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16 most influential women in leadership for 2021

Source | | Lisa Smyth

In the words of the indomitable Beyoncé, “Who run the world? Girls!”. Well, not quite yet, but if these 16 women have anything to say about it, that reality might not be far off. While not all of these women in leadership have claimed the word ‘feminist’ as their calling card, each one of them fights for gender equality by simply, and powerfully, excelling in their chosen field. In a year when gains for women have stalled or, alarmingly, started to slide backwards, these women have fought harder, reached higher and made space in ‘the room’ for more girls and women to follow.

The Commander: Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister of New Zealand (2017 –)


There’s something about Jacinda Ardern. It’s not just that she was the world’s youngest head of state when she was first elected Prime Minister of New Zealand in 2017, or that she is a new mum – youth and maternal instincts are only a small part of her appeal.

Instead, she’s been lauded as a new kind of leader, or ‘the anti-Trump’, for the traits she chooses to exhibit every day – empathy, authenticity, tolerance and kindness. But while she might lead from a place of emotion, she is always decisive and strong in her decision-making. From her quick response of locking down the country at the start of the pandemic, to her steely resolve to not name the perpetrator of the Christchurch Massacre, Ardern never wavers in times of crisis.

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