The past year has seen women taking the lead in the worlds of science, politics, fashion, culture and more. Here are some of the ladies that have caught our attention over the past twelve months
Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States of America
Kamala Harris has been a much-talked-about modern icon of American politics. In January 2021 Harris became the first woman to serve as Vice President of the United States and she also became the first woman of colour to serve in such a position, giving hope to millions of women around the world. A former prosecutor and ground-breaking attorney general in California, Harris has been breaking barriers and defying the odds throughout her career. The daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father she was the second Black woman and first South Asian American senator in history. After being chosen as a running mate in Joe Biden’s bid for President last year, Harris became a vision of hope for women, attracting fans from all around the world and inspiring a young generation of black women to realise they can achieve their goals.
Kathrin Jansen, Head of Vaccine Research and Development at Pfizer
The most talked-about challenge of 2020 has to be the race to find the first effective and safe vaccine to protect against coronavirus. While we have all been hoping and waiting for the arrival of the vaccine, teams of scientists have been working tirelessly over the past month to ensure they find a solution that will finally put an end to the pandemic. You may be surprised to know that one of the most powerful players in the search was a woman. Kathrin Jansen, Head of Vaccine Research and Development at Pfizer led a team of 650 experts, in collaboration with German startup BioNTech, to develop a successful vaccine against COVID-19. Now being used widely across the world the Pfizer is thought to be one of the most effective and efficient. Jansen, 62, has led the development of the world’s two best-selling vaccines, against human papillomavirus and pneumococcus, at two different companies. Her 36-year career in the industry means she was more than qualified to assist with the search by Pfizer when she joined in March 2020.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
One country that has been praised for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is new Zealand. Led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand reacted quickly to the virus with an aggressive response in the form of a nationwide lockdown and halting foreign visitation to New Zealand in mid-March 2020, something that is still in place until today. Thanks to Ardern and her team’s quick response New Zealand is now considered “COVID-free.” As the youngest and first female Prime Minister of New Zealand Ardern began the role at the age of just 37 in October 2017. She first became associated with the country’s Labour Party when she was 17 when she became involved in politics and the re-election campaign of Harry Duynhoven, a Labour Party member of parliament. Ardern later entered the House of Representatives as its youngest member when she was 28 years old before becoming Prime Minister. Now in her second term, Ardern has been praised around the world for her “straight to the point” approach in fighting the virus as well as her dedication to other key issues in the country such as ending child poverty, helping under deprived families, increasing the country’s minimum wage and prioritising healthcare and education.
Waad Al-Kateab, Journalist and Filmmaker
Syrian journalist and filmmaker Waad Al-Kateab was nominated for four British Academy Film Awards in 2020 for her powerful documentary “For Sama”. It won the award for Best Documentary and the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards. Filmed within the harsh reality of some of Syria’s war-torn areas the documentary highlights the reality of living in war-torn Aleppo. A journalist by profession Al-Kateab, began reporting on the war for Chanel 4 News in the United Kingdom. She soon began creating documentaries to share with the world what was happening on the ground throughout the civil war. Al-Kateab attracted much attention with “For Sana” a film named after her daughter and last year was on the list of the BBC’s 100 Women. Al-Kateab whose family have now found refuge in London, has become a beacon of hope for other women in Syria.
Amanda Gorman, Poet And Activist
Amanda Gorman became the star of President Biden’s inauguration earlier this year when she read her poem “The Hill We Climb,” live on stage. The young poet’s work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. She was the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate and she published her first book The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough in 2015. At just 22 Gorman has founded the non-profit organization One Pen One Page, a youth writing and leadership program and written several books. Gorman is rumoured to have plans to run for president herself, with the run in 2036 reportedly on the cards. Since her appearance at the presidential inauguration, Gorman has since found immense fame and was even invited to read one of her poems at the 2021 Superbowl.
Fashion model Halima Aden became known as the world’s first “Hijab-wearing supermodel”. The American-Somali model has featured in campaigns for the likes of Max Mara, Tommy Hilfiger, Alberta Ferretti, Yeezy and many more. But in November 2020 Halima spectacularly quit the fashion industry, stating that she had realised it was incompatible with her Muslim religion. In a series of Instagram stories, Aden revealed that she had quit runway modelling as it compromised her religious beliefs. The model received support for her decision from personalities including Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, and Bella Hadid. Throughout her career, Halima was always selective about the jobs she undertook and the clothing she wore, however, there was always a certain element of compromise that she had to endure. She has however indicated that she would do modelling work again as long as she could set the conditions.