10 Power Women Brands

Posted on September 11, 2015 by Marian Salzman

Southbank Centre

[Originally posted on Forbes.com.]

As I get ready to travel to Istanbul to talk about women and their future—very bright—for the Turkish Ad Age Women to Watch event sponsored by MediaCat, and as I notice more and more conversation around the women whose personal brands keep trending, I have tried to devise a list of those I must keep studying. In compiling this group below (listed alphabetically) through my selectively objective lens, I have admittedly missed tens of tens of those moving mountains when it comes to gender equality.

1) Beyoncé
It’s been said that Beyoncé has made feminism sexy again. Whether the movement actually needed a makeover is up for debate, but there’s no doubt that this superstar proudly introduced her ideals of gender equality to millions. Most notably, she performed at the MTV Video Music Awards last year in front of an enormous “FEMINIST” sign big and blazing—beaming the concept into the homes of almost 14 million people. “I’ve always considered myself a feminist, although I was always afraid of that word because people put so much on it,” says Beyoncé. “When honestly, it’s very simple: It’s just a person that believes in equality for men and women.”

2) Winnie Byanyima
This Uganda native serves as executive director of Oxfam International and was elected for three terms and served 11 years in the Ugandan Parliament. Winnie Byanyima led Uganda’s first parliamentary women’s caucus, championing groundbreaking gender equality provisions in the country’s 1995 post-conflict constitution. And she founded the still-thriving civil society organization Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE).

3) Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Clinton is vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, serves on the advisory board of the Clinton Global Initiative and is a spokeswoman for the family brand. Of her work’s emphasis on feminism—particularly the next generation of feminists—she has said, “All of our work must have implications for girls and women and for the gender gap.”

4) Lena Dunham
Actor (“Girls”), memoir author (Not That Kind of Girl), screenwriter, producer and director Lena Dunham takes on gender taboos—in Hollywood and beyond—with gusto. “As a feminist and a sexual-assault survivor, my ultimate goal is to use my experience, my platform, and, yes, my privilege to reverse stigma and give voice to other survivors,” says Dunham of her work with Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS).

5) Elizabeth Holmes
At 31, Elizabeth Holmes is the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. Driven by her uncle’s death from cancer, she dropped out of Stanford in 2003, her sophomore year, to found Theranos, which makes cheaper, easier-to-use blood tests. She now has 84 patents to her name (18 U.S. and 66 non-U.S.).

6) Musimbi Kanyoro
As president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, Musimbi Kanyoro manages a public foundation that seeds, strengthens, links and supports the capacity building of women’s rights organizations in every part of the world. Previously, she was the first non-white woman appointed CEO of the World YWCA in its 150 years; during her leadership, the World YWCA became the go-to organization for young women. As she puts it, “One woman can bring change to a family, and many women together will bring change to humanity.”

7) Sheryl Sandberg
This former Google exec joined Facebook in 2008, became the first woman on its board four years later, and helped the social network scale globally, go public and expand digital revenue. Besides being Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg is the author of Lean In, which asks men and women to “Lean In Together” for gender parity. In March 2015, her LeanIn.org launched a public service campaign with the NBA and WNBA.

8) Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon is the fifth and current First Minister of Scotland and has led the Scottish National Party since 2014; she is the first woman to hold either position. The BBC has called her “the woman of the moment in terms of influence and hard power,” citing the huge influence she wielded in negotiations surrounding the future of British and European unions.

9) Emma Watson
As if being an accomplished British actor, humanitarian and Brown University grad weren’t enough, Emma Watson became UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in July 2014, whereby she serves as an advocate for the HeForShe campaign in promoting gender equality. Says Watson, “Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who I am, so deeply personal and rooted in my life, that I can’t imagine an opportunity more exciting.” (The agency I run, Havas PR, has had the privilege of working on HeForShe, so I know firsthand the passion Watson brings to her work on behalf of women everywhere.)

10) Malala Yousafzai
The youngest woman on this list, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, 18, is also the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. At 11, she began an anonymous blog that told the truth about the Taliban invasion of Pakistan, and she has become known for her human rights advocacy for education and for women in northwest Pakistan, where the Taliban has at times banned girls from attending school. Her advocacy has inspired an international movement, a New York Times documentary and a memoir.

At a time when women’s futures seem bright and when PR trade publications comment on the pinkness of my industry, it seems crazy that HeForShe-style feminism is a development I’m watching. And another: So many institutions are becoming female, from graduate schools to workplaces, yet it is still a woman’s world only when men embrace and acknowledge it. But I am keeping an eye on these trends, especially through the women who embody what others will emulate next.

 [photo: creativecommons.org/Southbank Centre]

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