Eight women enrolled in Harvard Business School’s two-year MBA program for the first time in 1963, following a December vote by faculty. By 1979, that number grew to 15 women. And today—50 years later—females represent 40 percent of the School’s entering class.

To commemorate the milestone, Harvard Business School will be diving deeper into the issues females face in business throughout the academic year, in hopes of “accelerating the advancement of women leaders who make a difference in the world.” From Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Class Day address in May to the Women’s Student Association’s conference in February, the year has been packed with events highlighting the power of women.

In an interview with female alumnae at this year’s reunion, alumna Diane Hessan, president and CEO of Communispace, said:

I still really feel an obligation to just mentor the next generation of women and get them to be bold and dream big, and realize that you can’t have everything that you aspire to in life, but women can have so much more than they think they can.

Harvard Business School’s plan is to conjure up those affirmations, as well. “We are committed to making the world a place in which men and women both can thrive,” said Dean Nitin Nohria in an introductory video. “As we mark this 50th year, I hope that we will, in a very profound way, continue to change the role of women in business.”

Hundreds of alumnae have helped change the role of women in business since leaving the School with their MBA in hand, and we’ve provided an example of 12 below. These are women to follow for inspiration, and mark only the beginning of the ever-growing list of trailblazers, that also includes Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard; Abigail Johnson, president of Fidelity Investments; Elaine Chao, the 24th U.S. Secretary of Labor; and Ann Moore, chairman and CEO of TIME.

As Sheryl Sandberg said to the 2012 graduating class, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat—just get on.” Here’s to more women taking that advice.