Celebrate #WomensEqualityDay With Some of Our All-Time Favorite Asian American Women
These Asian American Women Are Changing Our World for the Better
By Sylvia Regan
In 1971, Congress passed a joint resolution designating August 26th as Women’s Equality Day to commemorate the certification of the 19th amendment in 1920. In this year’s proclamation of the day, President Barack Obama “[called] upon the people of the United States to celebrate the achievements of women and promote gender equality in our country.”
As we celebrate the progress made by all Americans, we also remember that Asian American women throughout history have played important roles in the fight for gender equality. Here are a few amazing Asian American women who are changing the world for the better today:
Geena Rocero is a Filipina-American transgender advocate and fashion model. Rocero, already an acclaimed international model with a large fan base, came out during a TED talk delivered on International Transgender Day of Visibility in March of 2014. She has since founded Gender Proud, a program that empowers transgender people across the world to advocate for their rights. She’s also recently joined CoverGirl Cosmetic’s #GirlsCan campaign to empower women.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Asian American woman to represent the state of Illinois. Rep. Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran and was awarded a Purple Heart in 2004 after losing both her legs. Rep. Duckworth has fought to reduce veteran homelessness, to improve the Veterans benefit system and to extend maternity leave for women in the military.
Born in South Korea to a Korean mother and a Polish-American father, Karen O (born Orzolek) became a central figure in New York City’s rock revival scene of the 2000s. As the lead singer of the Grammy nominated band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O broke stereotypes about Asian women with powerful vocals and a wild performance style. O says that feeling alienated in school because of her biracial identity led her to find her place in rock ‘n’ roll. Now a venerated indie rock star, O is starting a tour for her debut solo album “Crush Songs.”
Reshma Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code, an organization that hopes to inspire and empower young women to pursue careers in tech. Since its founding, Girls Who Code has taught over 3,800 young women web development, programming, design and robotics. Saujani is also a lawyer and politician, and was the first South Asian woman to run for US Congress.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) is the first Asian-American woman to be elected senator, and currently the only senator of Asian descent serving. Sen. Hirono has been an advocate for reuniting the families of Filipino war veterans, for low-income students, for voting rights and many other causes.
Mia Mingus is a writer and community organizer who advocates for disability justice and transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse. Mingus identifies as a queer, physically disabled, transracial and transnational Korean woman. Mingus was named a “Champion of Change” by the White House. Her writing can be viewed on her blog, Leaving Evidence.
Natalie Nakase was an all-conference player for the UCLA women’s basketball team before becoming the first Asian American ever to play in the National Women’s Basketball League. As her playing career ended, Nakase began coaching professional men’s and women’s teams in Japan. Now, she is working for the Los Angeles Clippers as an assistant video coordinator and hopes to work her way up to coaching in the NBA.
Mee Moua is the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice| AAJC where she advocates for policies that allow Asian Americans and other vulnerable communities to succeed. Prior to her position at Advancing Justice | AAJC, Moua served as a three-term state senator in Minnesota, making her the first Hmong American woman elected to a state legislature.
Sylvia Regan is a student at Northwestern University and is an intern with Advancing Justice | AAJC this summer.