Women of Switzerland

Alisha Lehmann Alisha Lehmann

Alisha Lehmann

Footballer, *1999

Alisha Lehmann is a professional footballer who has played for the English football teams West Ham United and Everton, as well as representing Switzerland in the national football team. After beginning her professional football career at BSC YB Frauen in Bern, she starred at the 2018 UEFA Women’s Under-19 Football Championship hosted by Switzerland. Her performances at the tournament led to her making a high profile move to West Ham

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Amira Hafner-Al Jabaji Amira Hafner-Al Jabaji

Amira Hafner-Al Jabaji

Interreligious expert and journalist, *1971

Amira Hafner-Al Jabaji is a journalist, Islamic scholar and interfaith communicator. Born in 1971 in Bern, Hafner-Al Jabaji graduated in Islamic Studies and Media Studies. In 2015 she became one of the hosts of the ‘Sternstunde Religion’, a weekly TV show on Swiss National Television (SRF) which holds discussions on ethical and religious topics and opens up access to different religions. She is also President of the ‘Inter-religious Think-Tank’, an

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Anastasia  Hofmann & Naomi  MacKenzie Anastasia  Hofmann & Naomi  MacKenzie

Anastasia Hofmann & Naomi MacKenzie

Entrepreneurs, *1992 & *1993

Anastasia Hofmann and Naomi MacKenzie create solutions for the issue of food waste in the hospitality sector. They founded the startup KITRO in 2017. During their studies at the Swiss Hospitality Management School Lausanne (EHL) they discovered how much food waste is generated in the catering industry, and resolved to address this. They embarked on a global challenge by advocating sustainable change thanks to imaging technology. Based on artificial intelligence,

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Anna Rosenwasser Anna Rosenwasser

Anna Rosenwasser

Writer and gender activist, *1990

Writer and gender activist Anna Rosenwasser speaks out with candour in the fight for equality for the LGBTQAI community in Switzerland. Until recently she was co-director of Switzerland’s Lesbian Organisation, placing her weight behind marriage equality and the acceptance of all gender identities and sexual orientations. In her writing as well as on social media, she discusses questions of contemporary life and love in the context of gender and sexual

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Anne Mellano Anne Mellano

Anne Mellano

Civil engineer, *1989

Anne Mellano invents mobility systems for tomorrow’s world. A civil engineer by training, she co-founded Bestmile in 2014 at the age of 25 and is dedicated to optimizing mobility services, whether in public transportation, deliveries, haulage operations or transport on demand. With global offices in San Francisco and Lausanne, Bestmile develops software to facilitate the deployment and coordination of vehicle fleets. The startup specialises in on-demand and shared transportation systems,

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Anne Chenevard Anne Chenevard

Anne Chenevard

Farmer, nurse and activist, *1981

Anne Chenevard is a farmer and nurse who campaigns for fair milk production policies. In 2017 she took over the management of her family farm in Vaud, which comprises 43 hectares of farmland and 40 dairy cows and has focused on dairy production for six generations. In 2018 she founded the Faireswiss cooperative with other farmers in the French-speaking region of Switzerland, whose mission is to ensure fair remuneration for

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Bice Curiger Bice Curiger

Bice Curiger

Art historian and curator, *1948

Bice Curiger is an art historian, curator and critic. For forty years she has been revealing the riches of contemporary art to enthusiastic audiences. After her first exhibition in 1980, which was a resounding success, Zurich-based Curiger co-founded the art magazine Parkett in 1984 and later served for many years as its editor-in-chief. From 1992 to 2013 she was curator at the Kunsthaus Zurich, the city’s museum of art. She

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Carla del Ponte Carla del Ponte

Carla del Ponte

Lawyer and diplomat, *1947

Carla del Ponte is a prominent criminal lawyer and diplomat who served as public prosecutor in Ticino and as Switzerland’s Attorney General. In these roles she conducted tenacious prosecutions of international criminal operations including money laundering, terrorism and arms smuggling. In 1999 Del Ponte was appointed Chief Prosecutor of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, based in The Hague, Netherlands. During her eight-year tenure she

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Chloé Carrière – ‘Galactic Chloé’ Chloé Carrière – ‘Galactic Chloé’

Chloé Carrière – ‘Galactic Chloé’

Student and science communicator, *1998

Chloé Carrière, also known as ‘Galactic Chloé’, is a Management of Technology and Entrepreneurship student at the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. Besides her studies, she brings the science around space travel, astronomy and astrophysics to wider audiences by hosting her own show, ‘The Galactic Chloé Show’. As the creator of the student association Space@yourService, Chloé Carrière organises events, talks and lectures accessible to anyone interested in space travel and

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Daniela Marino Daniela Marino

Daniela Marino

Bioengineer, *1981

Bioengineer Daniela Marino is CEO and co-founder of CUTISS, a company that offers individually customised skin grafts for deep tissue skin injuries, causing minimal scarring to patients. The skin grafts are engineered from a small piece of the patient’s skin, unlike the most common therapy that involves transplanting thin strips of the patient’s own skin. CUTISS successfully completed its first clinical trial in 2016. The patients’ bodies accepted the living

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Déborah Heintze Déborah Heintze

Déborah Heintze

Bioengineer, *1989

Déborah Heintze pushes the boundaries of tissue analytics and develops machines that improve diagnostic tests for cancer. She completed a Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences and Technology and a Master’s degree in Bioengineering at the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. During a year at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in Boston, USA, she developed a device for testing drugs on cardiac tissues. In 2013, she co-founded Lunaphore,

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Denise Biellmann Denise Biellmann

Denise Biellmann

Figure skater, *1962

Zurich-born professional figure skater Denise Biellmann rose to fame in the early 1980s. After winning the free program at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, she then won both the European and World Championships in 1981, thereby becoming one of the most successful figure skaters of the era. Biellmann won her first international championship at the tender age of eight and ranked first in the Swiss Junior Figure Skating Championships

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Edith Wolf-Hunkeler Edith Wolf-Hunkeler

Edith Wolf-Hunkeler

Athlete, *1972

Wheelchair racer Edith Wolf-Hunkeler claimed gold, silver and bronze medals in the course of her remarkable career. She won 36 international medals and 60 national titles. Born in 1972, Edith Wolf-Hunkeler suffered an accident in 1994 that left her partially paralysed. Soon after rehabilitation she discovered parasports and quickly became a professional sportswoman. She competed at a range of distances from 400m to marathon-length events and is a multiple World

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Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Psychiatrist, 1926-2004

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies, and author of the international bestseller ‘On Death and Dying’ (1969). In spite of her father’s objections, Elisabeth was determined at an early age to study medicine. She married an American whom she met at university, and they moved to the United States to fulfil their medical residency requirements. She began her life-long individual care practice after observing the

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Ella Maillart Ella Maillart

Ella Maillart

Writer, photgrapher, traveller, 1903-1997

Ella Maillart was one of the outstanding travellers of the 20th century. A writer and journalist by necessity but a photographer by choice, she explored the world in a search of the ultimate truth. A successful sportswoman famed for her travels and books, Ella Maillart criss-crossed distant regions of the globe under what were truly adventurous conditions. Her father was a wealthy Swiss fur trader from Geneva and her mother

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Eva Thelisson Eva Thelisson

Eva Thelisson

Economist and legal researcher, *1980

Eva Thelisson is an economist and legal researcher who specialises in the legal, ethical and societal aspects of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain, neurosciences, robotics and nanotechnologies. In 2018 she co-founded the AI Transparency Institute, a non-profit organisation which addresses key challenges such as climate change, digital ethics, AI security, fairness, transparency and privacy and protection issues. Her current challenge is to create economic

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Francesca Pometta Francesca Pometta

Francesca Pometta

Diplomat, 1926-2016

Francesca Pometta was the first woman to enter the Diplomatic Service at the Federal Political Department in Bern in 1956 and the first woman to be appointed Ambassador of Switzerland in 1977. Born in Geneva with Ticinese origins, she spent the early years of her career in various departments in Bern before being posted abroad for the first time to the Swiss Embassy in Washington in 1963. During her long

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Germaine de Staël Germaine de Staël

Germaine de Staël

Woman of Letters, 1766-1817

Germaine de Staël was a woman of letters during the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire, and one of the brightest political and philosophical minds of her era. The only child of Jacques Necker, a Geneva banker and minister of Louis XVI, Germaine de Staël was born in Paris in 1766. As an active French-Swiss writer and moderate Republican, she supported the French Revolution in 1789 and

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Gertrud Woker Gertrud Woker

Gertrud Woker

Scientist, peace activist, suffragette, 1878-1968

Gertrud Johanna Woker was a biochemist, toxicologist, peace activist and suffragette. Born in Bern, she was amongst the first women in Switzerland to obtain a PhD in 1903. For over two decades, she conducted research on the effects of chemical substances on the human body. As a scientist with a sense of responsibility for the potential harm that could be caused by modern scientific innovations, she fought tirelessly against the

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Greti Caprez-Roffler Greti Caprez-Roffler

Greti Caprez-Roffler

Pastor, 1906-1994

Greti Caprez-Roffler was one of the first female pastors in Switzerland and is regarded as a pioneer of the women’s movement in the sphere of religion. Born and raised in the canton of Graubünden, Caprez-Roffler studied theology at the University of Zurich. In the face of opposition from the Synod in Graubünden, she was elected pastor of the small mountain village of Furna in 1931, aged only 25 and soon

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Heidi Tagliavini Heidi Tagliavini

Heidi Tagliavini

Diplomat, *1950

Heidi Tagliavini is a diplomat noted for her outstanding contribution to international aid and peacekeeping. Originally from Basel, she studied philology in Geneva and Moscow before joining the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in 1982. Her career soon gravitated towards crisis diplomacy. Between her postings for the FDFA, she participated in international peacekeeping missions in Chechnya, Georgia and the Caucasus. As Ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2001 to

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Iris Bohnet Iris Bohnet

Iris Bohnet

Economist, *1966

Iris Bohnet is a professor and author who is currently Academic Dean of the Kennedy School of Government and Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University. A native of Lucerne, she gained a PhD in Economics at the University of Zurich and joined the Harvard Kennedy School in 2006. As a behavioural economist, she combines insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making processes. She wrote

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Iris von Roten Iris von Roten

Iris von Roten

Lawyer and writer, 1917-1990

The lawyer and writer Iris von Roten was one of Switzerland’s most eminent feminists. Her book ‘Women in the Playpen’, published in 1958, presented an impressive analysis of the situation of women in Switzerland. Born Iris Meyer in Basel in 1917, she grew up in a middle-class family. She studied law in Bern, Geneva and Zurich, a relatively rare experience for a woman of her time, obtaining her doctorate in

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Isabelle Eberhardt / Si Mahmoud Saadi Isabelle Eberhardt / Si Mahmoud Saadi

Isabelle Eberhardt / Si Mahmoud Saadi

Explorer and travel writer, 1877-1904

Isabelle Eberhardt was an explorer and author. She became interested in North Africa at a young age and published short stories based in the region, gaining her detailed insights only from written correspondence. Eberhardt moved to Algeria in 1897 but kept her distance from other European settlers. She rented an Arabic-style house some way from the European quarter and, being aware that a Muslim woman could go out neither alone

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Johanna Spyri Johanna Spyri

Johanna Spyri

Writer, 1827-1901

Johanna Spyri is, without question, the most famous Swiss author. With her ‘Heidi’ books she created international bestsellers and painted a romantic picture of Switzerland that still captures the popular imagination today. The daughter of a doctor and a religious poet, Spyri grew up in the village of Hirzel above Lake Zurich. In 1871, at the age of 44, she published her first story ‘A Leaf on Vrony’s Grave’ which

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KT Gorique KT Gorique

KT Gorique

Rapper, *1991

KT Gorique’s rap wordplay always hits the mark. Originally from Côte d’Ivoire, she arrived in Switzerland aged eleven and grew up in the Valais. Her militant lyrics address societal problems and her biting verse has wide appeal. KT Gorique’s career began in style when she became the first woman and the youngest competitor to be crowned World Freestyle Champion in the 2012 international contest End of the Weak, one of

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Lea von Bidder Lea von Bidder

Lea von Bidder

Entrepreneur, *1990

Lea von Bidder is the co-founder and CEO of Ava, a medical technology company specialising in the reproductive health of women who want to have children. In 2016 the company launched a hormone-tracking bracelet, which uses sensor technology with clinically tested data science to detect and reveal a woman’s window of fertility in real time. The product’s success attracted the attention of the international media and secured von Bidder a

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Maja Hoffmann Maja Hoffmann

Maja Hoffmann

Art patron and entrepreneur, *1956

Maja Hoffmann is a contemporary art collector and a patron and producer of international art, film, publishing and environmental projects. Hoffmann founded the Luma Foundation in 2004, which focuses on the direct relationship between art, culture, human rights, environmental topics, education and research, supporting cultural projects worldwide. In 2013 Hoffmann founded Luma Arles, an experimental cultural complex and creative campus in Arles, France. Luma Arles provides artists with opportunities to

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Marie Heim-Vögtlin Marie Heim-Vögtlin

Marie Heim-Vögtlin

Doctor, 1845-1916

In 1868, Marie Heim-Vögtlin made a scandalous decision: she was going to study medicine. She became the first Swiss woman to register for medical studies at the University of Zurich, which provoked widespread indignation: it was believed at that time that women were too weak physically to study at university. After obtaining her degree in medicine, she opened a gynaecology practice in Zurich and kept working after the birth of

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Marie-Claire Graf Marie-Claire Graf

Marie-Claire Graf

Activist, *1996

Marie-Claire Graf, climate and gender activist, participated in the climate strikes in Switzerland from the outset and took part in the first United Nations Youth Climate Summit in New York. Graf was born and raised in the canton of Basel-Landschaft. She studied natural and environmental sciences at the Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich and later studied political science at the University of Zurich. She is now pursuing her masters

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Martha Argerich Martha Argerich

Martha Argerich

Pianist, *1941

Martha Argerich is one of the greatest pianists of her time: a virtuoso, with an artistic sensitivity and an extraordinary freedom in her play. Born in 1941 in Buenos Aires before being naturalised Swiss, she was a child prodigy who performed from the age of seven and gained international recognition at sixteen when she won the Geneva International Music Competition. She is particularly renowned for her interpretations of Chopin, but

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Marthe Gosteli Marthe Gosteli

Marthe Gosteli

Activist, 1917-2017

Marthe Gosteli, born in Berne in 1917, fought tirelessly for women’s suffrage for many years. From the mid-1960s onwards she used her experience in communications, media and information services, gained during and after the Second World War, to support the feminist movement. She played a leading role in many women’s rights organisations. In 1970/71, she headed the Consortium of the Swiss Women’s Unions for the Political Rights of Women. This

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Martina Hingis Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis

Tennis Player, *1980

Martina Hingis made history on tennis courts around the world. At the age of only 16 she won the 1997 Australian Open singles championship, becoming the youngest ever No. 1 in world rankings that year. Born in Slovakia (then part of Czechoslovakia) as Martina Hingisová, she played her first tournament aged four and moved to St. Gallen in Switzerland at the age of eight. On the WTA circuit, she gained

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Mathilde Gremaud Mathilde Gremaud

Mathilde Gremaud

Freestyle skier, *2000

Mathilde Gremaud performs stunning acrobatics to reach the summits of her sport, freestyle skiing. Born in 2000 in Fribourg, she notched up regional and national wins at a very young age before her international career took off when she won the silver medal at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. At World Cups, World Championships and Winter X Games, Mathilde Gremaud has claimed gold, silver and bronze medals. In 2020, she

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Meret Oppenheim Meret Oppenheim

Meret Oppenheim

Artist, 1913-1985

Meret Oppenheim is one of the key figures of the surrealist movement. A painter, sculptor, photographer and writer, she worked alongside the greatest names of the era, such as Pablo Picasso, André Breton, Max Ernst and Alberto Giacometti. Her work ‘Déjeuner en fourrure’ (Breakfast in Fur), a fur-covered teacup, saucer and spoon, is regarded as one of the surrealist symbols of the 20th century. Born in 1913 in Berlin, Meret

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Mujinga Kambundji Mujinga Kambundji

Mujinga Kambundji

Sprinter, *1992

Mujinga Kambundji is the fastest woman in Switzerland’s history and the first to break the 11-second barrier in the 100m. She is one of four children born to a Congolese-Swiss father and a Bernese mother. She raced into the spotlight in 2009 when she won the silver medal in the 100 metres and the gold medal in the 4×100 metres relay at the European Youth Olympic Festival. In the same

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Muriel Richard-Noca Muriel Richard-Noca

Muriel Richard-Noca

Space engineer, *1969

Muriel Richard-Noca, a space engineer, has embarked on a mission to clean up space. She co-founded the startup ClearSpace to ensure that tomorrow’s generations can continue to benefit from space infrastructures and exploration. Born in 1969 near Lyon in France, Muriel Richard Noca spent the first part of her career in the US. She worked for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the planning of several missions, including missions to Mars

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Olga Dubey Olga Dubey

Olga Dubey

Biologist and entrepreneur, *1990

Olga Dubey is CEO of the start-up AgroSustain, which she co-founded in 2018. The company produces natural crop protection products that permit the extension of the shelf-life of fruit and vegetables, thus reducing food waste and promoting high-quality food. After completing her genetics studies in Russia, Olga Dubey wrote her dissertation in the field of plant molecular biology at the University of Lausanne. During her studies, she focused on applied

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Pamela Ohene-Nyako Pamela Ohene-Nyako

Pamela Ohene-Nyako

Historian, *1991

Historian Pamela Ohene-Nyako champions Black literature as a tool for critical reflection, sharing and change. In 2016 she founded the bilingual French-English platform Afrolitt’, a space dedicated to the writing of authors of African descent and thought from an Afro-Swiss female perspective and reality. Considering art as an empowering and therapeutic force, Pamela Ohene-Nyako pursues her activities in Switzerland and Ghana through reading groups and literary events as well as

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Philomena Schwab Philomena Schwab

Philomena Schwab

Game designer, *1989

Philomena Schwab is a game designer and co-founder of the game studio Stray Fawn. Schwab grew up in Zurich and completed a Master’s degree in Game Design at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). In 2016 she teamed up with Micha Stettler to found Stray Fawn. During the same year they published the computer game ‘Niche – a genetics survival game’, which sold more than 200,000 copies. Schwab also founded

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Pipilotti Rist Pipilotti Rist

Pipilotti Rist

Artist, *1962

Pipilotti Rist is a pioneer of experimental video art and multimedia installations. Born in the canton of St Gallen in 1962, Rist gained international recognition from the mid-1980s. Her works often play with popular culture and the mass media. The humour, emotions and physicality induced by her pieces offer a refreshing take on themes such as intimacy, sensitivity and the relationship between nature, the body and technology in general. Feminism

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Ruth Dreifuss Ruth Dreifuss

Ruth Dreifuss

Former President of the Swiss Confederation, *1940

Ruth Dreifuss served as President of the Swiss Confederation in 1999, the first woman to hold that office. She has worked successively as a teaching assistant, journalist, scientific collaborator in the field of development cooperation and humanitarian aid at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and Secretary of the Swiss Trade Union Federation. In 1993 she was elected Federal Councillor and was head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs

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Samantha Anderson Samantha Anderson

Samantha Anderson

Chemical engineer, *1988

Samantha Anderson is a chemical engineer who turns PET waste into raw material, contributing to a cleaner environment. Originally from Canada, Anderson graduated from the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne in the Valais with a Ph.D from the Chemical Science and Engineering Institute. She co-founded and manages DePoly SA, an enhanced recycling company that focuses on depolymerizing PET plastic waste into its two main chemical components. These raw materials are

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Simona Scarpaleggia Simona Scarpaleggia

Simona Scarpaleggia

Businesswoman, *1960

After heading IKEA’s Swiss operations for 10 years, Simona Scarpaleggia decided to focus her career on gender equality. She is currently Global CEO of Edge, a global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality. But this is not a new departure for her. She co-founded ‘Valore D’ in Italy in 2009 and ‘Advance Women’ in Switzerland in 2013. From 2016 to 2018 she co-chaired the UN High-Level Panel

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Sophie Hunger Sophie Hunger

Sophie Hunger

Musician, *1983

Sophie Hunger, a singer/songwriter, is one of Switzerland’s most successful musicians. The daughter of a diplomat, she grew up in Bern, London, Bonn and Zurich and discovered jazz, punk and folk at an early age. In 2007 she released a self-produced album, ‘Sketches on Sea’, which was an unexpected success, followed by her second album ‘Monday’s Ghost’ which was her break onto the international scene. She was the first Swiss

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Sophie Taeuber-Arp Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Artist, 1889-1943

Sophie Taeuber-Arp was one of the most important artists of the twentieth century and a key figure in the Dada movement in Zurich. She challenged traditional hierarchies in fine and applied art and worked as a textile designer, painter, sculptor, architect, stage-set and interior designer, performer, choreographer, teacher and writer. Her practice encompassed several mediums and techniques which included her pioneering use of the grid, free-flowing geometric forms and abstracted

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Tanja Grandits Tanja Grandits

Tanja Grandits

Chef, *1970

The multi-award winning chef Tanja Grandits has been widely celebrated for her high-flying culinary creations. In 2019 she was the first woman to achieve the prestigious score of 19 out of 20 awarded by the Gault Millau Switzerland gastronomic guide, and was crowned ‘Cook of the Year’ for the second time in 2020. She has been awarded two Michelin stars for her exceptional cuisine. In her restaurant, situated in a

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Tilo Frey Tilo Frey

Tilo Frey

Politician, 1923-2008

Tilo Frey, a politician, was one of the first twelve women elected to the National Council in 1971. She was also the first person of African descent to become a member of the National Council. Prior to her service at the federal level, she was active in regional politics as an elected member of the cantonal council of Neuchâtel. She campaigned for equal pay for women, the legalisation of abortion

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Ursula Keller Ursula Keller

Ursula Keller

Professor of physics, *1959

Experimental physicist Ursula Keller explores and pushes the frontiers of ultrafast science and technology. She has been a tenured professor of physics at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) since 1993, as well as, since 2010, a director of the interdisciplinary research programme NCCR MUST which brings together 26 Swiss research groups in Molecular Ultrafast Science and Technology. Following her physics degree at ETH, she completed her PhD at

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Ursula Meier Ursula Meier

Ursula Meier

Film maker, *1971

Ursula Meier is a French-Swiss film director whose work moves and inspires film lovers around the world. Born in 1971 in Besançon, she studied film in Belgium. Her short films quickly brought her to the attention of the film industry, but it was her first feature film Home that earned her a place amongst the big names of cinema. This bold feature was selected in La Semaine de la Critique

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