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The 6 Most Influential Women in the New World of Work | ICS Learn

Last month was Women’s History Month in the UK, and in honour of that and International Women’s Day - also in March - we’ve compiled a list of some of the most incredible, inspiring women on our radar this year who are making a big impact in their industries and for women around the world.

From burgeoning young leaders to the bold women who empower us, below we discuss the 6 most influential women in the new world of work.


1. Joey Wat: CEO of Yum China

Once an adolescent girl working in a factory in a small village in China, Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China, seemed to have all the odds against her when it came to cultivating a successful career.

Fast forward to the present day, however, and Wat is now the CEO of Fortune 500 company, Yum China, also known as the largest restaurant company in China responsible for the operation of over 10,000 restaurants in 1,400 cities in the country.

Previous to her tenure, Yum China’s profits were declining, however, upon realising their minimal digital and online presence, Wat has now grown digital payments to 97% in the organisation, with over 285 million members now using the mobile app, turning the business around completely.

What’s more is that Way is known for putting her employees first, working under the philosophy that an organisation’s profits will follow if employees are made a priority.

As such, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wat had Yum China deliver free meals to over 1,450 community centres and hospitals to help keep as many of her 400,000+ staff employed as she possibly could as the world faced turbulent times.

Oh, and she still managed to make a profit of $97 million in the first quarter of 2020.

Two Women Business

2.Celeste Barber: Comedian, Actress, and Writer

If you often find yourself scrolling through Instagram, then you might be familiar with fun-loving Australian comedian, actress and writer, Celeste Barber.

With her everywoman appeal, Barber parodies celebrities and viral content that proves to be downright hysterical while simultaneously good natured, typically poking as much fun at herself as she does her subjects. She’s become so popular, infact, that she’s now selling out her comedy tours and her social media following has grown to upwards of eight million, making it clear that people truly depend on her to get their daily dose of hilarity.

While you might be wondering why Barber is making it on our list of influential women, the answer is simple: she’s the epitome of the modern working woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

We feel she’s a great addition as she’s down-to-earth and relatable, something that can be hard to find these days with so many people- especially young women - opting to filter what they say and how they look. Barber, instead, empowers women to accept themselves for who they are, using her newfound celebrity to advocate for authenticity and body positivity.


3. Shani Dhanda: Disability Rights Advocate

Without a doubt, diversity and inclusion initiatives have become a priority for business leaders in the new world of work, however, some are more ahead of the curve than others

Enter Shani Dhanda, Founder of Asian Disability Network and Asian Women Festival and previously a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist at Virgin Media, who was born with a genetic bone disorder (also known as ‘brittle bones disease’).

Standing at 3ft 10 inches tall, Dhanda had broken her legs a whopping six times by the time she was only fourteen. Nevertheless, she hasn’t let her condition get in the way of blazing the trail for inclusion and diversity initiatives, making a point to challenge people’s expectations and demand change wherever she goes rather than ask for it.

In fact, back in 2019, Dhanda was able to launch the UK’s first Divisibility card, a discount card for disabled individuals that aims to reduce the financial pressures for themselves and their families, who can easily incur extra living costs of over £500 per month.

Dhanda says, “...My condition doesn’t disable me; I’m only disabled when I experience barriers or bias.”

With her confidence, skills, and notable achievements, it’s really no wonder Dhanda was named on BBC’s 100 Women List in 2020 and is now being named on ours too.

Office Phone Call

4. Rachele Focardi: Founder, XYZ@Work

Next up is Founder of XYZ@Work, Rachele Forcardi.

Her innovative organisation has a main objective to help HR and business leaders understand and adapt to a multigenerational workforce and bridge the general divide - an important aim in a world that’s becoming increasingly more digital.

Recognised as a global thought-leader and one of the top influencers in Asia, Forcardo is also the author of the best-selling book ‘Reframing Generational Stereotypes’, where she focuses greatly on generational diversity in the workplace.

She also writes about how to build mutual understanding and how to foster collaboration to create positive change at work, both of which are becoming high priorities for organisations as a new generation of employees enter the workforce.
If all of this wasn’t impressive enough, alongside being a visionary in her field, Focardi is also a chair member of the Multigenerational Workforce Committee, Board Member of Future Talent Council, and am enthusiastic Mentor at Workplace Accelerator.


5. Melinda French Gates: Co-chair, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

You’ve likely (or most definitely) heard of the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, right? Right. Well, that’s all fine and well, but that’s not who this section is about.

Instead, we’re talking about Bill Gates’ ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, Co-chair of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, businesswoman, philanthropist, and global advocate for women and girls.

While in the past Gates used her computer science degree to develop multimedia products at Microsoft, she eventually left the company to focus on her family and philanthropic work where she still works to help people around the world live healthy, productive lives.

More recently though, Gates has turned her focus to women in tech. Realising a lack of diversity in technology and how that diversity affects the quality of technology, Gates works in alignment with the National Centre for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) to help make the tech industry more diverse in hopes to “increase economic opportunity for underrepresented groups, especially girls and women, and particularly girls and women of colour”.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but with Gates’ help, the new world of work is making headway in creating a more welcoming, professional environment where all people can lead.

Business Meeting

6. Hilary Spencer: Chief Executive, Ambition Institute

An experienced senior leader in education policy, leadership development, learning, and equalities - among others - Hilary Spencer has truly made a name for herself across a diverse number of fields.

As the former Director of the Government Equalities Office in the UK, Spencer’s key responsibilities included both introducing and implementing gender pay gap regulations, making it so that British companies had to calculate and publish their pay gaps.

Spencer was also in charge of policy in relation to women, sexual orientation, and gender equality. She also helped conduct the largest LGBTQ+ survey in the world, collecting information on the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community both at work and in life.

Currently, Spencer is the Chief Executive of the Ambition Institute, a graduate school that provides training and development courses to help educators effectively serve children from disadvantaged backgrounds and help them to thrive. 

We love Spencer not only because she’s influential but because she’s a true advocate for equality for all - an incredibly important notion in today’s new world of work and for our future.


We hope that you can see from this brief yet diverse list of female leaders that there’s no shortage of influential and powerful women in the new world of work, all of whom are not only finding their voices but shouting from the rooftops.

For more influential women to watch, check out our HR Women to Watch blog for 2022.

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