Iranian-born Anousheh Ansari, who grew up dreaming of the wonders of outerspace, is today 220 miles above us on the International Space Station, in a breath-taking 11-day space journey. As the first female private space explorer, she has become a shining example of dreaming big and achieving it, and a source of inspiration for many Women in the Muslim world and beyond.
As a teenager in 1984, Mrs. Ansari came to the USA from Iran and later established herself as a serial entrepreneur--starting a telecommunications software firm (Telecom Technologies Inc.) with her husband, that was later sold for $500 million.
The achievements of this amazing woman are at a time when their is a growing sense of confidence and empowerment among the women in the Muslim world. Recently, a Pakistani woman, Ms. Namira Salim was reported to have been selected by US firm Virgin Galactic for its first commercial space flight in 2008.
Also a recent Gallup World Poll showed that a majority in all but one of eight predominantly Islamic countries agreed that women should be allowed to hold leadership positions. The results ranged from 54 percent support in Egypt to 78 percent in Iran to 91 percent in Lebanon. Only in Saudi Arabia was there less than majority backing (40 percent). The findings point up the fact that women have been elected to top posts in Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
These achievements are equally visible on the business front as well. Among the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women and the Fortune Top 50 Most Influential Women Business Leaders, 12 are citizens of Muslim majority countries. These business leaders include Guler Sabanci, Chairman, Sabanci Holding (Turkey), Nahed Taher, Founder and Chief Executive, Gulf One Investment Bank (Saudi Arabia ), Maha Al-Ghunaim, Founder, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Global Investment House (Kuwait), and Lubna Olayan, Chief Executive, Olayan Financing (Saudi Arabia.)
Imagine, Inspire, Be the change is the slogan of Mrs. Ansari's mission. She certainly has done that and seemingly many more are following suit.