This has been quite a year for women on the world stage. After the political upheaval of the EU referendum result, Theresa May became British prime minister in July, taking on the challenge of leading Britain out of Europe. Four months later, Hillary Clinton faced an ignominious defeat at the hands of the US electorate

We watched as women back-flipped their way to new world records in Rio, dominated our television viewing with their creations and campaigned for their own rights and those of others.

This annual special issue of FT Weekend Magazine celebrates women’s achievements (and chronicles their failings). With interviews conducted by FT writers across the globe and through exclusive photographs, we highlight the politicians, business leaders, artists and athletes who have shaped this tumultuous year. We start inside Number 10 Downing Street.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts — in the comments, or by email:

Alice Fishburn, editor, FT Weekend Magazine

Theresa May

Britain’s prime minister

Theresa May, UK prime minister
© Justin Sutcliffe/Polaris

It’s important that we don’t leave [Brexit] for too long, otherwise people will lose faith in their politicians

Interview by George Parker & Lionel Barber

Simone Biles

The world’s best gymnast

Simone Biles
© Qi Heng/Xinhua/eyevine

Sometimes I’ll do a routine and I’ll think: did I get everything? Other times I’ll blow my mind. It’s like, how did I just do that?

Interview by Courtney Weaver

Jean Liu

President of Didi Chuxing

Sim Chi Yin
Jean Liu at her offices in Beijing in November

The war with Uber . . . actually I didn’t mean to say war, because it wasn’t a war . . . War is short term but when we talk about building something, that is long term.’

Interview by Charles Clover

Dilma Rousseff

Ousted Brazilian president

Why couldn’t I give in to the temptation to tie myself to one of the palace columns? Because in this phase, the best weapon is criticism, talk, dialogue, debate.” 

Interview by Joe Leahy 

Mary Berry

Queen of British baking

Mary Berry
High Wycombe

I do plan everything I do. I put my clothes out the night before. I make a list . . . I have a discipline. I like to grasp the nettle and get it done.’

Interview by Natalie Whittle

Maria Grazia Chiuri

The first woman to lead Dior

Maria Grazia Chiuri
Maria Grazia Chiuri © Janette Beckman

Femininity is mercurial: you mustn’t be straitjacketed into one type. Fashion is a dialogue with other women.’

Interview by Jo Ellison

Njideka Akunyili Crosby


Njideka Crosby in her studio in East Los Angeles

Representation matters. That’s why things like #OscarsSoWhite happen. People want to see themselves. It’s what makes you feel you matter in the society you exist in.’

Interview by Jonathan Griffin

Margrethe Vestager

EU competition commissioner

Margrethe Vestager
© Marie Louise Munkegaard

I think I am like anyone else. I respect other people and, of course, I expect that it works the other way around.’

Interview by Rochelle Toplensky

Phoebe Waller-Bridge & Vicky Jones

Creators of TV drama Fleabag

Phoebe Waller Bridge and Vicky Jones photographed at Soho Theatre London

We understand each other very clearly. We’d both find that sense of “We’re not allowed to do this, but let’s do it anyway.” Just naughty and fun’ 

Interview by Emma Jacobs

Profile: Hillary Clinton

Former presidential candidate

Hillary Clinton
On the campaign trail this year in New Hampshire © Matt Rourke/AP

Clinton’s demise owes more to the fact that she personified the establishment than to her gender. She will surely be haunted by her mis-steps’ 

by Edward Luce 

Profile: Jo Cox

The late Yorkshire politician

A video grab taken from footage broadcast by the UK parliamentary recording unit (PRU) on June 16, 2016 Labour party member of parliament Jo Cox speaks during a session in the House of Commons in central London on March 21, 2016.

The Labour MP spent her days exuding a quality that can seem in short supply in these rancorous times: empathy

by Tom Burgis 

Profile: Zaha Hadid

The woman who changed architecture 

Zaha Hadid attends the press view of the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery designed by herself and her architects. (Photo by rune hellestad/Corbis via Getty Images)

She was branded difficult, a diva, which is perhaps another way of saying she had the self-belief to make designs that seemed to defy the laws of physics’ 

by Kesewa Hennessy

Profile: Beyoncé

Musician, businesswoman, activist, icon

© Getty

In the era of Barack Obama, Queen B has redrawn the expectations of what can be achieved by a person of colour in the western world’ 

by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

Profile: Park Geun-hye

South Korea’s president  

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye speaks during an address to the nation, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on November 29, 2016. 
South Korea's scandal-hit President Park Geun-Hye said Tuesday she was willing to stand down early and would let parliament decide on her fate. / AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO AND POOL / JEON HEON-KYUN

The once steely president has in recent months been recast as a puppet, amid swirling and often salacious claims

by Bryan Harris 

Profile: Rahaf

A teacher and refugee

Rahaf in the Beirut Souks shopping mall
Rahaf in the Beirut Souks shopping mall © Hannah Starkey

Until fighting broke out, she was living a normal life. Then, one night in 2013, pregnant with her first child, she fled, leaving her husband to look after their house

by Hannah Starkey

Profile: Sushma Swaraj

India’s foreign minister

NEW DELHI, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 14: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrives for a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, following delegation-level talks between the two sides at the Hyderabad House, on September 14, 2016 in New Delhi, India.
© Getty

Through her Twitter feed, Swaraj has answered pleas for help from overseas Indians caught in armed conflict, confronting legal or medical problems’ 

by Amy Kazmin 

Profile: Kellyanne Conway

Donald Trump’s campaign manager  

Kellyanne Conway
© Getty

She convinced Trump to use a teleprompter and jettison some of his most divisive rhetoric, helping him win over some Republicans

by Demetri Sevastopulo

First Person: Latifa Ibn Ziaten

On March 11 2012, my son Imad was shot dead. At the morgue, I promised him I would do everything to understand why’ 

by Anne-Sylvaine Chassany 

Quarraisha Abdool Karim

A Q&A with the award-winning epidemiologist 

Quarraisha Abdool Karim

HIV, early pregnancy and vicious cycles of poverty and dependency mean young women’s potential is ended before it begins.’ 

by Hester Lacey

Letter in response to this article:

Rousseff and Park were poor choices / From Anna Hartley

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