Despite the gloomy pall of a faltering economy, an immobilized government, and the looming threat of debt default, there is sunny news for women and the recognition they’re receiving for their hard work in an array of sectors:

For BraveryMalala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl brutally shot in the head by a Taliban sniper in retaliation for her courageous advocacy of girls’ education in Pakistan’s tumultuous Swat Valley last October, was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament. Having become an icon lauded for her courage the world round, she addressed the United Nations in July. Previous winners of the Sakharov Prize have included Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela. She was short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize and earlier this year won the International Children’s Peace Prize awarded by South African activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

For Artistic ExcellenceThe Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Canadian short story-writer Alice Munro, long admired for deftly grappling with her subject matter, be it relationships between men and women or life in small towns, has dazzled readers and critics alike with her knowing grasp of human nature and for her innovations in story structure. She has garnered numerous accolades such as the National Book Circle Critics Award and the Man Booker International Prize for Literature and is known for collections such as Who Do You Think You Are? Open Secrets and The Love of a Good Woman, among many others. She is the 13th woman to be honored for in this category.

For Competence in Public Service and Policy:  Dr. Janet L. Yellen was nominated by President Obama to be the new chair of the Federal Reserve when Chairman Ben Bernanke steps down at the end of his term on Jan. 31, 2014. Widely known for her methodical and transparent approach to monetary policy—and for helping to keep interest rates and inflation in check—she is expected to be confirmed by the Senate. She currently serves as vice chairwoman, and if installed, would be the first woman to steward the bank. Prior to her tenure at the Federal Reserve, she has held a variety of leadership posts in the academic and public sectors.