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.
Jacinda Ardern, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND
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.
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