The woman who most inspires me is...
Back by popular demand, The Environment asked last year’s sheroes and women within the extended CIWEM family which woman working in water, land, climate and sustainability inspires them most in turn. Meet this year’s sheroes
MockCOP founder Jodie Bailey-Ho
I would like to nominate Jodie Bailey-Ho for her work with Mock COP. Jodie, 18, is a leading UK youth climate activist and education reformer.
Jodie is a student at Manchester University, Mock COP’s campaign co-ordinator and co-founder of the Teach the Teacher project. She volunteers with UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) and climate-education campaign, Teach the Future and hosts a climate podcast. And she chairs #iWill4Nature group.
Climate education is woefully inadequate across the world. Research in the UK suggests that 70 per cent of teachers feel ill-equipped to teach children about the climate emergency. Jodie is working to change this.
Teach the Teacher launched in 2021 to highlight gaps in climate education. It’s a campaign in which students talk their teachers through climate change and climate justice. That reverse teaching highlights the gaps in climate education that young people are desperate to fill. The campaign has spread to more than 20 countries.
Mock COP launched as a virtual online conference, bringing young people together from across the globe to discuss what we wanted to see from world leaders at the annual global climate summit.
Jodie says “we are all equals in the climate conversation”. Teachers, students and everyone else must work together to improve climate knowledge, education and awareness. Only working together will bring the change we need to see.
Nominated by Teach the Future policy lead and climate-justice campaigner Scarlett Westbrook
My shero is Isatou Ceesay, known as the queen of recycling. In the 1990s, Isatou identified a growing problem with plastic waste in Njau, her village in northern Gambia. Some of that waste was making its way into the ecosystem and some was burned for fuel, releasing toxic fumes.
Working with other women, Isatou founded the recycling centre of Njau to process plastic waste to make plastic yarn, or plarn – and to use this new fabric to make bags and purses.
Turning plastic into new products solves an environmental problem and empowers local women to upskill and earn an independent income. The money has helped women from Njau to pay for medical care and to send their daughters to secondary school.
The recycling and repurposing scheme was so successful that Isatou launched Women’s Initiative Gambia. She has now trained more than 11,000 people to understand the dangers of plastics and opportunities to upcycle waste.
Miranda Paul’s children’s book One Plastic Bag tells Isatou’s story beautifully, sharing important messages about the environment and women’s empowerment.
Nominated by CIWEM junior president Emily Shipton
Liz Corbin and Alysia Garmulewicz
I admire Liz Corbin and Alysia Garmulewicz, co-founders and co-chief executives of Materiom, an online platform that accelerates use of regenerative materials – products that are biodegradable and that aid nature when they break down.
People have invested 100 years of research and development in petroleum-based materials. Materiom aims to drive the same level of research and development into regenerative materials – but within ten years.
Using artificial intelligence and open data, Materiom introduces new materials to the market every few months, not every few years. We need that pace. We must urgently transition from our current, linear economic model built on extracting fossil resources, making them into something, then – often very quickly – throwing it away.
Our take-make-waste economy is polluting our environment. We need to switch to a circular economy to eliminate waste and pollution, circulate materials at their highest value and regenerate nature.
Through Materiom, Liz and Alysia are advancing that transition. By putting the world’s knowledge of and expertise in regenerative materials on an open-source, non-profit platform, Materiom is helping researchers to demonstrate their latest developments to potential customers and helps businesses to source regenerative materials to suit their particular products.
Liz and Alysia are speeding up the switch from petroleum-based materials to alternatives that will regenerate nature.
Nominated by yachtswoman and circular-economy campaigner Ellen MacArthur
I nominate Julie Godefroy, a London-based sustainability consultant working in the building industry. For many years, Julie has been a strong advocate of true sustainability in energy and water efficiency in the built environment, embodied carbon of materials and systems and of occupants’ health and wellbeing.
It takes a certain kind of tenacity and dedication to become a respected female professional in a male-dominated industry like ours. Julie’s work has informed industry standards and government policies. She is hugely respected by all her peers.
The building industry is a significant contributor of carbon emissions that are changing our climate. It will take real commitment to change industry practices – fundamental to curbing our emissions and limiting future increases in global temperatures. Julie has worked tirelessly to bringing industry professionals together to deliver change.
One such initiative is developing Net-Zero Carbon Building standards, bringing industry together to agree how we achieve the Net Zero Carbon targets that government has set. Julie initiated – and is leading – the industry-group response that will influence future government targets and industry practices.
Julie inspires me with her commitment to and passion for a more sustainable built environment. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience; she’s who I turn to for good advice.
Nominated by CIBSE head of research Anastasia Mylona
Environment Agency national flood and coastal risk manager, business implementation and skills Rachael Hill
Why Rachael? She is so inspirational; whenever we speak, she surprises me with what she has done, overcome and achieved in her life. Rachael puts the C in England’s flood and coastal risk management (FCRM). She collaborates with professionals across England and organised a coastal practitioners’ conference in February.
The coast is where UK communities feel and see climate change. That’s emotive. The coastal environment is undervalued but makes such a positive contribution; it is key to help us adapt to the climate crisis.
When she isn’t promoting coastal adaptation, Rachael supports projects to reintroduce beavers to the UK and spreads awareness about how nature’s engineers can help human water professionals to bioengineer the environment using only their teeth.
And she supports other professionals. This year she has mentored other women in flood and coastal risk management through the Women in FCERM mentoring programme. Her mentoring topic is personal presence and she has supported many women early in their careers, offering coffee-and-connect sessions.
Nominated by CIWEM trustee and Environment Agency national business and stakeholder manager Wendy Brooks
Microsoft UK chief sustainability officer Musidora Jorgensen
I would like to nominate Musidora Jorgensen, Microsoft UK’s chief sustainability officer, truly an inspiring leader; ambitious for the environment and for equality and diversity, passionate about supporting more women into the STEM industries.
Musidora is leading Microsoft's sustainability strategy for the UK. She featured in Sustainability Magazine’s Top 100 Leaders 2022.
Through her job, she can drive environmental change across industries. I am truly fascinated to watch her take Microsoft UK and its clients for a NetZero passage in the years to come.
Nominated byMulesoft account executive Ludmila Fadejeva
My climate shero is Dr Kate Lonsdale, co-champion of the UKRI climate-resilience research programme since 2019 and who recently joined Climate Sense as a director.
Kate has worked on climate adaptation as a researcher, research co-ordinator, trainer, facilitator, consultant, mentor, evaluator and advisor for more than 25 years, for developed and developing countries. She has led and managed projects across civil society, academia and government policy and within organisations that aim to bridge these different sectors.
I first worked with Kate in 2012 on the ClimateJust Project Advisory Group. Kate immediately struck me as someone with extensive knowledge, but also integrity and passion for fairness, who sought to recognise and address climate disadvantage and to ensuring just adaptation and a just transition to net zero.
Kate cares about how climate change will affect people. She works to engage more people, more widely and to identify solutions. She has a warm and generous personality and some quirky personal interests.
Her PhD on at monitoring storm sewer overflows was funded by Yorkshire Water and published in IWEM journal. She was headhunted to join the School of Construction at Sheffield Hallam University being a keen caver; the university had struggled to find someone to spend three years in Sheffield’s sewers. Even now, Kate’s hobby is leading tours through Sheffield’s culverted rivers.
Nominated by IPSOS head of energy and environment public affairs Rachel Brisley
I nominate IEMA chief executive Sarah Mukherjee MBE. We met when Sarah was at Water UK. We were often the only women in rooms full of men, where Sarah would also be the only person of colour. I took – and still take – inspiration from Sarah’s confident, approachable style; she’s friendly and likeable and not afraid to be.
She’s also not afraid of talking passionately about where she comes from and how the world must change for more people from different backgrounds to be heard. Like Sarah, I grew up working class. Hearing her talk about this, and about her life experiences of racism, has informed me and helped me to reconcile my home and work selves.
In her day job she drives important change in the sector through IEMA’s Diverse Sustainability Initiative and representing the institution at COP. She is also co-chair of Natural England’s landscape advisory panel.
Sarah was a phenomenal force in the Independent Landscape Review chaired by Julian Glover. With women like Sarah at the helm, I have no doubt that we can break open “the club”, make protected landscapes places for everyone and ensure every child – whatever their background – can enjoy a night under the stars.
Nominated by campaign for National Parks chief executive Rose O'Neill
Maldives climate envoy Sabra Noordeen
HE Sabra Noordeen is the Maldives’ first special envoy for climate change. She was previously secretary for foreign relations in the Maldives president’s office. Sabra represented the Maldives and the group of Small Island States at COP26 in Glasgow. She is candid about impacts on the communities across the Maldives who live on the frontlines of climate change.
She champions her islands internationally, reminding us that the Maldives is really “a large-ocean state”; 99 per cent of it ocean, its 1,200 coral islands lying just 1.5m above sea level. And on top of rising sea levels, acidification of oceans is destroying the Maldives’ coral reefs, impacting the environment and the economy.
Sabra works to humanise these issues, helping people understand the urgency and the impact on individuals. I’ve nominated her my shero as she also uses her role and voice to look for solutions.
It is sobering to hear Sabra talk about the very real risk that her home and those of all 450,000 Maldivians will not be here in a generation. When she compares what her son sees in the ocean to what she grew up with she says the “baselines of wonder in the ocean are shifting; if we want to remain in the Maldives, this is the most crucial issue of our times”.
Sabra uses her voice on the global stage to ask for change. She reminds the COP, and all of us, that it’s difficult to measure success equally when not all nations feel the same impacts of climate change.
Nominated by CIWEM hon vice-president Niki Roach
The Power Station co-founder Hilary Powell
Hilary Powell and her partner Dan Edelstyn are London E17’s Yoko Ono and John Lennon. Over winter the north London artist and filmmaker staged a bed-in on their roof, sleeping out through snow and ice. “Our photo shows how, when men fall to bits, women are so much stronger,” Edelstyn jokes.
The stunt raised £100,000 to install solar panels on 20 of their neighbours’ homes, turning Lynmouth Road, Walthamstow into a community power station. The Power Station hopes to connect all 150 homes, to cut household energy bills and carbon footprint and to inspire other communities to act.
It’s a typical Powell/Edelstyn happening – art as critique of government failure to tackle the energy-cost and climate crises. It takes a negative and flips it, creating a solution for common good.
Powell is a serial climate and social justice campaigner, famous for Bank Job, a film about how the financial system fails people. Austerity, depressed wages, easy credit and pay-day loans leave thousands mired in debt. The money markets trade personal debt on which people are struggling to repay interest.
Powell and Edelstyn set up Hoe Street Bank in a derelict Co-op Bank, printing banknotes with faces of E17 community heroes to sell as artworks. The money repaid local people’s debts and funded social enterprises. When they reached their £50,000 target, Powell and Edelstyn stuffed a van with fake bank notes and blew it up in a controlled explosion in Docklands.
Like Powell, thousands of women are working to help neighbours and communities through the triple whammy of austerity, inflation and our nature-climate crisis. This nomination thanks Powell and The Power Station and so many unsung others who work quietly for the common good.
Nominated by The Environment editor Karen Thomas
Pakistan minister for climate change Sherry Rehman
The woman who has inspired me most is senator Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s minister of climate change. After devastating floods hit a third of Pakistan last year, Rehman held a panel discussion at COP27 to highlight the broken bargain between north and south.
Rehman’s solid, convincing arguments about the risks that come with climate delay kickstarted negotiations between countries to assist each other to avoid loss and damage. Rehman demanded real action and timelines instead of yet another round of COP statements with no plans for implementation.
I'm in awe of leaders like Rehman who push for greater action and accountability from climate action, who demand recognition that countries like Pakistan are more immediately vulnerable to climate change, having played little part in causing it.
She is a brilliant advocate and a negotiator with real grit in seeking climate justice for vulnerable countries. She has given hope to countries in the Global South in pressing COP to create a ground-breaking fund to support those suffering the impacts of climate change. We need more leaders like Rehman to fight for climate justice and demand greater action.
She is an inspiration to women who hope to make a difference.
Nominated by CIWEM junior president-elect and sustainability consultant Sian Leake
Body Shop founder Anita Roddick
Anita died in 2007, but I chose her as an inspiration as she reminds me why it matters to have a radical role model when you are young. I was a teenager when I came across The Body Shop and learned, for the first time, about the environmental and social impacts of things we buy.
Anita championed businesses as a force for good, putting women and the environment at their heart to create successful global brands. She and The Body Shop campaigned on environmental issues including Save the Whale, deforestation and the links between human-rights abuses and environmental pollution in the Niger Delta.
By promoting environmental and social issues through The Body Shop, Anita pushed the mainstream media to discuss these topics. It led me to pursue a career in environment.
Teenagers don't want serious, sensible role models; they want exciting, radical changemakers who express the passion and anger that they feel. For me, Anita was that person. Her legacy is twofold. The Body Shop still campaigns about serious issues and the Anita Roddick Foundation funds hundreds of projects across the globe in her memory every year.
They include Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the UK, and Fundo Casa Socioambiental in South America. These two projects may look very different but they both put the environment and communities at the centre of their activities. Anita was a radical who has had a long-lasting, positive impact on the world.
Nominated by CIWEM trustee and Isle Utilities managing director UK Karyn Georges