Independent Women 2023 - The Influence List

Independent Staff
Wednesday 08 March 2023 12:10 GMT
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Independent Women 2023 - The Influence List

For the first time in its history, The Independent has drawn up a list of the most influential women of the moment. The result is an eclectic, all-star line up for 2023, bringing together women from a vast range of orbits who all share one thing in common: their influence on the world that surrounds them.

In an explicit attempt to move away from those influence lists which only focus on the women who “empower” and “inspire”, The Independent has deliberately taken a different approach to the notion of power and influence, not excluding characters who have ruffled feathers and stirred controversy.

After all, influence is a concept which dodges neat and tidy descriptions; meaning many things to many people. To put it simply, you do not need to agree with someone’s worldview to recognise their clout.

From charting the meteoric rises of up-and-coming new stars to celebrating the legacy of industrious campaigners, intoxicating stars in the arts and culture to rousing businesswomen, sportspeople, politicians, legal professionals, broadcasters and scientists, this is a list of women who exert unequivocal, unshakeable influence in their own distinctive ways.

Independent Women 2023 - The Influence List

1. Camilla, Queen Consort

With a coronation in just two months time which will be watched around the globe, the Queen Consort will take her place next to King Charles as the head of the royal family. It has been quite a journey from the much critiqued “other woman” to top dog status. Camilla has withstood criticism, mockery and pointed attacks to remain by Charles’ side and shape the monarchy, while using soft power to push the causes she believes in. Chief among them are the rights of women, sexual violence, literacy, healthcare research, animal welfare, and the desire to support others to achieve.

2. Jill Scott

Jill Scott

Euros winner, Queen of the Jungle, viral swearing sensation – 2022 was Jill Scott’s year. The rangy midfielder brought the curtain down on her England career in the perfect fashion, stepping out of the international game with a trophy in tow after making her 161st and final Lionesses appearance in the Wembley triumph. For so long a pillar of consistency for England, Scott was similarly unflustered on I’m a Celebrity, culminating in coronation as the first sporting female winner. Her early coaching forays at Manchester City suggest Scott’s managerial future may be bright, too.

3. Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves is on course to make history as the UK’s first ever female chancellor. She is winning over business leaders in boardrooms across the country, convincing them that not only would a Labour government be good for business, Labour is now the party of business. As former CBI boss Paul Drechsler put it in The Independent recently, the change she is leading is “seismic”. Political opponents should heed the earthquake warning.

4. Bobbie Cheema-Grubb

When Metropolitan Police officer David Carrick was jailed as one of Britain’s worst ever serial sex offenders, the country was able to watch. The high-profile hearing was broadcast to millions as part of a new drive allowing judges to be filmed in crown courts for the first time. And the judge presiding was Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb - the first Asian woman to serve as a High Court judge.

“The malign influence of men like you in positions of power stands in the way of a revolution of women’s dignity,” she told Carrick during her powerful sentencing remarks. Having been made a QC in 2013, it was far from Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb’s first high-profile case; with the judge previously jailing notorious terrorists and recently passing sentence on the American woman who killed teenager Harry Dunn.

5. Emily Eavis

Music is admittedly still far from an equal playing field – but it would be significantly less so without Emily Eavis. The Glastonbury chief was only 21 when she began helping her father organise the event following her mother’s death. Since then, Eavis has implemented her vision for a more diverse and environmentally conscious festival. She made waves in 2008 when she booked the festival’s first hip-hop headliner, Jay Z, and is personally to thank for persuading Adele to headline the Pyramid Stage in 2016. It was also Eavis’ decision to ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles at Glastonbury from 2019 onwards. 

6. Suella Braverman

Home secretary Suella Braverman is pressing ahead with some of the government’s most controversial policies. From x-ray tests for child migrants to check their age to the Rwanda policy, her impact on Rishi Sunak’s administration cannot be underestimated. An extraordinary interview at the Tory party conference, in which she infamously claimed: “I would love to have a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession”, has made her the darling of parts of the Tory right and a hate figure for many on the left.

7. Adele

She is the best-selling female artist of the 21st century. She is the singer who has brought us some of the most heart-wrenching ballads from the depths of her West Norwood soul. She is the woman who rose above the obsession with her weight loss. And who carries ketchup sachets in her handbag, everywhere she goes. Last autumn, the 34-year-old kicked off her five-month Las Vegas residency, which sold out within minutes, and she also released 30, her first album in six years. The record reached No 1 in 20 countries and spent five weeks at the top spot in the UK’s Official Albums Chart. Adele has won 16 Grammys, 12 Brits, an Oscar, a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

8. Nazanin Zaghari Radcliffe

To describe Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s trajectory as an emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement of immense proportions. The 44-year-old British-Iranian dual national was imprisoned in Iran for six years until she was finally released in March last year. While the world looked on in horror and consternation, her husband Richard Ratcliffe campaigned tirelessly for her release, staging hunger strikes and even going a startling 21 days without food.

Since her release from prison, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has joined the movement of women cutting off their hair in solidarity with the women’s rights protests which exploded in Iran in the wake of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, dying in police custody last September. Zaghari-Ratcliffe has told of how the demonstrations conjure up “memories” of  “how helpless you are when you are in custody”.

9. Davina McCall

While Davina McCall was initially fearful going public with her menopause journey was potentially “the biggest mistake“ of her ”life”, it turned out to be a very different story. On the contrary, the TV personality was inundated with effusive, positive responses. The down to earth presenter, who has become so famous many now know her by first name only, has fronted two Channel 4 documentaries about the menopause.

In being so bravely open about her hot flushes, depression, and memory loss, the former Big Brother presenter has helped eradicate the deeply-engrained stigma and taboo, which has long impeded progress on tackling an issue currently affecting the majority of the 3.4 million women aged between 50 and 64 in the UK.

10. Alex Scott

An icon on the pitch and proven talent in her second career off it, Alex Scott has spent years breaking down barriers and constantly showing she is among the finest in her current role as a broadcaster and presenter. A fierce advocate for women and always willing to speak out on social issues ranging from domestic abuse to supporting LGBT+ communities, Scott has earned the respect of colleagues and sports fans alike thanks to her thoroughly-researched knowledge which she is able to communicate in a relatable way. As a woman spearheading coverage of a still-male-dominated sport, Scott is showing how ability, confidence and fearlessness remain key to progress.

11. Angela Rayner

Angela Rayner is proving politics can be done differently, even at the heart of Keir Starmer’s inner circle. The outspoken deputy leader, who refuses to let Hansard correct her working-class grammar, is one of Westminster’s most effective communicators. She has deftly balanced her own left-leaning instincts with the push for greater professionalism under Starmer, leading Labour’s efforts on anti-corruption reform and workers’ rights. Tipped as future leader, she revealed last year she’s “doing the groundwork” to ensure that the next Labour boss is a woman.

12. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

In Meghan Markle’s first-ever TV appearance, she challenged stereotypes about women in domestic advertising, appearing on Nick News with Linda Ellerbee in 1993. “I don’t think it’s right for kids to grow up thinking… that mum does everything,” she said at the time, aged just 11. Long before she met Prince Harry, Meghan has championed women’s rights. In 2015, the Suits actor told UN Women on International Women’s Day that she was “proud” to call herself a feminist, remarking that women have to “create their own table” when they are not given a seat at it. 

13. Jordan Gray

Jordan Gray at the Dave's Edinburgh Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

One of the biggest breakout comedy stars of the last year has been the multi-talented Jordan Gray. Nominated for best show at the 2022 Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards for her tour Is It a Bird?, Gray went on to give her now iconic performance on Channel 4’s Friday Night Live, where, at the culmination of an exhilarating and powerful performance, she stripped naked on live TV in a celebration of trans joy. A week after the broadcast (and more than 1500 complaints to Ofcom, later dismissed), Gray made history as the first trans person to have their own solo show at the London Palladium. Her sitcom, Transaction, is in development with ITV to be released later this year, starring herself and Nick Frost.

14. Karen Blackett OBE

When it comes to breaking boundaries around women in business, Karen Blackett OBE is a force to be reckoned with. With over 25 years of experience in the marketing communications industry, her role as President in the UK for global advertising agency WPP sees her helming their second largest market and overseeing 12,000 people working across its operating brands. She is also a non-executive director at Diageo, Chancellor at the University of Portsmouth and founding trustee of the Black Equity Organisation, an independent civil rights charitable organisation. A campaigner for change, Karen was one of four external advisors helping to diversify the civil service, and has also worked with No 10 as a business ambassador and race equality business champion. She puts getting her first break in the industry down to being “gobby”.

15. Tracey Emin

In 2022, Tracey Emin reaffirmed her status as one of the leading artists of her generation with a powerful new exhibition held in Edinburgh, just two years after being diagnosed with bladder cancer. The artworks, including her unsettling yet alluring piece I Lay Here For You, demonstrated Emin’s willingness to push herself into new disciplines, from painting to film to sculpture.

The famously forthright Emin has also become an essential voice in cancer awareness, sharing regular thoughts and updates. She has been widely praised for drawing attention to her stoma, which she had fitted after her bladder was removed in 2020. Her musings on life with a stoma are both poetic and profound, at the same time creating an essential conversation around a topic that many still consider to be taboo.

16. Sue Gray

Her smooth handling of the Partygate investigation made Sue Gray Whitehall’s most famous civil servant. Despite her controversial exit from government, Gray is now set to become one of the powerful people in Westminster, having agreed to take up a job as Starmer’s chief of staff. Tory anger over the appointment only highlights her talents as a formidable organiser. The enigmatic figure – nicknamed “deputy God” when she was second in command at the Cabinet Office – could soon be running the party of government (so long as Labour wins the 2024 general election). 

17. Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales has become a beloved figure within the royal family and outside of it. Ever since her wedding to the Prince of Wales in 2011, Kate Middleton has had the eyes of the world on her. She sits between two majorly important generations of the royal family – as the wife of the future King, therefore making her the future Queen Consort, and as mother to the second in line to the throne. But Kate has also proven herself as an avid campaigner for early childhood development, as well as a fervent believer in eco-conscious clothing with her affinity to re-wearing outfits for all occasions.

18. Maggie Aderin-Pocock

This was the year the UK’s space ambitions were supposed to blast off, with the first rocket to leave British soil in the form of a Virgin launch. In the end it failed – but it still highlighted the work the UK’s space scientists have done and are doing, and how important that will be. Maggie Aderin-Pocock has been a leader, both as a researcher and as an educator through work such as the BBC’s The Sky At Night, in a field that is still largely dominated by white men. Just this week, it was announced the space scientist would be celebrated with a Barbie doll to recognise and celebrate her efforts to champion science for girls.

19. JK Rowling

Love her or hate her, there is no doubting the influence of one of the world’s most successful authors and champions of women’s rights. Once known simply as the creator of Harry Potter and the Strike thriller series under the name Robert Galbraith, her very public stance on trans issues – and her defence of safe spaces for women – has made her one of the most argued about – some would say divisive - women of her time. Her tweets are defiant, unapologetic and sometimes combative, resulting in open hostility, with some accusing her of transphobia, as well fervent admiration from her supporters. Whatever your view, she is impossible to ignore.

20. Alison Hammond

Few people in the world bring as much pure joy to the screen as Alison Hammond. The presenter first entered the public consciousness on Big Brother. She has since had us in fits of laughter with her chaotic Harrison Ford interview and that time she knocked a sailor into the Mersey on live TV, but she has also gone viral with her powerful words on the Black Lives Matter movement and her condemnation of the Rwanda asylum plan. This year, she brought warmth and light to the Baftas ceremony alongside co-host Richard E Grant, and made headlines for being the only Black person in the winners’ picture after all 49 victors on the night were white.

21. Deborah Coles

For over three decades, Deborah Coles has been at the helm of Inquest. While this is a charity many will not have heard of, they will be all too familiar with the names of the deceased people’s families they fight for justice for: Mark Dugan, Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes. Inquest is the UK’s only organisation helping families whose loved one has died after police contact, in prison, or in the care of mental health services.

Coles has a long track record of championing social justice and equality issues, being a leading international voice in the fight to prevent death and ill-treatment in all forms of detention and for more effective learning after state-related deaths. She has been an independent expert advisor to numerous committees, inquiries and organisations, including the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody, Dame Elish Angiolini’s Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody and Women in Prison. 

22. Emma Thompson

A national treasure and one of Britain’s finest actors, Emma Thompson has delighted fans of film, television and the stage for decades. In the past 12 months alone, she has received Bafta and Golden Globe nominations for her performance in the groundbreaking 2022 comedy-drama Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. She thrilled children and adults alike as the terrifying and tyrannical Ms Trunchbull in the musical film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda and is the highlight in Jemima Khan’s 2023 romcom What’s Love Got to Do With It? A longtime campaigner against poverty, homelessness and the climate crisis, Thompson was a leading voice for The Independent’s On the Breadline campaign, amid the cost of living crisis. She is also a staunch defender of young women in her industry, raising awareness about the traumatising experiences many actresses have had when filming nude scenes.

23. Ngozi Fulani

Running Britain’s leading domestic abuse charity for Black women is all in a day’s work for Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space. Founded in 2015, the charity supports survivors experiencing abuse in various ways, from helping them to flee or accompanying them to court. Just one per cent of Black women in Britain feel current systems of supporting domestic abuse victims is fine as it is, according to research, while 86 per cent of this group have either been a victim of this abuse or know someone who has. Yet, agencies stand accused of failing to properly assess these women in violent situations. Fulani hit the headlines at the end of last year after she became embroiled in the latest royal racism dispute. The charity boss revealed her shock at being asked where she “really came from” by the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting at a royal reception in November.

24. Annie Lennox

A musician, activist and philanthropist, Annie Lennox founded The Circle last year, an NGO raising funds for some of the most vulnerable and marginalised girls and women around the world. With her Eurythmics bandmate Dave Stewart, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November alongside artists including Eminem, Dolly Parton and Lionel Richie, celebrating the achievement with a rare live performance in Los Angeles.

25. Sharon Horgan

Irish writer and actor Sharon Horgan has long been a staple of the British and Irish TV scene, bringing her natural comedic ability to much-loved comedies such as Catastrophe and creating Motherland. Now, the rest of the world is catching up. Not only did Horgan’s US comedy horror series Shining Vale make waves across the pond last year, but her Apple TV+ show Bad Sisters also debuted to critical acclaim. This year, she and Michael Sheen will be starring in BBC drama Best Interests, but whatever is next for Horgan, we will be tuning in.

26. Claudia Winkleman

Beneath that fringe, Claudia Winkleman is a woman with funny bones and ferocious ambition. With her latest show, The Traitors, the 51-year-old has hosted the BBC’s biggest new entertainment launch in years, and she was so gloriously into it that she wept in the finale. Throughout her career, on the side of her regular presenting gig on Strictly Come Dancing, she has spoken out on issues from childcare for working women and airbrushing photoshoots to raising feminist sons and the gender pay gap. Now, she is one of the highest-paid female presenters in the UK.

27. ‘MotherPukka’ Anna Whitehouse

‘Motherpukka’ is a name you are unlikely to forget and so is the founder of the popular parenting blog. A seemingly indefatigable campaigner for flexible working and more affordable childcare, Whitehouse is everywhere. The podcaster, who has two young daughters, has launched a flexible working campaign called Flex appeal, as well as hosting both her own eponymous podcast Dirty Mother Pukka, plus also a show on Heart Radio. Whitehouse has written two bestselling non-fiction books - Parenting the Sh*t Out of Life and Where’s My Happy Ending? - alongside her husband Matt Farquharson, while the couple’s debut novel, Underbelly, is due to be adapted into a forthcoming TV series.

28. Maya Jama

The effervescent star became the first person of colour to host Love Island this year. In her first day on the job, she made sure all the women on the show were feeling, well, “flames”, as a contestant might say. No b***hiness in sight, just words of affirmation for the anxious singletons. ITV’s “Be Kind” motto has been around for a while, but it has never felt as truthful as when Jama is doing it. The 28-year-old has fought hard for her success, after childhood weekends visiting her father in prison and her first boyfriend being shot and killed when she was just a teenager. “My name is Maya,” she used to tell fans who called her “Stormzy’s girlfriend”, before their split. It’s a name we won’t forget.

29. Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu

Over the past year, lawyer and political activist Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu has used her voice to highlight issues affecting people from marginalised groups, frequently commenting on issues such as women’s rights and racism on mainstream platforms. Sometimes, the personal risk has been great; Dr Shola regularly receives abusive mail and threats from members of the public. The Londoner, who has gone viral for clashing with controversial TV personality Piers Morgan, founded the Women in Leadership publication as a platform to “drive positive change on topical issues that impact women globally” through inspiring personal leadership journeys. While the campaigner has also taught intersectional feminism to female asylum seekers.

30. Madonna

At 64, Madonna is still keeping us on our toes. She steadfastly refuses to be confined by misogynist standards regarding age and beauty, poking fun at the furore surrounding her penchant for plastic surgery. In January this year, she announced a huge world tour with the help of famous friends including actor Jack Black, rapper Lil Wayne and comedian Amy Schumer. Madonna: The Celebration Tour, tickets for which sold out within moments of going on sale, will take in 35 cities around the world and serve as a homage to the Queen of Pop’s reigning influence over contemporary music.

31. Shon Faye

Famed for her acerbic wit and watertight journalistic prowess, Shon Faye is a leading voice for trans rights. The writer, journalist and podcaster penned Sunday Times bestseller The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice and is currently writing a non-fiction book about love titled Love in Exile which is due to be released in 2025, as well as hosting her Call Me Mother podcast where she speaks to LGBT+ trailblazers.

In The Transgender Issue, the 34-year-old, who is the former editor-at-large of cult fashion mag of Dazed, shines an unflinching light on the rampant discrimination, abuse and hurdles to equality which trans people face, as well as arguing trans liberation is advantageous to all.

32. Florence Pugh

For the better part of a decade, Florence Pugh has been considered one of the UK's brightest talents. However, 2022 was a particularly impressive year for the Oxford native: for one, she had three major film releases, including the saucy thriller Don't Worry Darling. For all the drama that surrounded its release, Pugh's performance was a constant point of praise, as well as her consistent avoidance of the sensational gossip.

Elsewhere, she hit back after being body-shamed for wearing a nipple-baring sheer Valentino dress on a red carpet. “Grow up. Respect people. Respect bodies. Respect all women,” she wrote to her critics on Instagram – a message that'll never go out of style.

33. Lisbet Rausing

This Swedish-born philanthropist has given more than a billion dollars away to charities globally and has chosen to make London her home. At a time when everything is just a click away, we are losing access to more than perhaps ever before: whole species, languages and cultures are slipping away. Historian and philanthropist Lisbet Rausing, whose wealth stems from the invention of the Tetra Pak (the milk carton), is working hard to preserve heritage, information and the environments before it is lost and changed forever. The Arcadia fund, founded with her husband Peter Baldwin, has funded projects to save endangered natural and human cultures in work that is dispiritingly vital.

34. Ellie Simmonds

Nearly 15 years since a remarkable double-gold winning performance as Great Britain’s youngest Paralympian at the Beijing 2008 Games, Ellie Simmonds is still treading new ground. Her days in the pool may be behind her but a deep run on Strictly Come Dancing showed Simmonds’ continued athleticism and competitive spirit, while she proved an insightful expert pundit during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham having served on the organising committee board for the event. Simmonds remains an active campaigner and charity worker too.

35. Debbie Crosbie

Two and a half decades as a financial services powerhouse made Debbie Crosbie an easy appointment as chief executive of Nationwide in 2022. She stepped into the role as the first female chief executive in the building society’s 175-year history. Crosbie brought extensive experience of turnaround strategies and digital transformations to the role, having previously implemented a successful turnaround strategy as acting chief exec of Clydesdale Bank and a complex restructuring as chief exec of TSB. Outside of her remit at the mutual, Debbie is a member of the Glasgow Economic Leadership Board and the Strathclyde University Business School Advisory Board.

36. Akshata Murty

A businesswoman, fashion designer, heiress, venture capitalist, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) campaigner, Akshata Narayan Murty is a woman of many talents. Married to the PM Rishi Sunak since 2009, Murty is the daughter of N R Narayana Murty, who is the billionaire founder of the global IT company Infosys, and Sudha Murty. After she was revealed to be a non-dom by The Independent, she relinquished that status at a considerable cost. Her shares in Infosys, which is one of India's largest firms, are estimated to be worth £700m. Murty, who has spent her life split between India, America, and the UK, was on the 2022 Sunday Times' Rich List alongside her husband.

37. Stella McCartney

Pundits might say that Stella McCartney is the ultimate nepotism baby since she’s the daughter of the most well-known Beatle. Within her own right, though, the fashion designer has carved an inimitable path with the launch of her eponymous label in April 2001 under the Gucci Group.

McCartney has been staunchly committed to animal rights, following in the footsteps of her mother, Linda – best known for her veggie sausages. McCartney’s unmistakable tailoring, which straddles couture, ready-to-wear and athleisure, has been cruelty-free since day one of the brand’s inception, which was a revolutionary stance at the turn of the millennium. 

38. Emily Atack

This year, the former star of The Inbetweeners was praised for her courage after releasing Asking for It? - a documentary that explored how misogynist abuse has been normalised online. During the programme, she shared a number of abusive messages, including rape threats, in an attempt to understand the issue, and spoke to sexual violence and abuse counsellors, as well as online safety campaigners. The documentary – which arrived two years after her series The Emily Atack Show featured stand-up comedy and stories about the pressures of social media and fame – has been heralded as “compulsory viewing”.

39. Joan Collins

The 89-year-old actor best known for her portrayal of Alexis Colby in the soap Dynasty, has had a seven-decade career in the entertainment industry. Recognisable with her trademark wavy blowdry, red lipstick and often decked out in a fur coat, she has long been celebrated as a fashion icon. In her memoir The World According To Joan, she says: “With classic outfits, excellent grooming and a strong sense of self, practically any woman can become, if not a charismatic Hollywood goddess, then attractive and worthy of admiration and some envy for her unique style.” She has been a self-proclaimed feminist long before the word was widely used.

40. Kirsty Young

Fronting BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs for 12 years, Young is a master at effortlessly and seamlessly drawing out the inner worlds of her interviewees. Adept at juggling a broad range of subject areas and engaging a breadth of characters, the Scottish broadcasting stalwart excels at putting her castaway guests at ease as they select their favourite songs, as well as a book and luxury item for a hypothetical trip to a desert island. The 54-year-old interviewed 496 people of note during her time on Desert Island Discs before leaving the show in 2018. White is also the former leading star of Channel 5 News, widely credited with adding glamour and sparkle to the daily news cycle. White, who has also presented Have I Got News For You and Crimewatch, recently spoke out about how her struggle with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

41. Mya-Rose Craig

Ornithologist Dr Mya-Rose Craig, better known as “Birdgirl”, is an inspiration to millions for her climate activism and campaign for equal access to nature. The 20-year-old British-Bangladeshi first fell in love with birding after spotting a duck when she was three, she told The Independent last year. At the age of seven, she embarked on a “big year” – 365 days of trying to spot as many species as possible within a given geographical area. She managed 325 UK birds, becoming the only child in the world to complete the challenge.

By 17, she had seen half of the birds in the world and is believed to be the youngest person to do so. In 2020, she travelled to the Arctic with Greenpeace, carrying out what is believed to be the most northerly youth climate strike ever to raise awareness. In the same year, she became the youngest person from Britain to receive an honorary doctorate. She has shared platforms with Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, interviewed the primatologist F Jane Goodall and written a book, We Have a Dream, featuring 30 young Indigenous people and people of colour on a misison to protect the planet. She is also the founder of Black2Nature, an organisation which campaigns for equal access to nature and concentrates on minority ethnic communities excluded from the countryside.

42. Leah Williamson

Bestowed the permanent England captaincy by Sarina Wiegman ahead of Euro 2022, Leah Williamson was catapulted into superstardom after leading the Lionesses to victory, becoming only the second senior England captain to lift a major footballing trophy. A rock at the back, Williamson did it all while battling endometriosis, speaking publicly to encourage further awareness of a problem disruptive to many women’s lives. In many ways the perfect figurehead for the outspoken England team, Williamson has grown and grown as captain and, at only 25, there is plenty more left to come.

43. Little Simz

Little Simz has firmly established herself as one of the most ambitious and multifaceted musicians in the UK today, pioneering in a scene that is overwhelmingly dominated by men. In September, she won the coveted Mercury Prize for 2021’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, described by The Independent as the most thrilling album of the year. Barely three months later, she released her surprise album No Thank You, a lush, gospel and neo soul-influenced masterpiece. Across 10 songs, Simz navigates themes of disloyalty, betrayal and ego over shivering strings and creeping piano notes. As an artist, her execution of vision is unmatched.

44. Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah is unrelenting in her campaign for the most basic of human rights - clean air to breathe. Her fight began when her nine-year-old daughter, Ella, died from a severe asthma attack in 2013. After discovering that the busy South Circular road near the family’s London home had illegal levels of pollution, Adoo-Kissi-Debrah campaigned for a second coroner’s inquest into Ella’s death to discover if there was a connection.

The case made legal history in December 2020, when Ella became the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause on her death certificate. Adoo-Kissi-Debrah founded The Ella Roberta Foundation and is campaigning for a new Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, also known as “Ella’s Law” in the UK to protect communities. Adoo-Kissi-Debrah is also a BreatheLife Ambassador for the World Health Organisation where she highlights the inequality of air pollution’s impacts and advocate for clean air worldwide.

45. Bianca Jagger

Nicaraguan-born Bianca Jagger has supported victims of war, poverty, and gender inequality in her work as a social and human rights advocate. As a child, she witnessed the exploitation of natural resources and the destruction of the environment in Nicaragua. The 77-year-old founded The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation in 2005, with a dedication to ending violence against women and girls, defending human rights and addressing the threat of climate change. Most recently, the foundation called on world leaders to address violence against women and girls and equal pay legislation.

46. Alison Rose

Alison Rose knows a thing or two about brand loyalty. Having joined NatWest as a graduate in 1992, she spent 30 years moving through senior positions at the bank, from deputy chief executive of NatWest Holdings to Chief Executive of Commercial & Private Banking. Now the chief exec, Rose is a passionate supporter of diversity and is executive sponsor for NatWest Group’s employee-led networks. Away from the bank, Rose co-leads the UK government’s Energy Efficiency Taskforce – created to spearhead efforts to reduce the UK’s energy consumption and cut household bills – and its Rose Review Board for female entrepreneurship. 

47. Seema Jaswal

Seema Jaswal’s impressive blend of expertise and smooth broadcasting skills left her a clear candidate for a leading World Cup role, becoming the first woman to lead the presentation of a men’s quarter-final for a broadcaster in the UK. Former England internationals Eni Aluko and Karen Carney had previously joined with Jaswal to form ITV’s first all-female panel for a men’s World Cup game. The continues to be a key part of BT’s Champions League coverage having fought her way up through the ranks over the last decade, all after overcoming a serious health scare as a teenager after contracting bacterial meningitis.

48. Jen McAdam

McAdam, a Scottish grandmother from Glasgow, might have been conned out of thousands of pounds in a global cryptocurrency “swindle” but she is on a mission to get justice for herself and others. The 52-year-old, who is the daughter of a coal miner, was at a vulnerable time in her life when she fell prey to the OneCoin fraud, which is estimated by the authorities to have duped more than $4bn from people worldwide. Since then Ms McAdam has been forced to endure dogged harassment, abuse and death threats, but has recently published a book titled Undefeated: My Battle To Take Down The Mafia Cryptoqueen, with her experience due to be made into a film.

49. Donna Ockenden

Donna Ockenden’s name has become synonymous with maternity safety after she led the Shrewsbury and Telford maternity inquiry. A midwife by background, her compassionate and expert approach to the inquiry is often praised by the families who were involved. Her reputation precedes her and following the Shrewsbury Inquiry, families in Nottingham requested for Ockenden to head the investigation into maternity care which could result in the uncovering of the biggest maternity scandal the country has seen. The recommendations Ockenden and her team made in the Shrewsbury report could lead to a major change in maternity care– her work is vital and has women’s safety at the centre of it.   

50. Sally Wainwright

Sally Wainwright can be thanked for ridding us of our January blues this year. The return of her critically acclaimed police procedural, Happy Valley, seven years after its second season elicited a nationwide grin. Since beginning her career as a scriptwriter on The Archers and Emmerdale, Wainwright has gone on to become one of the industry’s most in-demand names – renowned for bringing a sense of realism and subtle humour to hit shows such as Unforgiven and Gentleman Jack. There are few subjects that can bring all of the UK together but everyone agrees that the Yorkshire TV writer is brilliant. The five-star reviews and endless Happy Valley memes are proof.

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