You’ve probably seen a smattering of chat about the TIME 100 list on your newsfeed over the last few days – Jennifer Lawrence calling Adele “patience and kindness wrapped up in the tough skin of a damn gangster”, Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicki Minaj getting their own covers of one of the magazine’s most coveted issues or that fact that despite prostrating over the brilliance of their trailblazing entrants, the TIME list is still not gender-balanced with 60 men and 40 women on this year’s list. Whatever you think of gender quotas in the workforce, if TIME can’t find 10 more women whose work is changing the world as we know it, how can we ever expect, or even aspire to, an equal society?
But it did get us thinking, who are the forty women on this prestigious list?
Here’s a look at two women from each of the five sections whose achievements are truly changing personal, professional, scientific and cultural spheres on a global scale.
It’s likely you’ve heard the name Kathy Kennedy and perhaps have a vague idea of what she does, but the truth is, her success as one of the most prolific film producers of this lifetime not only defies societal gender norms, but also the extremely patriarchal movie industry. She founded Amblin Films with Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall and produced some of the top grossing films of our generation, including E.T., the Jurassic Park series, The Sixth Sense, Munich, Schindler’s List, War Horse and Lincoln. In 2013 she became president of Lucasfilm and brand manager of the Stars Wars franchise and is now producing the already-record-breaking new series of galactic movies. Her work has been nominated for 120 Academy Awards and won 25.
Priscella has made the list along with her husband, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, but their recognition it not about the digital behemoth. Chan, a practicing pediatrician, and Zuckerburg last year set up the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, promising to commit 99% of their wealth to “improving education, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities”. They certainly haven’t aimed small, as Bill and Melinda Gates said, “Changing the world once was not enough for them”.
Never heard of Guo Pei? The likelihood is that you’ve definitely seen her work. Remember Rihanna’s trailing golden cape 2015 Met Ball? Pei designed it. She’s considered one of the most esteemed designers in China and renowned for her delicate silk and embroidery work – Rihanna’s outfit took two years of careful craftsmanship and intricate hand-stitching to create. She is breaking the fashion boundaries that separate East and West with her breath-taking work and with her designs currently exhibited in the Met and a couture showroom in Paris, she’s on her way to becoming the world’s sartorial darling.
Most of you will know her as Cookie, the fierce drug-dealer-turned music mogul in the seriously addictive Empire. According to the show’s creator Lee Daniels she’s equally as gutsy in real life. When Henson came into audition for Cookie she immediately told Daniels that she would not take the role unless Terrance Howard played her estranged husband. He hadn’t even offered her the part yet. With this show, she’s finally entered the (mainly white) Hollywood zeitgeist with her emotive acting skills, strong voice and powerful persona – both on and off the screen.
Meet one of the most powerful people in the world. As Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund since 2011, Largarde essentially holds the world’s economy in her very capable hands. Headquartered in Washington DC, the IMF is an international organisation whose core purpose is to monitor and secure global financial stability, promote growth and facilitate international trade. Lagarde is also a noted labour lawyer and was the first woman to become finance minister of France. She took over as Ministre des Finances during one of the Eurozone’s most tumultuous period between 2007 and 2011 and, wait for it, kept her reputation intact. How many Irish ministers of that era can say the same?
There some things so horrific to consider we do have a tendency to turn away from them, shield ourselves from the terror and put it at a distance so we can’t ‘feel’ it. Jaha Dukureh is refusing to let the world do that with female genital mutilation. As an infant, she had her external sex organs removed in her native Gambia. Shipped to New York for an arranged marriage at the age of 15, Dukureh had to beg schools to educate her and is now a global activist to end the practice of FGM and make the transportation of women abroad for the procedure illegal.
After winning an Olympic bronze medal in Judo, Ronda Rousey retired from the sport at the age of 21 to take up MMA and has gone on to become its most famous (and highest-paid) face. Holding the title of UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship for a phenomenal three years before losing to Holly Holm last December, Rousey continues to campaign to change our attitude toward the female body. She considers what her body looks like as purely a by-product of, and inconsequential to, what her body can do. Tina Fey asks “Could Ronda be the one to finally help us understand that as females, we define the word feminine and that it doesn’t define us?”. Lets hope so.
Yes, she’s Taylor Swift’s bestie. Yes, she’s a Victoria’s Secret model who is a 34-time Vogue cover star. But did you know Karlie Kloss has been a philanthropist since her teens, raising money for AIDS charities, has teamed up with Momofuku Milk Bar to create Karlie’s Kookies which gives proceeds to hungry children around the world through FEED Projects and collaborated with Warby Parker to benefit Edible Schoolyard NYC? She also advocates for girls to start coding, establishing a Kode With Karlie scholarship, along with a number of other initiatives to inspire young women to pursue careers in technology and software engineering. On top of all that she’s currently enrolled at NYU. Not just a pretty face.
This year, Kathy Niakan, a developmental biologist at the Francis Crick Institute of London, became the first scientist granted permission to edit the genomes of human embryos for research into how our genes affect our mental and physical development. A highly sensitive area of research, Niakan and her team are looking at the very early stages of embryonic development, and by altering genome structures they hope to answer questions about the cause of infertility, miscarriages and developmental disorders. She is helming an unprecedented look into how our early cell lineage affects the people we become. It’s kind of mind-blowing when you think about.
The Costa Rican-born advocate is the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. She founded and led the not-for-profit Center for the Sustainable Development of the Americas that called for Latin America’s inclusion in the Convention on Climate Change and implemented national climate change and emissions reduction schemes in numerous South American countries. Since taking up the executive secretary position in 2010, she has succeeded in chartering the most ambitious global resolution against climate change in human history through the 2015 Paris Agreement. She is described by Robert Redford as “fierce and gentle fighter who tells it like it is but never wavers in her unrelenting optimism”.