Back by popular demand for some inspiring holiday reading: the LXMI ICON series. We started these profiles of inspiring women leaders in 2016 with features of social entrepreneurs like Jane Chen (founder of Embrace, which has saved hundreds of thousands of infants globally with a low-cost neonatal incubator).

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bianca Valenti, a badass professional surfer who made history by working together with a group of women for pay equity at the World Surfing League’s Mavericks big wave event, happening now. This is the first time women winners will be paid the same as men — $25K each — in a major milestone for women athletes in all sports.

Bianca Valenti (c) Audrey Lambidakis

According to USA Today, women still need to work 465 days to earn what their male counterparts get in one year. Valenti was paid 75% less than the male winner at this year’s Puerto Escondido Cup in Mexico, for surfing the same wave.

Why We’re Inspired by Bianca

Bianca’s fight isn’t just about her own career, which is beyond impressive (the woman surfs 50-foot towers for a living). It’s about raising the bar for women athletes everywhere. Bianca and several other pro surfers are the subjects of a new documentary, She Change, by director Sachi Cunningham, about the fight for #payequity. (Want to support the film? Donate here).

She’s humble, hard-working, and committed to changing the status quo. At one point, Bianca almost stopped surfing because she struggled so hard to earn a living. "I got burned out, and I realized if you didn't have model looks, you weren't going to be paid.” But she got back on her board and devoted her energy to make it possible for more women to pursue careers as professional athletes, paid based on their abilities, rather than their Instagram game.

Learn more: Bianca Valenti on ESPN; She Change Film

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