From Shani Dhanda to Kamala Harris, these stalwart leaders lead the way to make progress under difficult circumstances, whether guiding a nation with a steady hand or standing up to injustice.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement of women who are taking on leadership roles and making a difference in the world. From politics to business to philanthropy, these women are using their voices and their platforms to create real change.
Women have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to adapt to the situation and lead with strength, respect, and empathy when given the chance.
More women in positions of leadership would not only contribute to a world where gender equality is the norm but will also show young girls unlimited possibilities in the future, inspiring them to strive for greatness and pursue careers as powerful leaders in the future. And, while there are far too many women making an influence to name, just a few have truly had a worldwide impact.
Here are just a few of the most significant female leaders in existence right now.
Shani Dhanda- Disability Rights Advocate and LinkedIn Changemaker
ShaniDhanda, who was born with a genetic bone abnormality known as "brittle bones disease," had broken her legs six times by the time she was 14 years old. At 3ft 10in, she defies assumptions and challenges others to think differently wherever she goes. “The way in which I view disability is that my condition doesn’t disable me; I’m only disabled when I experience barriers or bias,” says Shani Dhanda.
Dhanda launched the Diversability Card in 2019, the UK's first official discount card for handicapped people, with the goal of relieving financial burdens on disabled people and their families, who can face extra living expenditures of up to GBP $583 each month. She worked as a diversity and inclusion expert at Virgin Media for three years, founded the Asian Disability Network and the Asian Women Festival, and was named to the BBC's 100 Women List 2020.
Kamala Harris- Vice President of the United States of America-
The United States' first Asian American vice president is Kamala Harris. In addition, she was the first woman and person of colour to be elected to the US Senate. She became California's first Black attorney general in 2010 after winning the election.
She gained notoriety for walking out of negotiations with the big banks until her demands were met when serving as the DAG of California and securing a US$25 billion settlement for homeowners affected by the crisis of foreclosures. There is no questioning her desire and drive, even though her reputation as someone who is "tough on crime" has not been without criticism.
Tsai Ing-Wen- President of Taiwan
The first female president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen, is well recognised for her admiration of Margaret Thatcher. Tsai challenges all notions of what a single, female leader in Asia should be (she is Taiwan's first president who is not married).
Tsai, a recognised thinker and negotiator with a PhD in trade law from the London School of Economics, was re-elected in 2020 with more than 57% of the vote. Tsai is one of the most inspirational women in leadership since she carved out her own route and is the only Asian woman to hold the position of president without being related to a prior male politician or head of state. Under Tsai's direction, Taiwan had gone more than 200 days without a locally acquired COVID-19 case in December 2020, and the nation had only 600 cases and seven deaths overall since the epidemic began.
Dr.Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw- Chair & Managing Director of Biocon Ltd
Dr.Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the first female brewmaster in India and the richest self-made woman in the country, owes a lot to the humble ale. On the advice of her brewmaster father, she studied fermentation science and beer brewing, which helped her company's biotechnology make some of its most important discoveries.
The concept of "affordable innovation," which Mazumdar-Shaw refers to as her driving force, is important to her since she supports free access to all life-saving medications. She founded Biocon in 1978, which is now the largest producer of insulin in Asia and has given patients all over the world more than two billion accessible doses of biosimilar insulin. Despite frequently prioritising patients over money, Biocon's revenues for FY19 were US$800 million.
In 2016, Mazumdar-Shaw signed The Giving Pledge, pledging to donate 75% of her money to philanthropy. As a result, it is unlikely that she will retain much of her own income.
The trailblazer was recognised to Forbes' 2020 list of the 100 Most Powerful Women and received the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2020.
The company Biocon was the first biotech company in India to go public in 2014, and it was the only other Indian company to surpass US$1 billion on the first day of listing.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Global Economist
The World Trade Organization's next director general is NgoziOkonjo-Iweala (WTO). She is the first woman and the first African to chair the WTO despite the Trump Administration's opposition to her selection. She holds economics degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, and during her two terms as Nigeria's minister of finance, she waged anti-corruption and anti-cronyism efforts that cost her country US$15 billion and earned her the label "Trouble Woman."
She persuaded the Paris Club of Creditors to forgive Nigeria's debt of $30 billion dollars, including the outright cancellation of US$18 billion, while serving as Nigeria's Minister of Finance. She spent 25 years working at The World Bank, eventually moving up to Managing Director, which is the second-highest position. She serves as Board Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as well as numerous other international boards.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez- US Representative for New York
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. AOC has not wavered from her leftist policies since winning office in 2018. For many Republicans, the fact that AOC is a young, female, and a person of colour is undoubtedly a problem. She is possibly most despised, however, for being blatantly and outspokenly herself.
AOC is a democratic socialist who thinks that the US can and should reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. She also supports free Medicare and free college education. She and Secretary John Kerry co-chaired the Climate Unity Task Force on Climate Change, which helped President-elect Joe Biden develop his multitrillion-dollar climate programme. To interact with voters, she makes use of social media, most recently Among Us on her Twitch platform.
Naomi Osaka- World Champion Tennis Player
Because of her decision to speak out against racial inequality during the course of the previous year, Naomi Osaka was named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year in 2020. The 23-year-old defeated Serena Williams in the US Open finals, and as she was booed and jeered for beating one of her idols, she broke down in tears in public. The three-time Grand Slam winner, who plays for Japan but was born in the US, is active on Twitter and TikTok. She was nominated for an award for her activism against racial inequality, inspired a manga character, and won three Grand Slams.
Osaka donned seven different face masks to the US Open, each bearing the name of a US citizen who had been the victim of police abuse. Osaka has clearly discovered her voice and is just getting started by leveraging her global platform for social engagement in such a highly public manner.
She also broke the record for highest-paid female athlete ever after earning an astounding US$37.4 million in only a single year.
Shemara Wikramanayake, CEO of Macquarie Group
Shemara Wikramanayake, CEO of Macquarie Group, is the first woman to hold the title of highest paid CEO in Australia, earning an annual compensation of A$18 million. She claims that a significant factor in her success has been her husband's decision to raise their two sons as a stay-at-home dad. In 2018, she became the first Asian-Australian woman to lead an ASX 200 listed firm after holding 15 different professions across six nations since 1987.
Anne Wikramanayake, CEO of Macquarie Group, Australia's largest financial services company, was named to the World Bank's Global Commission on Adaptation last year. Only three CEOs worldwide have been named to this distinguished position, and she is one of them. She has led attempts to raise $1 billion for investments in sustainable energy as CEO, including raising money for a solar farm in South Africa.