Changemakers: 10 Women Who Make a Difference
We have some important things to do in the next few years – in terms of the economy, society, and climate change. Luckily, there are already strong women making a difference, and here are a few of our favourite game-changers and changemakers
1. Janina Kugel
She has given the corporation a modern, downright hip face. For more than four years the chief human resources officer and member of the board has been the contemporary figurehead of Siemens. Her fresh appearance, approachable self-confidence, and enormous presence have set a new benchmark. She has advanced issues such as female empowerment and diversity while being a role model for many. Janina Kugel will leave Siemens at the beginning of 2020 and any company that considers themselves innovative and future-oriented should be lining up now. Perhaps they already are.
2. Greta Thunberg
This 16-year-old from Sweden has inspired a new term, “The Greta Thunberg effect.” She’s the new face of climate activism and a rebel with a cause who kick-started the movement Fridays for Future, which has now catapulted into a global event with 1.4 million students from 112 countries actively involved. For her activism she’s won many laurels, the latest being a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was also featured on the cover of this year’s May edition of Time magazine. Greta is a breath of fresh air among contemporary climate activists because of her age, passion, and walking the talk.
3. Katharine Viner
In 2015 she became the first female editor-in-chief of The Guardian, which was, already at the time, suffering heavy losses. She turned the situation around by finding new ways to fund the company – by turning to the readers. Eventually, around one million readers from 180 countries contributed through voluntary donations, subscriptions, and membership. Katharine also helped generate 1.35 billion page views and a profit of £800,000, compared to a massive loss of £19 million the previous year. More than half of the company’s turnover comes from online business and the company is now financially sustainable for the foreseeable future. Katherine is not only a great editor-in-chief but a visionary who has changed the track of The Guardian.
4. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
At the age of 29, she is the youngest woman ever to be elected to serve in the United States Congress. Often referred to as AOC, she worked as a waitress and bartender before successfully running for Congress. Her use of social media as a tool to reach out to the masses makes her special to us and her huge presence to her contemporaries is noteworthy. Among some of her policies, she advocates Medicare for All, free public college, federal jobs, and proposal for a green new deal. She’s one woman who has broken the conventional barriers with her age, origin, and economic background, and millions of young Americans look up to her for inspiration.
5. Nadia Murad
She is the first Iraqi and Yazidi to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Nadia was abducted by the Islamic State in 2014 during the Yazidi genocide and held captive for three months as a slave before escaping. After she was free, she founded Nadia’s Initiative, an organization that helps women and children affected by mass atrocities and human trafficking. The 26-year-old was made the first goodwill ambassador for the ‘Dignity of Survivors’ by the United Nations. She’s the epitome of courage and has given hope to people around the world affected by war and conflict.
6. Isatou Ceesay
Known as the “Queen of Plastic Recycling” in The Gambia, Isatou Ceesay is on a mission to educate women in her country to recycle plastic. With the help of four women, she started the first recycling center in her native country in 1997. But this was initially found to teach the villagers to recycle any sorts of house waste rather than plastic alone. This Gambian role model later learned more about plastic recycling and waste management and for the past 17 years has been on a journey of training women recycle plastic, thereby empowering and enabling them to be financially independent and thus reach higher roles in society. Her typical day starts at 5 am and her work lasts until late at night. A hard worker and a role model for her community, she gives back to society far more than she gets.
7. Dr. Nakeema Stefflbauer
The Brooklyn native spent a lot of time in North Africa and the Middle East throughout her twenties before finishing degrees at Harvard University with a focus on migration and integration, eventually honing her attention in on the marginalized community of the tech set up of Berlin. She realized that the city was very international and she wished to create a program that encouraged both gender and ethnic diversity in tech, thereby founding FrauenLoop. The organization helps to include refugee/immigrant/women with children in the tech industry and coaches and mentors girls and women by conducting various classes and career workshops.
8. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
She is the billionaire entrepreneur who redefined the state of pharmaceutical industry in India. Her company Biocon Limited, based in Bangalore, is India’s first biotechnology company. She was awarded the Othmer Gold Medal that recognizes outstanding individuals who contributed to chemistry and science through their activities in areas including innovation, entrepreneurship, research, etc. She expanded her company from being an industry enzymes manufacturer to a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company. This self-made industrialist believes in the philosophy of ‘affordable innovation’ and thinks that properly applied business models can provide an ongoing foundation for sustainable progress in society.
9. J. K. Rowling*
J.K. Rowling is not only one of the richest female authors of the 21st century but also a strong international figure who voices her opinions and raises her voice against Trump and Brexit. She is noted for providing social, moral, and political inspiration to her fans across the world. A classic example of the “rags to riches” narrative, Rowling went from living on benefits to being the world’s first billionaire author and still stands for good values, humanity, and is committed to social responsibility. She supports multiple charities worldwide and has even launched her own, Lumos. The 53-year-old mother of three recently lost her billionaire status after donating most of her wealth to charities.
*Editor's note: At the time when this article was written, J.K. Rowling's political voice was very different. The author has recently used her considerable influence to spread misinformation and damaging implications about the transgender community. We do not wish to erase J.K. Rowling's positive contributions to literature and society. Rather, we find it particularly disappointing that someone who holds such an influential position because of her positive contributions would then direct her energy towards a cause that we deem unethical.
10. Kathyrn Bigelow
She made history by being the first female director to win the Academy Award, the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, and the BAFTA Award for Best Direction for her war movie The Hurt Locker. Kathryn not only loves climbing mountains and scaling dunes to beat most of the young male members of her film unit, but she also has a penchant for climbing atop and reaching the summit of an industry like Hollywood, where sexism prevails in all departments. Nonetheless, she has overcome and is now one of the most revered female directors in the world. The 67-year-old Californian native advocates more women to come to the forefront of filmmaking and break the existing gender barriers.
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