The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is ‘Choose to Challenge’. To celebrate, we want to highlight some of the remarkable women in the Rhodes Community who challenge the boundaries and demonstrate that women belong and thrive in all spaces.
These leaders are experts in their fields and stand up for gender equality, inclusion, empowerment and social justice in a variety of impactful ways: Shamma Al Mazrui (United Arab Emirates & University 2014), Bonnie St John (California & Trinity 1986), Dr Leana Wen (Missouri & Merton 2007), Dr Tracy Robinson (Jamaica & Balliol 1992), Dr Elizabeth Kiss (Virginia & Balliol 1983) and Dr Doyin Atewologun (Dean of the Rhodes Scholarships)
Shamma Al Mazrui (United Arab Emirates & University 2014)
Her Excellency Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui was appointed as the UAE’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs in February 2016 at the age of 22, making her the world’s youngest cabinet minister at the time of her appointment. H.E. Shamma is also the Chair of the Emirates Youth Council and the Vice-Chair of the Arab Youth Center. She serves as the Chairperson for Special Olympics UAE, and is a member of the Education and Human Resources Council of the UAE Cabinet and the UAE Golden Jubilee Committee, as well as a board member of Emirates Foundation and the International Institute of Tolerance.
Previously, H.E. Shamma worked in Private Equity at one of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth funds. She also worked as a public policy analyst at the UAE Mission to the United Nations, as a Ministry Policy Analyst with the Prime Minister’s Office, as a Research Analyst at the UAE Embassy in DC, and as an Education Policy Researcher at Tamkeen (UAE Strategic Affairs Authority).
H.E. Shamma obtained her Masters of Public Policy with Distinction from the University of Oxford in 2015 and was the first Rhodes Scholar selected from UAE. In 2018, she was listed in CNBC’s ‘7 Female Activists Under 23 Who Are Changing The World’, and was awarded the NYU 'Making a Difference Award'.
Bonnie St John (California & Trinity 1986)
Bonnie St John is a Paralympic Medallist, bestselling author, and CEO of the Blue Circle Leadership Institute. Bonnie discovered her love for skiing at the age of 15 and in 1984 she was selected to represent the USA at the Paralympics in Austria. Her impressive performance landed her three medals, and taught her an important life lesson.
“I was ahead in the slalom, but in the second run, everyone fell on a dangerous spot. I was beaten by a woman who got up faster than I did. I learned that people fall down, winners get up, and gold medal winners just get up faster” she says.
This philosophy led her to realise the importance of resilience throughout life and she coined the term ‘micro-resilience’ to describe the small changes individuals can make to build up their resilience.
Bonnie is now a Fortune 500 leadership expert, keynote speaker, and the CEO of Blue Circle Leadership which offers a variety of live and virtual programs aimed at helping woman thrive in the workplace. Bonnie has written 7 books about leadership, resilience, personal development and success, including ‘How Great Women Lead’ which was co-written with her daughter, Darcy.
Dr Leana Wen (Missouri & Merton 2007)
Dr Leana Wen is an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at George Washington University. A non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, she is also a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, writing a weekly column on public health and health policy, and an on-air commentator for CNN as a medical analyst.
Previously, she served as Baltimore's Health Commissioner, where she led the nation’s oldest continuously-operating health department to fight the opioid epidemic, treat violence and racism as public health issues, and improve maternal and child health.
Dr Wen completed her residency training at Brigham & Women's Hospital & Massachusetts General Hospital. The author of the book When Doctors Don't Listen, Dr Wen has received recognition as one of Governing's Public Officials of the Year and TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People.
Dr Tracy Robinson (Jamaica & Balliol 1992)
Dr Tracy Robinson is a senior lecturer and Deputy Dean (Graduate Studies and Research) at the Faculty of Law in the University of the West Indies, where her focus is on gender, sexuality and the law, constitutional law and human rights.
She is a co-founder and co-coordinator of the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) that led successful strategic litigation in Belize and Guyana on the criminalization of LGBTQ persons.
Dr Robinson served on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a Commissioner, President of the body (2014-2015) and Rapporteur on the Rights of Women. She also helped to establish the Rapporteurship on the rights of LGBTI people and became its inaugural Rapporteur.
Dr Robinson was a Commissioner for the PAHO/WHO Independent Commission on Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas. In 2020, she was appointed as one of three experts on the Independent Fact Finding Mission on Libya, a mandate established by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2020.
Dr Elizabeth Kiss (Virginia & Balliol 1983) & Dr Doyin Atewologun
Dr Elizabeth Kiss became Warden of Rhodes House and CEO of the Rhodes Trust in August 2018, the first woman to hold this position. She oversees the world’s oldest graduate scholarship, the Rhodes Scholarship, as well as several partnership programmes. Dr Kiss has launched the 125th Anniversary Strategic plan for the Rhodes Trust which will expand the annual number of Scholars to 125 with a wider global profile
Before joining the Rhodes Trust, Dr Kiss served for twelve years as president of Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia. During her tenure, Agnes Scott broke records for enrolment and retention and was named the second ‘Most Diversified College in America’ by Time, the country’s most successful liberal arts college for graduating low-income students by the U.S. Department of Education, and the #1 Most Innovative National Liberal Arts College by U.S. News and World Report.
Dr Kiss is a scholar of moral and political philosophy and she has published on moral education, human rights, ethnic conflict and nationalism, feminist theory, and transitional justice. Dr Kiss received her BA in philosophy, magna cum laude, from Davidson College in North Carolina, becoming Davidson’s first female Rhodes Scholar and receiving a BPhil and DPhil in philosophy from the University of Oxford.
Dr Doyin Atewologun oversees the Rhodes Scholar experience and programme in Oxford, providing strategic leadership and management to the Trust's support for Scholars' academic success, well-being and leadership development.
Dr Atewologun is one of UK’s leading experts on leadership, bias, inclusion and organisational development. She is the Director of Delta Alpha Psi, a consultancy which uses the science of psychology and an evidence-based approach to develop inclusive leadership. Dr Atewologun served as joint Inclusion Adviser to the NHS national talent management programme for Aspiring Directors 2017-2020, and Academic Adviser (since its inception) on the Parker Review Steering Committee led by Sir John Parker into ethnic diversity on FTSE350 boards.
In 2019, she led the publication of a special edition of ‘Women to Watch’, published annually by Cranfield University’s School of Management, showcasing fifty leading female professionals from Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds available for, and ideally suited to, board positions on FTSE 350 companies.
Prior to joining the Rhodes Trust, Dr Atewologun was Director of the Gender, Leadership & Inclusion Centre at Cranfield School of Management. Throughout her career, she has worked with legal and professional service firms, FTSE100 companies, United Nations agencies and the UK Civil Service.