Women who’ll make a big impact this decade

March 3, 2020
9 min read

To celebrate International Women’s Day (8 March, 2020), Mintel analysts from around the world highlight the women who they think will have a major impact on their industry over the course of this decade. 

Asma Khan – Indian-born British chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author

Ayisha Koyenikan, Global Food & Drink Analyst (London)

Asma Khan was the first British chef featured in the Netflix series Chef’s Table in 2019, and she uses her platform regularly to speak out about sexism in the restaurant industry.

Her career in food began back in 2012 with a series of private supper clubs, which led to her opening the acclaimed Darjeeling Express in London’s Soho neighbourhood in 2017. So it could be argued that she has already ‘arrived’ as opposed to being ‘one to watch’.

However, it’s what Khan is now doing with the knowledge garnered from operating her all-female kitchen that makes her a potential disruptor and game changer over the next few years. The hospitality industry has been under the spotlight recently for gender inequality and numerous reports of sexual misconduct against women in the workplace. Asma Khan is a breath of fresh air, supporting women and creating spaces for them to thrive in an industry, and in environments, where the odds are stacked against them.

Credit: Abouther.com

Hailing from Calcutta India, Khan, who at that point was unable to cook, moved to the UK in 1991 with her husband, learning to cook primarily from an aunt in Cambridge. In 2012, Khan started various iterations of supper clubs, employing a team of home cooks, many of them immigrants with no professional kitchen experience.

Khan’s South Asian, all female team transitioned with her to the restaurant, growing from home cooks to chefs. Not only has Khan been pivotal in these women’s lives, she also set up The Second Daughters Fund, a not-for-profit initiative celebrating the birth of second girls in Indian families. Khan has spoken about the favouritism that can be shown to boys in India, an issue close to her heart, being a second daughter herself.

In this age of female empowerment, what really excites me about Asma Khan is what she might do next, using food and business to help women around the world. She has now established an all-female café in the Yazidi refugee camp in Iraq, and says she wants to use her business skills and experience to empower women in conflict zones and societies where women have not been treated equally or fairly. In the future, I hope she will continue to be a powerful agent of change in the way women are viewed and treated in the foodservice industry.

Olivia Kim – Vice President, Creative Projects at Nordstrom

Alexis DeSalva, Senior Research Analyst, Retail and ecommerce (Chicago)

If you don’t work in the fashion industry, the name Olivia Kim may not be familiar, but in the next decade, that’s likely to change.

Kim is the Vice President of Creative Projects at Nordstrom, a role she essentially created for herself. Prior to that, she held a similar position at the edgy New York-based retailer Opening Ceremony, where she was responsible for discovering interesting brands to bring to customers.

At Nordstrom, Kim is re-thinking the in-store experience, making it fresh for today’s shoppers. The rotating curated assortment ‘Pop-in @Nordstrom’, is a blank slate for her to introduce shoppers to products that are unique or under-the-radar. It’s a big task, but Kim approaches it thoughtfully and interestingly, and under her creative eye, emerging brands and products such as Jacquemus, Everlane and Korean beauty brands, have reached mainstream consumers.

Kim’s talents as a merchant – Vogue once referred to her as “a rock star” among buyers – have also helped her spot evolving consumer behavior and respond accordingly. An example is the newly-launched, ‘See You Tomorrow’, a  concept that marks Nordstrom’s entry into the resale market.

Credit: fashionweekdaily.com

What sets Kim apart from others is her approach to fashion, which is adventurous, interesting and yet, approachable. Her style injects life into one of the most established retailers in America, creating evolution in an industry that’s often slow to change. She interprets high-fashion concepts for the mainstream consumer without losing the cool factor.

So what will Kim introduce at Nordstrom in the next decade? Predictions include introducing Nordstrom-exclusive rental services for apparel and accessories, and implementing a genderless approach to certain in-store assortments.

Given her success at evolving one of the oldest American retailers during a retail revolution, I have to wonder if Kim’s next role elevates her beyond creative projects and into a C-suite role.

In the next decade, the Nordstrom brothers, who operate as current CEO and President, may be considering who to pass the torch to as they move closer to retirement. It’s not hard to see why they’d choose to put the company, or at least the merchandising team, into the hands of someone who’s already proven the ability to remain relevant in fashion’s ever-evolving world. A bold, creative female leader may be just what the retailer of the next decade needs and Olivia Kim fits that bill.

Dr. Barbara Sturm – Aesthetics physician and founder of Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics

Bettina Krechel, Research Director, Mintel Reports Germany (Düsseldorf)

After J- and K-Beauty took the world by storm in the past decade, I was excited to finally see the rise of G-Beauty in 2019. German skincare brands stand for clean beauty, backed by scientific evidence. These products are non-toxic, non-irritating and non-inflammatory and stand out due to their minimalistic packaging and their straightforward messaging; a welcomed sight in today’s busy aisles.

One of the brands standing at the forefront is Dr. Barbara Sturm, a world-acclaimed dermatologist with her eponymous skincare brand. The Sturm brand was propelled into fame thanks to Kim Kardashian’s ‘Vampire Facial’ Instagram post in 2013 that went viral. Sturm successfully capitalised on that to build herself a name. And her very own trending hashtag: #sturmglow.

Credit: @kimkardashian

Sturm herself can best be described as an optimistic self-starter. She never wrote a business plan but has listened and acted upon her customers’ concerns to launch innovative products ahead of the market. With clean beauty for women of colour only recently gaining momentum, Sturm partnered with actress Angela Bassett in 2016 to launch Darker Skin Tones – the first clean beauty range catering to women of colour. German brands have been slow to adapt to changing demographics and whilst many tend to focus on female Millennials, they could consider looking into dedicated ranges catering to the needs of overlooked consumers, such as men, the elderly or ethnic consumers.

Credit: @drbarbarasturm

Due to Sturm’s easy-going, girl-next-door charm and her renown #sturmglow, she is truly her brand’s best ambassador. Using these, she successfully expanded her network to include major celebrities as well as influential entrepreneurs and propelled herself into the influencer league. Aside from using her voice to promote her brand, she uses it to educate on skin health, beauty from within and achieving a healthy lifestyle. German brands can take inspiration from Sturm by offering more transparency and spontaneity on social media. Also, breaking down the science behind skincare in an easy-to-understand manner will lead to higher engagement with the category.

I envisage Sturm to continue to stir up the industry in the years to come. She brings a very rare mix to the table: a strong medical background coupled with the charismatic personality of a showmaster and the grit of an entrepreneur. Her influence and strong voice will have knock-on effects and thus benefit G-beauty as a whole.

Dipa Karmakar, Hima Das, PV Sindhu, Sunita Rani, and Sakshi Malik – Olympic medalists and professional athletes

Nidhi Sinha Head of Content, Mintel Indian Consumer (Mumbai)

On 19 January, 2020, the India vs. Australia women’s cricket match had all the makings of a perfect Sunday, but because the sport is dominated by men, the response was lukewarm and media coverage was minimal.

Age-old traditions in India that require women to stay close to stereotypical gender roles mean that any steps towards breaking the shackles of gender diversity are met with severe resistance.

But a new breed of female athletes are turning these age-old customs on their head by slowly changing the typical image and expectations of Indian women, while influencing society in multiple ways. I’d like to highlight the excellent performances of the likes of Dipa Karmakar (gymnast), Hima Das (sprinter), PV Sindhu (badminton player), Sunita Rani (runner), and Sakshi Malik (freestyle wrestler) at the last Olympics.

Credit: @Dipakarmakarforindia

The qualities depicted by these sportswomen are a source of inspiration for millions of girls and women who have languished under a patriarchal system. Most of these athletes themselves have faced resistance from society and discrimination in terms of support and infrastructure to persue their athletic ambitions.

Finally, we’re beginning to see brands take steps towards promoting these female sports celebrities in their campaigns, thereby making them a household name. From Stayfree by Johnson & Johnson, a popular brand of sanitary napkins, talking about how a girl’s physical differences shouldn’t affect her sporting dream to beauty and personal care brands like Ponds Skinfit by Unilever and Joy Personal Care offering products for the ‘women who are into sports and like to tough it out’, brands are making an attempt to ride this wave of change.

Over the next 10 years, the role these female athletes will play in impacting the thought process, confidence, and self-empowerment of women in India will grow from strength to strength, with the greatest impact being a fundamental change in how females in India live out their lives. These women are definitely ‘ones to watch’ as they will be instrumental in delivering and spreading messages of feminism and gender equality through their dedication to sport, as well as their athletic and commercial success and expanding roles within modern culture.

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