Many women have left their mark on 2021 in their respective fields, be it business, politics, sports, culture, or science. Isabelle Hudon, the first woman to hold the position of President and CEO of BDC, comes to mind as does Laurence Vincent Lapointe, the very resilient canoeist who won two medals in the Tokyo Olympics, or Eunice Belidor, the first Black curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
1. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
On the first of March, the 67-year-old Nigerian woman was named Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), thus becoming the first woman and first African person to occupy this prestigious position. This economist, global finance specialist, and international development professional has such an impressive resume that Time magazine chose her to be the cover story for its issue on the 100 most influential people in the world in 2021.
2. Catherine MacGregor
When she moved into the CEO’s office of Engie, the world’s third largest electricity company, at the beginning of the year, the 49-year-old Frenchwoman took on quite a mandate: make the group a global leader in energy transition. Having begun her career as an engineer on oil rigs, she is currently the only woman to lead a company listed in the CAC 40, the benchmark index of the Paris stock exchange.
3. Manon Brouillette
This year, the former CEO of Videotron achieved a feat that few Quebec managers, men or women, have ever accomplished: landing a senior management position in the U.S. business world. Last summer, she moved from Trois Rivières to New York to take up her new position as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of the Consumer Division at Verizon, the largest division of one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies. Last November, Verizon announced the appointment of the leader as Executive Vice President and CEO of Verizon Consumer Group effective January 1. A challenge she has described as invigorating!
4. Farah Alibay
Although there’s still a long road ahead to reach equality between women and men in the sciences, you could say that Farah Alibay is paving the way. This Quebecer is a member of the NASA team that pilots the Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars this past February 18 to explore the planet. An aerospace engineer who was the only woman in her lab at Cambridge University during her master’s degree, she has become a role model for girls and women in science.
5. Belén Garijo
Though Germany has been governed by Angela Merkel for the past 16 years, there was yet to be a woman appointed head of one of the country’s largest companies. It’s Belén Garijo, from Spain, who has achieved this feat by being appointed CEO of the pharmaceutical group Merck KGaA. She became the first woman to head a company listed on the DAX 30 (the German equivalent of the CAC 40) as well as the first woman to take the reins of this laboratory founded over 350 years ago.
6. Whitney Wolfe Herd
In 2014, the former vice president of marketing at Tinder launched Bumble, an online dating site that aims to give women back the power in their relationships by being the only ones allowed to make the first move. By taking Bumble public two days before Valentine’s Day this year, its 31-year-old founder and CEO became the youngest woman to list her company on the stock market and the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.
7. and 8. Catherine Raîche and Amélie Mauresmo
More and more women are breaking glass ceiling in professional sports. Catherine Raîche of Quebec climbed every rung of the ladder, this year becoming the vice-president of soccer operations for the Philadelphia Eagles. It is the highest position held by a woman in the history of the National Football League (NFL).
As for her own accolades, French former world tennis champion Amélie Mauresmo has become the first women to head Roland-Garros, one of the four major tournament of the Grand Slam. This historical nomination is also a role suited for the former winner. “I have accepted this role while clearly demonstrating the strength of my ambitions. I will hold this title up to the excellence, the freedom, and the passion that has always driven me,” she said in a press release.
9. Béatrice Martin
Earlier this year, the woman better known as Coeur de pirate acquired Dare to Care Records and its subsidiary Grosse Boîte, which she renamed Bravo Musique. She thus saved the label from the wreckage of a scandal during the wave of denunciations of sexual harassment and assault that shook the Quebec cultural scene in the summer of 2020. Béatrice Martin is the first woman to take the reins of a major record company in Quebec, so this purchase is doubly symbolic for women in the music industry.
10. Leylah Fernandez
At only 19 years of age, the Montreal-born tennis player is already enjoying a remarkable career on the international tennis scene. In recent months, she won her first WTA title and, despite playing in the Grand Slam for the second year, reached the finals of the US Open after knocking off three of the world’s best players. Leylah Fernandez has quickly won the hearts of the public with the strength of character, determination, and resilience she displays at such a young age… and her infectious smile!
11. Laurence des Cars
The name Laurence des Cars will be forever etched into the story of the Louvre, because for the first time since it was founded in 1793, a woman is at the head of this institution. The historian and general curator of heritage’s career has seen a spectacular rise from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. The new President-Director of the world’s most visited museum has tasked herself with making it an institution of its time by involving it in major contemporary debates.
12. Azadeh Dastmalchi
Inventor, entrepreneur, manager, successful leader, and naturalized Canadian. After 12 years of research, Azadeh Dastmalchi invented a smart medical watch that could revolutionize the prevention and early diagnosis of various health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and COVID-19. In addition, she founded VitalTracer, of which she is the CEO, to manufacture the watches… all while pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Ottawa. Her leadership has been recognized by Women of Influence, an organization dedicated to the career advancement of women, which named her one of its Top 25 Women of Influence 2021.