As a women-led team, you don’t need to get us started on the concept of Women’s Day. Every day we celebrate the collective efforts of those who care about human rights. However, this 8 March gives us an excuse to introduce you to 21 of our favourite female FutureHeroes – from the women making fashion more sustainable to the space buff CEO via a jazz-loving Brooklynite who’s “super-nerdy” about sea levels and storms. These are the women that make us think 2021 might just work out…
⚡ 1. The Queen of Raw
“Fixing fashion means rebuilding fashion supply chains to support people, planet and profit.”
Stephanie Benedetto is the woman behind Queen of Raw, an online marketplace that uses blockchain technology to connect over 175,000 people and companies who want to buy and sell unused fabric stock. We chatted to her about how pollution can be turned into profit, the role of technology in a less wasteful future, and why sustainability is a story that needs to be told.
FutureHero interview ► Giving deadstock new life
⚡ 2. The Mama of Detroit
“I’m not an urban planner. I must just have an imagination. Somebody had to do it, so it’s cool I did!”
Meet Mama Shu, a powerhouse resident of one of Detroit’s most blighted inner city blocks who is transforming it into an eco-village. This is a truly inspirational story.
Interview ► Mama Shu turns blight to beauty
“I love that I have been able to create a character out of thin air that so many people around the world are rooting for.”
Revenge rape, honour killings, acid attacks, forced marriages and child sexual abuse are taboo topics in Pakistan. Journalist Saba Khalid created Aurat Raaj as a digital content platform that breaks all the rules. Using AI and animation, Saba works at the intersection of art and activism to put an end to gender inequality and violence against girls and women, and help them build a meaningful future.
Interview ► Breaking taboos with AI
“Clothes are an incredible way into understanding a new relationship with nature.”
Two academic activists prove how fashion can put the Earth first in a bold new plan. Earth Logic is an invitation from Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham to the fashion industry to prioritise how we sustain life for all species on our planet. It’s logical, really. We spoke to ‘Kathilda’ about getting fashion out of its bubble, the importance of language and our transition to a landscape of less.
FutureHero interview ► Never less than radical
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough. You can do anything.”
On the banks of the Sabarmati River in western India, a small school is making a big noise in education. The Riverside School picks up award after award, yet doesn’t focus on classic recognitions of excellence. It’s more interested in wellbeing, new learning models and common sense. At its centre, design guru Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids life’s most valuable lesson: being a good human being.
Interview ► Kiran explores the curious world of children
“There is a home for everyone in conservation, climate justice, ocean justice and environmental work.”
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson knows that caring about the ocean doesn’t just mean thinking about marine ecosystems, but people too. We chatted to the celebrated ocean conservationist about finding joy in unsung solutions, being happy on farms and not aspiring to be a highly-sought after public figure.
FutureHero interview ► “I shouldn’t be the most visible woman of colour in ocean conservation”
As climate change shrinks Andean glaciers, bringing water shortages, two Quechua sisters are building traditional ‘sacred’ reservoirs to harvest rain. You can see them from space (the lagoons, not the sisters).
“Climate is a living being to us. And lately it’s been acting a little crazy.”
⚡ 8. Transparent radical
Jessi Baker is the woman behind Provenance, a software company that uses novel technologies like the blockchain to help businesses share information about the people, places and materials involved in their products. It’s all about revolutionising trust:
“Blockchain is getting a lot of hype, but essentially it’s a fancy database. If radical transparency becomes the norm, then we’ll really be moving towards a fantastic new phase for sustainability, which I’m personally very excited about.”
Watch ► You can trust Jessi
⚡ 9. Raging grannies
Watch out for the Raging Grannies – a gaggle bound together by a desire for social justice and a commitment to peaceful activism through satirical song. They are no wallflowers: dressed up in outlandish hats and outfits, they sing loudly, proudly and badly.
“We see our work as the spreading green branches of a great tree, rising up to provide shelter and nourishment for those who will come after us.”
Interview ► Irate grandmas are not to be messed with
⚡ 10. Theatrical activists
When does art become activism? When it’s a rule breaking, politically charged, radically inclusive theatre company like Common Wealth Theatre. Visionary dramatists Rhiannon White and Evie Manning create theatre that breaks the middle class mould, and celebrates the universal and the stories-less-told.
“To make social change, we need to be moved – we need to feel something before we take action”
Meet the FutureLeague ► Activism gets theatrical
“The environment would be just fine without us – so we really need to take a look at ourselves.”
Easkey Britton is an ocean pioneer. Take a deep breath… she’s a multiple championship-winning and big wave surfer; an interdisciplinary academic researcher, driven by a passion for our intimate and inextricable relationship with the oceans; a powerful advocate for diverse voices; and an intuitive seeker of deeper, embodied truths about connection, meaning and purpose.
FutureHero interview ► Easkey makes big waves in sustainability
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⚡ 12. Nature’s ambasssador
“I love the earth. I want to protect the earth and the sea and the land.”
Zakiya Mckenzie wants you to go outside and embrace the countryside: take in all the different orchids and go mushroom-spotting. Because if more people cared about nature, citizen involvement could become the key to conservation.
⚡ 13. Food urbanist
“The shared meal is a metaphor for a good society.”
We are very fond of Carolyn Steel, not only because she feeds us homegrown pickles and wine, and humours us with book title brainstorms, but because – awesome woman aside – the food urbanist writes brilliant books. We couldn’t be more excited that ‘Sitopia’ is out now – it shows you how food can change the world.
FutureHero interview ► Food is a portal into the future
⚡ 14. Real life Top Gun
“I would never let anybody tell me I can’t work on a problem because I’m a woman.”
Blazing a trail for other women, Christine Fox held the highest rank ever for a woman at the Pentagon, was the first female Deputy Secretary of Defense in US history, has flown in B-52s, escaped submerged planes and provided analysis to commanders during conflict. We met up with the problem-solver to analyse exploding tech and the macho world of Top Gun.
Interview ► This is what a true ‘Maverick’ looks like
⚡ 15. Hardware creative
Beirut-born engineer, interaction artist and free hardware advocate Ayah Bdeir is the creative force behind littleBits – the award-winning kit of open source electronic modules that snap together with magnets. She empowers kids to invent anything:
“When we were young, my dad got us chemistry sets, electricity kits and programming lessons, alongside dolls and playsets. My sisters and I never felt that there were any barriers in front of us because of our gender.”
Watch ► The new ‘Lego’ for lil inventors
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⚡ 16. Human sonic boom
Faster-talking than the speed of light, louder than a sonic boom and sparkier than a volcano, extreme ‘experience designer’ Nelly Ben Hayoun has simulated all of the above:
“Being a woman is a massive strength. The space field is about 80% men. I don’t want to have men deciding for me. We must be up there, it’s not even a question. My ‘FuturePower’ would be to be the woman who makes it to become the Head of NASA or ESA.”
⚡ 17. Pirate poet-ician
Hacker, activist, geek and poet Birgitta Jónsdóttir founded Iceland’s Pirate Party – a movement of anarchists and techies that asks for direct democratic reform beyond party politics.
“We have to be Robin Hoods of power. This democracy is a myth that we have to destroy. I’m primarily an activist and a hacktivist within the parliament. I have never really fully understood that I’m a parliamentarian!”
Interview ► We can all participate
⚡ 18. STEM Wonder Woman
In Obama’s White House biomedical scientist and #BlackGirlMagic ambassador Dr. Knatokie Ford worked to raise the visibility and improve the image of STEM and to help promote diversity. We chatted to the bright lipstick-lover about why shows like CSI are essential, her Obama water cooler moment and sharing the stage with Pharrell;
“I am a scientist. I am a strategist. And I am a black woman. Today there is a greater sense of people wanting to be activists. You don’t have to be a part of a big organisation. You as an individual have the ability to do something.”
Interview ► Knatokie makes math-wizardry cool
⚡ 19. Soft robot Iron Woman
Nearly ten years ago in the Tuscan seaside town of Livorno, a robotics researcher asked her father to catch her an octopus. Cecilia Laschi knew that a different bodyware was needed in robotics. The Professor went on to create an Octobot which can sense, squeeze and grab just like the real thing:
“The prospects of soft robotics are enormous and open the way to scenarios that so far have been impossible to imagine. An octopus with eight wiggly arms is very difficult to design and control.”
AtlasChart ► Top 5 soft robots of the future
⚡ 20. Literary mini-activist
Meet bookworm Marley Dias. Bored of only reading about “white boys and their dogs” at school, she launched a book drive and collected books from around the world with one thing in common. They all represented black girls or “girls like me”.
“Being a kid opens doors for me. I want to blaze a trail for other girls. Kids should be able to help create the rules. I would like to tell the girls who don’t think they can make a difference that you can!”
⚡ 21. Moonshot CEO
Space buff, scuba diver, pilot and CEO of XPRIZE’s Global Development; Mumbai-born Zenia Tata was inspired to do good by her grandmother who contributed in slum areas. Today Zenia designs world-changing prizes to aid disadvantaged populations and tackles women’s safety:
“I was an entrepreneur five years before we even knew we had a place in the world! Most of the people on our planet don’t live in the western hemisphere and we have to design a future not just for them, but with them.”
Watch ► We hung out with Zenia in LA
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