Mary Robinson presented The Women of the Year Inaugural Lecture on Monday 11th February 2008 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London.   

Mary Robinson was Ireland’s first female President and the former UN Commissioner for Human Rights. Since 2002, she has been President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalisation Initiative. She is a member of the Elders; Honorary President of Oxfam International and is Chair of the International Institute for Environment and Development IIED. Mrs Robinson is also a founding member and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and Vice President of the Club of Madrid. She is chair of the GAVI Fund Executive Committee and Vice-chair of the GAVI Fund Board.

The Theme of the Lecture was “New Ideas in Women’s Leadership”

Mary Robinson photo credit: Ian Miller

Photo gallery credit: Hy Money Photography

See more images from this event on our Facebook page here.


Sponsored by Barclays

The Lecture was held at the The Royal Institution of Great Britain on 22nd April 2009. The speaker was Baroness Susan Greenfield.

“The impact of current technology on the mind of the 21st Century child”

We explored some of the latest findings in neuroscience on how exquisitely the human brain adapts to the environment and to see how unprecedented and different the environment in the future might be. Finally: if the brain is sensitive to the environment, and if the environment is changing, then, will the brain of the 21st Century child be transformed in unprecedented ways? The time is now ripe for taking action in harnessing current and future technologies, to ensure that we can realise the full potential that living in the 21st Century has to offer.

Following Baroness Greenfield’s lecture, a panel put some questions to her for discussion. The Panel consisted of :

Lord Stephen Carter, Minister for Technology, Communications & Broadcasting at BERR
Cathy Turner, Group Human Resources Director at Barclays
Ms Martha Lane Fox, Founder of Lastminute.com and Lucky Voice
Mr Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive BT Retail
Adam Singer, Deputy Chair of the Ofcom Content Board & Chair of Teachers TV Board of Governors

Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE

Baroness Greenfield is Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain (the first woman to hold that position) and Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Oxford, where she leads a multi-disciplinary team investigating neurodegenerative disorders. In addition she is Director of the Oxford Centre for the Science of the Mind, exploring the physical basis of consciousness.

Her books include “The Human Brain: A Guided Tour” (1997), “The Private Life of the Brain” (2000), and “Tomorrow’s People: How 21st Century Technology Is Changing the Way We Think and Feel” (2003) and “‘ID’ – The Quest for Identity” (2008). She has spun off four companies from her research, made a diverse contribution to print and broadcast media, and led a Government report on “Women In Science”. She has received 30 Honorary Degrees, Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians (2000), a non-political Life Peerage (2001) as well as the Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur (2003). In 2006 she was installed as Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University and voted `Honorary Australian of the Year’. In 2007 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Video of the 2009 Lecture

In the Press

Daily Mail:
How Facebook addiction is damaging your child’s brain: A leading neuroscientist’s chilling warning.
Read the full article here >

The Telegraph:
Impact of computer games on children’s brains needs research, says Lady Greenfield. Lady Greenfield, the leading neuroscientist, will call for ministers to fund a study into the impact of computer games and social network sites on the attention spans of children.
By Alastair Jamieson, 22 Apr 2009
Read full article here > 


Sponsored by Barclays

Four times gold medallist Matthew Pinsent, BBC Commentator Claire Balding and Lord Tony Hall, CEO Royal Opera House, took part in a panel of questions from the audience led by the Chief Executive of Barclays Retail Banking, Deanna Oppenheimer. 

The 2010 Women of the Year lecture took place on Tuesday 20 April at the Royal Institution in London. Tessa Jowell Minister for the Cabinet Office, the Olympics and London and Paymaster General, spoke about the 2012 Olympic Games and their Legacy in front of an invited audience of men and women associated with Women of the Year.

She made two firm promises: The first was to transform the heart of East London and the second was to inspire a generation of young people through sport. Edited highlights of the lecture can be viewed online shortly.

The speech inspired great debate both in and outside the hall and there was no doubt that Mrs. Jowell made clear commitment that the Games would be delivered on time, on budget and on track.

Photographs by Hy Money Photography

Videos from the 2010 Lectures


Wednesday 30 March 2011 at The Royal Institution of Great Britain, London

This year’s lecture was given by the world-class scientist Professor Nava Dekel of the Weizmann Institute in Israel, an expert on fertility and women’s reproduction.  Her latest research has led to an amazing breakthrough, improving the success of implantation of embryos in IVF Treat.

Professor Dekel’s lecture described her groundbreaking work and the engagement in issues of women in science.   She also addressed the serendipity of discovery, the ethical issues of scientific research and the social pressures on women, even today, to reproduce. The event put the subject in the wider frame of how fast our world is changing because of scientific and technological advancement.

Photographs by Hy Money Photography


Monday 23 April at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London

More than 120 guests attended the fifth annual Women of the Year lecture at the Royal Institution, to hear Baroness Helena Kennedy and a distinguished panel discuss the problem of human trafficking in our cities.

The evening began with an address from Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, the human rights campaigner and Women of the Year President, who spoke about her experiences of working with trafficked women and called for a disintegration of the taboos of shame and dishonour that blight the investigation of sexual crime, before stressing the need for a public awareness campaign to incite a collective fight against trafficking. She then called on members of the panel, which included Juliet Singer of STOP UK, ITV’s London Tonight correspondent Ronke Phillips and Martin Houghton-Brown of Missing People, to speak about their expertise and provide insights into the issue.

The panel then opened up the debate to members of the audience, with the ensuing discussion ranging from child begging and the impact of major sporting events (including the Olympics), to the role of health services and the vital importance of NGOs in winning the trust of trafficked people.

The Lecture concluded with a call from Martin Houghton-Brown for a “new feminism” to confront a culture where it is still acceptable to use and abuse women, followed by Baroness Kennedy’s reassertion that trafficking is ultimately an issue of human rights and should be treated with corresponding levels of urgency.


The 2013 Women of the Year Lecture took place on Monday 4 February at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. The guest speaker was the human rights activist and anti-death penalty campaigner Sister Helen Prejean, who was joined in conversation by journalist and ITV broadcaster Julie Etchingham.

Sister Helen was introduced by Women of the Year President Baroness Helena Kennedy, who said that “the opportunity of hearing from this incredible woman was too good to miss.”

Sister Helen recounted her first experiences of working with prisoners on death row in the United States – and of witnessing an execution – and how this determined her life’s work and helped cement her belief in the dignity of human life.

The seventy-three year old New Orleans native spoke of the cultural barriers she has encountered and her commitment to educating people about the realities of capital punishment in order to break these barriers down.

She described her work with death row inmate Patrick Sonnier who was executed in April 1984 and how this experience, along with her encounters with the victims’ families, formed the inspiration for her bestselling book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States.

Members of the audience were then invited to ask questions and comment on the issues raised. These questions covered the influence of religion, race, women on death row, gun laws and the politics of capital punishment.

In response Sister Helen highlighted the injustice and inhumanity of capital punishment, as well as citing some enlightening statistics about death row inmates and attitudes towards the death penalty.

Guests at the Ri included the ITV London Tonight correspondent Ronke Phillips, Piers Bannister and Claire Jenkins from Amicus, a legal charity helping provide representation for people on death row, Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly and Olympic gold medallist Katherine Grainger.

Sister Helen concluded with a call for people to wake up to the realities of the death penalty and take action to liberate their minds and those of others.

The 2013 lecture ended with Baroness Helena Kennedy presenting Sister Helen with the Women of the Year Lecture Award.

The 2013 Women of the Year lecture was sponsored by Barclays.


Monday 20 January 2014, Royal Institution of Great Britain

The 2014 Women of the Year Lecture took place on Monday 20 January at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. The guest speaker was Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, who was in conversation with eminent presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Todayprogramme, Sarah Montague.

Jane Luca, Chair of Women of the Year and Controller of External Affairs at ITV, introduced Helen and Sarah to a distinguished audience of Women of the Year alumni and friends.

Sarah began the discussion by questioning how Helen was drawn into the political realm. Growing up on a farm in New Zealand, Helen explained that although she originally had no plans to pursue leadership, her passion for politics drew her into her first parliamentary role.

“I began to work my way up the Labour party, starting with menial tasks and then moving on to positions of responsibility,” she said, “Politics was what I was most interested in.”

Helen recounted how, as a woman, she faced many challenges in her rise to power. “Running for my first safe seat in parliament was a hard process,” she explained. “Many viewed it as a ‘working man’s seat.’ Politics is not for the faint hearted.”

She went on to depict how, following her time as Prime Minister, she tackled her new role in the UNDP. Helen addressed her goal to empower women across the world, and emphasised the importance of educating women in order to achieve gender equality.

“A nation cannot develop while leaving half of the population behind,” she said, “We must educate young women and girls – they are the building blocks for future generations.”

Sarah then invited members of the audience to ask Helen questions and comment on the issues raised. These questions covered Helen’s views on current difficulties facing global development, and how women can help to address gender issues both at home and abroad.

In response to the Syrian crisis, Helen spoke about how the country had lost 35 years of development through the destruction of the ongoing conflict. She also addressed her negative opinion of US intervention in Iraq.

“A foreign intervention did not help,” she said. “Iraq is now very worrying. I was there late last year, and you can see how the Syrian situation is affecting it too.”

Helen addressed many questions regarding the current state of gender inequality, from sexual harassment to sex-selective abortions. She explained how every woman can make a difference through using her own skills to address inequality issues.

“How do you want to make an impact? It might be as lawyer, teacher, civil society worker, or a politician,” she said. “Women have to have confidence in themselves – they can do it.”

The 2014 lecture ended with Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, President of Women of the Year, presenting Helen with the Women of the Year Lecture Award.

The 2014 Women of the Year lecture was sponsored by Barclays.

You can watch the 2014 Women of the Year lecture on our YouTube Channel.


The 2016 Women of the Year Lunch and Awards was held at the Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane and celebrated over 400 extraordinary women.

The Women of the Year Special Award honoured the Hillsborough Families for working tirelessly for 27 years to establish the truth of what happened at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster on 15 April, 1989. The award was presented to Margaret Aspinall, on behalf of all the families, by Prime Minister Theresa May, who said:

“Thanks to their resolve we now know the truth about what happened that day. This award is for all those who lost their lives at Hillsborough and their families who have shown immense courage and determination.”

Five women were recognised with Women of the Year Awards for their courage, resourcefulness, flair and for their selfless actions:


Seema Aziz, Barclays Women of the Year Award winner

The award recognises Seema’s extraordinary contribution to education in Pakistan, based on her belief that every child has a right to an education. She set up the CARE foundation after discovering many children in the countryside had no school to go. The charity has given hundreds of thousands of children a brighter future.


Liz Clegg, Good Housekeeping Women of the Year Award winner for Outstanding Courage

Liz is a volunteer who has fought to reduce the plight of women and children living in the notorious Calais Jungle. She set up the unofficial women and children’s centre at the camp and this award recognises her tireless work, her courage, resourcefulness and emotional resilience.


Marjorie Wallace CBE, Prudential Women of the Year Award winner for Outstanding Campaigner

Marjorie is a British writer, broadcaster, investigative journalist, and Chief Executive of SANE. She campaigned for over 30 years for better availability of mental health services in the UK, particularly for people with Schizophrenia.


Dame Fanny Waterman, DFS Women of the Year Award winner for Lifetime Achievement

Dame Fanny won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music and played at the Proms in her teens. After a notable performing career, teaching became the centre of her life. She has dedicated her energy to create the renowned Leeds International Piano Competition and inspire young musicians to excel.


Lizzie Jones, ITV’s Lorraine Inspirational Woman of the Year Award winner

Lizzie was recognised for her incredible, life-saving work following the death of her husband, Danny Jones, from an undiagnosed heart condition. She set up a charity in Danny’s name, the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund and campaigns for all rugby league division players to be able to have heart screening in an inspirational and determined bid to save lives.


The Women of the Year Award winners were chosen by a judging panel of accomplished women: Sandi Toksvig CBE, Baroness Doreen Lawrence OBE, Ronke Philips, Sue Walton, Maureen Lipman CBE, Andrea Coleman, Anne Aslett and Rt. Hon the Baroness Tina Stowell of Beeston MBE. ITV Lorraine viewers voted for their Inspirational Woman of the Year by a telephone vote.

Sandi Toksvig, President of Women of the Year, said: ‘For over 60 years, Women of the Year has proudly recognised and celebrated the achievements of some of the world’s most incredible women. These women range from the super famous to unsung heroines who are the backbones of charities, industries and indeed every profession possible. The remarkable women who make up the attendees and winners at this year’s Lunch are being recognised for their work making the world a better place.’
Every woman who is invited to the event has achieved something extraordinary in whatever walk of life she comes from. The lunch is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate their bravery, determination, compassion and success.