Twenty transformative women for 2020

Last week on International Women’s Day, we identified the women whom we think are having a transformative impact commercially, culturally and creatively around the world.  We collected these in a series of recommendations: Transformative women to read, listen to, or see. Here’s our final list, our top twenty Transformative Women to check out in 2020. 


1 . Ann Napolitano

Novel: Dear Edward 

Fresh, complex and nuanced take on dealing with personal grief alongside shared responsibility.

2 . Chantal Akerman

Memoir: My Mother Laughs

An intimate reflection about the artist and filmmaker’s relationship with her mother, written in the latter’s apartment in Brussels during the last year of her life.

3 . Christiana Figueres

Podcast: Outrage and Optimism

Former UNFCCC Chief. A true inspiration for showing how you can drive a global agreement for the most important issue ever. 

4 . Daniella Zalcman


A special documentary photographer examining the legacies of colonization across the world — as they pertain to gender, rituals and displacement. Focus: legacies of western colonization. (Podcast:


5 . Ellen McGirt


Co-host, The Design Observer podcast, Senior Editor, Fortune Magazine and authors the RaceAhead newsletter. Ellen McGirt is one of contemporary America's sharpest minds on race relations within the business world, authoring the RaceAhead newsletter for FORTUNE Magazine. Twitter: @ellmcgirt

6 . Jia Tolentino  

Essay Collection: Trick Mirror

New Yorker journalist, investigating the way the internet simultaneously amplifies movements, but diminishes the people within them. 


7 . Joanna Hogg

The Souvenir (movie) Amazing, personal and nuanced depiction of how addiction can play out in a relationship.


8 . Kara Walker

Fons Americanus, a Monumental installation at Tate Modern’s turbine hall on the subject of slave trade and the abuse suffered by Afro-descendants throughout History.


9 . Lina Bo Bardi

one of my biggest influences—she’s an icon of modernism whose work has recently risen to prominence. This was in part prompted by the largest exhibition to date of her work at Design Week in Milan in 2017 at the Nilufar Depot, which travelled to New York last year. 

10 . Lisa Strausfeld

Inventor of the Immersive Network Graph: 

Lisa Strausfeld has invented a new way that we might experience history, by being immersed in it, seeing linkages not in linear terms but as spatial experiences.


11 . Lizzy Stewart

Novel: Walking Distance 

About walking in the city as a woman, as well as being a woman more generally


12 . Lucy Kirkwood 

The Welkin at the National is essentially about housework and hanging – darkly enjoyable and powerful. The kind of play that could only have been observed and written by a woman for its intimacy and casual social commentary.  

(Sairah Ashman, CEO)

13 . Marina Hyde 

Columnist: Marina Hyde, columnist for The Guardian

She brings humour to the darkest of topics. 

14 . Neri Oxman

Architect, designer, inventor:

Neris Oxman is creating crazy new ways to build and design by bringing nature – from melanin to silk worms – into design practices using new technologies. Exhibition now on at MoMa in New York.


15 . Paola Antonelli


Design Curator, MoMA. The opinionated and courageous Curator of Design for MoMA, having a history of expanding the boundaries of design as it relates to the realms of commerce and ideas.

(Forest Young, Head of Design US)

16 . Peggy Gou 

Korean DJ and producer. She’s brought the attention of a bigger audience to music created by Korean artists (that’s not Kpop).


17 . Reni Eddo-Lodge 

Podcast: About Race

An amazing podcast on the changing nature/ causes of British racism.  (author of ‘Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race’). 

18 . Sarah Rothberg

New media and immersive AR in the context of climate change awareness @ bitforms NYC

19 . Vivianne Castillo

Self-care UX:

UX Researcher, Salesforce. Vivianne Castillo is an original voice within the world of big tech, advocating for a culture of 'self-care' for those that are perpetually tasked with caring for others (e.g., users).

Twitter: @vcastillo630

20 . Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Grafton Architects

Why?: The first all-woman pair to be awarded the 2020 RIBA Royal Gold Medal for Architecture and winners of Pritzker Architecture Prize 2020

A big thank you to our WO team for your nominations: Anj, Becki, Charlie, Chris, David, Emma, Forest, Gracie, Iossie, Jack, Jaymes, Louise, Lucy, Matthias, Melissa, Natalie, Nina, Paul, Pedro, Robert, Rosie, Sairah, Scott.