To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve put together a list of inspirational podcast episodes featuring some of the world’s most influential women that everyone should listen to.
From politicians and activists to comedians and authors, there’s a wealth of incredible stories here of women who’ve overcome self-doubt, oppressive regimes, social media critics and censorship. All these episodes are worth listening to and are filled with inspiring life lessons. These are the episodes filled with inspiring life lessons to add to your queue…
Inspirational podcast episodes everyone needs to listen to
Malala Yousafzai, Oprah’s Super Soul
A worldwide symbol for girls’ access to education and freedom of expression, Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai joins Oprah on her Super Soul podcast in this 2018 episode where the two discuss both her activism and her time living under the Taliban.
In her inimitable style, Oprah interviews the activist on the events that led up to her being shot point blank in the head, and the last moment she remembers beforehand. Malala’s father also joins the discussion later in the episode explaining his religious feelings on the day she was attacked. The episode has become even more of an important listen in the years since given the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan.
Serena Williams, Archetypes
The first episode of Meghan Markle’s podcast Archetypes sees the Duchess interview 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams. The two mothers discuss the double standards that women deal with in society when they’re labeled as being “ambitious”, and how this affects their lives and state of mind.
Meghan’s podcast has a general theme about the tropes that hold women back in the world, and the tennis champion explains how trying to balance her public life as a world-famous athlete constantly scrutinised with her private life was a difficult task. One of the most interesting stories that Williams tells is when she read an article describing a male player as “passionate” but herself as “having a meltdown”- demonstrating her point.
Margaret Atwood, Full Disclosure
Margaret Atwood has written plenty of books, but she’s easily most famous for The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985. The bestselling author joins LBC presenter James O’Brien on the Full Disclosure podcast to chat about her work, with a particular focus on Handmaid’s Tale thanks to its newfound popularity from the Hulu show.
The book’s lasting legacy and depictions of a totalitarian state treating women as property and second-class citizens are discussed, with Atwood noting that while the novel has had an impact around the world, some groups view it as a kind of handbook- particularly in the USA.
Janelle Monáe, LGBTQ&A
One of the music industry’s most outspoken LGBTQ icons, Janelle Monáe sits down with host Jeffery Masters on the LGBTQ&A podcast to talk about becoming a queer icon and her career so far. The podcast focuses on issues and people within the LGBTQ world, and Monae talks about her experience of coming out and how she wanted to do it on her own terms and in her own time.
The ep also sees her discuss her book The Memory Librarian, which was released last year, and themes within queer identity and gender nonconformity, as well as the threat of censorship. If you saw her star in Glass Onion, then there’s never been a better time to put this podcast on your playlist.
Julia Gillard, The Rest is Politics
The first and so far only female prime minister in Australia’s history, Julia Gillard has become one of the most prominent women in modern politics. Here she chats to Alastair Campbell on The Rest is Politics podcast about her career and how she got into politics, as well as the ins and outs of Australian governance and the role of the monarchy. Gillard also discusses women in politics, both in Australia and in general, and there’s a particular focus on her famed Misogyny speech. The speech occurred in the Australian parliament where she made an impassioned statement on sexism and the double standards women face in politics and in modern society, and in particular, she rebukes then Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbot’s claims that she herself was being sexist.
Maria Alyokhina, Russian Resistance
Russian political activist and punk rock musician Maria Alyokhina joins the Russian Resistance podcast to discuss women’s rights and freedom of thought and expression. As a member of Pussy Riot, she was detained and then arrested after performing inside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in 2012, with the group becoming world famous. Alyokhina strongly opposes the presidency of Vladimir Putin and his policies and recounts how she escaped Russia last year following the invasion of Ukraine.
She explains how she and others like her are attempting to change the Russian system from within and promote tolerance and free speech, as well as trying to help Ukraine and its people. In her opinion, resistance to the Putin regime can be successful, and Russian women are a powerful voice in achieving it.
Florence Pugh, Table Manners
One of the best-rising stars in Hollywood, Florence Pugh is known for her roles in Midsommar, Little Women, Black Widow and The Wonder, and sits down here for an interview on the Table Manners podcast.
Known for her no BS take on Hollywood, speaking up about women’s equality in the industry and pushing the envelope with her fashion on the red carpet. This episode of the award-winning Table Manners gives listeners an insight into Florence at home.
Hosts Jessie and Lennie Ware, both fans, interview Pugh on cooking, sourdoughs, vegetable patches and Tiramisu. The Oscar-nominated actress also chats about living in Los Angeles during the pandemic and having a new puppy, and if you’re a fan of her roles, this will simply be a delight.
Greta Thunberg, The View
There’s nobody who’s more of a famous climate activist than Greta Thunberg, and she recently appeared on The View to discuss her activism and the crises that the world faces from climate change. She talks about how the ongoing climate crisis that she’s been passionately advocating to reverse has reached a critical and existential point and also explains the content of her book, The Climate Book, as well as her protests with fellow activists. She also mentions that she feels that activists like her can’t stay only within legal methods to achieve political and social change, and the conversation is great to listen to if you’re curious about where the climate fight is now.
Sandra Oh, WTF
Killing Eve and Grey’s Anatomy star Sandra Oh is Marc Maron’s guest on this episode of his podcast WTF. The actress talks about how she overcame self-doubts and fears and became one of the biggest stars working in TV today, and how she had felt for much of her life that her career wouldn’t go very far due to a lack of opportunities for Asian actors. The ep is a great listen if you’re someone who’s struggled with self-doubts and esteem issues, with Oh being effortlessly charismatic and yet very down to earth. Grey’s and Eve fans, this is one for you to fire up as soon as possible.
Sue Perkins, Homo Sapiens
The delightful Sue Perkins chats with Chris Sweeney and Alan Cummings on their Homo Sapiens podcast. The pod is known for hosting guests from the LGTBQ community, with conversations and stories from a queer perspective.
There’s plenty of very funny chat to be found here, as the former Bake Off host and comedian talks about Harry Styles, what it took to leave GBBO, identity politics around the dinner table and hedgehogs on Hampstead Heath. There’s also an anecdote from Sue about how she drunkenly slid into Nicola Sturgeon’s DMs, but we’ll leave that for her to explain…
Caitlin Moran, How To Fail
The How to Fail podcast is one of our favourites, and this is one of its very best episodes. Journalist and author Caitlin Moran join How To Fail host Elizabeth Day in one of the pod’s live shows, and what follows is a conversation full of wit and real insight. Moran suffered from many insecurities as a child, and talks about them here along with how she learned to move past them and love herself and became a success in the writing world as a writer for The Times and more.
She also explains how she realised her daughter had developed an eating disorder, and felt hugely upset and found it difficult to deal with at first. Whether you have children or not, this is one podcast ep that you can’t miss.