Behind the cover: Women who rocked 2017

By Caroline Lavergne, Editor-in-Chief

A lot happened in 2017, and much of it didn’t go as planned.

For example: we wanted to make the last C2 podcast episode of the year a recap of key moments that shaped the business world. As we stepped back to reflect on it all and actually write the episode, we realized that much of what made the (good) news this year was led by strong women taking it upon themselves to womanhandle an issue and solve it to make the world a better place.

This is what prompted us to make the podcast all about women. Based on interviews conducted at C2 Montréal 2017 (with Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Joyus and theBoardlist; Lauren Wesley Wilson, ColorComm; Angela Tran Kingyens, Version One; Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and writer Cal Fussman), podcast producer Elodie Gagnon and host Laura Beeston make the case that, especially in 2017, “women mean business.”

Check out Episode 4 of the C2 Podcast “Women mean business,” available on iTunes now

The cover for the “Women mean business” episode was illustrated by myself (or rather my alter ego, who happens to draw a lot) and designed by star artistic director Elisabeth Charbonneau. The idea was to pay hommage to the women who shook the established order and led the way, in their own way, to a better 2018. As you download the episode, scroll down to learn more about each of them and the reasons why we believe they played a part in rocking 2017.

Scroll down to find out more about each of these awe-inspiring women


Who else should have made the list?

The women who made the cover of this particular C2 Podcast episode only represent a tiny fraction of the women who made a difference in 2017. Even though we did open the list to suggestions from the 180-plus people on the general C2 team Slack channel, it’s definitely incomplete and biased. Among other things, there’s an over-representation of the entertainment industry, and the overwhelming majority of the women listed live and work in North America or Europe.

In writing this piece (with the help of the lovely Robyn Fadden) and drawing these portraits, my hope is that you will share this and, by tagging #WomenMeanBusiness, tell us about who else you believe should have made the list.

Whether or not she appears in the list below, if, in 2017, she showed courage and determination to make the world a better place, she’s on our list. (Hi mom!)

Here goes:


Tamika D. Mallory, Bob Bland, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour, the national cochairs of Women’s March

Several women organizers stood out among the millions who took to the streets to make the National Women’s March a powerful international phenomenon on January 21, 2017, the U.S. presidential inauguration day. The march, and the organization created in its wake, joined people of all backgrounds, races, genders, ages and faiths in a call for “a world that is equitable, tolerant, just and safe for all.”

Women’s March in Washington on January 21, 2017


Beatrice Fihn

As Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), she secured a major victory in July with a United Nations treaty signed by 122 countries outlawing the weapons as a threat against global security, leading the humanitarian campaign coalition to win the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.


Fatou Bensouda

Known as one of the most powerful African women in the world, she’s the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, trying individuals for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. She made headlines this fall when she launched a formal investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, the Afghan government and U.S. troops since 2003.



Social humanoid robot Sophia crossed a controversial human-robot barrier this year when Saudi Arabia became the first country in the world to grant a robotcitizenship. Saudi women were not amused. Unlike them, the robot does not require a male guardian or have to wear a head covering in public. The decision caused outcry within the country by women who questioned why they had fewer rights than a robot and from other countries who decried Saudi Arabia’s record when it comes to women’s rights.

Sophia the humanoid robot speaking Russian at Open Innovations Conference at Skolkovo Technopark on October 1, 2017


Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins

Among a slew of American superhero movies produced in the past decade, only one live-action feature has put a woman at its very centre: this year’s Wonder Woman. Israeli actor Gal Gadot took on the role of Amazonian warrior and royalty Diana Prince, and American director Patty Jenkins (who directed Emmy-nominated The Killing and Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning performance in Monster) steered Wonder Woman into door-opening film history.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures<


Michelle Bachelet

The first female President of Chile, since 2006 she’s endured years of backlash specifically for being a woman and for adopting a quota system to increase the representation of women in government. This year, before she leaves her post next March, she signed a bill to legalize gay marriage, sponsored a pro-women reproductive rights bill, inaugurated the first geothermal energy plant in South America and created a substantial marine reserve around Easter Island.


Hillary Clinton

She may not have won the U.S. election, but the impact of her hard-fought campaign has resonated throughout 2017. A seasoned political figure, Hillary Clinton’s loss to a man who had never held public office became one of the catalysts for January’s Women’s March on Washington and a worldwide wake-up call for women’s equality at all levels of social, economic and political life. She added to that momentum this fall with her campaign memoir What Happened.

Protesters march through the capitol during the Women’s March on January 21, 2017, in Washington D.C.


Shonda Rhimes

The producer of hit network TV shows Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder moved over to Netflix this year, where she’ll be developing innovative, diverse new shows for a global audience. On top of that, she joined the ranks of Oprah Winfrey and Diahann Carroll to become the third black woman in the TV Hall of Fame.

Shonda Rhimes and Sandra Oh at the Grey’s Anatomy 200th Show Party at The Colony on September 28, 2013, in Los Angeles


Elaine Welteroth

Named Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue this year, Elaine Welteroth became the second African-American in Condé Nast’s 107-year history to hold the title – and the youngest too. She led the glossy magazine through an evolution of credibility on political, social and minority issues, causing a bit of a social media frenzy along the way, and launched the first Teen Vogue Summit, the theme for which is changing the world.

Elaine Welteroth and Trevor Noah attend Conversation with Trevor Noah and the Writers of The Daily Show during the Tribeca TV festival at Cinépolis Chelsea


Lido Pimienta

The Colombian-Canadian musician won the 2017 Polaris Music Prize for her album La Papessa, turning her Spanish-language electronic pop into the latest symbol of Canada’s evolving music scene. An outspoken advocate for women of colour, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized people, Lido proudly merges her art with her politics.

“La Papessa” album cover


Valérie Plante

The first woman to be elected mayor in Montréal’s 375-year history, the head of left-leaning opposition Projet Montréal conducted a campaign that put Montrealers first and catapulted Valérie into the media spotlight with slogans such as “The right man for the job. Valérie Plante. Mayor of Montreal.” She quickly became a household name, extending her party’s wins outside the city centre with vows to alleviate traffic problems and make Montréal more family friendly.


Danica Roem

The first openly transgender person elected and seated to a state legislature in the United States, the Democrat won against Virginia’s “chief homophobe” Republican state Del. Bob Marshall, known for his opposition to opposes LGBT rights. A journalist dedicated to local news and known for her hard-hitting interview style, Danica Roem campaigned on issues close to her electorates’ hearts and never downplayed her gender identity.

Candidate for Virginia Delegate (elected November 7) Danica Roem, at Protest Trans Military Ban, Washington, D.C. – Credit: Ted Eytan


Tarana Burke

The social activist who coined the rallying cry Me Too over a decade ago when she created Philadelphia-based organization Just Be Inc. to provide help and opportunities for young women of colour. This year, her words and mission inspired the hashtag #MeToo after actress Alyssa Milano echoed them in a Twitter status that immediately went viral. Time magazine named Tarana Burke among its Silence Breakers as person of the year.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A Nigerian-born National Book Award winning author whose voice has been among the strongest in international, intersectional feminism through her best-selling books We Should All Be Feminists and Americanah. This year she reclaimed feminism from overt misinterpretation with a new perceptive statement about what it means to be a woman and a mother today in Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.


Rosalind Brewer

After years at the helm of Sam’s Club, most recently heading a digital overhaul of the warehouse club retailer and prioritizing diversity at the company, Rosalind Brewer joined the board of Starbucks in early 2017. Within months she’d become COO, the first woman and first African-American to hold a top position with the coffee giant.


Margaret Atwood

The Canadian literary icon and steadfast feminist voice gained even more media attention this year as her novel The Handmaid’s Tale surged into a new era of relevance with the popularity of its TV adaptation. She’s also the source of one of 2017’s most quoted maxims: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”

As well as…


Reed Morano and Ilene Chaiken

A dark, disturbing touchstone for issues of women’s equalityin the wake of the 2016 U.S. election, The Handmaid’s Tale garnered director Reed Morano an historic Emmy this year: she’s only the third woman ever to win an Emmy for best director in a drama series—and the first woman in 22 years to do it. Let’s not forget that turning Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel into a TV series was originally Empire and L Word showrunner Ilene Chaiken’s mission for years before Hulu picked up the show.

Men and women dressed in Handmaid’s Tale costumes rally on the steps of Washington’s state capitol to protest Trump administration policies, part of a 50-state movement, October 14, 2017



Nathalie Loiseau

The new French Minister in charge of European Affairs under the Macron presidency, she moved from running the elite École nationale d’administration to negotiating UK-EU talks on Brexit among other EU reform efforts. A former French diplomat, she’s a longtime women’s rights advocate who has imbued her current government work with core values of gender parity and social equalities.


Carmen Yulín Cruise

Mayor of San Juan, she spoke fiercely about the slow and ineffective U.S. response to Puerto Rico’s need for humanitarian aide after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in October. Among a series of social media replies, President Trump called her a “nasty mayor,” prompting her to wear a “Nasty” t-shirt in numerous appearances that helped raise attention and funds for rebuilding Puerto Rico’s damaged areas.


Indra Nooyi

Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, she’s number 2 on Fortune’s 2017 Most Powerful Women and was recognized this year as one of the inaugural Heroes of Conscious Capitalism for running a business that makes a positive impact on people’s lives as a force of good in the world. She’s moved her brand’s portfolio toward healthier fare like kombucha, increasing its profits in the face of industry-wide disruption.


Elizabeth Plank

A Canadian journalist living in New York, she launched new intersectional feminist show Divided States of Women on Vox TV this October, giving voice to controversial political issues that affect women in America—without treating them like a monolithic block. Also known for speaking “the feminist truth” on MSNBC and CNN and for being blocked on Twitter by Donald Trump, she just received confirmation on her deal for nonfiction book How to Be a Man.



Peggy Whitson

The astronaut and biochemist broke the record for the longest time spent in space not only by any U.S. astronaut but by any woman. She lived aboard the International Space Station for 288 days this year, bringing her career total to 665 days in space. She’s also now world’s oldest female astronaut at 57 years old, the most experienced female spacewalker, with 10 space walks, and the first woman to command the space station twice.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson controls the robotic arm aboard the International Space Station during a spacewalk – Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center


LaToya Cantrell

Elected the first female mayor of New Orleans this year, LaToya Cantrell campaigned on a platform that reflected her leadership in community improvement, from organizing to rebuild her neighbourhood as president of the Broadmoor Improvement Association following Hurricane Katrina to leading diversity initiatives while on New Orleans City Council.

New Orleans City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell was onhand to celebrate the 500th home completed by Rebuilding Together New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina – Credit: Liz Jurey


Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged as the de facto leader of the European Union, winning a fourth term in Germany’s national election this fall and topping Forbes’ list of most powerful women of 2017. An iconic figure held in high esteem due to the length of her tenure, her conduct during Europe’s refugee crisis and her fight against the rise of the far-right, she’s set to extend an ongoing political coalition to stabilize her country’s government.


Issa Rae

She became the first black woman to create and star in a premium cable series last year, but it wasn’t until this year’s renewal of her HBO comedy-drama series Insecure that she received the critical accolades she deserved for her groundbreaking work. The flood of media attention brought a massive new audience to a show populated by complicated, diverse and true-to-life characters not often seen on screen.

Credit – HBO


Marlène Schiappa

The Parisian feminist activist and writer was named French Secretary of State in charge of Equality between Women and Men under President Macron, a new and controversial designation within the halls of French government. She’s in charge of gender equality, fighting for women’s and LGBTQ issues, proposing fines for street harassment, and pushing equality projects forward in France while facing a renewal of far-right media attacks.


Viola Davis

A stage and screen legend, Viola Davis left 2017’s Oscars ceremony as a history maker. She became the firstAfrican American star ever to win the triple crown of acting, garnering an Academy Award for Fences to add to her Emmy for hit TV show How to Get Away With Murder and Tony awards for King Hedley II and the Broadway production of Fences.


Sophie Bienvenu

A Québécoise author who grew up in France and Belgium, she spotlights women and girls alongside the Québécois French language in her writing, including in her latest, a children’s title called The princess who wanted to become general. This year also saw her first novel, Et au pire, on se mariera (And at worst we will get married), about a troubled high school girl, adapted into a film by acclaimed director Léa Pool and starring Karine Vanasse.


Rose McGowan

One of the first Hollywood celebrities to publicly speak out this year—and 20 years ago—about her personal experience of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein, Rose McGowan started an avalanche of accusations against the film producer and helped social media phenomenon #metoo gain momentum. She was named among Time magazine’s Silence Breakers as person of the year.


Ursula Johnson

Winner of this year’s Sobey Art Award, Canada’s top art prize, the Mi’kmaw multidisciplinary artist creates site-specific installation and performance work, often using traditional Indigenous practices, to confront the country’s colonialist history and its impact on her own Indigenous heritage. She’s also the first artist nominated from the Atlantic region to win the award since its inception in 2002.

Credit: Ursula Johnson


Roxane Gay

A cultural critic, professor, editor and writer of 2014 book Bad Feminist, she sparked debate around fat activism with her candid 2017 bestseller Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and launched deeper conversations about how fat-phobia, bodily autonomy, sexual abuse, self-worth and feminism are intertwined. Meanwhile, she bucked women’s societal in her 2017 short story collection Difficult Women.

Credit: Sarah Mason


Katrina Lake

Head of Stitch Fix, she became the first female CEO to take a company public in the U.S. this year—her subscription-based fashion startup’s IPO raised $120 million. After starting Stitch Fix in her apartment in 2011 while attending Harvard, she spent the next six years building the fashion-meets-tech company into an efficient, nearly $1 billion revenue business.


Ginny Rometty

The IBM CEO made headlines this summer when she walked out of President Trump’s strategy forum, stating that recent public events and statements ran counter to IBM’s and the country’s values. On Forbes top-10 list of most powerful women, she lead IBM to its best earnings in nine years, encouraging its transition into a data company with a focus on cognitive computing.

Ginni Rometty, President and CEO, IBM speaks during the 2012 Most Powerful Women Summit


Who else should be on the list? Share and tag #c2womenof2017, we want to know!