The recent Fortune 500 list featured more female CEOs than ever before, but that still only equates to 6.6% of the list, and there was only one solitary woman in the Forbes’ list of 'America’s 100 Most Innovative Leaders', so while we are making progress, there is still a lot of work to be done.
One way AllBright, with the support of BMW, HSBC and Keds, is leading the movement to radically change those statistics is to shout about the many outstanding, visionary women out there and that's where BrightList comes in.
Our inaugural awards (held across two cities – London & LA – in March 2020) were about inspiring sisterhood through celebrating the actions and achievements of 20 incredible people.
Through spotlighting and championing pioneering women of all ages and stages of their careers, together we can shape a brighter future. So without further ado, here are the winners and why you should know them...
Name: Nimco Ali OBE
Why she’s our winner: Ali is a social activist and co-founder of the non-profit organisations Daughters of Eve, and latterly, The Five Foundation, the global partnership to end female genital mutilation (FGM).
What she believes in: Ali has campaigned for the best part of a decade against FGM and gender inequality. In 2020, she told AllBright she wants to outrightly “stand in solidarity with [her] sisters in Africa” and to “champion Africa’s female future.” She believes that FGM can be overcome on a global scale if women from all over the globe come together through a collaborative effort. This year, organisations like The Five Foundation have incited real visible change, with Sudan outlawing FGM earlier this year. Ali says her grandmother is her biggest inspiration, because she strived to “do better for the next generation”, something Ali applies to her own activism.
One thing you might not know about her: Last year, she published her first book What We’re Told Not to Talk About (But We’re Going to Anyway): Women’s Voices from East London to Ethiopia – a series of conversations on sex, masturbation, periods, pregnancy, menopause, and more.
A word from Keds on why it supports the BrightList awards: "Keds and AllBright align so perfectly because we’re all there to support women around the world to be who they want to be, to follow their dreams, be there to celebrate and empower them to change the world", said Irena Bozhilova, International Brand Manager at Keds.
Name: Maja Pantic
Why she’s our winner: Maja Pantic, is the research director of the innovative Samsung Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Centre in Cambridge and is one of the world’s leading experts in the research on machine understanding of human behaviour. Through her work, she dares to imagine a world where AI enhances human abilities further – aiding the hearing and sight impaired, people with autism, and further assisting independent living for the elderly.
What she believes in: For Pantic, the future is AI. She believes that speech itself may be rendered unnecessary if brainwave-to-brainwave transmissions, aided by AI, was to ever become a reality.
One thing you might not know about her: She’s also a Professor of Affective and Behavioural Computing at Imperial College London.
Name: Ara Katz
Why she's our winner: Ara Katz is the co-founder and co-CEO of Seed Health, a microbial sciences company pioneering applications of bacteria to impact human and environmental health. They partner with leading academic partners to accelerate breakthrough science.
What she believes in: Having always worked at the intersection of storytelling, design, and technology, she combines an incessant pursuit of truth and commitment to stewarding the future of science communication. Katz wants to change the way we think about our bodies, our health, and our world.
One thing you might not know about her: She used to be a Hollywood producer.
A word from BMW UK on why it supports the BrightList awards: "Innovation is at the root of what we do. We have built a 100 year organisation around innovation, and with BMW i specifically that’s about driving innovation for the future and bringing to life what future mobility will look like. So that's why the Innovation Trailblazer award was the perfect one to be part of," says Michelle Roberts, Marketing Director of BMW UK.
Name: Nafisa & Selina Bakkar
Why they’re our winners: Sisters and co-Founders, Nafisa and Selina are the brains behind Amaliah, a media company which centres the voices and experiences of Muslim women. Through articles, videos, their award-winning podcast, and events, and with a community of over 300 contributors, Amaliah continues to be the online destination for women.
What they believe in: Amaliah is ‘dedicated to amplifying the voices of Muslim women’. For the Bakkar sisters, visibility in business is important, as they told AllBright: “It’s really meaningful to see more women of colour being platformed because it also paves the way for other people.”
One thing you might not know about them: After teaching herself to code, Nafisa built and launched Amaliah.com with the help of Selina from their parents' kitchen table.
A word from HSBC on the winners: "It’s always amazing for us to hear new stories, and the Bakkar sisters’ story is truly inspirational," said Kirsty Moore, Managing Director at HSBC Private Bank who presented the award.
Name: Ariel Kaye
Why she's our winner: Home is everything to Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute. While it began in Los Angeles in 2014 as a digitally native brand, Parachute has since expanded beyond its roots — premium-quality artisanal bedding — to include essentials for all rooms in the home. In the last five years, Ariel has evolved Parachute into a beloved home lifestyle brand with numerous brick-and-mortar locations across the country, with each retail store serving as gathering spaces within their neighbourhoods.
What she believes in: Within the Parachute community, Ariel has created a culture committed to wellness and kindness, which extends from Parachute’s team and partners to its customers and the planet. Social responsibility has been a core tenant of the brand from the start. Parachute partners with the United Nation Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign to donate one life-saving malaria-prevention bed net with any one purchase of their signature bedding set.
One thing you might not know about her: She recently released her book How to Make a House a Home: Creating a Purposeful Space.
A word from HSBC on the why they support the BrightList awards: "The Exceptional Entrepreneur Award means so much to HSBC because we’ve done a lot of work trying to understand the challenges women face when trying to raise capital for their businesses. We still see gender bias and it’s something we need to make sure people are much more aware of so it doesn’t happen", says Kirsty Moore, Managing Director at HSBC Private Bank.
Name: Orsola de Castro
Why she’s our winner: From her viral hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes to partnerships to reduce CO2 emissions, through to her 2019 impact report, Orsola de Castro is a pioneer of sustainable fashion and design.
What she believes in: Co-founder of Fashion Revolution, which was “designed to be very honest and inclusive”, de Castro campaigns for systemic reform of the fashion industry and for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain. The initiative now has 64 countries taking part.
One thing you might not know about her: Her background is in fashion illustration and print-making.
Name: Mandana Dayani
Brightlist Award: Responsibility Campaigner
Why she's our winner: Creator and co-founder of I Am A Voter, a nonpartisan movement that aims to create a cultural shift around voting and civic engagement, Mandana Dayani aims to inspire and excite this generation by making voter identity mainstream, aspirational, inclusive and an integral component of personal identity.
What she believes in: She believes that having the right to vote is a privilege and that all eligible voters should exercise this right in order to “push our communities forward in a united, productive front.”
One thing you might not know about her: Dayani was once celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe’s executive on the reality TV series The Rachel Zoe Project.
Name: Ramla Ali
Why she’s our winner: Born in Somalia, Ramla Ali and her family moved to London as war refugees. Now, she is the current African zone featherweight boxing champion and was the first Muslim woman to win an English boxing title.
What she believes in: In an interview with The Guardian, Ali spoke about how she teaches a group of Muslim women self-defence. Ali see these lessons as part of her mission “to show young Muslim women a way,” in the hope to inspire more young Somali athletes.
One thing you might not know about her: Oscar-nominated producer Lee Magiday will be making a feature-length drama based on her life story.
Name: Erin Andrews
Why she's our winner: As part of FOX Sports’ A-Team, Erin Andrews is a trailbalzer in her field. She currently reports for FOX NFL Sunday – a show with a staggering 56.4 million viewers. Andrews recently added creator to her long list of titles with the launch of her new women’s NFL apparel line, WEAR.
What she believes in: After surviving cervical cancer, she partnered with women’s health diagnostics organisation, Hologic, launching the campaign We Can Change This STAT, which encourages women to go for their annual health exams.
One thing you might not know about her: She had a part in the 2012 comedy film That’s My Boy featuring Adam Sandler (she played a receptionist).
Why she's our winner: After uploading a self-written tribute to her late father on YouTube when she was just 16, Celeste caught the attention of a manager, beginning her career in music. Now 25, her unmistakable sound which blends British neo-soul and jazz over R&B melodies saw her win both a Brit and a BBC Music Award. She was also named the 'Sound of 2020' by a BBC poll of music critics.
What she believes in: In an interview, Celeste said that the message she tries to convey through her music is: “Be true to yourself. If you have something you believe in standby it. Stay in touch with who you are even if people don’t treat you the way you’d hoped. Fight against prejudice and educate people if you’ve got the opportunity, but remain focused on your goal."
One thing you might not know about her: When she first started out she wanted to be a fashion designer.
Name: Becky Hewitt
Why she's our winner: Becky is the CEO of Changing Faces, the charity for millions of people in the UK with a visible difference. Hewitt told AllBright she believes the crux of sisterhood is “connection and sharing stories”, which is at the heart of Changing Faces. Through her work, she provides practical, emotional, and social support for children and adults fighting discrimination and prejudice for the way they look. She helps to build the self-esteem of the people she works with, which in-turn gives them confidence to use their voices and to tell their stories.
What she believes in: She has spent her whole career working to change the world for good, including work with human rights organisation Reprieve, who campaign against the death penalty and with Network4Africa, who support survivors of war and genocide with training in trauma counselling.
One thing you might not know about her: Earlier this year, she launched the biggest Changing Faces campaign to date, raising awareness on the hate crime directed at people with visible differences, explaining how to report these crimes and where to seek support.
Name: Yael Cohen Braun
Why she's our winner: Yael Cohen Braun is the co-founder and CEO of Fuck Cancer, a nonprofit dedicated to early detection, prevention and providing support to those affected by cancer. Yael launched the health organization in 2019, after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
What she believes in:Her mission is to change the way people talk about cancer, and champion the belief that people who are diagnosed with cancer, their families, and network should have equitable access to support.
One thing you might not know about her: Yael founded the parenting community Motherlucker, which she began after her first son, JJ, was born in 2015. The site found its popularity through a more honest approach to sharing the exhausting and hilarious journey of new parenthood. She also sits on the Board of Trustees for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, CA.
Name: Suze Yalof
Why she's our winner: Suze Yalof Schwartz is the founder and CEO of Unplug Meditation, the world's first drop-in secular meditation studio. She is the author of Unplug: A Simple Guide To Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers, and the creator of the Unplug, a guided meditation app.
What she believes in: Suze's mission is to make meditation simple, accessible, powerful and interesting enough so that everyone will want to practice it and experience the benefits for themselves.
One thing you might not know about her: Once upon a time, she held top editorial positions at Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, and Glamour.
Name: Melanie Chisholm
Why she’s our winner: Singer Melanie Chisholm, also known as Mel C, was catapulted to superstardom as one fifth of Spice Girls – one of the most famous girl groups of all time. That’s quite enough achievement for one lifetime but not enough for Mel C. She has become a keen advocate for mental health and wellbeing and is involved in a number of charity initiatives including Comic Relief, bravely sharing her own struggles with eating disorders and mental health issues.
What she believes in: Chisholm is an ambassador for MQ, the leading charity in mental health research. When asked why she chose to work alongside MQ she said, "I feel their support in researching various mental health issues and their work with young people are incredibly important."
One thing you might not know about her: In 2004, Mel C founded her own independent music label called Red Girl Records.
Name: Ryan Whelan
Why he's our winner: Ryan Whelan was Gina Martin’s legal representative in her campaign to make upskirting illegal. According to Gina herself, Ryan is a model example of the active allyship men are capable of providing women to enact profound cultural change, “it’s important to have men in the conversation because we live in a society that is gate kept by men. Without Ryan demanding a seat at the table for me, I wouldn’t have got [it]. When he brings his privilege and when I bring my knowledge of the problem, that’s when change really happens.”
What he believes in: He told AllBright that he believes it’s important that men take an active role in tackling the everyday sexism women experience by taking part in the conversation: “I think it’s so important to be part of the conversation, to overcome the embarrassment, to overcome the feeling that this doesn’t directly affect me so am I best placed there, and to just get involved with what you can.”
One thing you might not know about him: For the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Whelan carried the Olympic torch in recognition of his work to establish a free community law clinic.
Name: Alex Mahon
Why she's our winner: Alex Mahon became the first female chief executive of a major UK broadcaster when she took over Channel 4. Since being appointed the role, she has led the charge online, developing new digital content and attracting younger audiences through social media.
What she believes in: She tells AllBright, that she believes that it’s up to women to “make other women rise” because “there aren’t enough women at the top.” She also believes that working mothers need to be more open about the difficulties of balancing work life with childcare, “the period of trying to build your career and having kids is unbelievably intense. Everyone feels stretched like a tight elastic band when that’s happening and we should be honest about that.”
One thing you might not know about her: She has a PhD in medical physics from Imperial College London.
Name: Julie Wainwright
Why she's our winner: Julie Wainwright is an e-commerce pioneer who founded The RealReal in June 2011, bringing authenticated luxury consignment online and changing the way people buy and sell high-end luxury across all categories. The company is pioneering sustainability efforts in the luxury space as well.
What she believes in: With TheRealReal, she hopes to convince her customers to renounce fast fashion, buy less frequently but better-quality, and to take better care of the clothing we already have.
One thing you might not know about her: In high school she was voted homecoming queen.
Name: Amika George
Why she's our winner: Amika is a Cambridge University student and activist. At the age of 17, she began her Free Periods campaign, an initiative which aimed to end period stigma and poverty. By 2019 she had successfully persuaded the British government to provide funding for every school in England to offer free period products for students. She aims to launch her campaign further afield, hoping that the UK has set a precedent that will encourage other countries to follow suit.
What she believes in: She believes in the power her generation holds, spotlighting other young activists also desperate to make things better for the future of women. She's a fan of sister duo Gemma and Maya Tutton and their 'Our Streets' campaign, an initiative which aims to make street harassment illegal in the UK.
One thing you might not know about her: She's a debut author of the book, Make it Happen: How to be an Activist.
Name: Moj Mahdara
Why she's our winner: Moj Mahdara is the founder and CEO of Beautycon, a globally-recognised community for content creators, celebrities, fans, and brands. Mahdara is an accomplished speaker, business figure and an active investor with international recognition for her expertise in Gen Z and millennial consumer profiles and behaviours.
What she believes in: Mahdara passionately advocates for women to expand their financial literacy to allow them to “choose the life they want.”
One thing you might not know about her: Her favourite three beauty brands are R+Co, True Botanicals, and La Mer.