The year 2023 has been a remarkable one for women across the world, who have shown their creativity, leadership, and courage in various fields and domains. From entertainment and arts to politics and science, these women have made an impact with their vision, innovation, and resilience. Here are 25 of the most influential women of 2023, who have inspired and empowered millions of people with their achievements and contributions.
1. Margot Robbie
The Australian actress and producer has become one of the most successful and versatile stars in Hollywood, with roles in films such as Babylon, Barbie, and Asteroid City. She also won her second Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Nellie LaRoy in Babylon, a period drama set in the golden age of cinema.
The global icon and music legend continued to dominate the industry with her groundbreaking projects and collaborations. She released her ninth studio album, Renaissance, which featured a diverse range of genres and influences, and also produced and starred in the visual album Black Is King, inspired by the music of The Lion King: The Gift. She also won the Time100 Impact Award and the Pollstar Touring Artist of the Decade award.
3. Barbara Kingsolver
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and activist published her eleventh novel, Demon Copperhead, which was hailed as the great Appalachian novel. The book explores the themes of family, identity, and history, through the lens of a young woman who inherits a haunted mansion in rural Kentucky. Kingsolver also received the National Humanities Medal for her literary and humanitarian work.
4. Phoebe Philo
The influential fashion designer and former creative director of Celine launched her eponymous label in 2023, after a four-year hiatus. Her debut collection was met with critical acclaim and commercial success, as she showcased her signature minimalist and elegant style, with a focus on sustainability and craftsmanship. She also collaborated with Nike on a capsule collection of sneakers and apparel.
5. Alia Bhatt
The Indian actress and singer proved her versatility and talent with her performances in various genres and languages. She starred in the biographical drama Gangubai Kathiawadi, for which she won the National Film Award for Best Actress, and also appeared in the romantic comedy Amsterdam, the historical epic Rani Laxmibai, and the musical fantasy Girls. She also made her debut as a producer with the film Darlings, which won the Filmfare OTT Award for Best Film.
The South Korean girl group became one of the most popular and innovative acts in K-pop, with their concept of metaverse and hyperpop music. They released their second and third EPs, Girls and My World, which sold over 2 million and 2.1 million copies respectively, and achieved global recognition with their hit singles “Next Level” and “Savage”. They also won the Song of the Year award at the Melon Music Awards and the Korean Music Awards for “Next Level”.
7. Lola Shoneyin
The Nigerian poet and author organized the tenth edition of the Ake Arts and Book Festival, the largest literary and cultural event in Africa. The festival featured over 200 writers, artists, and speakers from across the continent and beyond, and celebrated the theme of “Black Bodies, Grey Matter”. Shoneyin also published her second novel, The House of Broken Things, which explores the lives of four women in a polygamous household in Lagos.
8. Mira Murati
The chief technology officer of OpenAI became the interim leader of the artificial intelligence research company, after the ousting of CEO Sam Altman. Murati is responsible for developing and deploying the company’s products and tools, such as ChatGPT and Dall-E, and ensuring their safety and ethics. She is also a visionary and advocate for artificial general intelligence, which she believes is the most important technology of the future.
9. Fran Drescher
The actress, writer, and producer became the president of SAG-AFTRA, the largest labor union representing performers and media professionals in the US. Drescher, who is best known for her role in the sitcom The Nanny, campaigned on a platform of diversity, inclusion, and transparency, and vowed to fight for the rights and interests of the union’s members. She is also a cancer survivor and the founder of the Cancer Schmancer Movement, a non-profit organization that promotes early detection and prevention of cancer.
10. Mary Barra
The chair and CEO of General Motors led the company’s transformation and innovation in the automotive industry, with a focus on electric and autonomous vehicles. She announced that GM would invest $35 billion in electric and self-driving vehicles by 2025, and aimed to make the company carbon neutral by 2040. She also launched the Ultium Charge 360, a comprehensive charging solution for electric vehicle owners.
11. Ursula von der Leyen
The president of the European Commission oversaw the implementation and distribution of the EU’s recovery fund, worth 750 billion euros, to help the member states recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. She also spearheaded the EU’s efforts to combat climate change, with the European Green Deal and the Fit for 55 package, which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. She also advocated for the EU’s strategic autonomy and global leadership, especially in relation to China and the US.
12. Janet Truncale
The chief executive officer of Pfizer became the first woman to lead the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, after the retirement of Albert Bourla. Truncale, who has been with Pfizer for over 20 years, played a key role in the development and delivery of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine, which has been administered to over 1.5 billion people worldwide. She also announced that Pfizer would invest $1 billion in biotechnology startups, and pledged to increase the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
13. Karin Keller-Sutter
The Swiss politician and lawyer became the president of the Swiss Confederation, after serving as the vice president in 2022. She is the second woman to hold the office and the first from the canton of St. Gallen. Keller-Sutter, who is a member of the liberal FDP party, is known for her expertise in security, migration, and justice issues. She also championed the cause of women’s rights and equality and supported the legalization of same-sex marriage in Switzerland.
14. Lisa Dyson
The founder and CEO of Air Protein, a company that produces meat alternatives from air and renewable energy, was named one of the Time 100 Most Influential People of 2023. Dyson, who has a PhD in physics from MIT, developed a technology that uses microbes to convert carbon dioxide and water into protein, without the need for land, water, or animals. She aims to create a more sustainable and resilient food system and address the challenges of climate change and food insecurity.
15. Carol Tomé
The CEO of UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company, led the company’s growth and innovation amid the surge in e-commerce and logistics demand during the pandemic. She introduced the “better, not bigger” strategy, which focuses on improving efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction. She also invested in new technologies, such as drones, electric vehicles, and artificial intelligence, to enhance the company’s operations and services. She also committed to making UPS a more diverse and inclusive workplace, and a more responsible corporate citizen.
16. Makiko Ono
The president and CEO of Shiseido, the Japanese cosmetics giant, became the first woman to lead the company in its 150-year history. Ono, who joined Shiseido in 1987, was promoted to the top position after the resignation of Masahiko Uotani. She is responsible for overseeing the company’s global strategy and operations, as well as its digital transformation and innovation. She also aims to strengthen the company’s brand image and reputation and enhance its social and environmental contributions.
17. Marina Silva
The Brazilian politician and environmentalist became the president of Brazil, after winning the 2022 presidential election. Silva, who is a former minister of environment and senator, ran as an independent candidate, with the support of a coalition of parties and movements. She is the first woman, the first Afro-Brazilian, and the first indigenous person to become the president of Brazil. She pledged to restore democracy, fight corruption, and protect the Amazon rainforest and the rights of its people.
18. Marie-Claire Daveu
The chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs of Kering, the French luxury group, was instrumental in advancing the company’s sustainability and social responsibility agenda. She led the development and implementation of the Kering for Nature Fund, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry by supporting the transition to regenerative agriculture. She also launched the Kering Foundation for Women’s Dignity and Rights, which supports initiatives to combat violence and discrimination against women.
19. Narges Mohammadi
The Iranian human rights activist and journalist was released from prison, after serving more than eight years of a 16-year sentence for her peaceful activism. Mohammadi, who is the vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, was arrested in 2015 and convicted of various charges, including “spreading propaganda against the system” and “forming and managing an illegal group”. She endured harsh conditions and torture in prison and was denied medical care and family visits. She continued to advocate for human rights and democracy, and received international support and recognition.
20. Olena Zelenska
The first lady of Ukraine, who is also a screenwriter and a mother of two children. She is married to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, who is a former comedian and actor. She has been supporting her husband in his efforts to defend the country from the Russian invasion and has also been involved in various social and cultural initiatives. She was named by Time as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2023.
21. Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff is a young and talented American tennis player who has won six WTA singles titles and eight doubles titles. She is also the first American teenager to win the US Open women’s title in 2023, and the third youngest player ever to do so. She has been ranked as high as No. 3 in singles and No. 1 in doubles by the Women’s Tennis Association. She started playing tennis at the age of six and has been inspired by the Williams sisters, especially Venus, whom she defeated in her Wimbledon debut in 2019. She is known for her powerful serve, aggressive baseline game, and mental toughness.
22. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema is a Tanzanian biodiversity leader and lawyer who has been serving as the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) since 2023. She is also the former Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the first African woman to hold that position. She has worked with UNEP for over two decades in various capacities, including as the Director of the Law Division and the Deputy Director of the Ecosystems Division. She has also been involved in several international environmental agreements and initiatives, such as the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, the Kew International Medal, and the Nicholas Robinson Award for Excellence in Environmental Law. She is passionate about promoting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for human well-being and development.
23. Katalin Karikó
Katalin Karikó is a Hungarian-American biochemist who specializes in RNA-mediated mechanisms, particularly in vitro-transcribed messenger RNA (mRNA) for protein replacement therapy. She is the co-inventor of the modified mRNA technology that suppresses the immunogenicity of RNA and enables its therapeutic use. This technology has been licensed by BioNTech and Moderna to develop their COVID-19 vaccines, which have been highly effective and successful in fighting the pandemic. She has also contributed to the development of mRNA-based therapies for other diseases, such as Zika virus, cancer, and macular degeneration. She received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2023, along with Drew Weissman, for her groundbreaking work on mRNA. She has also been honored with the Lasker–DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, the Time Magazine’s Hero of the Year in 2021, and the Tang Prize Award in Biopharmaceutical Science in 2022.
24. Chen Chien-Jou
Chen Chien-Jou is a Taiwanese activist and former staffer for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). She sparked the MeToo movement in Taiwan when she posted on Facebook about her experience of being sexually harassed by a filmmaker and having her complaint dismissed by a senior party official. Her post went viral and inspired hundreds of other survivors to come forward with their stories of harassment and abuse in various sectors of Taiwanese society, such as politics, academia, entertainment, and civil society. Her post also led to several resignations and investigations within the DPP and other parties, as well as public apologies and commitments to reform from the president and the party chairperson. She has been hailed as a brave and influential voice for women’s rights and gender equality in Taiwan.
25. Jenni Hermoso
Jenni Hermoso is a Spanish professional footballer who plays for Liga MX Femenil club CF Pachuca and the Spain women’s national team. She is the all-time top scorer for Spain and was part of her country’s championship side at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where she was also awarded the Silver Ball. She started her career at Atlético Madrid, where she spent eight years before moving to Rayo Vallecano, Tyresö FF, Paris Saint-Germain, and Barcelona. She has won seven league titles, six Copas de la Reina, and one UEFA Women’s Champions League with her clubs, as well as six Pichichi trophies as the Spanish league’s top scorer. She is known for her versatility, creativity, and finishing ability as a forward. She has also been nominated for the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA Best Women’s Player awards.