Who have been the most influential women of 2020? FT readers respond

Every December, FT Weekend Magazine dedicates a special series to profiling some of the most influential women of the year from across the globe.

Of course our list isn’t exhaustive — each year there are far more women who deserve to be included than we can possibly fit. This is why we asked for your help in highlighting some of the game changers who have mattered to you in 2020.

This year we were delighted to receive hundreds of nominations, and we enjoyed reading about the women you felt had broken ground, coped with crises or brought attention to some of the most important issues of our time, whether in their community or at a national or international level.

Here is a selection of 12 game-changing women who FT readers thought stood out in 2020.


The world is beginning to realise that empathy is a necessary quality for leadership. New Zealand’s handling of the pandemic has also shut up the naysayers.


She understood quickly the possible consequences of Covid. That it was not flu. She managed to get her country on side in limiting the number of cases, and pretty much eradicating it in New Zealand. She did this by demonstrating a remarkable lack of hubris, unlike some other — mostly male — world leaders who showed the absolute opposite traits and, as a result, lack of success.

Richard in UK

Ozlem TUreci, chief medical officer, BioNTech

It’s such a beautiful story: two gifted immigrants [Türeci and husband Uğur Şahin] fell in love and are on course to have developed the first vaccine against the coronavirus, a truly global threat. And she is the chief scientist in the company that has developed it!

Ze Estevao

Özlem Türeci and Katalin Kariko of BioNTech — two of the crucial scientists behind the breakthrough of using mRNA to induce immune reactions. Their persistence over many years provides the world with a potential way out of the pandemic and a platform for tackling many other diseases.


kamala Harris, us vice president-elect

Navigated through a crowded field to emerge as the first woman on a winning American presidential ticket. First African-American in pole position for the presidency. Ran the second- largest justice department in the US, can sell tickets to her interrogations on the Justice committee and hasn’t lost who she is on the rise to power. She will be a crucial right hand in the incoming administration.

— Edwina

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, belarusian politician

The election campaign in Belarus almost ended before it began, with three key opposition leaders jailed before the election day. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, one of the leader’s wives, was allowed to run on her husband’s collected signatures and, essentially, out of pity. In an unexpected turn of events, she united with two female leaders of the other candidates’ teams, and formed a trio which lifted the country out of political slumber and gave people hope.

Roman Faminou


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Women, meet mentors at cleveland.com’s Mentoring Monday summit in February

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Northeast Ohio women can meet dozens of mentors virtually through Mentoring Monday on Feb. 22.

The program presented by Advance Ohio, including The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com, will take place from noon to 2 p.m. and will be hosted on the online platform Remo.

Beate Blaich-Smith Agency Business Dev Lead for Advance Ohio says the program works to help local professional women create a network and learn from one another.

“It’s basically for all professional women who want to connect and learn from each other and get some advice from women in leadership positions,” says Blaich-Smith.

Last year, at the first Mentoring Monday, dozens of Northeast Ohio women from business, real estate, science, theater, non-profits, higher education, and more met to discuss careers and goals.

“It was fantastic, we had over 300 women in the room, and it was women from all walks of life,” says Blaich-Smith.

Blaich-Smith says the summit is not a “one size fits all” event, women from all walks of life and professional backgrounds are always encouraged to get involved with the program.

This year, though virtual, the program will continue to include one-on-one speed coaching, three to four short conversations with different mentors, and group sessions.

No keynote speaker has been chosen as of yet says Blaich-Smith.

New to the program is a pre-event podcast, featuring some of the sponsoring mentors, an expanded promotions plan, group discussion sponsorships, and a virtual gift bag.

Tickets are $30, available here. For $10 off, use the discount code EARLYBIRD.

The mentor list is expected to grow, here is a few of them:

Rebecca Ruppert McMahon Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association

Laura Johnston Content director, cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, Advance Ohio – cleveland.com

Kellie Harris Plant Manager for our North American Aerospace, Saint – Gobain

Bethany Lemley Operations Supervisor, Government & Fine Arts, FedEx Custom Critical

Erin Senediak Sales Leader, FedEx Custom Critical

Ka-Pi Hoh, Ph.D. Organizational Change Management Director, The Lubrizol Corporation, a Berkshire Hathaway company

Margaret Mitchell President, YWCA Greater Cleveland

Bethany Snyder Senior Territory Manager, Liberty Mutual

Marianne Parkinson Chief Marketing Officer, MarshBerry

Shelley Roth President, Pierres

Kenya Guess President & CEO, BonnieSpeed Logistics

Marianne Crosley President & CEO, Cleveland Leadership Center

Susan E Donlan Chief Communications Officer, KeyBank

Gloria Walas First Vice President, The Haas-Compass Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Kathy Hirko Owner, KAZ Company

Jody M. Wheaton Executive Director, Client Solutions & Programs, Corporate College, a Division of Cuyahoga Community College

Polly Hanff Global Regulatory Affairs & Quality Director, Saint – Gobain

Sandra Madison Owner and President, RPMI

Jane Christyson CEO, Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio

Carol Stefano Commercial and Technical Director, Aerospace, Saint – Gobain

Virginia Morrison Executive aide – Office of Vice President UTech/CIO, Case Western Reserve University

Susan Fuehrer VA Chief Executive – as President of Social Determinants of Health and Health Equity, MetroHealth

Kim Riley President, Hylant

Tari Rivera President, Regency Construction Services

Shirrell Greene Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland Metro Schools


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Billboard’s 2020 Women In Music Hall of Fame Honorees Speak Out

This was the year Roc Nation client Megan Thee Stallion claimed superstardom, at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Savage” (featuring Beyoncé) and as the featured artist on Cardi B’s “WAP,” which topped the Hot 100 for four weeks. Rostermates Lil Uzi Vert, Alicia Keys and Mariah Carey all reached new peaks. And Roc Nation, after partnering with the NFL to use its platform for entertainment and social justice, in February co-produced the Super Bowl halftime show with Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. Reprise: A Roc Nation Album raised funds for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Foundation for Criminal Justice, and JAY-Z successfully lobbied for passage of probation reform legislation in California. Through it all, says Perez, she has managed the stress of the year by “focusing on things within my control and making sure we are better positioned for whatever the new normal is.”

Song That Inspired Me in the Past Year: “Alicia Keys’ ‘Love Looks Better on You,’ because it recognizes that love is the best option.”

Danielle Aguirre (Co-executive of the Year 2018)
Executive vp/general counsel, National Music Publishers’ Association

Courtesy of NMPA

Danielle Aguirre

The NMPA this year continued to focus on reaching settlements and deals for licenses to “provide needed revenue for our members and songwriters,” says Aguirre, noting that the organization has finalized global settlements and/or licenses with Peloton, TikTok, YouTube, Snap Inc. and others. Aguirre also continues to oversee the NMPA’s battle against Spotify, Amazon, Google and Pandora in the wake of the tech companies’ appeal of a 2018 Copyright Royalty Board decision to raise publishing royalties. In November, the NMPA joined the Nashville Songwriters Association International in a motion asking the CRB to set interim royalty rates at the current levels.

Crucial Issue Facing the Music Industry: “How to protect live-music venues and slowly bring people back to live events. Live music is what I miss most about these last months.”

Jacqueline C. Charlesworth (Co-executive of the Year 2018)
Partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron

Chris Reed

Jacqueline Charlesworth

“It will be exciting to see the launch on Jan. 1 of the new Mechanical Licensing Collective created under the Music Modernization Act,” says Charlesworth, whose efforts — along with Aguirre, Dina LaPolt and Susan Genco — to achieve passage of the landmark music licensing law led to their shared recognition as Executive of the Year honorees in 2018. Charlesworth remains on the front lines of copyright battles, filing a brief late last year with the D.C. Court of Appeals on behalf of two groups to support increased royalty rates for songwriters. In July, she testified before a Senate subcommittee on what she called the “broken” Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which governs copyright online. “A little over a year ago,” she says, “I left a big firm and moved to Los Angeles. I’m extremely grateful to have built a thriving music and copyright practice out here, even in the midst of a pandemic. And I’m especially proud of my work on

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Against all odds: South Sudan’s daring drive on women’s football | Football

South Sudan gained independence in 2011 and its history is so short that it is a regular low-scoring answer on the popular quiz show Pointless. Much less trivially, for a majority of its existence the country has been in civil war, with peace and a new national unity government in place only from February of this year.

For a country clawing its way back from the devastating effects of a conflict that has seen hundreds of thousands killed and 1.5 million internally displaced, where nearly half of girls are married by 18, child marriages are increasing and sexual violence was used tactically during the war , it would be easy to assume that football, let alone women’s football, would be nonexistent.

Yet on Friday, just over a year after its women’s national team competed for the first time, the South Sudan Football Association launched a four-year strategy for women’s and girls’ football, Stars Unite, that aims to increase the number of participants by at least 70%.

South Sudan captain Amy Lasu

South Sudan’s captain, Amy Lasu. ‘Football has been considered a men’s sport,’ she says. Photograph: South Sudan FA

South Sudan, where women were at the heart of the peace drive and a 35% quota has been set for women’s participation in government, is not an outlier: the idea that women should not play football is as prevalent there as it is in many other parts of the world. The captain of the women’s national team, Amy Lasu, who began playing in Kenya before returning to play in her home country, says: “It is challenging because for the longest time football has been considered a men’s sport. It was considered a taboo for girls to play.”

Her mother played basketball and her father football, and they would buy her shirts and boots and take her to academies, but for Maryln James, a grassroots player, the story is a little different.

“If you tell your parents that you are going to play football you get asked why you’re going to play with men,” she says. “I just had one person supporting me, my mother. When I started my father would beat me when I came back from training. But my mother said this was not only for men, she can play.”

Far from bowing to the pressures and expectations on girls, the federation is challenging them. “We want to show to the world that South Sudan is growing in women football, and we also want change the mindset of some people who still don’t believe that women can play football,” says Helen Terso Aninyesi, the project manager for Stars Unite and women’s development officer.

South Sudan’s national team, who played their first game last year.

South Sudan’s national team, who played their first game last year. Photograph: South Sudan FA

The plans are bold. The FA has committed to training more female coaches, administrators, referees and scouts; girls’ football will be promoted in schools; there will be community outreach programmes; it will launch a new national league with player licensing; and it promises increased participation for

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Brown, Hillmon lead No. 24 Michigan women past Irish 76-66

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Hailey Brown scored 18 points, Naz Hillmon had a double-double and No. 24 Michigan used two short runs in the fourth quarter to hold off Notre Dame 76-66 on Thursday night.

Leading 54-51 entering the fourth, the Wolverines (2-0) had an early 7-0 surge to put the lead at eight and scored six straight, capped by a Akienreh Johnson 3-pointer, to lead by 11 with four minutes to play.

Notre Dame (1-2) made just 2 of its last 12 shots.

Hillmon, coming off a career-high 35 points, scored 20 points but was just 4-of-10 shooting after going 27 of 37 in the first two games. She was 12 of 13 from the foul line with 11 rebounds and three blocks. Leigha Brown added 14 points and Johnson had 12.

Maddy Westbeld led the Irish with 18 points. Anaya Peoples added 13 and Dara Mabrey 12.

Michigan avenged a 76-72 home loss last season when the Wolverines were ranked 21st and the Irish were unranked.


More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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No. 13 Indiana women defeat Samford 71-26

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes scored 13 points apiece and No. 13 Indiana used a dominate first half to cruise to a 71-26 win over Samford on Thursday night.

Alie Patberg added 12 points and Aleksa Gulbe 11 for the Hoosiers (2-0), who led 33-7 at halftime.

Samford (0-3), which lost its last game to Auburn 66-64, scored off the opening tip and then the Hoosiers reeled off 14 straight points. The Bulldogs missed 11 consecutive shots, finished the quarter 2 of 16 and trailed 15-4. They went 1 of 13 in the second quarter to shoot 10.3% for the half.

Shauntai Battle scored 12 points for Samford. The Bulldogs finished at 21% with 26 turnovers.

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Ventana Sur’s Female Animation Directors Mentoring Unveils Projects

“Highlands Shadow,” “Cursed Fathers” and “Greta’s Journal” are among five animation projects selected for a new women animation directors’ training initiative launched this year at Ventana Sur’s Animation!, in alliance with France’s Annecy Festival and Argentina’s Institut Français.

A 2D eight-episode series “Highlands Shadow” weighs in as a fantasy grounded in traditional folklore mixing action, mystery and political attitude.

Targeting young adults and addressing  gender and LGBTIQ+ issues, the series turns on Juana, a girl from Humahuaca whose sister Marisol has been captured by a human trafficking cartel. To save her, she makes a deal with two haunted machetes, becoming a super heroine. Director Paula Boffo is prizewinning gender-focused graphic novelist. Argentina’s Ojo Raro produces.

Also aimed at a YA crowd, “Cursed Fathers” a 2D first feature from Bolivia’s Matisse González, whose graduation short “Gravity” was nominated for Annie and Quirino Awards, is produced by Argentina’s Celeste and Germany’s Studio Seufz.

Described by its producers as a  “narrative comedy about an exquisitely damned family,” it turns on Kiki, the youngest daughter in a large Bolivian family which thinks it is cursed. Knowing she’s next in line to suffer the consequences, she embarks on a journey to find out whether the curse is real and to put a stop to it.

Targeting pre-school audiences, Peru’s “Greta’s Journal” is produced by Wuf Studio, co-founded by the project’s director, Elva Alessandra Arrieta, who designed the characters and scenery for the country’s first stop-motion series, “Martina y Rigoberto.”

“Greta’s Journal” is another stop-motion series about the eponymous heroine and her friends growing up and discovering a whole surprising world. She records most everything in her journal, which will help her to better understand her own learning process, high points and mistakes.

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Greta’s Journal
Courtesy: Animation!

The program provides a month-long introductory training. Any Latin American animated series or features project from a woman director is eligible for the program.

Two chosen projects will also be selected to participate at Annecy’s next MIFA market.

Of other projects, 2D series “Flavor Quest” is intended for kids. It’s produced by Chile’s Estudio Rayo Púrpura with Maria Coello attached to direct. The TV show follows the adventures of Vera who, guided by a magical cookbook, has a mission to set free lost flavors.

Argentina’s Tamandua Estudio and Primavera Films will produce Directed by Emilce Avalos, “Future Woman,” a feminist-laced series mixing documentary and experimental animation. Each episode uses a  different animation technique, such as cut-out, rotoscoping, and 2D.

Program tutors include MIFA head of projects & education Géraldine Baché and Rémi Guittet, the Argentine Institut Français’ audiovisual cooperation attaché.

Also on board is Eleanor Coleman, head of international development and pre-sales at France’s Blue Spirit Productions, Heath Kenny, CCO at Canada’s Mercury Filmworks and Eloa Sahiry, a pitch coach at France’s L.A. Conseils.

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Cursed Fathers
Courtesy: Animation!

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South Carolina women lose; Stanford could rise to No. 1 in poll

Raina Perez made a 3-pointer with 3:07 left that put No. 8 North Carolina State ahead to stay and the visiting Wolfpack ended No. 1 South Carolina’s 29-game winning streak with a 54-46 victory Thursday night.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: North Carolina State players celebrate their win over top-ranked South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., on Thursday. It was the Wolfpack’s first win over a No. 1 team since 2007.

© Sean Rayford / Associated Press

North Carolina State players celebrate their win over top-ranked South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., on Thursday. It was the Wolfpack’s first win over a No. 1 team since 2007.

The result could help elevate No. 2 Stanford to the top spot when the Associated Press poll is released Monday. The Cardinal (1-0) were to host Washington State on Friday and Washington on Sunday, but the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s new rules prohibiting contact sports until at least Dec. 21 led to those games being postponed. Stanford instead is to play at UNLV on Saturday.

In beating a top-ranked opponent for the first time since 2007, N.C. State (3-0) dealt South Carolina (3-1) its first loss since Nov. 28, 2019. The Gamecocks had not lost at home since their regular-season finale two seasons ago.

Kayla Jones led N.C. State with 16 points, Elissa Cunane added 14 points, five rebounds and four blocks, and Perez finished with 11 points.

Cunane made two foul shots to put the Wolfpack ahead 48-44 with less than two minutes left. But Zia Cooke’s steal and layup cut South Carolina’s deficit to a basket with 53.4 seconds to go. After a timeout, the Wolfpack worked the ball around to a wide-open Jones for a 3-pointer.

Cooke and Laeticia Amihere led the Gamecocks with 11 points apiece.

#17 Oregon State 89, USF 80: Ioanna Krimili scored 27 points and the Dons built a 12-point first-half lead, but visiting USF (0-2) was unable to hold off the Beavers (2-0). USF led by 12 twice in the second quarter and was up by eight at the break. But with Sasha Goforth and Taylor Jones combining for 31 of their 43 points in the second half, Oregon State rallied. Goforth finished with 24 points and Jones had 19 points and 12 rebounds. Julia Nielacna had 18 points for USF and Marta Galic added 12 off the bench.

Injured Bears: Cal will open its Pac-12 season Friday against Washington , but the Bears will do so without two of their top players, both lost to season-ending knee injuries. Sophomore guard Jazlen Green and freshman guard Alma Elsnitz have joined sophomore guard Cailyn Crocker in missing the season because of injuries. Green was Cal’s leading returning scorer this season and Elsnitz had a team-high 14 points against Cal State Bakersfield on Sunday. The Bears have just two healthy guards left on their roster in sophomore Leilani McIntosh and freshman Ornela Muca.


Gaels start slowly, then win at home

Leemet Bockler scored 20 points to lead four St. Mary’s players in double figures as the host Gaels defeated Texas Southern 82-70 to extend their winning streak to four.

Texas Southern (1-3) hit six of its first seven shots while

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No. 14 Maryland women make Big Ten record 21 3-pointers

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Diamond Miller scored a career-high 28 points, Katie Benzan added 21, and the duo combined for 11 of Maryland’s Big Ten record 21 3-pointers as the No. 14 Terrapins beat Towson 112-78 on Thursday night.

Maryland was 8 of 12 from 3-point range at the half and finished 21 of 31 (67.7%) — with three apiece from Chloe Bibby and Ashley Owusu. Seven Terrapins made a 3-pointer, and Towson was 7 of 19.

The previous conference record was 19, set by Iowa (at Northwestern) in 2014-15 and Minnesota (at Illinois) the following season. The NCAA record is 28 by Western Ill. on Nov. 12, 2018.

Maryland lost prized freshman starter Angel Reese to a right ankle injury in the first quarter. The 6-foot-3 wing, the No. 2 recruit in the nation, had two points in three minutes before the injury. She averaged 17 points in her first three games, including 20 in her debut.

Owusu also had a career high in scoring with 25 points and seven rebounds for Maryland (3-1).

Kionna Jeter scored 28 points on 12-of-28 shooting for Towson (2-1). Aleah Nelson added 18 points and Allie Kubek had 11.

Maryland’s next scheduled game on Saturday against Coppin State was canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test within the Eagles program. The Terrapins are scheduled to play on Tuesday against Mount St. Mary’s.


For more women’s basketball stories: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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NC State women beat No. 1 South Carolina 54-46

North Carolina State players celebrate with the coaching staff after an NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Columbia, S.C.

North Carolina State players celebrate with the coaching staff after an NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Columbia, S.C.


Raina Perez made a 3-pointer with 3:07 left that put No. 8 North Carolina State ahead to stay and the Wolfpack ended No. 1 South Carolina’s 29-game winning streak with a 54-46 victory Thursday night.

The Wolfpack (3-0) beat a top-ranked opponent for the first time since knocking off Duke in the 2007 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

South Carolina (3-1) lost for the first time since falling to Indiana on Nov. 28, 2019, and the first time at home since a 68-64 loss to Mississippi State in the regular-season finale two seasons ago.

The Gamecocks were ice-cold throughout, shooting 28% from the field.

Kayla Jones led North Carolina State with 16 points, Elissa Cunane added 14 points, five rebounds and four blocks, and Perez finished with 11 points.

Zia Cooke and Laeticia Amihere led the Gamecocks with 11 points apiece. Amihere also had 15 rebounds.


MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Dre’Una Edwards had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Kentucky closed the game with an 11-0 run to beat Kansas State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

All-American Rhyne Howard had eight points in her return after being suspended for the first two games of the season. Tatyana Wyatt missed the final game of her suspension.

Robyn Benton and Chasity Patterson added 11 points apiece for Kentucky (3-0).

Christianna Carr had 15 points for Kansas State (1-1).


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes scored 13 points apiece for Indiana.

Alie Patberg added 12 points and Aleksa Gulbe 11 for the Hoosiers (2-0). They led 33-7 at halftime.

Shauntai Battle scored 12 points for Samford (0-3). Coming off a 66-64 loss to Auburn, the shot 21% and had 26 turnovers.


COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Diamond Miller scored a career-high 28 points and Maryland set a Big Ten record with 21 3-pointers.

Ashley Owusu also had a career-high 25 points and added seven rebounds for Maryland (3-1).

Maryland was 8 of 12 from 3-point range at the half and finished 21 of 31 (67.7%). The previous conference record was 19 by Iowa at Northwestern in 2014-15 and Minnesota at Illinois the following season. The NCAA record is 28 by Western Illinois in 2018.

The Terrapins lost prized freshman starter Angel Reese to a right ankle injury in the first quarter.

Kionna Jeter scored 28 points for Towson (2-1).


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Destiny Slocum scored 18 points in Arkansas’ rout.

Arkansas (4-1), coming off a 115-96 loss to then-No. 12 Maryland on Sunday, went on a 20-0 run in the first quarter — with 10 points from Slocum. Erynn Barnum added a career-high 17 points.

Whitney Goins had 11 points for Louisiana-Monroe on its opener.

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