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25 Years of Women Of Influence and Women’s Advancement Around the Globe


        The world population is 5.6 billion people.

  • Chatelaine is first to present the Women of Influence Luncheon Series.
  • 179 countries sign up to the Cairo Programme of Action, a landmark document encouraging women’s empowerment, with specific goals for reproductive health, education, and more. 


  • A global Platform for Action for women’s equality, empowerment and justice is created at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where First Lady Hillary Clinton delivers a powerful speech: “When women are excluded from the political process, they become even more vulnerable to abuse. I believe that now, on the eve of a new millennium, it is time to break the silence. It is time for us to say, here in Beijing, and for the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights.”


  • For the first time, more women (154) than men (153) make up the Canadian Olympic team.
  • Madeleine Albright becomes the first woman U.S. Secretary of State.
  • Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the world’s first democratically elected woman leader, steps down as President of Iceland after exactly sixteen years — becoming the longest-serving elected woman head of state of any country to date.


  • The first Harry Potter book is published, starting J.K. Rowling on her path to becoming the world’s first billionaire author.
  • Jenny Shipley is elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, becoming the first female head of state in Australasia.
  • Ellen DeGeneres comes out to the world — the first openly gay woman to have her own sitcom. While it initially leads to controversy, cancellation and career challenges, Ellen will launch her eponymous talk show in 2003 and earn 29 Daytime Emmy Awards and 21 People’s Choice Awards by 2019.


  • For the first time Women’s ice hockey is an event in the Winter Olympics.
  • Tina Brown resigns as editor of The New Yorker. In 2010 she will launch the Women in the World Summit to share the stories of extraordinary women — and will speak at a Women of Influence Luncheon in May, 2019 to share her own.


  • Julie Payette is the first Canadian to take a place in an International Space Station assembly mission. In 2017, she will be named the 29th Governor General of Canada.


  • 58.9% of women aged 15 and older are part of the Canadian labour force.
  • The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are developed and include a goal to promote gender equality.
  • Beverley McLachlin becomes the first female Chief Justice of Canada. When she retires in 2017, she will be the longest serving Chief Justice in Canadian history.


  • Terrorists down the World Trade Centre. It will take 10 years for CNN to produce the documentary Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11 to shine a spotlight on the women rescue workers, firefighters and law enforcers who saved lives that day.
  • In Canada, women make up 58% of all university graduates.


  • Halle Berry becomes first African American woman to win an Oscar for Best Leading Actress.


  • Eight Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs.
  • In Canada, 25% of women hold senior management positions. This number will grow to 29% in 2013 — and remain unchanged four years after that.


  • Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental activist, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the first black African woman to win a Nobel Prize.
  • Forbes premiers their 100 World’s Most Powerful Women list. At the top: Condoleezza Rice, U.S. National Security Advisor.


  • Women of Influence and RBC partner to take on the Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards.
  • Angela Merkel becomes the first woman chancellor of Germany, Europe’s largest national economy.  
  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka becomes the Deputy President of South Africa. She will go on to become the Executive Director of UN Women in 2013.
  • Michaelle Jean becomes Canada’s first Afro-Caribbean Governor General.


  • The World Economic Forum’s first annual Global Gender Gap Report is released. Canada is ranked 14th out of 115 countries.
  • Bev Busson is appointed as the first woman Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
  • Tarana Burke coins the phrase “Me Too” as a way to help women who had survived sexual violence. Fast-forward more than 10 years, and the phrase will be reignited as the hashtag slogan of the anti-sexual harassment movement.


  • Pratibha Patil becomes the first woman President of India — the largest democracy in the world. She is 72 when elected.
  • Women make up 3% of enrolments in Canadian skilled trades programs, but only 1.5% complete their schooling.
  • The first all-women UN Peacekeeping unit is deployed in Liberia, made up of over 100 policewomen from India.
  • Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman Speaker of the House.
  • Inuit leader, activist, and environmentalist, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, is nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.


  • Canadian Paralympian Chantal Petitclerc wins five gold medals and sets three world records at the Beijing Paralympic Games.
  • Sheryl Sandberg becomes COO of Facebook — the first woman on the company’s board. Five years later she will publish Lean In.


  • US President Barack Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allows victims of pay discrimination to file a complaint with the government against their employer within 180 days of their last paycheck.


  • The first issue of Women of Influence Magazine is published. The cover features Bonnie Fuller, Canadian-born media executive, President and Editor-in-Chief of Fuller has led several publications including: YM, Flare, Star, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Us Weekly and Marie Claire.
  • The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — also known as UN Women — is officially founded.


  • Christine Lagarde becomes the first woman director of the International Monetary Fund.
  • Jill Abramson becomes the first woman executive editor of The New York Times.
  • Women of Influence launches the Top 25 ranking, an annual salute to 25 leading and inspiring women in Canada.


  • In Brazil, Maria Das Gracas Silva Foster becomes the world’s first woman CEO of a major oil company, after starting as an intern over 30 years prior.
  • Tunisia adopts a new constitution declaring “equal rights and duties” for women and men.
  • Canada’s then Minister for the Status of Women, Rona Ambrose, proposes the Day of the Girl at the UN — and it is celebrated for the first time on October 11.


  • There are six women premiers managing 85% of the population of Canada.
  • Kathleen Wynne becomes Ontario’s first female premier and Canada’s first openly gay premier.
  • Alice Munro becomes the first Canadian woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.


  • Malala Yousafzai becomes the youngest person ever to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Actress and Goodwill Ambassador to the UN, Emma Watson, launches a global solidarity campaign, HeForShe, calling on men and boys to become allies in achieving gender equality.


  • Current Co-CEOs Alicia Skalin and Stephania Varalli take over Women of Influence.
  • 88 Canadian women are elected to the House of Commons — the highest number of women elected in one year — and Trudeau forms Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet, “Because it’s 2015.”
  • The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals launch, including a gender equality goal and targets about ending violence against women and ensuring equal participation.


  • Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman to win a major political party nomination for president of the United States.
  • Linda Burney is the first Indigenous woman in Australia to be elected into the House of Representatives.
  • Canada ranks 35th on the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report — its worst showing ever. Two years later, Canada will climb back up to 16th place.


  • The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards celebrates 25 years.
  • First openly transgender US State Legislator, Danica Roem, defeats 26-year incumbent Bob Marshall to represent the 13th District of the Virginia House of Delegates.
  • The Women’s March on Washington, DC, becomes the largest single-day protest in US history, and turns into an international mass demonstration in support of women’s rights. Worldwide participation is estimated at over seven million.
  • In the UK, 32% of MPs are women, ranking 38th in the world for representation of women in parliament.
  • 32 women CEOs run Fortune 500 companies, the highest share of women since Fortune’s first list in 1955.


  • Nova Scotia civil rights pioneer and businesswoman Viola Desmond becomes the new face of Canada’s $10 bill — the first Canadian woman on a regularly circulating banknote.
  • Spain’s new Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, makes history by appointing a majority-female cabinet. Almost two-thirds of his cabinet-level appointees — 11 of 17 — are women.
  • Women in Saudi Arabia finally gain the legal right to drive.
  • Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, is the second elected head of state to give birth while in office, and the first elected leader ever to take maternity leave.
  • Women hold 24% of senior roles across the world — a decrease from 25% in 2017.
  • US Congress sets a record for the number of women elected, at 102.


        The world population is 7.7 billion people.

  • Women of Influence celebrates their 25th anniversary. They will soon launch Shine and Rise — a new initiative to encourage everyone to join them in sharing the stories of extraordinary women.