She graduated first with an MMedSci and then subsequently with a PhD in Epidemiology from the Universit...
  18. #18

    Khadija Mushtaq

    1974 - Present (50 years)
    Khadija Mushtaq is a Pakistani academic administrator and educator. She is the chancellor of Roots Ivy International University and chief executive officer of the Roots School System. Education Mushtaq completed a Master of Economics degree with a specialization in development studies and monetary policy from Quaid-i-Azam University.
  19. #19

    Shiza Shahid

    Shiza Shahid is a Pakistani social entrepreneur, social activist, investor, and educator. She is the co-founder and former CEO of the non-profit Malala Fund, which promotes education for every girl. In 2013, she was included in Time “30 Under 30” list of world change-makers, and in 2014, she was listed in Forbes “30 Under 30″ list of global social entrepreneurs. She is also well-known as the personal assistant of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.
  20. #20

    Fatima Sheikh

    1831 - 1900 (69 years)
    Fatima Sheikh was an Indian educator and social reformer, who was a colleague of the social reformers Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule She is widely considered to be India’s first Muslim woman teacher.
  21. #21

    Michelle Asha Cooper

    1973 - Present (51 years)
    Michelle Asha Cooper is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs and Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education in the U.S. Department of Education. She previously served as president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy , a Washington, D.C.-based independent, non-profit organization.
  22. #22

    Jo Ann Rooney

    1961 - Present (63 years)
    Jo Ann Rooney is an American educator with a background in higher education, law, business, health care, and public service. On May 23, 2016, she was named the 24th president of Loyola University Chicago, a Jesuit, Catholic university in Chicago, Illinois. Rooney is the first lay, non-Jesuit president of the university in its history and began her term as president on August 1, 2016. On August 23, 2021, she announced in a statement that the current school year will be her last as President of the University. Dr. Rooney’s tenure at Loyola ended on September 30, 2022.
  23. #23

    Jane Fernandes

    1956 - Present (68 years)
    Jane Fernandes is a Deaf American educator and social justice advocate. As of August 2021, Fernandes is the President of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She previously served as president of Guilford College from 2014 to 2021.
  24. #24

    Jean Anyon

    1941 - 2013 (72 years)
    Jean Anyon , was an American critical thinker and researcher in education, a professor in the Doctoral Program in Urban Education at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York, and a civil rights and social activist.
  25. #25

    Lois Rice

    1933 - 2017 (84 years)
    Lois Ann Dickson Fitt Rice was an American corporate executive, scholar, and education policy expert. Known as the ’’mother of the Pell Grant” because of her work lobbying for its creation, she was national vice president of the College Board from 1973 until 1981. According to the Wall Street Journal, she was “among the first wave of African-American women serving on boards of major US corporations,” and under president Bill Clinton, she was a member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. For years, she was an economic studies expert at the Brookings Institution concentrating on edu...
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Image Credits:

Top row, left to right: Patricia Hill Collins, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Malala Yousafzai, Shafi Goldwasser, Jennifer Doudna, Fabiola Gianotti, Michiko Kakutani, Lauren Underwood.

Bottom row, left to right: Fei-Fei Li, Esther Duflo, Kathy Reichs, Nancy Fraser, Brené Brown, Judith Curry, Jill Lepore, Zaha Hadid.

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