40 over 40 – Germany's Most Inspiring Women
Strong women are the backbone of society. FemaleOneZero’s “Forty over Forty” listicle honors the female pioneers who dominate their respective fields. Powerful businesswomen and groundbreaking scientists, our society’s culture-shapers and political leaders. This year, we gave our wonderful jury an extra challenge. We asked them to find role models who are not only outstanding at what they do, but also create opportunities for other women to thrive. We are proud to present our 2021 shortlist of Germany’s female icons, in collaboration with HypoVereinsbank.
Prof. Dr. Maja Göpel, The New Institute
“Rethinking our world” – that's what she invites us to do (and not just in her bestseller of the same name). "Right now," states political economist Maja Göpel, "when the world stands still, it’s a historic moment; we gain some time to ask ourselves how we want to live in the future." As a transformation researcher, she has an enormous amount of insight to offer on why and how we can shape major changes towards a sustainable, socially just society. The list of her credentials is long. To name a few: she advises the German government on global environmental change, teaches at Leuphana University in Lüneburg, co-founded Scientists4futur, is Director of Research of the Hamburg-based think tank "The New Institute", and yes, she is the mother of two daughters. Anyone who experiences Maja Göpel will gush over her: This woman, so smart and unpretentious! We need people like her in government.
Vera Schneevoigt, Bosch Security and Safety Systems
The Digital Shero
"I'm a Techie!" she often declares with great enthusiasm. Where would the digital industry be without women like her, we wonder. Her resume is stellar: she was Managing Director at Siemens Enterprise Communications (currently known as Unify) where she was responsible for production and supply chain. In the same role at Fujitsu Technology Solutions, she was responsible for development, production, logistics and purchasing for product business outside Japan, and also led the group's development and production site in Augsburg. Since April 2019, she has been Chief Digital Officer as well as Head of Development for the Bosch Building Technologies division. But there's another side to the top manager. Those who follow her on social media channels also know the other Vera Schneevoigt, who never tires of fighting for a fairer society. Sometimes even at four in the morning on Twitter.
Prof. Dr. Monika Schnitzer, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich
The Economist for Excellence
It took 40 years for a woman to be elected as a member of the German Council of Economic Experts, better known as the “Fünf Wirtschaftsweisen“ (the five sages of economics). The woman was Beatrice Weder di Mauro, and the year was 2004. In 2020, the Council finally welcomed two women at the same time, one of them being Monika Schnitzer. She is a Professor of Economics at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Her research focuses on innovation, competition policy, and multinational firms. A luminary with a stellar academic record. She has been a visiting professor at Boston University, MIT, Stanford University, Yale University, University of California Berkeley, and Harvard University. Her expertise is in high demand in the political arena as well. Monika Schnitzer has served as policy advisor for the German government for 20 years, including the Scientific Advisory Board of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and for eight years, as Deputy Chair of the Expert Commission on Research and Innovation.
Prof. Dr. h.c. Jutta Allmendinger, Berlin Social Science Center (WZB)
The Quota Fighter
Among her many areas of expertise, Dr. Allmendinger has decades of experience researching biases in the labour market. She juggles a professorship at Humboldt University, fellowships at Harvard and Freie Universität and the presidency of the Berlin Social Science Center. But despite her impressive qualifications, she believes that she would have been overlooked for many leadership positions without Germany’s so-called “women’s quota”: as she explains in numerous articles, talks and a new book, German women still struggle to access top management positions. Their careers are expected to take a back seat to their families. Dr. Allmendinger has played a crucial role in pushing the quota system even further: as of 2021, German supervisory boards must include at least 30% of women. In 2020, women made up only 12.8% of management boards of the country’s largest companies.
Dr. Özlem Türeci, BioNTech
The Game Changer
When Dr. Türeci co-founded BioNTech in 2008, she did not know that the first vaccine they would distribute, to help people around the world, would be one against a pandemic disease. Yet she and the entire BioNTech team were prepared for anything. Their research on mRNA technology was groundbreaking and allowed them to face even a global pandemic. In January 2020, BioNTech was one of the first companies to begin developing a COVID-19 vaccine, kickstarting a new phase in the war against the pandemic. But the innovative biotech company is also working on game changing research beyond the current crisis: Dr. Türeci’s main area of expertise is oncology, and her company promotes cutting-edge biomedical innovation and an individualized therapeutical approach in its battle against cancer. In February 2021, Dr. Türeci and her husband Dr. Şahin were awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for their outstanding achievements.
Dr. oec. Antje von Dewitz, VAUDE
The Sustainability Ambassador
When Antje von Dewitz took over its management from her father 12 years ago, VAUDE was already a household name in the outdoor equipment industry. The foundation for its environmental and social responsibility policies had already been laid out. But it didn't seem like enough to her. "Are we doing this all the way, or not at all?" was her initial provocation. The rest is a sustainable success story: the company headquarters have been climate-neutral since 2012, 40% of managers are women, 55% of employees have flexible work models, and VAUDE is a member of the independent Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), among others. The company is growing, it has highly motivated employees, and it’s already won quite a few awards. "We have to fundamentally change our understanding of the economy," demands Dr. Antje von Dewitz, mother of four children, "we can be economically successful and at the same time think and act holistically." Economics for the common good: the supreme discipline.
Katharina Krentz, Robert Bosch GmbH
The #WOL #FrauenStärken Initiator
If you scroll through the Twitter timeline these days, you'll see lots of happy female faces. They're the participants of #WOL, Working Out Loud, #FrauenStärken (empowering women). Katharina Krentz came up with the idea for this gigantic initiative, in which over 3000 women (and a few men) work together in more than 600 circles over 12 weeks. This woman is a powerhouse. At Bosch, she is part of the Corporate Human Resources Transformation Team & Collaboration Crew, but she also founded her own consultancy "Connecting Humans" and, coming full circle, became a certified "Working Out Loud" coach. What happens during these sessions? Following the WOL approach, participants work on their goals systematically; these can be anything from gaining more visibility or delivering their first TED Talk to specific job ventures. Thus, a huge interactive community has been born. It's amazing what one woman can do!
Prof. Dr. med. Alena Buyx, German Ethics Council
The Moral Compass
A woman of science with a humanistic vocation. In the ethical nightmare of the current pandemic, questions of individual freedom versus collective responsibility have flooded our daily lives; grabbing a coffee with a friend feels like a life-or-death decision. On a governmental level, things get even more complicated: how do you establish priority for a potentially life-saving vaccination? How can keeping people safe be balanced with respecting their freedom? As Director of the German Ethics Council, Professor Buyx shares the burden of these problems. The Council advises on the big ethical issues of our time. It publishes recommendations for politics and seeks to structure and stimulate public debate. Buyx herself is a leading expert in bioethics and medical ethics, a doctor and philosopher educated in Münster, Harvard and UCL, who holds the Chair of ethics in medicine and health technologies at Technical University of Munich. There, she studies how medical advancements and man-machine interaction push the boundaries of our moral comfort zone. She is an enthusiastic communicator and educator and particularly enjoys supporting her growing team of bright young scholars in her Ethics Lab.
Dr. Katarina Barley, European Parliament
The European Citizen
In Katarina Barley, the European project has found a passionate and outspoken champion. A dual British-German citizen, Barley was raised to value transnationality: her father was a Lincolnshire-born journalist who had emigrated to West Germany in search of a more egalitarian society. Barley later started a multicultural family of her own, having met her Spanish-Dutch husband during her Erasmus in Paris. True to her progressive upbringing, she built a political career in service of equality, from local judge to Minister for Justice. Finally, Barley answered her European calling in 2019, when she was elected Vice President of the EU Parliament. Even in this new role, she still stands up for the little guy: she is a member of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, as well as The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
Katja Berlin, Die Zeit
The (Pie) Chart Breaker
She leaves no topic out: DAX, digitalization, consumerism, careers, men and women, and cats in lockdown. Her form is satire, or more precisely: satire in pie charts. Katja Berlin manages to bring complex and everyday issues succinctly to the point. She achieves this with the famous "pies of truth" that have appeared every week on Die Zeit since 2015. One example: "What do women have to justify themselves for?" she answers on the pie chart, one quarter each: 1. only having children; 2. only having a career; 3. For having children and a career; 4. For having neither children nor a career. Full marks, of course! Katja Berlin, whose real name is Katja Dittrich, studied Media Consulting and Politics, and is an author, columnist and blogger. With her first book What we do when the elevator does not come (2011, the best of her graphitty blog), she began a series of 15 bestsellers to date. Making a living from (feminist) humor is hard work, she says. And it’s a gift to us.
Dunja Hayali, ZDF
The Iconic Reporter
Such a delicate-sounding name now has the power of a drumbeat. Dunja Hayali, the German journalist with Iraqi roots, always heads straight into explosive topics in her interviews and reports. Freedom of expression, racism, right-wing extremism, violence against women and children. She wants to hear the voices of others, she wants to understand. "It's absolutely important to get out of your comfort zone," she says, "to see things for yourself." The TV presenter has already received quite a few major awards for her civic engagement – but both on the Internet and during her street reporting, she has also experienced humiliation and hatred, which can even proves life-threatening. Her vulnerability is sometimes apparent making her more likable and approachable – but then she immediately follows up with a flippant, quick-witted comment. Her unstoppable energy is back. She is a loud voice for an open society.
Prof. Dr. Claudia Kemfert, German Institute
for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)
The Future’s Accountant
What she deals with is perhaps the most exciting question of all: how much will the future cost? Claudia Kemfert is head of the Energy, Transport, Environment department at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) and a professor of Energy Economics and Energy Policy at Leuphana University. With her team at DIW, she works with computer-based models to calculate the cost of climate protection and climate change, energy price fluctuations and sustainable mobility in the future. Globally relevant topics. From Berlin, she weaves connections with institutions all over the world, from Potsdam, Graz and Linz to Stanford University in California. She is convinced that "climate protection will drive economics in the future. The growth potential of the 'green industry' is immense." This topic has already reached many German executives, she says. Others still need convincing. Ms. Kemfert continues to fight.
Clear, straightforward, to the point: when Simone Menne gets involved in discussions, she refuses to play buzzword bingo. The other day on Clubhouse, she asked the most interesting question of the evening: how is it that VW has held on to its brand love, despite the diesel scandal? Excellent point! But no surprises there: the former Lufthansa board member honed her skills by fighting her way up to the top, at a time when there were no female role models to lean on. A few years ago, on a famous Handelsblatt interview, she spoke with refreshing honesty about her shortcomings and mistakes. How bold! How confident! How relatable! And let’s play the gender card… Unthinkable coming from a man. In the meantime, Ms. Menne sits on various supervisory boards, runs an art gallery, writes a blog and has a terrific podcast: Die Boss. Take that, Mr. Springsteen.
Düzen Tekkal, GermanDream
The Human Rights Champion
Tekkal uses her many talents to promote integration and democracy. She is an extraordinary reporter, filmmaker and author – in her latest book, #GermanDream, she interweaves stories of survival with interviews to key figures in German society, asking them to imagine a truly multicultural future for the country. But Tekkel’s German Dream exists beyond the page: it’s one of the two organizations founded by Tekkal to promote integration and assist war victims, along with Hawar.help. Her journalism often aims to highlight forgotten victims of war. March 15th 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the war in Syria, and as her harrowing documentary Hawar* reminds us, “It’s not over yet.” Women and girls are among the most vulnerable groups in any conflict, and Tekkal works tirelessly for their future.
Mia Florentine Weiss
The LOVE Concept Artist
You can find her lying in an incubator in Innsbruck, or on a bed at the Documenta. She takes the refugee route from Damascus to Frankfurt and places huge iron ambigrams in public places. Mia Florentine Weiss is a multimedia artist, a passionate collector of everything that people leave behind on this planet. It's what she creates her leitmotif from. Her signature style is marked by the themes of security and escape, origin and emigration, love and hate, beauty and horror. She creates spaces in which people can come closer to each other (and themselves), think and feel. The artist studied fashion journalism in Hamburg, worked in New York and experienced her artistic initiation with Himba women in Namibia. Today, Mia Florentine Weiss works and lives in Berlin with her husband and child. Her energy inspires women, and vice versa: "I love women," says the artist. "They are the driving force and the breeding ground of 21st century society."
Dr. Victoria Ossadnik, E.ON Energie Deutschland GmbH
The energy sector is not exactly burdened with an excess of women at the top. So the news from last December was a bit of a bombshell. For the first time since 2013, a woman has joined the E.ON Board of Management – and in the Digitalization department no less. She was previously Head of Sales at E.ON Energie Deutschland GmbH. A physics graduate, she started her career at a start-up in the laser industry before moving to Oracle and later Microsoft, where she was Vice President for Enterprise Services Delivery. The mother of two was once asked what advice she has for young female colleagues. "Look closely and think," she answered. "Does the company match my values and ideas – even when it comes to family planning?" Wise words. Wise woman.
Tuesday Porter, TÜV Nord Group
The Debate Queen
Her name is not all that's unusual about her. What sets Tuesday Porter apart is the clarity with which she helps orchestrate current debates: diversity and women in leadership, politics, tech and digitalization. Her tone is pleasantly calm and pragmatic, perhaps because of her professional background. She has more than 25 years of experience in technical companies, and has held various positions at TÜV NORD GROUP since 1999. There, she established the Group Representative Office, and as its Head, she has been responsible for the Group's political and governmental affairs since 2010. She has been a member of the TÜV NORD AG Supervisory Board since 2018. Tuesday Porter recently moved into one of the smartest "WGs" on Clubhouse. What a line-up it has! Together with Andrea Steverding, Claudia Oeking, Carmen Maria Parrino and Kristina Fassler, she discusses the biggest questions of our time.
The Creative Multitalent
Is there anything this woman can't do? Anika Decker has written screenplays for hit movies such as Keinohrhasen, directed High Society, and published the 2019 bestseller Wir von der anderen Seite (We From The Other Side), an novel with autobiographical traits. In her early 30s, she was in a coma for days after suffering from blood poisoning. Perhaps a near-death experience like that makes you less likely to settle for compromises. Anika Decker has faced off against big and powerful names in the film industry. Her complaint was sparked by the Til Schweiger film Keinohrhasen, for which she wrote the screenplay. Here is the question she wants to settle legally: how much weight does a screenwriter's creative ideation have in the overall success of a film? Is a commission fee of 50,000 euros appropriate in light of a predicted revenue in the nine figures? The final verdict has yet to be reached, but Decker has already achieved a partial success in court: the production company will have to disclose their profits, so that she can demand her cut. For those of us following the whole thing from our sofa, this drama has a bonus track. The title: “How to assert your financial interests.”
Annalena Baerbock, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen
Suddenly, there she was. No one in German politics has made such a rapid rise in recent years as Annalena Baerbock, says Spiegel journalist Markus Feldenkirchen. As co-leader of the Green Party, almost anything seems possible for her (depending on one's political imagination), from becoming vice chancellor to succeeeding Angela Merkel as chancellor. Which candidate will step into the ring, namely Habeck or Baerbock, will be announced sometime in early summer. What we can look forward to if Baerbock takes the lead is a smart, sophisticated, competent politician. The mother of two daughters has a master's degree from LSE (London School of Economics). Underming her would be a mistake. Her cutlass retort to Friedrich Merz on Anne Will last fall is the stuff of legend. When he stated that we have bigger problems than gender language, Annalena Baerbock countered with a full speech. "How do we want to live in ten years?", she asked. Her vision for society is definitely fit for a chancellor.
Dr. Wiebke Ankersen, AllBright Foundation
The Equity Advocat
The numbers don’t lie. 2020 was a rough year for German businesswomen, with their already waning ranks becoming even smaller. For several years, the country has lagged behind other powerful economies in terms of diversity – the USA, Sweden and the UK all have twice as many women in top management positions. Dr. Ankersen’s mission is to uncover these disparities. She is the CEO of the AllBright Foundation, a non-profit organization which aims to combat the unequal treatment of women on the workplace, support diversity and demand transparency from corporations. As well as organizing panels and workshops with impressive keynote speakers, the Swedish-German foundation monitors companies’ progress in female representation, and they’re not afraid to name names in their reports. If the glass ceiling is beginning to show cracks, it’s thanks to women like Dr. Ankersen.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ursula Gather
The Statistics Expert
In times like these, when the value of science is more evident than ever and facts are becoming hard currency, women like Ursula Gather are an authority. Professor Gather specializes in Mathematical Statistics and Industrial Applications, and she was rector of the Technical University of Dortmund until last summer. In her twelve years at the helm, she took the TU several steps forward. Student numbers have increased by 60%, while TU research and projects are well-funded. Her future doesn't look too boring either. Having received the German Order of Merit in 2018, she sits on the Presidium of the German Academy of Science and Engineering, the Senate of the Leopoldina, the Advisory Board of NRW Bank and the Supervisory Board of Thyssenkrupp, among others. Even without a Statistics degree, it's easy to predict that she'll have her hands full for quite some time.
Kenza Si Ait Abbou Lyadini, Deutsche Telekom
The AI Ambassador
She has a sense of humor, is quick-witted and extremely laid back. Could there be a better role model for young girls than Kenza Si Ait Abbou Lyadini? And how cool is tech? The Senior Manager for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence at Deutsche Telekom was born in Morocco and studied Telecommunications Engineering in Spain. Followed by Master's in Project Management in Germany, then Chinese as a Foreign Language in China. She speaks 7 languages fluently – but most importantly, she can translate tech in terms we can understand. This is also the purpose of her book, which she published last year: "Don't Panic, It's Just Tech." She's all about educating people and raising awareness about the dangers that can come with technology. At the same time, she gets us excited about the great opportunities provided by tech for good. Kenza likes to explain it all with a particular metaphor. She says, “AI is like a bread knife: it can cut bread and it can hurt people. It's up to us how we use the knife."
Dr. Tanja Wielgoß, Vattenfall Wärme Berlin AG
Tanja Wielgoß has set the bar high at Vattenfall: by 2030, the energy supplier will stop using hard coal completely, and within a generation, it will even have to manage without fossil fuels. As CEO of Heat Berlin, she is responsible for Western Europe's largest district heating network (2000km) and 1700 employees. She states that "heat is the area where we can achieve the most progress for climate protection." Tanja Wielgoß is regarded as an unpretentious go-getter, someone who lends a hand whenever possible. Before joining Vattenfall, the political scientist and economist worked for Roland Berger and A.T. Kearny, where she was Head of Aviation. Most recently, she was head of Berlin's city cleaning service and she even took on some shifts. "That's how you get a sense of the atmosphere." It's nice when ambitious women are so down to earth.
Claudia Kessler, Astronautin GmbH
What does it take to travel to space? According to aerospace engineer Claudia Kessler, a good astronaut needs extraordinary psychological resilience, and a strong background in science or engineering. Gender-neutral qualities with an extremely gendered history. As of this year, 62 women have been sent to space, against a staggering 560 men – not a single German woman among them. Claudia Kessler is about to change this. In 2009, she established The First Female German Astronaut foundation, which aims to send Dr. Insa Thiele-Eich and Dr. Suzanna Randall to the International Space Station by 2021. So that little girls everywhere can reach for the stars.
Andrea Martin, IBM
The Tech Enthusiast
Andrea Martin is an expert at building bridges. What drives her? "I have a passion for people and for technology. My goal is to create an environment where everyone is empowered to innovate." A Business Mathematics graduate, she has been involved in tech for a quarter century. She started her career at IBM, where she now leads the IBM Watson Center Munich and IBM Client Centers in the EMEA region after holding various positions in the company. She is a sought-after expert: she sat on the German Federal Government's AI Commission of Inquiry from 2018 to 2020 and has been awarded numerous prizes – most recently, she was named Manager of the Year for AI & Robotics. She is also involved in the Society for Women Engineers, promoting diversity and inclusion. Because one thing is for sure: We need more Andrea Martins (and perhaps more Martinis) in the tech industry!
Prof. Dr. Miriam Meckel, Handelsblatt Media Group
The Journalist of the Future
Doctor Meckel is reinventing journalism for the digital age. A top expert on the development of digital communication, she promotes innovation and adaptability in a rapidly changing world. As a Director Institute for Media and Communications Management at the University of St. Gallen, she equips younger generations with a sophisticated knowledge of digital business communication. For the rest of us, she created ada. The cutting-edge digital platform was cofounded by Miriam Meckel, Léa Steinacker and Verena Pausder, and named after programming pioneer Ada Lovelace. Its aim is to “understand today for tomorrow”: covering the latest trends in technology and innovation, ada brings a startup-like impetus to Handelsblatt. The platform has a powerful digital arsenal of live talks, podcasts and a gorgeous online magazine. Ada Lovelace would be proud.
Univ.-Prof. Marylyn Addo, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)
The Doctor of the Year
When it comes to global epidemics, Dr. Addo is a seasoned veteran. From her father, also a doctor from Ghana, she grew up learning about illnesses from different parts of the world. Even as a child, Marylyn was not scared of these horror stories: on the contrary, they inspired her to become an infectiologist. During her year abroad in Strasbourg, she worked at a clinic for HIV-AIDS – it was the 90’s, and few students wanted to go near the hyper-stigmatized disease. Since then, she has been at the forefront of many global crises: she developed a vector-based vaccine for Ebola, and she is currently using the same technique for a COVID-19 vaccine. This discovery may extinguish the latest mutations of the virus. Last November, she was honored as Woman of the Year at the 2020 German Medical Award.
Dr. Maria Furtwängler, MaLisa Foundation
Films play a decisive role in determining our image of society. Actress Maria Furtwängler knows this from experience. In 2016, she founded MaLisa with her daughter Elisabeth. On an international level, the foundation is dedicated to combating violence against girls and women. In Germany, it is committed to social diversity and overcoming restrictive gender roles. A study they published last fall, for example, examined the role models conveyed by series on streaming platforms. The bitter conclusion: men are almost twice as likely to be seen in key roles on German shows. Women are shown working in jobs that require emotional labour and female homosexuality is rarely portrayed on screen. The foundation's work was awarded the Soroptimist Prize Germany 2021. In her acceptance speech, Maria Furtwängler made a beautiful statement: "We are committed to ensuring that the role models conveyed to us every day open up room for imagination, instead of closing it off. This is an essential requirement for social progress".
Anja Hendel, diconium
The Data Lover
How to transfer the successful German art of engineering to the digital age? That's a very good question. It's one that Anja Hendel has been pondering. You can read all about it in various articles on the extremely engaging diconium blog How to Build a Tech Company. Since January 2020, the business informatics specialist has been Managing Director of the VW subsidiary, which supports companies in their digital transformation. Prior to this, she led an international team at the Berlin-based Porsche Digital Lab for more than two years. She is an art fan and data lover, ambitious, eloquent and down to earth. In other words, Anja Hendel is a role model for the modern age. Soon she will have another big challenge on her hands: in April, she will become a mother for the first time. But this too is an option for modern top managers. Thankfully.
Christine Regitz, SAP
How many jobs and tasks and honorary positions can fit into a single life? If you factor Regitz into the equation, you get the feeling it's an infinite number. Christine Regitz studied Business Administration and Physics and is now Vice President at SAP SE. She is also Head of Women in Tech and has been a member of the company's Supervisory Board for six and a half years. She is also a member of the Executive Committee and spokesperson for the Business Advisory Board of the German Informatics Society, a member of the High-Level Advisory Committee of the European Center for Women and Technology (ECWT), and on the Advisory Board of CyberMentor. Anyone who talks to her encounters a debate-ready, uncompromising innovator who would like nothing better than to turn sluggish Germany upside down for once. Which she is already doing at full force, in all the roles in which she is involved.
Anastasia Biefang, Deutsche Bundeswehr
Anastasia Biefang is fighting on multiple fronts. With more than 26 years of military service under her belt, Germany’s first transgender Batallion Commander is now Head of Unit within its Cyber and Information Domain Service. But she is also an outspoken advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ soldiers, as an active member of QueerBW. When Biefang first enrolled in 1994, women were not yet allowed to serve in the armed forces, and members of the LGBTQ+ community did not have access to leadership positions. At this point, Biefang was still living as a cisgender man. But to her surprise, her coming out as transgender in 2015 was met with support by her employer. “I hope that my visibility, standing up for myself, being out and proud in uniform as a female soldier will pave the way for others,” she commented on the Bundeswehr’s 65TH anniversary.
Natalia Wörner has often been described as one of the "best actresses of her generation". She has received a number of prizes, including the German Television Award and the Grimme Preis. Her first feature film, "Frauen sind etwas Wunderbares" (Women are something wonderful), was released in 1993. The title already hints at her lifelong focus: for years, the actress has been committed to the support of women's rights. In 2020, Wörner was involved in two major women’s rights campaigns in Germany. The #ICHWILL initiative, calling for mandatory women quotas of female board members and the #sicherheim campaign, which aimed to raise public awareness of domestic violence and collect donations in support of victims. Natalia Wörner and other prominent figures promoted the initiatives on posters or on TV. The posters were a slap in the face. To name only one: LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. BRUISES AT SECOND GLANCE. The campaign is a wake-up call; one we should pay more attention to, especially in times of lockdown. As Natalia Wörner once stated: "Only when violence against women is seen as a problem for society as a whole, can something change for those affected."
The case of Kristina Hänel shows how much Germany still struggles with the issue of abortion, how schizophrenic the situation still is in 2021. The doctor was assessed a fine by the Gießen Regional Court for violating Paragraph 219a. She listed abortion as a medical service on her website and explained the procedure. This is a criminal offence in Germany. It's a violation of the "advertising ban", which in reality amounts to a ban on information. The case went back and forth between different jurisdictions – in the meantime, the law was half-heartedly revised in 2019, but not repealed. Kristina Hänel was fined again in December 2019. It's ideological trench warfare between pro-lifers and those who advocate for self-determination. Hänel says, "I cannot accept legislation that prohibits medical education and information. As a doctor, I will continue to be there for women." She has now filed a complaint with the Federal Constitutional Court. Let's hope they put an end to this madness.
Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, EU Commission
The First Female President
Ursula von der Leyen has many layers to her personality. Journalists Peter Dausend and Elisabeth Niejahr put it in a nutshell when they wrote her biography: "She is conservative and modern, disciplined and unpredictable, cosmopolitan and close to home." A polarizing woman. But one who has always had a clear compass when it comes to her commitment to women – regardless of her role. A doctor by training, she was a minister for fourteen years, responsible first for Family Affairs, then Labor and Social Affairs, and later Defense. Whether with daycare, domestic help or parental allowance, von der Leyen has always supported women. As the first female President of the EU Commission, she also employs the highest proportion of women to date: 11 of the 26 Commissioners are female. And she's got big plans. The mother of seven has defined six headline ambitions for Europe for her mandate: a European Green Deal, a European Union fit for the digital age, an economy that works for people, strengthening Europe's global position, promoting our European way of life, and a new push for European democracy.
Jagoda Marinić, Intercultural Center Heidelberg
The author, playwright and columnist meddles in the defining debates of our time. The daughter of Croatian immigrants, she writes about identity, feminism, politics: a modern chronicler. She does so with verve, uncompromisingly, sometimes cheekily, but always with a brilliant style. Her language! She landed on writing the way others land on modeling: she was discovered, more or less by chance. In her early 20s, she intervened in the debate about dual citizenship, and her article in the Frankfurter Rundschau caught the attention of a famous Suhrkamp editor. Her first short story collection, Eigentlich ein Heiratsantrag, was presented by the great Siegfried Unseld with the words, "You wish you’d written a book like that". That's as good as it gets. Finally, a fun fact about her name: if you’ve ever wondered about the strawberry on her Twitter profile – Jagoda means strawberry in Croatian. Makes sense: a citizen of the world like her can't have a boring name.
The Taboo Breaker
When Carolin Kebekus appeared in our lives at some point in the early 2000s, we had to completely redefine the word "funny". The word "taboo" had to go too. The actress brought the so-called Pussy Terror to Germany. Some rubbed their eyes in wonder, others flew into a rage. Carolin Kebekus started fights with everyone: the lying bourgeoisie, the chicks, the machos, and her favorite opponent: the Catholic Church. Her critics accuse her of having nothing sacred, but it's not that simple. As a convinced feminist, she supports the Maria 2.0 initiative, which demands that women have access to church offices. As Kebekus put it: "Your business is going down the drain, and you have so many smart, highly intelligent, educated women who are full of love for their church and want to help." Kebekus is nothing like her colleagues, whose gags often age so poorly. She is not merely timeless: she gets better with time.
Saskia Bruysten, Yunus Social Business
The Revolutionary Philanthropist
Saskia Bruysten dreams big. For over ten years, she has supported several titanic causes, from education to sustainability and ending poverty. Her method: supporting social entrepreneurship ventures around the world, pushing for sustainable business models to become the only business models. Together with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, she co-founded Yunus Social Business, which has already provided employment, education, healthcare and clean water across the globe. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, she co-initiated the COVID Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, uniting more than 50 companies to support social entrepreneurship, and to raise awareness of its vital role of social entrepreneurship in the midst of heightened uncertainty. Bruysten is a philanthropist for the 21st century: one who aspires to “reform capitalism for the better.”
Nicola Breyer, OptioPay
Some quotes age poorly indeed. "Ms. Breyer, no one is ever going to use a credit card on the internet." That was in the '90s. Nicola Breyer is a digital pioneer. And an explorer too: she lived in the UK for fifteen years and in France for five. What drives this woman is mapping out uncharted territory; for example, in her new role as COO and shareholder at the fintech company OptioPay, which she joined last July after leaving financial giant PayPal. Or as an advisory board member and angel investor for young companies, and in two impact investment funds on plastic avoidance and democratizing finance. When asked about her career, she says that the greatest upside of a high-profile job is creating the best conditions for young talents to rise above themselves. Amazing!
Annette Ramelsberger, Süddeutsche Zeitung
In a post-truth world, a reporter’s job is twice as hard. After doing the leg work of uncovering difficult truths, you’re faced with extremely low levels of trust in the media, and an audience who relies on their algorithm-fed echo chambers. As a former Foreign Correspondent in the Communist GDR, Annette Ramelsberger is no stranger to navigating a polarized media landscape. But these days, she has found an interesting niche to expose injustice: court reporting. Ramelsberger’s forthright articles for the Süddeutsche Zeitung have enormous political weight, revealing blind spots and malpractices in the German justice system. She is an expert on right-wing terrorism, and her two-volume report on the trial of the neo-Nazi terrorist cell NSU made waves by exposing the institutions’ reluctance to acknowledge fascist hate crimes.
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