Published 5 months ago
By Forbes | Maggie McGrath
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(L-R)Nolitha Fakude (Image Supplied), Olajumoke Adenowo (AD CONSULTING LIMITED/Forbes), Graça Machel (REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri) and Elizabeth Maruma Mrema ( Photographer: Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The members of the third annual 50 Over 50: EMEA list are shaping the future of science, fashion, finance, and even the Catholic Church. Here are the 50 founders, CEOs, humanitarians and vanguards across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, all proving that life’s second half is also its most successful and rewarding.

View the list: A-C

Lena Apler-72 | Founder-Chair, Collector Bank | Sweden

Apler is the founder and chair of Collector Bank, the consumer arm of the Swedish bank of the $424 million revenue Norion Bank Group. Collector offers individual and business clients credit cards, savings accounts and personal loans. Apler is also the cofounder of Nätverket 17, a startup geared towards helping women to build companies. With more than 30 years of experience in financial services, she was named the fifth most important businesswoman in Northern Europe by the Nordic Business Forum in 2015.

Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau-66 | Archeozoologist-Author | France

An archeozoologist and historian by trade, Audoin-Rouzeau is better known by her pen name, Fred Vargas, which she uses for her fiction writing. She began writing crime novels in her mid-30s while still working as co-director of an archaeological site as a way to balance her professional life with something more enjoyable. Audoin-Rouzeau has managed to rise to the top of both fields: Since completing a major project on the epidemiology of the Black Death in 2006 she is considered a world expert in this research area, and in 2009 she became the first author to be awarded the International Gold Dagger Award for three successive novels.



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Olajumoke Adenowo- 55 | Architect-Founder, AD Consulting | Nigeria

Adenowo is an architect by trade but considers herself a polymath. For good reason: She enrolled in university at age 14, founded her global architecture firm AD Consulting at age 25, led the mentorship program “Awesome Treasures” for female leadership for over 20 years, and is an acclaimed author. Since its inception, AD Consulting has been involved in designing and constructing more than 114 projects—including institutional buildings, offices and residential homes—that have launched Adenowo onto architecture’s global stage. Her latest project is the development of a $880 million housing complex in South Africa. “While I continue to practice architecture, I have started focusing on raising transformational leaders because that’s what is going to make Africa livable for the next generation,” says Adenowo.

Ingrid Badurina Danielsson-70 | Director, Gault&Millau Croatia | Croatia

Longtime political journalist Badurina Danielsson switched to her new job in food and wine promotion at age 50. She worked as a correspondent for the Italian daily paper La Stampa, covering the war in former Yugoslavia, for more than 15 years. In 2005 she began to build events company Lanvia with a focus on promoting Croatian wines and gourmet food, organizing tours, cooking classes and wine tastings across the country. In 2013, she launched the Taste the Mediterranean Festival and Med Women Chefs, an international program for promoting women working in food. At age 64, Danielsson was appointed Director of Gault&Millau Croatia, launching the acclaimed international restaurant critic’s first guide for her home country in 2018. Her sixth edition was published in 2023.

Nathalie Becquart-54 | Undersecretary, General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops | Vatican City

Sister Becquart is a French Roman Catholic nun who was named the undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops by Pope Francis in 2021. As part of the main advisory body to the Pope, Sister Becquart is the highest ranking woman in the Vatican and is the first woman to gain a right to vote at such a high-level conference. Sister Becquart holds a master’s degree in entrepreneurship from the HEC business school in Paris and worked as a marketing consultant before joining the Xavière Sisters at age 26 in 1995.

Francesca Bellettini-53 | CEO, Saint Laurent-Deputy CEO, Kering | France

After a decade of running fashion brand Saint Laurent, Bellettini was promoted to deputy CEO of French luxury multinational Kering in July 2023. She remains CEO of the Parisian fashion house she guided to $1 billion in sales in 2017. But now all of Kering’s brand CEOs report to her, making Bellettini one of the world’s most powerful fashion executives. Before she became Saint Lauren’s chief executive in 2013, Bellettini held roles at Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Prada. In 2019, she was awarded the French Knight of the Legion of Honour, the nation’s highest civilian distinction.


Sasha Bezuhanova-61 | Founder-Chair, Move.BG | Bulgaria

At 51, Bezuhanova left her 20-year career as a corporate executive to boost women’s entrepreneurial efforts in Bulgaria. In 2013, she founded MOVE.BG, a think tank-like organization that provides research and support to founders and creators, particularly women and those who are building businesses with a sustainable focus. In 2020, Bezuhanova was appointed as an investment committee member for the European Innovation Council; in this role, she helps manage a more than $2 billion investment program for European tech startups.

Halla bint Khalid-52 | Author-Illustrator | Saudi Arabia

Khalid grew up in a Saudi Arabian family where art and self-expression were not encouraged, but she taught herself how to draw and built a career on her illustrations. She had her first solo exhibition in 1991 and established a publishing house in 1997. Since then, she has released 18 children’s books in both Arabic and English. In 2020, she became the co-owner of Gharem Studios, a non-profit organization that encourages artists to explore their culture and heritage. A mother of five, Khalid’s illustrations draw on her Saudi heritage and experience growing up in a society constrained by strict gender rules.


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Sonja Betschart-53 | Cofounder-Co-Head, WeRobotics | Switzerland

Betschart is a social entrepreneur who cofounded WeRobotics in 2015. The company builds “flying labs”—drone, data and AI training centers—across countries in Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. Her goal is to create a network of technology experts across the global south who can use these skills to build businesses and solve problems across their communities’ agricultural, health and entrepreneurial sectors.

Kjerstin Braathen-53 | CEO, DNB ASA | Norway

Braathen was appointed CEO of DNB ASA, Norway’s largest financial services group, in September 2023. Before ascending to the top of the firm, which has €323 billion ($353 billion) in assets, Braathen led the company’s corporate banking division, overseeing a portfolio of more than 200,000 small- and medium-sized businesses and serving as CFO. She is also the board chair for Vipps, the Nordic nation’s leading ID and payment infrastructure provider.


Isabel Capeloa Gil-58 | President, International Federation of Catholic Universities | Portugal

One of the most venerable women in international Catholic higher education, Capeola Gil is the first woman to be named president of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) and the sixth rector of the Catholic University of Portugal. Capeloa Gil grew up in China, and her background fueled an early interest in researching issues of diversity and conflict in her academic work. As rector of CUP, she oversees expansion projects for the university; as president of IFCU, the oldest association of Catholic universities in the world, she spearheaded a task force for greater representation of women in academic leadership roles.

Gwendoline Cazenave-54 | CEO, Eurostar | Belgium

Following the merger of two big European railway companies, Thalys and Eurostar, Cazenave was appointed chief executive of the newly-formed Eurostar Group in April 2022, when she was 53. She’s engineered the company’s post-Covid rebound: With close to 20 million passengers, Eurostar’s traffic is now back to pre-Covid levels and its 2023 revenue is projected to be €2 billion ($2.19 billion). Before taking the reins of Eurostar, Cazenave had a two-decade career at French transportation giant SNCF and worked as a partner at Oliver Wyman between 2020 and 2022.

Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli-69 | Nuclear Physicist | Morocco

El Moursli is a Moroccan professor of nuclear physics. Her research has helped prove the existence of the Higgs Boson— the particle responsible for the creation of mass—and, in 2015, won her the L’Oréal-UNESCO award for Women in Science.’ While her almost 30-year-long career in science has been filled with achievements, it’s a career that would not have existed had she not convinced her father to let her seek out a graduate degree in France in the early 1980s, a time when Moroccan women were expected to leave home to marry and not pursue a vocation.

Kemi DaSilva-Ibru-54 | Physician-Founder, Women at Risk International Foundation | Nigeria

DaSilva-Ibru is an OB-GYN physician who has expanded her reach beyond her examining room. In 2016, she founded the Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF), a nonprofit aimed at combatting rape, sexual violence and trafficking affecting young girls and women in Nigeria. With 18 full-time staffers and 200 volunteers, WARIF is now DaSilva-Ibru’s full-time job and has impacted the lives of over 3,000 survivors of rape and sexual violence. She is also pursuing a PhD in gender-based violence at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


Laurence des Cars-57 | Director, Musée du Louvre | France

The French museum curator and art historian des Cars became the director of the Louvre Museum in Paris in 2021. She is the first woman to hold the position in the museum’s 228-year history. She was previously the director of Musée d’Orsay and the head of the famed Musée de l’Orangerie. In 2023, des Cars was the brains behind the buzzy “Manet/Degas” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; she has said she’s dreamed of pairing the two great French painters, Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas, in a single exhibition since her first position as young curatorial recruit at the Musée d’Orsay in 1994.


Simonetta Di Pippo-64 | Astrophysicist-Cofounder, Women in Aerospace Europe | Italy

An astrophysicist who first joined the Italian Space Agency in 1986, Di Pippo is one of the world’s most prominent advocates for women working in aerospace. She was the director of human spaceflight for the European Space Agency from 2008 to 2011. During her tenure, she cofounded Women in Aerospace Europe, a nonprofit dedicated to getting more women into space leadership positions. Di Pippo went on to run the U.N. Office for Outer Space Studies from 2014 until 2022, and in 2023 joined the scientific committee for Criptalia, the organization building the Grottaglie Italian spaceport.


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Graça Machel-78 | Politician-Cofounder, The Elders | South Africa

Machel is a renowned politician and humanitarian who has dedicated her career to advocating for the rights of women and children. In 1975, she became Mozambique’s first female cabinet member as their first education minister. As the widow of Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, and former president of Mozambique Samora Machel, she is the only woman in modern history to have been first lady of two countries. With Mandela, she cofounded The Elders, an independent group of leaders working for peace and human rights, in 2007; through The Elders, Machel started Girls Not Brides in 2011 to combat child marriage. She founded the eponymous Graça Machel Trust in 2010 to advocate for women’s economic and financial empowerment.

Anke Engelke-58 | Actor-Comedian | Germany

Engelke is a household name in German film and comedy. The entertainer, actor, presenter and voice actress technically got her start at age 12—when she appeared on air at Radio Luxembourg—but she’s hitting her stride over 50. In 2023, the 58-year-old launched her podcast ‘Quality Time’ with Spotify. She appeared in several seasons of the Amazon Prime competition LOL: Last One Laughing and won the third season. She has also been the German voice of Marge Simpson since 2007.


Alenka Ermenc 60 | Major General | Slovenia

Major General Ermenc is an officer in the Slovenian army who, at 55, became the first woman to hold the position of Chief of Defence within NATO forces. A graduate of the University in Ljubljana, she played a vital role in Slovenia’s Ten-Day War in 1991, earning the Bronze Medal of General Maister. Throughout her career in the Slovenian Armed Forces, she held several command and staff positions before rising to Chief of the General Staff in 2018. Ermenc has received numerous accolades for her achievements, including an international military medal from NATO.

Nolitha Fakude-58 | President, Minerals Council South Africa | South Africa

Fakude was appointed the first female president of the Minerals Council South Africa in 2021, an organization whose roots date back to 1887. She’s also served as chair of the mining giant Anglo American since 2017. Fakude was born in a small village in the Eastern Cape and worked her way up from the shop floor at Woolworths in 1990 to grow into one of South Africa’s most respected and successful Black businesswomen. She has spearheaded programs to ensure the development of women and marginalized communities and earned a reputation as a corporate activist.

Caroline Fattal Fakhoury-52 | Chair, Fattal Holding; Founder, Stand for Women | Lebanon

In 2022, at 50, Fattal became the first female board chair for the Fattal Group, the Beirut-based conglomerate founded by her great-grandfather in 1897. But this isn’t Fattal’s only job: In 2017, she founded the NGO Stand For Women to advocate for women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the MEA region. Following the 2020 Beirut explosion, she launched the “Marion Fund,” an initiative that helped more than 250 women-owned small- and medium-sized companies affected by the blast to return to business.

Amanda Feilding-80 | Founder, The Beckley Foundation | United Kingdom

Feilding sits at the forefront of the intersection between drug policy and science. What started with her own microdosing with LSD in the throes of the 1970’s “war on drugs” has evolved into pioneering the use of psychedelic compounds as medical treatments. Through the Beckley Foundation, the think tank she founded in 1998 and which has raised over £75 million ($95 million) in funding, Feilding has explored how psychedelics can be used to combat the likes of Alzheimer’s disease, depression and addiction. Feilding has also used cutting-edge technology to develop the world’s first image of the brain on LSD.


Nadia Fettah-52 | Minister of Finance | Morocco

At 50, Fettah became the first woman appointed as Morocco’s Minister of Economy and Finance. But she hasn’t always been a civil servant: After founding and managing Maroc Invest Finances Group—a Casablanca-based private equity company—in 2000, she joined the privately-held investment outfit Saham Group in 2005. She rose through its ranks, overseeing finance and operations before becoming board chair and deputy CEO in 2017. Fettah embarked on her political career in 2019, first becoming Morocco’s minister for tourism and “social economy.”

Farah Foustok-54 | Founder, TARA | United Arab Emirates

A longtime financial executive who started her career at Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, Foustok ran Lazard Asset Management’s Middle East operations from 2014 until 2023. She left the role last summer to become the founding chair of a family office dedicated to helping third-generation family-owned businesses thrive into their fourth generation. She also runs TARA, a personal foundation she started in 2020 to help more women get leadership roles in financial services. Outside of these roles, Foustok makes personal investments in female-founded companies working across fintech and climate tech


Photographer: Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema-67 | United Nations Assistant Secretary-General; Deputy Executive Director, U.N. Environment Programme | Kenya

The Tanzanian biodiversity leader and lawyer became the first African woman to spearhead the Biological Diversity U.N. Convention in 2019. Four years later, Mrema was appointed deputy executive director of the Nairobi-based U.N. environment program. Her appointment followed the crucial role she played in shaping the 2022 COP15 agreement, shepherding a deal that counts as a major environmental win: She fought for the pledge to conserve or restore nature on 30% of the world’s lands and waters by 2030, uniting negotiators of 195 countries.

Elena Garcia Armada-52 | Founder-Scientist, MarsiBiotics | Spain

Garcia Armada is a robotics expert working to improve the performance of legged robots and lower-limb exoskeletons that help people walk. She led three award-winning projects focused on pediatric gait exoskeletons and has, since 2013, been annually recognized for Scientific Merit by the President of the Spanish National Research Council. Garcia Armada has published more than 80 science articles in international journals and owns six patents for her research work into robotics. She founded Marsi Bionics in 2013, which designs state-of-the-art exoskeletons, and was named a finalist for the European Prize for Women Innovators in 2021.

Bonnie Garmus- 66 | Author | United Kingdom

For the last 85 weeks, “Lessons in Chemistry” has occupied a spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list—and it happens to have been Garmus’ debut novel. Its spring 2022 publication has made the California-born Garmus a household name at the age of 64. “Lessons in Chemistry” has been translated into 42 languages, sold over six million copies and was adapted into an Apple TV miniseries starring Brie Larson and Tom Holland. Prior to writing “Lessons in Chemistry,” Garmus was a science and technology copywriter based in the U.S. before moving to London in 2017.

Rebecca Gomperts-57 | Founder, Aid Access | Netherlands

Gomperts is one of the most important global figures in the fight for abortion access. For decades, she’s sought clever ways around abortion bans. In 1999, she founded Women on the Waves as a way to provide reproductive healthcare on ships docked in international waters outside of countries with severe restrictions. The rise of the internet helped her form Women on the Web in 2005, a telemedicine nonprofit that connects women around the world to information on self-managed abortions and providers who can ship mifepristone and misoprostol, the two pills used in a medication abortion. In 2018, with abortion access in the U.S. narrowing, she founded Aid Access to provide similar services to an American audience. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, Gomperts has been called “the most critical abortion provider in America…who lives in Amsterdam.”

Glenda Gray- 61 | Physician-CEO, South African Medical Research Council | South Africa

Gray began her medical career as a pediatrician and, in the last 10 years, has helped transform healthcare and HIV/AIDS research in South Africa. During the coronavirus pandemic, Gray led part of the vaccination rollout to some 500,000 healthcare workers when no vaccines were available in the country. She now steers the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), which was awarded a USAID grant in September 2023 worth up to $45 million to lead HIV/AIDS vaccine research and development in Sub-Saharan Africa—the development agency’s first investment of its kind with a local partner.

Bjork Guðmundsdóttir-58 | Musician | Iceland

First name-only Björk is one of the world’s most recognizable singers. Known for her unique ability to sing more than three octaves in a wildly eccentric style, she gained international recognition as the lead singer in the alternative rock band the Sugarcubes before releasing her first solo album “Debut” in 1993. Since turning 50 she released three albums, each of which nominated for a Best Alternative Music Album Grammy. In 2023, her tenth album, Fossora, was awarded two Icelandic Music Awards and one Signal Award and Bjork received a Honorary doctorate from Iceland University of the Arts.

Anne Hidalgo- 64 | Mayor of Paris | France

Since becoming the mayor of Paris in 2014—the first woman to do so—Hidalgo has reworked the city’s infrastructure and urban planning. The French-Spanish politician served as the First Deputy Mayor and held several ministerial roles before her first successful mayoral campaign. Under her leadership, Paris improved air quality by banning cars in certain areas, created greater access to affordable housing and built more pedestrian zones and a €250 million ($272 million) renovation of the Champs-Élysées. Hidalgo also successfully negotiated the bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Paris in June.

Renuka Jagtiani-69 | Chair, Landmark Group | United Arab Emirates

Jagtiani is the chair of Dubai’s major retail conglomerate covering fast fashion, baby supplies and other businesses. Jagtiani joined the conglomerate built by her husband, Micky Jagtiani, in 1993, forming her own fashion brand, Splash. Jagtiani is the key business strategist, leading the group’s push into ecommerce and other new business ventures. Now helming the company as chair and majority shareholder after Micky’s death in 2023, the Indian-born businesswoman with a $4.8 billion net worth says she plans to add hundreds of stores in the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia.


Jane Karuku- 62 | Managing Director-CEO | East African Breweries Limited | Kenya

In December 2020, Karuku was appointed managing director and CEO of East African Breweries, a Nairobi-based alcohol distributor that sells Pilsner, Baileys and Guinness across Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania. The company recorded KES 109 billion ($670 million) in its most recent fiscal year. Before rising to the head of EABL, Karuku ran Kenya Breweries and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a nonprofit dedicated to improving Africa’s agricultural ecosystem.


(Photo by Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Güler Sabanci-68 | Chair, Sabancı Holding | Turkey

Sabanci is a Turkish businesswoman and the first woman to run her family’s $4 billion company, which has diversified investments in hospitality, retail, banking and energy. Originally a textile company, Sabanci Holding has since expanded to become one of the largest conglomerates in Turkey and operates in 14 countries. Sabanci is also the founding president of Sabanci University and the chair of the Sabanci Foundation, Turkey’s largest private charity. The first female European Round Table for Industry (ERT) member, she also sits on the MIT Energy Initiative’s External Advisory Board.

Susanne Klatten-61 | Entrepreneur-Owner-Supervisory Board Member, BMW | Germany

With a $24.5 billion fortune from her inherited near 19% stake in luxury automaker BMW, Klatten is the richest woman in Germany. She is also the sole owner and deputy chair of Altana, a pharmaceutical and chemical company she has helped grow into a €3 billion ($3.2 billion) sales juggernaut. In 2006, Klatten, who holds an M.B.A., launched Skion, an appropriately-named investment vehicle she uses to invest in companies with €300 million to €2.5 billion in revenue ($320 million to $2.7 billion) and which operate in the industrial goods, electrical engineering and medical technology sectors.

Melanie Kreis-52 | CFO-Board Director, Deutsche Post DHL Group | Germany

Kreis was named CFO of Deutsche Post, the world’s largest logistics company, in October 2016. At the time, she was the only woman on its executive board. (Today there are two.) Kreis first joined Deutsche Post in 2004, rising through the ranks of corporate development and finance divisions before eventually being named to the company’s board in 2014. She is the first woman to serve as CFO for the $60 billion (market cap) shipping and logistics giant, which in 2023 announced a $192 million expansion project at its Americas hub at the Cincinnati/North Kentucky airport.

Anne L’Huillier-65 | Physicist | France

L’Huillier won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for her experimental work with light and the movement of electrons. She received the award alongside fellow researchers Pierre Agostini and Ferenc Krausz, becoming the fifth woman ever to receive the Nobel for physics. Her groundbreaking research produced light pulses so short they have to be measured in attoseconds – a unit that is so small there are as many in a second as there have been seconds since the birth of the universe. This will allow scientists to study the movement of electrons and better understand atoms.

Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller-64 | CEO-Chair, Trumpf | Germany

Leibinger-Kammüller owns nearly a third of Trumpf, a manufacturer of machine tools that her father helped build. She is also the company’s CEO and board chair and is one of the most powerful women in business in Germany. Under her leadership, the number of employees worldwide increased by almost 2,000 to 18,400, and the high-tech company increased revenue by 27% to 5.4 billion euros ($5.7 billion) for the fiscal year 2022-2023—the highest sales revenues in the company’s 100-year history to date.

Stella McCartney-52 | Founder, Stella McCartney | United Kingdom

McCartney founded her eponymous luxury fashion house in 2001 and has since become one of the world’s most in-demand designers: She was appointed Team Great Britain’s Creative Director for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, designed Meghan Markle’s wedding reception dress in 2018 and that same year partnered with the United Nations on a sustainable fashion charter. In 2019, McCartney struck an investment deal with LVMH to expand her brand, while retaining a majority ownership stake. In 2023, King Charles awarded McCartney a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).


(Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Maggie Smith-89 | Actor | United Kingdom

Over the course of a seven-decade career, Smith has starred in more than 100 movies, TV series and stage productions. By 1990, at 56, she was granted Damehood for her service to the performing arts. Smith’s career hit new heights in her sixties after she was cast as Minerva McGonagall in the blockbuster Harry Potter series; she furthered her status as a global household name with performances in Downton Abbey and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Most recently, Smith starred as the face of the luxury fashion brand Loewe’s in a 2024 pre-collection campaign.

Narges Mohammadi-51 | Activist | Iran

In 2023, Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.” She is the 19th woman to win the prize and the fifth person to win it while in detention. Arrested 13 times over the past 22 years—and sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison and 154 lashes—Mohammadi has spent much of the past two decades in and out of jail over her campaigning for human rights in Iran. She was also one of the most prominent voices in the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising sparked by the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini.

Olga Nawoja Tokarczuk-61 | Author | Poland

Winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature, Nawoja Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s most critically acclaimed and successful authors of her generation. The Nobel Committee credited her with “a narrative imagination” and “encyclopedic passion.” For her novel “Flights,” published in Polish in 2007 and translated to English in 2017, Tokarczuk was awarded the 2008 Nike Literary Award and, after its English translation, the 2018 Man Booker International Prize. Before her career as a writer, Tokarczuk worked as a psychotherapist in a mental health clinic in Wałbrzych.

Sofie Nordstrom-61 | Cofounder-Deputy CEO, Quizrr | Sweden

Nordstrom cofounded Quizrr in 2013, when she was 51, with a mission to improve supply chain working issues by informing international workers about their rights. Quizrr uses digital training tools to educate workers about responsible and safe workplace conditions and offers ways to engage with their employers about these issues. Thanks in part to its expertise in global supply chains and migrant workers, the edtech platform’s clients include Apple and the United Nations. “There are an estimated 200 million people risking exploitation while migrating for work. I strive to change that,” says Nordstrom.

Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita- 63 | Chair, Standard Bank Group | South Africa

Nyembezi-Heita ascended to the chair of Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest bank, in 2022. She is the first Black female chair for the bank, which has R3 trillion in assets ($160 billion) and operates across 20 countries throughout Africa and beyond. Before joining the Standard Bank board in 2020, Nyembezi-Heita was CEO of ArcelorMittal South Africa, the largest steel producer on the African continent and CEO of the South African chapter of the multinational Ichor Coal. She was non-executive chairman of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the first woman to chair the board of insurance company Alexander Forbes Group Holdings.

Karine Rossignol-56 | Cofounder-CEO, Smart Immune | France

Rossignol is a cofounder of Smart Immune, a biotech company developing T-cell treatments for cancer and viral and fungal infections. Rossignol has a personal connection to this work after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2011. A doctor of pharmacology and business school graduate , she founded Smart Immune in 2017 and turned it into a full-time job two years later. Last year, the company received $5 million from the Strategic Investment Fund from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a €15 million ($16.4 million) Series A investment from the European Investment Council.

Gloria Serobe-64 | Cofounder, Women Investment Portfolio Holdings | South Africa

Just before the official end of apartheid in 1994, Serobe, with Louisa Mojela, cofounded Women Investment Portfolio Holdings (WIPHOLD), a majority Black women-owned and managed investment firm. With a portfolio valued at over 2 billion rand ($107 million), the Investment Trust focuses on sectors such as agriculture, mining and financial services where it can support women—and WIPHOLD counts more than 200,000 beneficiaries. Serobe, who has an MBA from Rutgers University, has also served as chair of the board for the Independent Ports Regulator and is an honorary member of the Actuarial Society of South Africa.


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Trinny Woodall-59 | Founder, Trinny London | United Kingdom

Woodall spent two decades as a British television star and fashion advisor in “What Not To Wear,” but she’d always harbored a love for skincare and beauty. In 2017, at 53, she launched Trinny London, a makeup and skincare company that she partially funded by selling the designer wardrobe she’d worn as a television host. The direct-to-consumer brand took off during the pandemic, thanks in part to Woodall’s candid social media presence and makeup tutorials. It is now shipping to customers in 170 countries, has retail stores in Europe, the U.K., Australia and the U.S., and recorded £55 million in 2022 revenue. “I never felt defined by age,” Woodall told Forbes.

Patrycja Strzelecka-52 | Cofounder, CashDirector | Poland

Strzelecka is a leading female entrepreneur in Poland and cofounder of the fintech startup CashDirector, which provides banks with AI-powered and cloud-based accounting platforms for small- and medium-sized clients. As the company’s chief commercial officer, Strzelecka has secured over $10 million in funding and partnered with global firms like PwC to manage invoices, cash flow and payments with local partners. Before founding CashDirector, Strzelecka was a partner at the non-profit Time For The Planet and managing director of TMF Group.

Calanit Valfer-52 | Cofounder, managing partner, Elah Funds | Israel

Valfer is the cofounder and managing partner of the Elah Funds, a $200 million (assets) investment firm launched in 2017. Through Elah, Valfer seeds Israeli startups that are working to improve society and reduce our carbon footprint. In 2023, just shy of her 51st birthday, Valfer launched the firm’s second fund and she recently joined the investment committee for the new Iron Nation Emergency Fund, a financial resource for early-stage Israeli startups impacted in the wake of October 7.

Elissar Zakaria Khoury-51 | Singer | Lebanon

Khoury, best known by her stage name Elissa, is one of the Middle East’s best-selling female singers. It’s a distinction she’s consistently held since 2005, when she first won a World Music Award for her high-selling albums; to date, she’s sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Her music hasn’t shied away from sensitive subjects like abuse against women and breast cancer; in 2018, Elissa even included footage of her breast cancer radiotherapy in one of her music videos. She was scheduled to release a new album in fall 2023, but delayed the launch in a show of solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Reported by Jemima Denham & Victoria Kempter
Additional editing by Caroline Howard