Esther Ghey named The Independent’s most influential woman of 2024

The campaigning mother tops the list of politicians, businesswomen, athletes and celebrities

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Friday 08 March 2024 06:32 GMT
Behind the scenes of The Influence List 2024 photoshoot

The mother of murdered schoolgirl Brianna Ghey has been chosen as The Independent’s most influential woman of 2024 – topping the list in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Esther Ghey leads a cast of 50 politicians, campaigners, businesswomen, athletes and celebrities who have all played a prominent part in British life over the last 12 months.

Among those in the top 10 are Lionness goalkeeper Mary Earps, TV presenter Kate Garraway, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and Brit Award winner Raye.

Ms Ghey was thrust into the limelight last year after her 16-year-old transgender daughter Brianna was viciously stabbed to death by two teenagers who lured her into a park near Warrington in Cheshire.

Esther Ghey was thrust into the limelight after her daughter Brianna’s murder (PA)

The 37-year-old, who has taken up campaigning since the tragic murder, is now fighting for greater controls on young people’s social media and to secure more mental health support in schools.

Sentencing Brianna’s killers last month, a judge said the “exceptionally brutal” murder had elements of both sadism on the part of Scarlett Jenkinson and transphobic hate on the part of Eddie Ratcliffe as she jailed both for life.

Ghey has revealed she is planning to meet the parents of her daughter’s killers, saying she does not blame them.

Thrilled to lead The Independent’s influence list, she said: “To be honest, I’m probably the most surprised about being included, let alone topping, this list of influential women.

As a parent and having experienced the worst of tragedies, I, like many, realise there are some major challenges and issues facing our young people today.

Esther Ghey

“There are so many amazing women out there who inspire me and have already done so much – I’m just beginning my journey. As a parent and having experienced the worst of tragedies, I, like many, realise there are some major challenges and issues facing our young people today.”

For a second year running, The Independent has drawn up its list of influential women – including some who are controversial and divisive.

Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, this publication has spoken to many of the women who featured on the list.

Among them was Garraway, who highlighted the reality of living with someone struck down with Covid. The TV personality finally lost her husband Derek Draper earlier this year after his almost four-year battle with the virus.

Baroness Floella Benjamin is on the list for her widespread campaigning (Sane Seven)

Hailing her mother as her inspiration, she said: “I think women do struggle to celebrate themselves. If you are looking at your greatest strengths and valuing them, then you should know what you are good at.”

Carol Vorderman was included in the list for her TV and radio work, as well as her strength of personality, telling The Independent: “I genuinely don’t care what anyone else thinks about what I do.”

Describing the misogyny she has faced in the broadcasting world, she warned people going into the business: “Never, ever, ever, ever ignore a red flag in someone, never ever.”

Asked about how the UK improves gender equality, she argued education was key and explaining issues to boys and girls at primary and secondary school level.

Behind the scenes at The Independent’s Influential List photoshoot

And when comedian Rosie Jones was asked about the times when she has faced misogyny, she said: “Every time someone tells me I am funny… for a woman.”

She added: “My mum told me I could be whatever I wanted to be – and to never apologise for who you are.”

Also discussing misogyny, former rugby player and pundit Maggie Alphonsi said: “As a woman working in rugby – men’s and women’s – sadly you do get people who say you shouldn’t be commenting on or speaking about a sport that men are playing.”

While International Women’s Day provides a chance to celebrate women’s achievements, it is also a time to reflect on what more needs to be done to achieve greater gender equality. It might be 2024 but there are a litany of ways women and people of marginalised genders find themselves at the sharp end of inequalities and injustice.

Women remain more likely than men to work in low-paid, insecure types of employment with zero-hours contracts, as well as being more likely to take on the lion's share of childcare and care for elderly relatives.

Meanwhile, year in and year out, between two and three women are killed by a current male partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales, with one in four women estimated to suffer domestic abuse at some point in their lives.

Former rugby player and pundit Maggie Alphonsi (Sane Seven)

Last year, it emerged a record number of hate crimes were perpetrated against transgender people in 2022 in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, a survey by UN Women found 97 per cent of young women in the UK said they had been sexually harassed, while 80 per cent reported experiencing sexual harassment in public spaces.

Speaking to The Independent about International Women’s Day, prominent feminist writer and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, Laura Bates said: “Unfortunately, you can be living in the ‘best time’ for a woman to be speaking out about gender inequality and also the worst time to expect anything to be done about it”.

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