POLITICS
03/08/2016 06:00 am ET

These 11 Women Are Blazing New Trails In American Politics

Who run the world? Girls.

The U.S. has long struggled to catch up with other nations when it comes to gender parity. Women are severely underrepresented at every level of government, and the country is currently ranked 98th worldwide in female political representation. 

However, there are signs of progress on the horizon: The 114th Congress has more women (and more people of color) than ever. And for the first time in American history, a woman may be a major party's nominee for president. 

Additionally, the bench of women making progress at the federal, state and city level goes far beyond household names like Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In honor of International Women's Day, here are 11 leaders who are breaking barriers and making major strides on behalf of other women.

  • U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch
    Lynch became the nation's top cop last April after a lengthy confirmation hold-up, and is the first black woman to hold the p
    Bloomberg via Getty Images
    Lynch became the nation's top cop last April after a lengthy confirmation hold-up, and is the first black woman to hold the post. Almost immediately, Lynch assured that criminal justice reform would be a top priority for her Justice Department. She's pressed for police reform in Baltimore, Ferguson, Chicago and other cities, and launched a $53 million program to reduce recidivism.

    "America is a land of second chances -- but it must also be a land where we give opportunities to young people who haven't gotten a chance at all," Lynch said last year.
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
    Baldwin was the <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/07/politics/wisconsin-tammy-baldwin-senate/">first openly gay person</a>
    Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images
    Baldwin was the first openly gay person elected to the Senate and has emerged as one of the upper chamber's leading proponents of LGBT rights. In 2013, Baldwin lobbied her Republican colleagues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prevent employers from discriminating against workers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That same year, she co-sponsored a bill to ensure the same-sex partners of federal workers received equal benefits to heterosexual partners. And in 2014, she pressed the federal government to end its ban on gay men donating blood.
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D)
    Since taking office in 2015, Brown has signed bills addressing several <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kate-brow
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Since taking office in 2015, Brown has signed bills addressing several key progressive issues, including background checks on guns, paid sick leave, making voter registration automatic and expanding access to birth control. In early March, she signed a landmark minimum wage bill, raising Oregon's wage floor to as high as $14.75 in some parts of the state. Brown has also broken a key barrier for LGBT Americans: She's the country's first openly bisexual governor.
  • Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah)
    Long seen as a rising star among GOP insiders, Love captured the national spotlight with her speech at the 2012 <a href="http
    Bill Clark via Getty Images
    Long seen as a rising star among GOP insiders, Love captured the national spotlight with her speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. While she lost her House bid that same year, Love went on to become Congress' first black female Republican with her victory in 2014. The child of Haitian immigrants, Love has taken a notably more compassionate view of immigration reform than many of her GOP colleagues.

    "The reason why there are so many people that are here illegally is because it’s easier to be here illegally than it is to be here legally," Love said last year. "We have to allow people the honor of experiencing what my parents experienced years ago and what these people are experiencing today."
  • Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)
    Duckworth, along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), is one of the first female Iraq War veterans to serve in Congress, as we
    Bill Clark via Getty Images
    Duckworth, along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), is one of the first female Iraq War veterans to serve in Congress, as well as the first Asian-American woman to represent Illinois. Duckworth lost both her legs in combat, and has championed the rights of individuals with disabilities throughout her time in Congress. She also introduced a bill that would require airports to provide private space for breastfeeding mothers in each terminal.

    First elected to the House in 2012, she's now challenging Illinois Republican Mark Kirk for his Senate seat.
  • Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby
    Shortly after her election as the youngest chief prosecutor in any major city, Mosby was assigned to investigate the death of
    Baltimore Sun via Getty Images
    Shortly after her election as the youngest chief prosecutor in any major city, Mosby was assigned to investigate the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died while in Baltimore police custody. Mosby announced charges for six police officers in May, marking a dramatic change from how similar cases had been handled in other cities. While the legal proceedings are still ongoing, Mosby has become a folk hero of sorts, impressing the country with her tough, straightforward approach to the case.
  • Fed Chair Janet Yellen
    The first woman to lead the Federal Reserve Board is also one of the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/janet-yelle
    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    The first woman to lead the Federal Reserve Board is also one of the most powerful people in the world. Last year, Yellen oversaw the Fed's decision to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade -- a pivotal decision that highlighted just how important she is in the world economy. She's also no stranger to breaking barriers: She started her career as the only woman in her Ph.D. class, and continued to take on traditionally male-dominated centers of power like Berkeley's Haas School of Business, the White House Council of Economic Advisers and the San Francisco Fed.
  • Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant
    Before Bernie Sanders brought his brand of democratic socialism to the national stage, Kshama Sawant made headlines as the <a
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Before Bernie Sanders brought his brand of democratic socialism to the national stage, Kshama Sawant made headlines as the first socialist in more than a century to sit on Seattle's city council. Sawant played a critical role in the city's successful fight for a $15 minimum wage, and is now pushing for increased funding for affordable housing.

    "This did not happen because the government suddenly decided to care about workers," Sawant told The Huffington Post last year about the wage push. "We made it happen. We left them with no choice. They could either support us or be swept aside into the dustbin of history. That is how it's going to be."
  • New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R)
    Martinez, a lawyer and former district attorney, became the nation's first female Hispanic governor in 2011. She's also the f
    MCT via Getty Images
    Martinez, a lawyer and former district attorney, became the nation's first female Hispanic governor in 2011. She's also the first woman to ever hold the post in New Mexico. In 2013, she signed the Fair Pay for Women Act, which makes it easier for New Mexico women to challenge their employers on pay discrimination. She's also stood up to GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump on his anti-immigrant rhetoric, calling his comments "horrible" and "uncalled for."
  • Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.)
    Meng, long an equal pay advocate, has recently taken on a less publicized issue of equality: the "tampon tax." In February, s
    Bill Clark via Getty Images
    Meng, long an equal pay advocate, has recently taken on a less publicized issue of equality: the "tampon tax." In February, she introduced a bill that would allow women to purchase feminine hygiene products with funds in their untaxed health care spending accounts, making the necessary products more affordable for all women. She's also called on New York lawmakers to eliminate the sales tax on these products.
  • California State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D)
    Jackson has served in the state Senate for less than four years, but in that time has introduced&nbsp;a slew of progressive b
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Jackson has served in the state Senate for less than four years, but in that time has introduced a slew of progressive bills geared at advancing women's equality and opportunities. She's championed paid family leave, child care programs and stronger responses to sexual assaults on community college campuses. And thanks to Jackson, California now has one of the toughest equal pay laws in the nation. 

    "We need more women to run for office and more women to serve in the legislature," she said in an interview last year. "I believe our state will be stronger and better for it."
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