Take a close look at the world's most pressing problems and you'll find women tackling them. It's this reality that has led Devex — the media platform for the $200 billion global development industry — to launch a leadership recognition for the most influential women in our community.
Think social entrepreneurs, heads of foundations and aid agencies, corporate sustainability pioneers, public figures and elected officials. The women on our list are at the forefront of creating the change our world desperately needs. Scroll down to discover them.
A key driver of the Sustainable Development Goals, Nigerian born Amina has dedicated 35 years to creating a sustainable world. She began working in the private sector, developing health, education and public sector buildings, before founding the Afri-Projects Consortium for Engineers and Quantity Surveyors in 1991. She then became an adjunct professor in development practice at Columbia University and from 2015 juggled her role as Nigeria’s minister of environment with that of special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general on post-2015 development planning. Despite her professional accomplishments, Amina says her six children are her greatest achievement.
Deputy Secretary-General, United NationsMeet Amina
Hailed as “the woman who feeds the world,” Ertharin has dedicated 25 years to fighting famine, aiming “to end hunger in [her] lifetime.” As head of the world's largest humanitarian organization she has led responses to a series of devastating events. Under her watch, which began in 2012, WFP has been forecasting for future disasters and taking preventative action. Ertharin pulls in experience from her three years as chief U.S. diplomatic voice for famine relief and hunger solutions, where she helped shape U.S. and international policy on various humanitarian crises.
Executive Director, World Food Programme
From Uganda’s first female aeronautics engineer to Oxfam’s first African executive director, Winnie is a trailblazer — relentlessly advocating for peace, equality and democratic governance. A teenage refugee, Winnie escaped Idi Amin’s regime in 1976, but later returned to Uganda to serve in parliament where she was a signatory to the 1985 peace agreement. She went on to pursue civil rights at the African Union Commission, as director of gender and development at UNDP, and as chair to a U.N. task force on gender aspects of the Millennium Development Goals.
Executive Director, Oxfam International
Actress turned advocate, Ashley’s been battling social injustice and working on humanitarian projects since 2004. She’s been an ambassador for UNFPA, Population Services International and YouthAIDS, and in 2011 joined the Leadership Council of the International Center for Research on Women after receiving her master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Ashley speaks up to inspire change, most recently advocating women’s rights at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C, and brings her energy courtside to cheer on her basketball team, The Kentucky Wildcats.
Political Activist & Actress
Freedom, justice and equality are values Ellen strives for while rebuilding Liberia following two civil wars. Ellen has navigated her way through some of the biggest economic institutions, starting off in Liberia’s treasury in 1965 before becoming minister of finance and later president of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment. In 2006, Ellen became president of Liberia after holding several other senior positions at the World Bank, UNDP and Regional Bureau of Africa. This Nobel Prize winner continues to fight for women’s rights, while pushing forward the 2030 sustainable development agenda.
President of Liberia