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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What to buy for the readers on your shopping list

As we wind our way to the end of this most unusual year, we turn our minds toward the people we love and try to find gifts that show them how much we care. Books are always the perfect gift but perhaps especially this year, as we make our way in a winter more solitary than most. As always, we encourage you to seek out your local independent bookstore for your shopping needs; now more than ever, they appreciate our business.

For those who love their furry family members

A trio of books that put pets front and center caught our eye this year. For those who love dogs, there is the gorgeous and simply titled “Dogs,” a photography book by legendary pet photographer Walter Chandoha featuring canine subjects in the city, in the country, and in the photography studio. A coffee table book to delight the doggish.

If felines are more your recipient’s cup of tea, check out “A Cat’s Tale,” by Baba the Cat as told to Paul Koudounaris, an art historian and no slouch as an artist himself. Lavishly illustrated with truly astonishing photos of Baba in historical costume, this is a surprisingly hefty work of history as well as a visual delight.

When it comes to pure whimsy, what is better than a guinea pig? Check out “A Guinea Pig Night Before Christmas” — a perfect, petite volume for read-along with the rodent fans in your household.

For your friend with exquisite taste in tipples

Looking for a golden glow on a snowy night? No alcoholic spirit is as soulful as bourbon, that most American of liquors. Wright Thompson, best known for his long-form sports journalism, digs deep into the drink’s Southern roots in “Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last.” In tracing the story of Pappy Van Winkle, Thompson meditates on more than sour mash, unspooling a tale about history and nostalgia, myth and legend.

For the person who wants to unlock their thoughts

Any blank book or journal can be a place for aspiring writers to place their thoughts, but if you’re looking for a series of prompts about life, love, and self-discovery, you can’t do better than “Journey: Follow Your Dreams and Live Your Destiny,” by Paulo Coelho (“The Alchemist”). Peppered with quotes from Coelho’s beloved works, each page offers an opportunity for reflection and expression.

For the brave girls and women you love

One of the classic characters in children’s literature, Ramona Quimby has been with us since Beverly Cleary first published “Beezus and Ramona” in 1955. Ever since, books featuring Ramona and her family have been beloved by children and parents alike. Just as several generations of readers have fallen under their sway, so have several successive illustrators. In “The Art of Ramona Quimby” by Anna Katz, we can see — and read — the evolution of this iconic girl.

“Guerrilla Girls: The Art of Behaving Badly” will appeal to some of those grown-up Ramonas and

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Readers critique The Post: Don’t plaster over Union Station’s classical beauty

Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

a group of people walking in front of a building: Union Station in Washington in July 2012.

© Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Union Station in Washington in July 2012.

Let’s park the Union Station facelift

I was shocked that nowhere in the Nov. 1 Metro article “Union Station overhaul stirs clash” was there mention of Union Station’s historical architecture. Is the debate over the number of parking spaces truly the most compelling question regarding its future? I thought Drew Courtney’s fearful description of Union Station as a “suburban shopping mall” with excessive parking was particularly apt, as the article’s graphic rendering of the revamped Union Station resembles exactly that — a suburban shopping mall.


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To me, Union Station is one of D.C.’s most beautiful buildings. Are we willing to cover the station’s six colossal Beaux-Arts statues by Louis Saint-Gaudens with a modern facade? Or trade the interior’s gold-leaf, white-marble and 96-foot-high, barrel-vault ceiling for a streamlined modern look? After the Trump administration listed this overhaul as one of its infrastructure projects in 2017 (I should have figured), was the plan run by the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, tasked with guiding future preservation and restoration efforts?

Few wouldn’t agree that Union Station needs to be redeveloped to efficiently serve as a multimodal transit hub, but we don’t need to plaster over its classical beauty in the process. Let’s preserve the architectural hallmarks of this noble building and make that mission rise above the hubbub over parking spaces.

Lisa Siegrist, Annandale

This one just doesn’t work for me

The Post did it again. By saying “Women also work, and they have suffered greater professional and economic consequences during the crisis,” the Nov. 1 news article “Trump demeans women, just as he needs their votes” also demeaned women. Other articles have referred to “stay-at-home moms” or an occasional “stay-at-home dads.” I suggest using the phrase “mothers (or fathers) who do not work outside the home for a salary.”

For years, I have resented the question or comment, “Your wife doesn’t work.” In fact, my wife did indeed work, and worked hard, but without any direct compensation. She managed our home, took on all sorts of essential tasks from car repairs to managing home-renovation projects and volunteered numerous times at school activities in place of mothers and fathers who “worked.” Our weekends were generally free, and our quality of life better because of the “work” that she completed during the week.

Please bring your writing up to date.

Paul W. Ropp, Arlington

We know you know that we know

Monica Hesse wrote in her Oct. 31 Style column that Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris “knows things no vice president has ever known.”

The obvious complement is that Harris doesn’t know things that every vice president has known, at least if Hesse is correct that some

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Vote – Candlelight Shopping – Best Holiday Market Nominee: 2020 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards


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readers on their most inspiring UK walks

As England settles into a second national lockdown, many will be taking advantage of being able to exercise outdoors as often as they like and travel to local open spaces. Guardian readers from around the UK tell us about their favourite six walks and what they love about them.

‘The landscape gives you a glimpse of the vastness of geological time’

Wester Ross, Scotland

In the (above) photo, my wife Marian is standing on the seabed looking inland along Upper Loch Torridon to Liathach. On that particular day, the overriding emotions were just how beautifully quiet it was. What you can’t see in the photo is the absolute translucency of the water.

It’s an easy, good path and a round trip from Shieldaig village (the Torridon Shieldaig one) is about three miles. From there, head past the school on the obvious path going north. Where it forks, take either branch – both soon lead to the tip of the Shieldaig peninsula. As long as the tide isn’t in, cross the barnacle encrusted loch floor to the tiny Eilean a’Chaoil island. Take the other route back to the main path and the village.

The landscape here is unique in the glimpses it gives on the vastness of geological time. The rocks on the coast were formed when Scotland was one of a piece with North America, Greenland and Norway, somewhere near the equator. This is a beautiful but short walk, so lots to ponder as you sit there, king and/or queen of your tiny castle.

Walk: easyJohn Main, 63, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire

‘There is a wonderful contrast between the lush green valley and the rugged industrial landscape’

Croesor Valley, Snowdonia national park, Wales

The picture is taken from the north of Croesor Valley, looking south-west towards the village of Croesor and beyond, towards Moel y Gest near Porthmadog. There is no scrambling but there is a long climb and descent, not over steep. The start of the walk is down a narrow, winding road but is signposted and perfectly accessible by car.

Croesor Valley is the site of Cnicht (the Eiger of North Wales) a fine, if small, toothy mountain where you can enjoy walking a fairly narrow but not dangerous ridge trail (except in high winds where it should not be attempted). Fine views across Snowdonia are had from the peaks.

Standing in the spot in the photo you are among the ruined slate works of the 19th century. There is a wonderful contrast between the lush green valley, barely occupied today, and the rugged industrial landscape, born from the very rocks they hewed from the mountains, slowly being consumed by nature. To reach the point is a challenging climb and yet workers would have walked from their lodgings daily. We cannot conceive of such an arduous life.

Walk: medium difficultyIan Spencer, 61, Solihull

‘There is so much history to discover on the way, such as the first recorded Viking attack on the British

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This Skincare Masque Just Won the WH Reader’s Choice Beauty Award

When it comes to beauty, it’s safe to say that the world of skincare is a minefield to navigate. So, when our readers declared that they were obsessed with one product in particular we thought it was only fair to let the rest on the secret.

The product in question? The Ordinary Salicylic 2% Masque, which was voted ‘Reader’s Choice Skincare Hero’ in the Women’s Health 2020 Beauty Awards.

Yep, the cult budget brand has done it again, launching a stellar skincare product that you guys (and us to be frank) can’t get enough of. Here’s how the product works and why it’s worth adding to your skincare routine, stat.

What does The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Masque do?

The first mask in The Ordinary’s beloved range, it’s designed to clear up blemishes thanks to its hero ingredient salicylic acid.

A BHA (beta hydroxy acid) salicylic acid is renowned for being acne’s kryptonite. The acid is oil-soluble, meaning it can cut through excess oil on the skin’s surface allowing it unclog pores, gently exfoliate and reduce inflammation.

The mask’s inky black hue comes courtesy of clarifying charcoal, which teams up with other clays to ensure a deep and thorough cleanse. The result? Smoother, clearer and more radiant skin after use.

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Is The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Masque any good?

Yes! The jelly-like mask doesn’t just harness the powers of salicylic acid to fight blemishes. Other complexion clearing ingredients include kaolin, a mild clay that’s able to absorb oil without stripping skin so that it feels tight or dry.

There is also a dose of charcoal, an ingredient renowned for its ability to detoxify the skin. It’s also worth adding the amount of salicylic acid in the mask is the most you can put in a skincare product, hence why its so brilliant at banishing blemishes.

Salicylic Acid 2% Masque


How do you use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque?

The Ordinary advise to only use the mask once or twice a week on clean, dry skin only. Simply apply evenly across the skin using fingertips and leave on for no more than 10 minutes. Then rinse off with lukewarm water and you’re good to go.

Do not use on sensitive, peeling or broken and avoid the eye contour and contact with eyes both during application and rinse off. If you have sensitive skin apply the product as directed to a small area once a day for three days to test if you are sensitive to this product.

Even in winter keep up with your SPF use. Salicylic acid increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Can I use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid everyday?

The Ordinary advise that you only need to use the mask one to two times a week.

Now you

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Vote – ASOS – Best Online Clothing Store Nominee: 2020 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards


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