The Future is Female: Saluting The Room’s Most Inspiring Women

In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’re honouring women in The Room whom we admire for their courageous leadership, transformative influence and unapologetic stance on gender equality and inclusiveness. Here’s Part I of our Top 30 Power Women of The Room list.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

We need women’s representation that reflects all women and girls in all their diversity and abilities, and across all cultural, social, economic and political situations. This is the only way we will get real societal change that incorporates women in decision-making as equals.

Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. Having been actively involved in the struggle to end apartheid in her home country of South Africa, she has devoted her career to issues of human rights, equality and social justice. She previously served as Deputy President of South Africa — the first woman to do so — along with other high-ranking roles in government, where she oversaw programmes to combat poverty. A longtime champion of women’s rights, Phumzile is affiliated with several organizations devoted to education, women’s empowerment and gender equality. Most recently, she released a powerful statement at the United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day, focused on Women in Leadership.

Cheryl L. Dorsey

The fact that my country nominated a Black woman to be a Vice President for the first time in our history is a remarkable example of the transformative moment that we’re in. It gives me hope, and we’ve just got to lean in and get this done.

Cheryl L. Dorsey is at the cutting edge of the social entrepreneurship movement. As the President of Echoing Green, a nonprofit that supports emerging social entrepreneurs around the world and invests deeply in their ideas and leadership, she is shifting the paradigm of social innovation. An accomplished leader and a social entrepreneur herself, Cheryl has served in two presidential administrations as a White House Fellow as well as a Special Assistant to the Director of the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Labor Department and Vice-Chair for the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. At the helm of an organization that’s committed to disrupting the status quo, her groundbreaking approach has enabled Echoing Green to address some of the greatest social challenges of our time.

Rama Adama Diallo

In my country’s language Wolof, there is an expression “de finite” which translates to “you are like a human being”. This means that there is something more that makes you human, and that is the ability to know how to be a person with other people…These are concepts that our grandmothers and mothers taught us as part of the values you need to take into the world if you are going to make it.

Ramatoulaye A. Diallo is the award-winning CEO of Orange Money in Senegal and Director of Mobile Financial Services in the Orange Sonatel cluster across 5 countries. As an intrapreneur, entrepreneur and investor, her mission is to create products, services and communities that elevate millions of African lives. Throughout her 20+ year career, Rama has been a driving force in promoting inclusion, economic growth and entrepreneurship in telecoms, technology and e-commerce in Africa. She is a firm believer in the power of authentic relationship building to create change in the world.

Julie Gichuru

We need to work together on women empowerment as men and women, businesses, governments and NGOs. Remember when a woman is empowered, the whole generation is empowered as well.

Julie Gichuru is an Afro-optimist, entrepreneur and the Head of Public Affairs and Communications at Mastercard Foundation. Best known as a media personality, she has pioneered several television programs on the topics of governance, peace, politics and development in Africa. She is an ardent advocate for youth and women empowerment and uses her platform to advance the rights, health and well-being of women and girls. As a champion for positive change, her contributions towards driving impactful conversations and creating a more informed generation have been widely recognised. Julie is an inspiration to us in The Room, as she is to many young women looking to follow in her footsteps.

Ebele Okobi

I want to be a threat. I want to be a threat to misogyny. I want to be a threat to greed. I want to be a threat to a worldview that sees women as inferior… I want to give birth to a movement where love and not hate wins.

Dubbed “the secretary of state of Facebook”, Ebele Okobi is the Public Policy Director for Africa, the Middle East & Turkey, where she leads on engaging with government, civil society and other policy influencers and shaping Facebook’s policy agenda. Prior to Facebook, she was the founding Global Head and Senior Legal Director for Human Rights at Yahoo, where she led Yahoo’s efforts to address the legal and policy issues related to privacy, free expression and access. An extraordinary leader, Ebele is an active agitator for greater inclusion and African women’s empowerment. Believing that she stands on the shoulders of giants, she has campaigned on matters related to police brutality and made significant contributions to public life in the US and UK.

Marina Gorbis

The future is not preordained. We are active agents in the future, and our actions matter.

Marina Gorbis is Executive Director of the Institute for the Future, a non-profit research and consulting organization based in Silicon Valley. She has brought a futures perspective to hundreds of organizations in business, education, government, philanthropy, and civic society. An award-winning writer and notable speaker, her groundbreaking research focuses on transformations in the world of work and new forms of value creation. Drawing connections between changes in our technology infrastructure and our organizational landscape, from education to governance and health, Marina has offered a variety of approaches and tools for achieving wider asset distribution and greater equity.

Ivana I. Osagie

Gender parity is clearly good economics, yet many companies are either not getting the message, or are perhaps struggling with getting more women to the table…Redressing the gender imbalance requires collaborative effort from men and women.

Ivana Osagie is a corporate strategist passionate about building female leadership capacity and advancing inclusion in the workplace. Her background includes significant strategy, corporate development, project development and project finance expertise across a number of sectors. After a long and varied business career culminating in the C-suite, she is now dedicated to supporting women in leadership and building gender parity. Ivana is the Founder and Convener of the Professional Women Roundtable, a non-profit focused on mentorship and career development for professional women. As an angel investor who sits on a number of boards, she is committed to combating the challenges women face in the workplace.

Wendy Luhabe

Women are more capable than they allow themselves to believe. We should invest in developing our ability to take risks, to travel the road less travelled, to become game changers and to make sure that when given an opportunity to do anything, we use it as a stepping stone for ourselves and other women.

Businesswoman, social entrepreneur and author, Wendy Luhabe, has received multiple honours for her pioneering contribution to the economic empowerment of women in South Africa. She has served as board chair for several organizations, including Vodacom and the Industrial Development Corporation, along with being the founding Chair of Women in Infrastructure Development and Energy and Women Investment Portfolio Holdings, which listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 1999. A Trustee of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation and the founding Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, she continues to blaze a trail for future generations of women leaders.

Reeta Roy

Whether we think of education as formal education, or as the transmission of knowledge and acquisition of skills, I think about the multiplier effect women have. If there’s one thing that happens when you educate girls and women, it’s the untold, yet strongly felt economic and social effects…It’s incredibly important that we create greater educational opportunities and remove barriers of exclusion.

Reeta Roy is President and CEO of The Mastercard Foundation, one of the largest private foundations on the planet. A thoughtful leader and a passionate advocate for the world’s most vulnerable, she has worked tirelessly to build a foundation that is collaborative and known for its lasting impact. Under her leadership, the Foundation has focused its work on Africa and committed more than $2.6 billion to advance education and financial inclusion. As a member of the African Transformation Leadership Panel, the World Economic Forum and a distinguished member of The Room, Reeta is regularly called upon to present her ideas and solutions on the world stage.

Ambassador Nozipho January-Bardill

As you grow older, you start to understand that you can’t change the world. But you have a sphere of influence, and it’s in that sphere that you can effect change. Across the globe, more women are getting into parliament and employed in government; more women are involved in businesses and sitting on boards. The private sector is waking up to the fact that women make a huge difference in positions of power.

Nozipho January-Bardill has led a dazzling career in the public and private sectors. A former Ambassador to Switzerland, she has served on the boards of AngloGold Ashanti, Credit Suisse Securities and Mercedes Benz South Africa, and chairs the Council of Nelson Mandela University and the board of the UN Global Compact Local Network. Nozipho has worked in leadership positions at MTN and a number of non-governmental organisations. Having served as a member of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and a Senior Advisor to UN Women, her illustrious experiences in human rights work have enabled her to build on her passion for women’s empowerment.

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