Setting a new example: Leading figures that broke the mold in their industry



Setting a new example: Leading figures that broke the mold in their industry

Businesswoman at apex of crowd
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Diversity and inclusion is making significant waves, however, in several industries, absolute equality and variety is still a far cry for many.

In the digital age, more and more individuals are making headlines for doing remarkable "firsts", whether that's in media and entertainment, or politics and business.

CNBC takes a look at leading figures that have bucked the trend in their industry, and shown that stereotypes can be broken and new movements can be born.

  • Barack Obama

    In early November 2008, the U.S. voted for Barack Obama as their 44th president, making him the first African-American president in U.S. history.

    During his eight-year time in office, Obama achieved a number of milestones, including supporting the LGBT community's fight for marriage equality, signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, helping secure the Iran nuclear deal, and signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help tackle sex-based wage discrimination.

    In 2016, the White House was close to securing another first for the U.S. presidency with Hillary Clinton, who if she was successful, would have become the first female U.S. president. Despite the position going to Republican Donald Trump, Clinton did become the first woman to secure the backing of a major U.S. political party.

    U.S President Barack Obama and his wife First Lady Michelle Obama dance on stage during MTV & ServiceNation: Live From The Youth Inaugural Ball at the Hilton Washington on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC
    Mark Wilson | Getty Images News | Getty Images
  • Jodie Whittaker

    Last Sunday, the BBC's "Doctor Who" science fiction drama program finally revealed its thirteenth doctor, actress Jodie Whittaker, who will replace the current doctor – played by Peter Capaldi – once the character regenerates. The news marks a first for the program and caused much delight and debate online, after viewers learnt about the next doctor's identity.

    "I always knew I wanted the thirteenth Doctor to be a woman and we're thrilled to have secured our number one choice. Her audition for The Doctor simply blew us all away," Chris Chibnall, new head writer and executive producer of the "Doctor Who" show, said in a statement.

    The question of the doctor's next identity has been highly pondered as of late, with many questioning whether the role would go to a woman, newcomer or one of the tipped favorites.

    A similar theme has arisen when it comes to who will be the next actor to take on James Bond's role. Idris Elba and Damian Lewis have been named as potential favorites, while Emilia Clarke and Gillian Anderson have shown their interest in a "Jane Bond" role.

    Actress Jodie Whittaker attends the 'Adult Life Skills' Premiere during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival
    Ben Gabbe | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
  • Mary Jackson

    Mary Jackson was the first black female engineer to work at NASA, but back when she pursued a career in engineering it was very rare to come across a female engineer in general.

    In 1951, Jackson landed a position at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory's segregated West Area Computing section; however, it would take years of work experience and courses to complete for Jackson to become NASA's first black female engineer, which she did in 1958.

    Before she retired, Jackson worked fiercely to improve the employing and promotion of NASA's next generation of female engineers, scientists and mathematicians; according to the NASA website. Jackson went onto receive a number of honors including an Apollo Group Achievement Award.

    Mary Jackson, the first black woman engineer at NASA poses for a photo at work at NASA Langley Research Center on January 7, 1980
    Bob Nye/NASA/Donaldson Collection | Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images
  • Benazir Bhutto

    Benazir Bhutto's political career marked a huge milestone for women in leadership, as becoming the prime minister of Pakistan in 1988 made Bhutto the first female to govern a Muslim country.

    Bhutto's leadership – which spanned some five years over the course of an eight-year period – created a legacy for Muslim women aspiring to lead, along with fighting the threat of extremism.

    And Bhutto isn't the only female having taken Asia by storm.

    Indira Gandhi was the first female to take on the position of India's prime minister, a role which she first held in 1966 until 1977, and then went onto hold her final term from 1980 to 1984. During her time, she was praised for her work in many fields, including her work towards the country's Green Revolution, which helped make India become self-sufficient in food.

    Meanwhile, Sheikh Hasina is currently the prime minister of Bangladesh, a position she held from 1996 to 2001, and now holds again since 2009.

    Benazir Bhutto on election campaign in Punjab, Pakistan in January 16,1988
    Chip HIRES | Gamma-Rapho | Getty Images
  • Mario Vargas Llosa

    To be awarded a Nobel Prize is a great honor for those who receive it, and that was definitely the case when it came to the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010.

    Peruvian-born writer Mario Vargas Llosa received the prestigious literature award in 2010 for "his cartography of structures, of power, and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat."

    Llosa was the first Peruvian to win the accolade, and according to the Financial Times, the writer of several novels, short stories and plays, was only the sixth winner in Latin America's history.

    Mario Vargas Llosa attends 'Gabriel Garcia Marquez: mas alla del realismo magico' summer course by Complutense University on July 6, 2017 in El Escorial, Spain
    Europa Press | Europa Press | Getty Images
  • Diezani Alison-Madueke

    OPEC is seen as one of the fundamental cogs moving the oil market, with its current intention to stabilize and reduce oversupply.

    While the organization's leading members are often male-dominated, in 2014, OPEC saw its first female president elected: Diezani Alison-Madueke. She took on role at a volatile moment in time for the markets, tasked with navigating the group as oil prices came under severe pressure.

    Alison-Madueke acted as an oil minister for Nigeria from 2010 to 2015, however, has since been caught up in investigations surrounding money laundering. According to Reuters, who cited Nigeria's financial crimes agency, Alison-Madueke was charged with money laundering in April, however the former minister has previously denied any wrongdoing to Reuters when asked about corruption allegations and missing public funds.

    Nigeria Minister of Petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke attends the opening session of the 160th meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on December 14, 2011 in Vienna
    DIETER NAGL | AFP | Getty Images
  • Richard Rodgers

    To receive a major show business award such as an Oscar would mark a major milestone for any leader in the entertainment industry but to be able to achieve an EGOT, is something only very few have achieved.

    An EGOT is a person who has successfully won an Emmy (TV), Grammy (Music), Oscar (Film) and a Tony (Theater) award during their career – a landmark which has been reached by only about a dozen in history (on a competitive basis).

    The first to achieve such a milestone was that of Richard Rodgers, an American composer who achieved all four by 1962, an accomplishment which took him less than two decades to complete.

    Composer Richard Rodgers smoking a cigarette while playing the piano.
    George Karger | The LIFE Images Collection | Getty Images
  • Mary Barra

    Not only is Mary Barra the current CEO and chairman of General Motors, but she is also the first female to act as CEO of a major automaker.

    Prior to taking on the top role in 2014, Barra has been a part of the company since 1980 when she started as a General Motors Institute co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division. Barra also partakes in other roles including co-chair of the Department of Transportation's Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation, along with promoting diversity and inclusion at GM.

    And Barra isn't the only powerful woman leading the way. Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Meg Whitman, IBM's Ginni Rometty, GSK's Emma Walmsley, and PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi are just a handful of influential women currently acting as CEOs.

    Meanwhile, outgoing easyJet CEO Carolyn McCall recently announced that she was to become ITV's next and first female CEO. When McCall takes up the position in early 2018, she is likely to become one of the U.K.'s most powerful – potentially the most powerful – female TV executives.

    Mary Barra, chief executive officer of General Motors Co
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