One of our favorite tasks every December is going back through the year to find the women who have made news, made leaps forward, or made our hearts swell. But it’s also one of the hardest tasks. There are so many fascinating women our age who should be celebrated, and we wish we could choose more than 12 for our Women of the Year awards.
Truly, with COVID still controlling how we conduct our lives and interact with others, we could have named every nurse, doctor, first responder, teacher, supermarket worker, liquor store clerk, and on and on. So many selflessly kept our world ticking, and we wish we could give them all proper recognition.
So here are our 2021 Women of the Year–two writers, two politicians, two producers, two activists, an actress, an editor, and a Nobel Laureate. Just a small sampling of what makes women at this stage of life so impactful, influential, and bold!
Because finally one of the most important newspapers in the world is led by a woman, which–we hope–means there will be a broader definition of what is determined newsworthy and the issues important to us will get their due.
Because this 71-year-old mother who lost a son, Eric Gardner, to police violence has transformed her pain and anger into good–leading the charge against excessive use of force.
Because she is the conscience of the Republican Party and one of the few GOP politicians in Washington with the cojones to take on the Trump Machine that is endlessly disseminating lies about the 2020 election and the Jan. 6th Insurrection.
Because she is–and has been for some time–one of the most powerful women in the entertainment industry, having discovered the Jackson 5 and produced many TV series such as Lonesome Dove and Show Time at the Apollo. We first learned about her through GreenLight Women in Hollywood, and can’t wait for her next big thing, which is producing a Dreamworks series on Martin Luther King Jr. along with Stephen Spielberg.
Because her work with RNA and CRISPR led to the development of MRNA vaccines for COVID that have saved countless lives and because she is the subject of a compelling bestseller by noted author Walter Isaacson called The Code Breaker. Oh yeah, and she and her research partner, Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of a method for genome editing.
Because she is a tireless champion of women, writers and justice–both as co-director of The Story Summit Writer’s School and through her regular Facebook posts that crackle with well-phrased indignation, humor, and encouragement (and, as needed, profanity).
Because this 73-year-old, who contracted polio as a child, is “the mother of the disability rights movement” and has made real progress challenging federal laws. She has recently appeared in an Oscar-nominated documentary, Crip Camp, and published a memoir, Being Heumann, that chronicles a life spent fighting for access and proper accommodations.
Because she stepped in when Andrew Cuomo left his position in disgrace, becoming the first female governor of the fourth most populous state, and because she has performed her job with honor and intelligence, which is just what so many women handling crises do.
Because she has a long history of creating engaging, smart entertainment and really hit it out of the park this year with Netflix’s Bridgerton, which allowed us to imagine a color-blind world and gave us a great story with even greater sex scenes.
Because she is a legend in the New York publishing world, writing incisive non-fiction books plus countless articles for scores of publications–including NextTribe–and because she generously brings together movers and shakers from what would be her hefty Rolodex if we still used Rolodexes.
Because she toiled anonymously for years in the CIA and paved the way for major advances in our understanding of the planet. For instance, she was instrumental in harnessing the power of spy satellites to observe a wide range of environmental ills and changes on the Earth’s surface.