Some women in the world are using their talent, voice and courage to tread where no woman has trodden before and are changing the world for generations to come.
Here we wanted to celebrate some of the ones that don’t always hit the headlines but whose impact and intention is everything.
Dr. Julie Smith - The British clinical psychologist taking the muddle out of mental healthFor too long, mental health information has been delivered by psychologists and psychiatrists that don’t speak our language. Dr. Julie Smith is a British psychologist who has sprung to fame on TikTok (she has 4.2 million followers and counting) offering clear, engaging, evidence-based advice in an easy-to-understand way. Particularly helpful for the younger generation, her recent book and bestseller Why has no one told me this before? is a must-read for teens and adults.
Samantha Cristoforetti – First Italian woman in space
Samantha Cristoforetti is quite literally soaring into space. A European Space Agency astronaut, she was not only the first Italian woman in space but she held the record for the longest uninterrupted spaceflight by a European astronaut until 2017 (when it was broken by another female, thankfully). In 2022 she also carried out her first space walk (the first for a European woman) and became the first European Female Commander of the International Space Station during her mission. Her book Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut is an inspiring and surprisingly down-to-earth (excuse the pun) read about her 200-day journey around the universe.
The European Space Agency
Sonia Guajajara - Brazilian indigenous activist and environmentalistThis Brazilian indigenous activist from the Guajajara tribe moved into politics in 2003, becoming a member of the leftist Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). Initially a candidate for the President of Brazil, she was then chosen as the vice presidential running mate of Guilherme Boulos, making her the first ever indigenous person to run for a federal executive position in Brazil. She has vowed to make the demarcation of indigenous lands and the battle against environmental crime top priorities in an attempt to right the wrongs of Bolsonaro’s "catastrophic legacy" of violence and environmental devastation in the Amazon.
Anne Boden - Founder of Starling bank
Anne Boden is changing the old-fashioned face of British banking. She started the UK’s Starling bank in 2014 after a 30-year career within some of the world’s best known financial companies. A computer scientist by training, she saw, earlier than others, the potential for digital technology to revolutionize the way we manage our finances. Over 3 million bank accounts later, the financial disruptor is continuously stealing people away from the older banks, and has won Best British Bank at the British Bank Awards many times over. With a highly intuitive app, Boden has also insisted that paper bank statements come in a chic envelope to encourage opening. Best of all, her #MakeMoneyEqual campaign pushes for more positive representation of women in the money world.
Sylvia Earle - American oceanographer and conservationist
Sylvia Earle, 87, is to marine protection in the US what David Attenborough, 96, is to environmentalism in the UK. Named as one of Time magazine’s ‘Heroes of the Planet,’ the marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer has, over her lifetime, pioneered research on marine ecosystems with a special focus on exploration, conservation and the development of new technologies for effectively accessing the deep sea and other remote environments. At the recent 5th International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Vancouver, she urged a global gathering of marine experts to rein in industrial overfishing in order to prevent species extinction. Her words: "Do unto fish as you would have them do unto you."
Olia Hercules – Ukrainian chef and campaigner
Ukrainian chef Olia Hercules forged a career as a chef in the UK having trained at the infamous Leiths Cookery School. Author of the award-winning cookbooks Mamushka, Kaukasis and Summer Kitchens, she also co-founded what became a global initiative ‘Cook for Ukraine’ in the weeks following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Along with her food writer friend Alissa Timoshkina, they urged people to raise money by hosting supper clubs serving Ukrainian and Eastern European dishes and donating to UNICEF. Thousands of people from different backgrounds got on board including top chefs, restaurants and award winning food writers and to date they have raised an astounding 2 million pounds to UNICEF, Choose Love and the Legacy of War Foundation.
Sallie Krawcheck – CEO and founder of Ellevest
Trailblazer Sallie Krawcheck is on a mission – her life’s mission – to get more money in the hands of women. A financial planning business built by women, for women, the Ellevest journey started for Sallie in 2014 with a team of Wall Street industry experts, each with the aim to help women take control of their money and grow it. Whether you want to invest, understand the stock exchange plan for the future or just manage your finances better, they can design a plan that works for you.
Simone Askew – First lieutenant in the United States Army
Simone Askew has made major strides towards racial and gender equality within the US military. In 2017, she became the first African American woman to earn the role of the First Captain, leader of the Corps of Cadets at West Point, becoming responsible for overseeing 4,400 members. A Rhodes scholar with an MPP from the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, she has also recently published her first book, Citizen Skyland, a compelling story of a young black woman finding herself, her courage and her legacy when the world needs it most.
Laura Bates – Founder of The Everyday Sexism Project
In 2012, Laura Bates set up a website to catalogue experiences of gender inequality in the UK. Despite receiving many threatening messages from men herself, calling her a "feminazi" and scoffing that sexism was a thing of the past, the success of the site grew and proved them wrong. Over the next five years, hundreds of thousands of testimonials flooded into her inbox and each is posted up online. The aim of the site is to expose everyday sexism and take a step towards gender equality, "To provoke responses so numerous and wide-ranging that the problem becomes impossible to ignore," she says.
Gabriela Hearst – Pioneer in sustainable, luxury fashion
Uruguayan-American Hearst is a pioneer of sustainability in luxury fashion. Having grown up on her family’s ranch surrounded by sheep and cattle, her notion of luxury was that things were beautifully crafted and made to last. Her brand represents a slower pace and process in fashion, where "Tradition is more important than trend. Where there is purpose in every piece." Gabriela’s goal is to make strong, modern collections without compromising her ethics and key values, taking into consideration where materials come from and who makes them. In 2020, the British Fashion Council awarded her Environment Honoree for her contribution to making positive change within the industry at the British Fashion Awards.
In 2018, she was appointed to the board of trustees of Save the Children, and in December 2020 she was made Creative Director of Chloe.
Shonda Rhimes - American screenwriter, producer and author
If you don’t know the name Shonda Rhimes, you most definitely will have watched her work. A super smart American TV screenwriter, producer and author, she's best known as the show-runner (aka executive head honcho producer and creative) behind hit shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, The Princess Diaries and Bridgerton. A force of creativity, her numerous honors include a Golden Globe, the Peabody Award, as well as lifetime achievement awards from the Directors Guild of America, Writers Guild and Producers Guild. In 2017, Shonda left traditional TV and headed for Netflix where her business Shondaland produces content for the streaming company.