Empowering change: Celebrating women driving innovation in regulated industries

Empowering change: Celebrating women driving innovation in regulated industries March 8 marks International Women’s Day 2024, offering us the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the significant contributions and achievements of women globally across diverse sectors, including regulated and high-compliance industries. This year’s theme is Invest in Women: Accelerate progress and so we are shining the spotlight on six female figures from regulated industries who have done exactly this in their chosen fields – pioneering initiatives, fostering growth and nurturing innovation in leadership. Their influence in the science, banking, automotive, energy and aerospace sectors are inspiring the next generation of industry change-makers. Dame Sarah Gilbert In the domain of scientific discovery, few names have resonated as strongly in recent times as that of British vaccinologist Dame Sarah Gilbert and her achievements. Gilbert’s crucial role in co-developing the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine during a global health crisis propelled her into the spotlight, marking a significant milestone in the fight against the pandemic. The first administration of the vaccine took place in the UK in January 2021. To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the event, the UK Government announced that over 2.5 billion doses of Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine have been released to more than 170 countries worldwide. Gilbert’s expertise and leadership led to her appointment as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her contributions to science and public health. In recognition of her influence, Gilbert received a unique honor with a Barbie doll fashioned in her likeness by Mattel in 2021. This doll was part of a special ‘Role Models’ series that celebrates women working in STEM fields. Currently, Gilbert holds the position of Said Professor of Vaccinology in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford. Dr N. Kalaiselvi Dr Kalaiselvi is paving the way for future generations in science, especially in the energy sector. As the first woman to hold the position of Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in its 80-year history, Dr Kalaiselvi’s leadership steers a network of 37 national laboratories and over 3,500 scientists. Dr. Kalaiselvi began her journey as an entry-level scientist at CSIR in the late 1990s, a research and development organization in India, that was established to “promote scientific, industrial, and economic growth”. Throughout her 26-year career, her focus has been on electrochemistry, notably lithium-ion batteries, where her research interests continue. Alongside her role at CSIR, Dr Kalaiselvi also serves as the Secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), a division of the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology. Linda Jackson In the dynamic landscape of the automotive industry, British businesswoman Linda Jackson became the first English woman, and only third woman globally, to lead a major car manufacturer, when she was appointed CEO of Citroën in 2014. With a career spanning over four decades, exclusively in the automotive sector, Jackon’s journey began at Jaguar. Her professional path led her through key roles in sales and finance at Land Rover and Rover Group before she joined Citroën in 2009 as Finance Director. Transitioning to Managing Director for Citroën UK and Ireland, she eventually assumed the CEO title. Jackson is now CEO at Peugeot, a role she has held since 2021. In recognition of her journey in helping to shape the future of mobility, Jackson was named the “Most Influential British Woman” in the motor industry by Autocar and received the Sue Brownson Award for Outstanding Leadership in Automotive, further highlighting her contributions to the field. Perhaps most notably, Jackson was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), the organization’s highest accolade, in acknowledgment of her lifetime achievements. Elizabeth Blackburn In 2009, molecular biologist and scientist Elizabeth Blackburn achieved a groundbreaking milestone by becoming Australia’s first female Nobel laureate. Her pioneering work in telomere research led to the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which she shared with Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak. They were recognized “for the discovery of how chromosomes are safeguarded by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.” In addition to her academic career, Blackburn has held positions such as President of the American Association for Cancer Research. From 2015 to 2017, she also served as President at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, further solidifying her leadership in the scientific community. Beyond her Nobel Prize recognition, Blackburn has achieved numerous accolades, including the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award in Basic Medical Research and appointment as Companion of the Order of Australia. TIME magazine noted her global influence by naming her one of the “100 Most Influential People” in 2007, highlighting her significance beyond the laboratory. Jane Fraser British-American Jane Fraser’s rise to the CEO role at Citigroup signifies a major turning point in the banking sector. Widely recognized for breaking the glass ceiling in the traditionally male-dominated global financial industry, Fraser stands as the first female leader of a major Wall Street bank. Prior to her tenure at Citi, Jane held a Partner role at McKinsey & Company. Since her arrival at Citi in 2004, Fraser has undertaken various leadership positions, including serving as President of Citi and CEO of the Global Consumer Bank. She was appointed CEO in 2021 and according to the group has “launched a multi-year strategy to transform, simplify and modernize the bank for the digital age.” Fraser has claimed the top spot on American Banker’s “Most Powerful Women in Banking” list for three consecutive years (2021-2023), chosen by the publication for the “significant progress and influence she commands in the industry”. In 2023, US President Joe Biden appointed Fraser to the President’s Export Council, which serves as the principal national advisory committee on international trade. Dr Mazlan Othman Professor Emerita Dato’ Seri Dr Mazlan Othman is distinguished by numerous industry firsts and widely renowned for inspiring a new generation of space scientists. Othman holds the title of Malaysia’s first astrophysicist, commencing her academic journey at the University of Otago in New Zealand, where she became the country’s first woman to achieve a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. An acclaimed scientist, Othman has played a pivotal public role in establishing the astrophysics curriculum at the national university in her homeland while significantly contributing to Malaysia’s space exploration initiatives. In 1990, she was appointed by the Prime Minister’s Department to spearhead the establishment of Malaysia’s national planetarium in Kuala Lumpur, and she subsequently served as the founding Director General of the Space Science Studies Division. Throughout her career, Othman has been a prominent figure in international space policy and development. She has twice held the position of Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and was the inaugural Director General of Malaysia’s National Space Agency. During her tenure, Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, journeyed to the International Space Station. A lasting impact The impactful contributions of these individuals across various sectors, whether in scientific research, automotive leadership, financial management, or space exploration, underscores the essential role women play in driving innovation and excellence within regulated industries. By leading transformative initiatives and breaking barriers, they pave the way for aspiring leaders and professionals in these fields, highlighting how talent and resilience can help drive global growth and progress to create a lasting influence.