It’s National Women’s History Month – a time to recognize and honor the women throughout history who have helped shape our world.

Expecting a list of business leaders? Well, you might be surprised. In keeping with this year’s theme of courage and character, these are the women who top my list.

“They thought the bullets would silence us, but they failed.”
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education. Addressing the United Nations, Malala said: “Nothing changed in my life except this—weakness, fear and hopelessness died; strength, power and courage was born.” There is no question that her courage and character will help to shape a new world for girls everywhere.

A Group Effort.
As someone who believes women will change the world when they fully understand their mass power, I applaud the 20 women in Congress who said enough is enough. Led by Susan Collins (R-Maine), this group set aside potential backlash from supporters to do what’s right for the country instead of what’s right for them, negotiating the comprise that led to the federal government averting a disastrous default. Joining Collins were: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and more women in Congress pledging to abandon partisanship for the betterment of the country. When women realize the power they hold collectively, they cannot be stopped.

Ears not required to be heard.
That is the message of Aisha, the 18-year-old Afghan woman who allowed herself to be on the cover of Time magazine after the Taliban cut off her nose and ears for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha tells a powerful story about how Afghan women have embraced life after defeating the Taliban—and how they fear a Taliban revival will set them back a thousand years. We need to stay the course—for Aisha and millions of women like her.

Shriver Sheds a Light.
Maria Shriver, overcoming her own very public difficulties, is shedding light on many important women’s issues of our times as part of A Woman’s Nation™, a nonprofit organization that works to document the most significant societal trends in American life and the impact they have on women. This week she focuses on women who live paycheck-to-paycheck to support their families; it’s an eye-opener for the nation. Tune in.

An Inspiration
Condoleezza Rice showed women and African Americans alike just how far hard work and good character can take you. Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state, the second African American secretary of state (after Colin Powell), and the second female secretary of state (after Madeleine Albright). She was also the first female National Security Advisor under President Bush – as well as an inspiration to young women and men around the world.

A Natural Leader
Hillary Clinton. I’m not a political person. Indeed, I hate all things partisan. But if you set aside your prejudices, can you honestly think of anyone who deserves to be president more than Hillary (other than Condoleezza Rice)?

National Women’s History Month reflects on women of individual achievement. But I think it will be women coming together—from all walks of life—who will truly change the world.