By Lauren Edwards and Celia Law
As it’s International Women’s Day, we at AION could hardly ignore it, so here are 21 of our favourite women for 2021… (in no particular order)
- Caitlin Moran – Journalist, Author and Broadcaster
Gloriously opinionated, unconventional feminist and all round hilarious lady. At 16, Moran was a journalist at Melody Maker before moving across to The Times in 1992 (and up to the present day) as their award-winning Columnist and Critic. She has written eight books, penned the semi-biographical television show Raised by Wolves and most recently adapted one of her best-selling novels, How to Build a Girl, into a film.
Moran has the unique ability to make you belly laugh and then think profoundly from the one paragraph she has written. She’s kind of like a nagging friend telling you to stop overthinking a situation – an affectionate slap in the face.
“Once you become poor, tired and time-constrained, you become a much better human being.”
2. Olivia Colman – Actor
Colman is the Queen of British Television and Film. An award winning actress who gave the best Oscar speech (in my opinion) talking about snogging and cleaning in front of Hollywood’s finest. From her portrayal of the evil stepmother in Fleabag to the bonkers Queen Anne in The Favourite, Colman can turn her hand to any role and really make you believe the character she embodies.
Her CV of work is astonishing and yet she remains completely grounded and humble as well as super supportive of her colleagues. She made headlines this week following her excited reaction to Emma Corrin (Princess Diana in The Crown) winning a Golden Globe despite being a nominee herself.
“I am just an actor – all I do is I memorise someone else’s words and tart around.”
3. Dame Jane Goodall DBE – Conservationist, Primatologist, Anthropologist and Scientist
Jane Goodall is the female David Attenborough that you may not have heard of. Goodall has studied chimpanzees for over 60 years and is considered the world’s leading expert on this primate, dedicating her life to saving the chimpanzee from extinction. Goodall was just 26 years old when she ventured into the forests of Tanzania with binoculars and a notebook to understand chimpanzees as individuals and to redefine their relationships with humans.
Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977 and Roots and Shoots in 1991 to carry out her charitable work and travel the world to educate on environmental crises and animal welfare. I urge you to search for Jane Goodall on Youtube to see her conservation efforts and lots of chimpanzee hugs – you will need tissues!
Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference. The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. The greatest danger to our future is apathy.
4. J. K. Rowling – Author
J.K. Rowling is probably one of the most familiar names in the literary world after creating the much loved Harry Potter series in 1990; whilst sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London King’s Cross. After seven books, and seven films, Rowling was heralded as the writer who returned a love of reading to children again. She also wrote Cormoran Strikes under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, which was adapted into a BBC television series.
It is reported that Rowling has lived a ‘rags to riches’ life; from living on benefits to becoming richer than the Queen. However, she quickly lost her billionaire status after giving much of her fortune away to charity. All proceeds from writing her books Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were donated to Comic Relief.
“Wherever I am, if I’ve got a book with me, I have a place I can go and be happy”
5. Jacinda Ardern – New Zealand Prime Minister
At 37, Jacinda Ardern is not only the youngest Prime Minister New Zealand has ever had, she is also the world’s second only Head of Government (after Benazir Bhutto) to have a baby while in office. She made history as the first world leader to attend the United Nations general assembly meeting with her baby in tow. Baby Neve travelled with Ardern so she could continue breastfeeding.
Ardern received global praise for her compassionate response to a terrorist attack on two mosques in NZ in 2019, where 51 people lost their lives. She immediately banned the sale of the high-capacity semi-automatic weapons used by the attacker and also launched a global movement against online extremism.
Today, I can confirm that myself, government ministers and public service chief executives will take a 20% pay cut for the next six months, as we acknowledge New Zealanders who are reliant on wage subsidies, have taken pay cuts and are losing their jobs as a result of Covid-19’s global pandemic.
6. Jane Fonda – Actor, Political Activist, Environmentalist and former Fashion Model.
Six decades as a Hollywood actor and a collection of awards to rival any successful sports team, including two Golden Globes, Fonda has always been a forward thinker and a kind human. She used sign language as she collected her 1979 Oscar, unprecedented even now I’d say.
Fonda is a well know activist, from protesting about Vietnam back in the 1970’s to being arrested as part of the Green New Deal climate change protest, in Washington DC in 2019. During her arrest, she was unable to collect a BAFTA award and instead was filmed thanking her fans while in handcuffs!
To be a revolutionary you have to be a human being. You have to care about people who have no power.
7. Cressida Dick – Head of the Met
Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is the first woman to take charge of the police service, being selected for the role in February 2017.
Just two months into the job, she had to deal with the Westminster terrorist attack where six people lost their lives, including her colleague PC Keith Palmer. Ms Dick has had to be the best, and some, to get to the top in such a male dominated environment. Policing is hard, for anyone, but being female and gay must add another dimension to her daily struggles. Hats off!
My advice to you is… If you find yourself doing something you don’t like, that doesn’t suit you, the brave and the right thing to do is to stop and do something else.
8. Charlotte Tilbury MBE – Make-up Goddess and Businesswoman
Charlotte Tilbury is a British Make-up Artist, Founder, Chairperson, President and Chief Creative Officer of her make-up and skincare brand, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Ltd. She is also Contributing Beauty Editor to British Vogue and the Global Ambassador for Women for Women International.
Tilbury is very much a woman’s woman and strives to help women find confidence within themselves. She believes that make-up is a tool to help women feel good and therefore shine.
Every woman deserves a man to ruin her lipstick, not her mascara.
9. Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Actor, Writer and TV Producer
Anyone who can conceive Fleabag needs a Hall of Fame all to themselves! Then, add to that, her role in the production (Show Runner, Head Writer and Producer) of the first series of Killing Eve, another stand alone corker, you can’t help but admire her.
Her catalogue of work is enormous and her outspokenness is just brilliant. After being raised in an era of ‘be a good girl’, Waller-Bridge soon realised that ‘good girls’ don’t make a splash. She thanks her mother who said, “Darling, you can be whoever you want to be, so long as you are outrageous.” She has certainly made her mother proud!!
“Wouldn’t it be exciting if all women just went on strike? Just a woman’s strike. Everything would fall apart pretty quickly then, wouldn’t it?
10. Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill – Heptathlon Olympic Champion
Ennis-Hill was a key player in the London 2012 Olympics ‘Super Saturday’ bringing home gold for her performance in the heptathlon; a seven discipline track and field event.
After the birth of her first child, Ennis-Hill returned to athletics to win in the Beijing World Athletics Championships. She qualified for Rio 2016, where she came home with a silver medal, but was only narrowly beaten. Since her retirement, Jessica has had another child and has been involved with numerous charities that are closest to her heart, she became the patron to The Children’s Hospital Charity in 2006.
The only one who can tell you “you can’t win” is you and you don’t have to listen.
11. Sara Payne MBE – Campaigner for children
Following the hideous murder of her 8-year-old daughter Sarah in 2000, Sara Payne embarked on a remarkable journey culminating in Sarah’s Law. A law which saw controlled access to the sex offenders registry allowing parents, carers or guardians to formally ask the police for information about a person who has contact with their child, or a child close to them, if they’re concerned the person may pose a risk.
In 2011, Payne suffered a life threatening stroke and collapsed at home before undergoing brain surgery. In the same year, it was revealed she had been targeted by the News of the World phone hacking scandal. Despite this, Payne has shown incredible strength and resilience by advocating for children’s rights through The Phoenix Post organisation, which she co-founded.
“I chose to live because I owe it to Sarah. I owe it to her to survive”
12. Annie Lennox OBE – Singer/Songwriter, Political Activist and Philanthropist.
An icon of the 1980s with her cropped orange hair and androgynous style, Annie Lennox along with Dave Stewart stormed the charts with their band Eurythmics. She embarked on a solo career in 1992 to great success, amassing awards at The Brits, The Grammys and The Golden Globes.
She has been a tireless campaigner throughout her life to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS, particularly on how it affects women and children in Africa. In 1997, Lennox founded the SING Campaign to raise funds to help prevent the spread of HIV in African communities.
Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.
13. Ellie Simmonds OBE – Paralympian Swimmer and Author
Winning two gold medals at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing at just 13 assured Ellie a place in the history books. She was the youngest person to be awarded an MBE at just 14. Then on home territory at London 2012, she did it again, this time setting a world record in the 400m freestyle. Oh, but Ellie had more to give, and won gold in Rio 2016, setting a world record for the 200m medley. She has 10 world records to her name if you are counting!
Away from the pool, Ellie is a Girl Guide Leader aka Aqua Owl (insert chuckle) and is heavily involved in charity work, helping young people as well as being an ambassador for WaterAid. Ellie is also a best selling author of the children’s books series Ellie’s Magical Bakery.
I think people shouldn’t think ‘I’m not normal, I’ve got a disability. Overcome that, go out there and enjoy your life and achieve something.
14. Michelle Obama – Former First Lady, Attorney and Author.
As the first African-American to become a First Lady, she used her esteemed position to be a role model for women and worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity and healthy eating.
Michelle came from humble beginnings; her father was a pump operator and her mother was a stay at home Mum. Her father battled Multiple Sclerosis, using two canes to get to work in order to save money for Michelle to go to college. She made him proud by earning a bachelor’s degree at Princeton and juris doctor degree at Harvard.
The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.”
15. Lena Dunham – American Actor, Writer, Director and Producer.
Dunham is probably best known for her starring role in her personally penned television series Girls. She also created the online feminism newsletter Lenny Letter where she is unafraid to discuss controversial issues on transphobia, mental health, politics and race issues.
Dunham is passionate about raising awareness on the debilitating disease Endometriosis, a subject close to my heart. Having undergone a hysterectomy at the age of 30, to help deal with her own Endometriosis, she has joined ranks with Endofound.org to help other women receive the diagnosis and care that is currently overlooked with this illness.
“Don’t wait around for someone else to tell your story. Do it yourself by whatever means necessary.”
16. Sandi Toksvig OBE – Writer, Comedian, Broadcaster, Actor, Podcaster and Producer.
This Danish/Brit grew up in NYC before moving to Britain, Toksvig is extremely intelligent having graduated from Cambridge with a first and two prizes for outstanding achievement. She made her way into showbiz via comedy, which she is still best known for, although now her repertoire spans all genres. In 1994, Save the Children dropped her as their compere for their 75th anniversary celebrations after Toksvig came out as gay.
Sandi lives on a houseboat in Wandsworth with her wife Debbie, although I think she lives on my telly more than her boat, and frankly that can only be a good thing as Sandi has so much to say about everything. Her knowledge and likeability ensure that I’ll tune in to whatever she’s on. Currently QI and Extraordinary Escapes.
The Women’s Equality Party is a feminist political party set up in the UK in 2015. The idea was conceived by Catherine Mayer and Sandi Toksvig at the Women of the World Festival, when they concluded that there was a need for a party to campaign for gender equality to the benefit of all.
“I’ve had a surprising number of near-death experiences: I was nearly blown up by a landmine in Sudan; I was stranded on the Zambezi river at night; I was bucked off a rodeo horse in Arizona and had to be airlifted to hospital; and, worst of all, I once ate a Pot Noodle.”
17. Angel Adoree – Chateau owner, DIYer Extraordinaire, Designer, Author and TV star.
Angel Adoree, aka Mrs Dick Strawbridge, shot to fame after buying a run down French chateau and set about doing it up (for the television series Escape to the Chateau) to create a spectacular wedding venue. Angel oozes creativity and can turn her hand to anything, leaving viewers gobsmacked at her ability. Pre-Chateau, Angel launched, and still does run, her London based ‘Vintage Patisserie’ which offers bespoke retro tea parties from a bygone era. Angel has published several foodie vintage themed books, as well as books about her Chateau experience.
Angel is the mother to two young children; Arthur and Dorothy. She is also a fully qualified chartered accountant, first appearing on our television screen’s on Dragons Den. She has a range of furnishing deals with high street retailers and is just an all around ace human.
The bottom line is I am happy.
18. Kamala Harris – Vice President of the USA
Harris made history this year by becoming the first female and first black Vice President, serving alongside President Joe Biden. She started her career as the District Attorney of San Francisco before climbing the ranks in politics as a Senator; advocating on issues such as healthcare reform, citizenship for undocumented immigrants and a ban on assault weapons.
After watching her own mother battle colon cancer, Harris is passionate about providing healthcare for all in America. She is unafraid to talk passionately on women’s issues and is a pro-choice supporter of abortions.
I hope that by being a ‘first,’ I inspire young people to pursue their dreams,
19. Dame Emma Thompson – Actor, Screenwriter, Author and Activist.
An acclaimed actor, Thompson was educated at Cambridge University where she was a member of the Footlights Troupe alongside Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Tony Slattery. Perhaps best known for her starring roles in Nanny McPhee and Love Actually, Thompson is the only actor to have received two Oscars for acting and writing for Remains of the Day and Sense and Sensibility.
Thompson is a passionate activist raising awareness on climate change. She is a regular fixture at rallies organised by Extinction Rebellion and has represented Greenpeace on a expedition to warn of the dangers of drilling for oil in the arctic.
When I was younger, I really did think we were on our way to a better world, and when I look at it now, it is in a worse state than I have known it, particularly for women. And I find that very disturbing and sad.
20. Katie Piper – Writer, Television Presenter, Activist and much more.
In March 2008, Katie Piper was the victim of a horrific acid attack, planned by an ex-boyfriend, which caused major damage to her face as well as blindness in one eye. Now 37, Katie has endured over 400 procedures to restore her face and sight. In 2009, Katie made the brave decision to document her experience in the Channel 4 documentary Katie: My Beautiful Face to help raise awareness for burn victims.
Piper founded The Katie Piper Foundation in 2009, during the early stages of her recovery. Her charitable focus with the foundation is to create a specialist rehabilitation experience, in a space where adult survivors of burns can come and live and focus on their recovery.
Don’t wait until there is tragedy in your life. Don’t wait until you lose somebody. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Appreciate the beautiful people that you have in your life now.
21. Harriet Harman QC MP – Politician and Solicitor
Harman was elected as a Labour MP in 1982 as one of only 10 female MPs at the time amid 258 male Labour MPs. Harman climbed the ranks in her party to become a key front bench MP and a member of the cabinet, where she fought for women’s rights and a fairer minimum wage for all.
In the 1980s, Harman controversially (at the time) breastfed her baby in The Commons and has spent her political career striving for better parenting rights. From 1998, Harman campaigned for longer maternity leave and higher maternity pay and in 2004, a maternity payment of £102.80 and an increase in maternity leave to nine months was finally announced in the Budget.
In a country where women regard themselves as equal, they are not prepared to see men running the show themselves.
We left out some of the obvious choices because we know they will be picked up by the glossy magazines, we are not in anyway snubbing any of the great women of the world.