The FT’s 25 most influential women of 2021

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Written by Christine Lagarde, Elizabeth Warren, Malala Yousafzai, Jane Fraser, Greta Thunberg and many more

December 2 2021

The FT’s annual Women of the Year has long celebrated achievement and influence. With the same objective in mind, we’ve expanded the list for 2021 and asked some of the most influential women in the world to write the entries, including Jane Fraser, Christine Lagarde, Elizabeth Warren, Billie Jean King, Malala and Greta Thunberg.

Women of the Year is a celebration, of course. But it is also a lens through which to understand the dynamic nature of leadership and power. To ask “Who was influential in 2021?”, you must grapple with “What is influence?” and “How is it changing?”

We put the list together in collaboration with FT journalists from dozens of international bureaus, former women of the year and readers like you.

Across continents, industries and issues, all of these remarkable women have shaped this tumultuous year.

Each of them is sure to help shape the better ones to come.

Roula Khalaf, editor of the Financial Times

*NB: This is an unranked list.


Mariam Al-Mahdi

Politician, Sudan


Some battles last a lifetime. No one knows this better than Mariam al-Mahdi, Sudan’s foreign minister until late November, active in the struggle for democracy in her home country for more than three decades. Her father was prime minister when brigadier Omar al-Bashir led a coup against his democratically elected government in 1989. Thirty years later, the autocratic Bashir was forced out after months of protests.

Sudanese political culture has long been dominated by men, and al-Mahdi, a doctor and by 2019 a leading political figure in her own right, became one of the few women in the Sudanese cabinet. In the weeks since Sudan’s military suspended the government in October this year, she has emerged as one of its most outspoken critics and as a voice for all the women who took to the streets to campaign for change.

It takes courage and tenacity to keep going. As al-Mahdi told the FT, “The women of Sudan are very adamant and very strong fighters for democracy. They have always been very strong believers in democratic values and democratic transformation. Nothing will deter them, they are now at the forefront.”


Ryan is the FT’s Africa and Middle East news editor


الدكتورة مريم الصادق المهدي


الدكتورة مريم الصادق المهدي