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5 Powerful speeches by women in the 21st century

This Women’s Equality Day, join us in celebrating some of the most powerful speeches by women.

August 25, 2021

We may only be two decades in, but the 21st century has seen monumental shifts regarding gender equality. Movements such as #metoo, global fights for abortion rights, and the Saudi Arabian women's driving ban are a few that have highlighted the issue.

When you think of great speeches in history, images of Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and Barack Obama may spring forth. Due to ingrained biases, women have always needed to 'speak louder to have their voices heard’. Women’s Equality Day, often referred to as Gender Equality Day, commemorates when Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation granting American women the right to vote. On this Women's Equality Day (26th August 2021), we celebrate powerful speeches by women on the world stage fighting for equal rights. 

  This Women’s Equality Day, we look on some of the most powerful speeches by women

Oprah Winfrey

While receiving an award for 'Outstanding Contributions to the World of Entertainment' at the 2018 Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey gave one of the most moving speeches by a woman at the awards. 

As someone born into poverty to a single mother who overcame discrimination with race and gender to succeed, she gave a rousing speech addressing the evolution of women's equality. Even more fitting, she was the first black woman to have received that award.

Key points of interest

[00:05:20] 

“In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and a mother. She was just walking home from a church service she attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men raped and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone. But her story was reported to the NAACP, where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case”

[00:08:21] 

“So I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns. It will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say me too again.”

You can read the entire transcript here.

Frances McDormand

Upon receiving her 2nd Oscar in 2018, Frances McDormand's speech received a standing ovation after highlighting the integral role women have in Hollywood - both in front of and behind the camera. 

The 'mic drop' moment was the mention of the 'inclusion rider.' An inclusion rider is a clause actors and filmmakers can insert into their contracts to ensure an appropriate level of diversity in a cast, from women to people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities.

Key points of interest: 

[00:03:16] 

“And now I want to get some perspective. If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me in this room tonight. [...] OK, look around, everybody, look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed”

[00:04:15] 

“I have two words to leave with you tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, Inclusion Rider.”

Read the whole speech here.

Top speeches by women about female rights

Emma Watson

From actress to activist, Emma Watson is an outspoken supporter of gender equality. In a passionate women’s rights speech at the UN in 2014, she declared gender equality an issue for both males and females to advocate. She asserted that ‘feminism’ has almost become a dirty word and that it is down to the inadvertent feminists to strengthen the movement. 

She also talked about gender equality from a male perspective, highlighting mental health and gender stereotypes, demonstrating that men do not have gender equality either. 

Key points of interest:

[00:01:51] 

“The more I've spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain. It is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

[00:04:05] 

“I am from Britain. And I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and the decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly, I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights. No country in the world can yet say that they have achieved gender equality.”

[00:08:35] 

“If men don't have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won't feel compelled to be submissive. If men don't have to control, women won't have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive, both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals.”

The entire transcript can be found here.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is one of the leading women’s rights activists globally and the youngest person (and first Pakistani) to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. In her acceptance speech, she delivered a heartfelt message advocating a women’s right to education. She sheds light on women’s rights from a unique cultural point of view.

Key points of interest:

[00:03:39] 

“I have found that people describe me in many different ways. Some people call me the girl who was shot by the Taliban and some the girl who fought for her rights. [...] As far as I know, I'm just a committed and even stubborn person who wants to see every child getting quality education. Who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world.”

Read the transcript in Trint.

Greta Thunberg

The youngest on our list, Greta Thunberg, is a name synonymous with activism. This is more of an honorable mention as her speech at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 focused on climate change rather than gender equality. However, even at the age of 16, and speaking in her non-native tongue, Thunburg faced gender-based bias following the speech. There was online backlash due to her emotional tone and age, proving that women’s rights have a long way to go before equality is reached. 

Key point of interest:

[00:00:54] 

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of his time of economic growth. How dare you?”

The speech transcript is here for you to read.

What's next for women's equality?

Thanks to these speeches by women, the topic of gender equality remains at the forefront of the public's mind. Having said that, there is still some way to go in the case of equal pay and gender stereotypes and other global issues. However, these speeches have given women a platform in which to make their voices heard. 

Trint is an employer committed to equality for both genders with a number of initiatives like our Women in Tech and Diversity and Inclusion groups. We are committed to providing equal opportunities to our employees. 

We used Trint to transcribe the MP4 files of these speeches, try it out for yourself.