From #Metoo and #TimesUp movement to women breaking the ceilings and winning big in politics, the year 2018, was a significantly eventful year in the field of women leadership and gender equality all across the world. While we witnessed the world without women for a day in Spain, we also celebrated the first world leader taking maternity leave and women winning leaderships in major organizations and businesses. As 2019 proceeds, we must not forget to acknowledge these powerful women icons paving the ways for women empowerment through their exemplary steps and accomplishments. As such, here is the list of global female icons of 2018.
The Chancellor of Germany since 2005 leading center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Dorothea Merkel, is by far, considered the most powerful woman in world politics. Her insurmountable role in combating financial crisis in Europe and international level and introduction of ‘open-door’ refugee policy to Syrian immigrants have incredibly influenced the political world, although created some internal party dispute over the latter issue. Considered as de facto leaderof the EU, Merkel was reelected to serve her fourth term in the party in March 2018. However, as she announced her current term as ‘the last’, CDU has elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, another female leader, to be her successor after 2021.
2. Theresa May
Serving as British Prime Minister since July 2016, Theresa May is a one of the most powerful global female icons. In November 2018, her Brexit withdrawal agreement got backed by European leaders, stating it as the best deal possible for Britain and the deal being balanced on both sides. Although the parliamentary decision, rescheduled to be on 17 January 2019, is crucial to determining the way forward to the deal which bears risk of her status as a leader, she has undeniably influenced the world by leading Britain during this historically key period.
3. Michelle Bachelet
The first female President of Chile serving from 2006-2010 and 2014-2018, Veronica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, is also currently leading the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights after being nominated by Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General in August 2018. Physician and military strategist, Bachelet has served Chile from 1990 since the end of dictatorship as Health minister in 2000 and defense minister in 2002. Also the first Executive Director for UN Women, she is well known for her economically flourishing contribution in health, welfare and human rights area in Chile which places her today as one of the most influential women leaders in the world.
4. Christine Lagarde
Managing Director and Chairwoman of International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 2011, the French Lawyer and politician Christine Lagarde has been truly a phenomenal personality, providing financial guidance to 189 member states of IMF, advocating for global trade dispute fixing and digital currency uses. Marking the 10th anniversary of bank’s collapse in 2008, Lagarde remarkably mentioned about the importance of female leadership in finance as a key ingredient to sharpened thinking, greater diversity and stability.
5. Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern since October 2017 captured the spotlight in 2018 by giving birth and taking maternity leave while in office. Ardern, aged 37, is the second elected world leader, after Late Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, to give birth while in position and the first one to take the maternity leave for six weeks. The mother-in-chief highly set the example on taking parental leaves shattering the stereotype of motherhood being an end to professional career of women. New Zealand, celebrating its 125 years of women’s suffrage has also increased the parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks, with possibility of rising up to 26 weeks by 2020.
6. Sahle- Work Zewde
Ethiopia got its first female President- Sahle Work Zewde, through unanimous vote of parliament in October 25, 2018 following the resignation of former President of Ethiopia. Career diplomat, aged 68, Sahle- Work Zewde, has previously served as Ambassador to France, Djibouti, and Senegal and as Permanent Representative to Inter-Governmental Authority of Development (IGAD), UNESCO and Special Representative to UN- Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres to the African Union (AU). She has started her term alongside the government to be comprised of 50% female as per the decision by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and has prioritized on focusing on women roles in maintaining peace and security as her first and major priority.
7. Stacey Cunningham
The 67th President of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Stacey Cunningham breaks the ceiling as the first female president in May 2018 since its foundation in 1740. Fifty one years after having Muriel Siebert as first female member in the floor, Cunningham’s presidency sets a historical milestone. Started as an NYSE intern in 1990s, Cunningham worked as a trading floor clerk till 2005. After a short career detour to pursue her passion in culinary, she rejoined the exchange in 2012 securing her position as a Chief Operating Officer in 2015. With her and Adena Friedman as NASDAQ head, both the largest stock exchanges now have female in the lead, which is indeed an inspiration to women to cut into male-dominated industries.
8. Holly Ridings
Next woman to shatter the ceiling in the science zone is Holly Ridings who was appointed as the first female Chief Flight Director at NASA in September 2018. Texas born, 45 years old, Ridings joined the Space agency in 1998 as a flight controller and since then has been escalating as a flight director in 2005 and leading several high profile missions. Now as a Chief Flight Director, she will be supervising 32 flight directors managing human spaceflights and oversee missions to International Space Station.
9. Tsai Ing Wen
Navigating her way through rising tensions in cross-strain relations after 2016 election, Tsai Ing Wen, President of Republic of China (Taiwan) has been one of the inspiring political figures since the start of her term. Former party chair of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from 2008- 2012 and 2014-2018, she was elected President of Taiwan after the big win of DPP in the election of 2016. Former Law Professor Wen, is the first woman President who is also known for being for being first unmarried President and aboriginal descent. In effort of reparation for the unprecedented loss of DPP in November’s local election in 2018, she has now appointed a new Premier Su Tseng-chang, replacing Premier William Lai for better meeting voters’ needs on growing economic stimulus, wages and standing up to mainland China.
10. Mary Barra
First female CEO of General Motors since 2014, Mary Barra, has been leading the company towards technological space by bringing in electric and automated driverless cars and running Maven, a ride-share service. While she hit the headlines by earning $22 million in 2017 and having the highest compensation of any leader of Detroit Big Three automaker, we applaud her here for General Motors being ranked no. 1 on the 2018 Global Report on Gender Equality. The company is one of the only two global businesses having no gender pay gap. With establishing a business with gender parity, Mary Barra has definitely stood out as an inspiration in the male-dominated business world.