🖋 Blog: Women designing a better world
Celebrating 10 women, among many more, walking the talk of 'design to improve life'

March 8th has marked the celebration of women for over a century. To some, the day's about cherishing how far we've come. To others, it’s about pushing even further. 

When it comes to the ongoing fight for a sustainable future, women play an important role. Studies show, that companies with a high female representation on their boards give higher priority to environmental and social issues. Also, a more gender-balanced executive team will more likely invest in renewable power, low-carbon products and energy efficiency.

Still, there's a huge bias against and disbelief in women's abilities in the workplace, economics and politics. In fact, nine out of 10 admit to being biased towards women. Almost half of the world's population believe men are better political leaders and about 40% think they make for better executives.

We strongly disagree. That's why we’re taking the day to celebrate 10 women from the Index community, among MANY others, that have designed or led the way for life-improving solutions. Let’s hear it for the girls.

Christien Meindertsma (NL)  Artist & Designer

The work of Christien Meindertsma is all about examining our raw materials and the processes they go through before they reach the consumer. Her first project, a book called ‘Checked Baggage’, catalogued a week’s worth of confiscated objects from Schiphol Airport, and her Index Award-winning book ‘Pig 05049’ showed all the products made from one single pig. Her flair for curation and reflections on sustainability have landed her work in The Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rein and MoMA in New York.

Natsai Audrey Chiesa (UK)  CEO & Founder of Faber Futures

Combining educational backgrounds in Architectural Design and Textile Futures, Natsai Audrey Chieza is the founder of a company that's flipping textile production upside down. Faber Futures, the company behind the Index Award 2019 Winner Project Coelicolor, are pioneering the use of microbial pigment to dye fabrics, which is both water-saving and chemical-free. “Biology teaches us that we need diversity to thrive,” Chieza believes and today she’s a renowned figure in the design for ecology movement and an avid public speaker on future challenges.

Anita Schjøll Brede (NO)  CEO & Co-Founder of Iris.ai

“I sport a pink mohawk and am a bit of a unicorn. Don't expect me to fit into your box”  how’s that for your LinkedIn bio? Anita Schjøll Brede has an MA in Entrepreneurship and Business Design and is a serial entrepreneur with startups based in Sweden, Silicon Valley and Norway. She devotes her time to brainchild Iris.ai, the science assistant helping users navigate and utilise research papers more productively. Additionally, she’s still Faculty at SingularityU Nordic and continues to speak all over the world about disrupting industries, running startups and everything related to the future.

Dr Carmen Hijosa (ES)  Founder of Ananas Anam

During a work trip to the Philippines in the 90s, the social entrepreneur and leather goods consultant Carmen Hijosa gained a new perspective: “I realised that a product is not just about getting the most beautiful or luxurious but, a product is about people,” she told us recently. She developed an idea to make sustainable leather from pineapple leaf fibres and finished a PhD on it at age 62. Today, she’s the Founder of Ananas Anam who manufactures Piñatex, the cruelty-free leather alternative partnering with big brands like H&M, Hugo Boss and more.

Hân Pham (DK)  Owner of YellowOne

Both winner of an Index Award in 2007 for her YellowOne Needle Cap and a finalist in 2015 with YellowOne Handsafe, Danish-Vietnamese Hân Pham has proven time and time again how her simple and intuitive designs can better lives. With a background in both jewellery and industrial design, she’s creating emphatic products that truly care for others. When she’s not running YellowOne Design, she’s a guest lecturer and teacher at design schools all over the world, handing down her experiences to new designers.

Paola Antonelli (IT)  Director of R&D and Senior Curator at MoMA & Index jury member

If you’re into design-thinking or dabble in the world of art, you know Paola Antonelli. She’s curated exhibitions on architecture and design from Italy to Japan and has written for magazines like Haper’s Bazaar, Harvard Design Review and Paper Magazine. Did we mention she’s also lectured on these topics in both the US and Europe? There's no doubt that Paola is well on her way to achieving her mission of making design the most loved, understood and celebrated discipline of the 21st century.

Renata Souza Luque (MX)  CEO & Founder of Thumy

“I wanted it to be something children with Type 1 diabetes are proud of carrying around,” Renata Souza Luque said at 2018 Desing Indaba about her product Thumy, the People’s Choice Winner of Index Award 2019. Back when Souza was studying Product Design, her young cousin was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and soon Souza started developing temporary tattoos and child-friendly insulin pens. Her Mexican-American background has always inspired her to recognize design opportunities in opposing cultures and build lasting social impact.

Rupal Patel (US)  CEO & Founder of VocalID

With a degree in Psychology, a Masters and PhD in Speech-Language Pathology and the title of a Voice Visionary, it’s no surprise that Rupal Patel would be the Founder and CEO of a company, that’s changing text-to-speech communication. “I was struck by the lack of individuality and felt it was important to create a solution that would give every individual a unique voice”, she told us last year. That solution is VocalID and while managing her company, she continues to speak publicly about voice AI on platforms like TED, NPR and BBC.

Veronica D’Souza (DK)  CEO & Founder of CARCEL & Index Jury Member

Women’s issues and well-being is at the heart of everything Veronica does. As Co-Founder of Ruby Cup, menstrual hygiene products for females in poverty, and CEO and Founder of Carcel, clothing made by women in prison and from 100% natural materials, D’Souza’s CV as a social entrepreneur is already impressive. She advises companies and fellow entrepreneurs on sustainable business models and speaks vividly on female entrepreneurship and poverty-reduction through business.

Cecily Morrison (US)  Principal Researcher at Microsoft

We often hear that the personal is political but sometimes it’s also product. Inspired by her blind son, Cecily Morrison along with colleague Nicolas Villar initiated Project Torino, now Code Jumper, which teaches vision-impaired and blind children how to code. “We thought, what would it look like if these kids [...] were designing the technologies of tomorrow?” she explained on Microsoft Research’s podcast. She still focuses on the intersection between humans, computers and AI, meanwhile serving the bigger picture of securing better health and well-being for people through tech.