Everyone should know about these incredible women over 50

We're endlessly inspired by these seven women over 50 who are making incredible changes in the world.

Cressida Dick, first female Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, 58

Cressida Dick became the first female appointed to the role of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in February 2017, after a career rising through the ranks of the police service – traditionally thought of as a boys’ club – from the ground up. She is also the first openly gay commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; though she waves away any notion that her personal life is relevant to her job, calling her sexuality “one of the least interesting things about me” on her episode of Desert Island Discs earlier this year.

Rachel Whiteread, artist, 56

The English artist was the first woman to win the annual Turner Prize in 1993, for her project Untitled (House) a true to size, inside-out sculpture cast of a terraced house in London’s East End. The artist cast the entirety of the three-story house, from basement to top floor, in concrete over a period of three months.

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Though nothing now remains of the boundary-pushing sculpture (it was demolished just 80 days after its completion by the council) its lasting impact on how we think about the discipline remains, as she continues to make her indelible mark on modern art.

Baroness Brenda Hale, President of the Supreme Court, 74

Yorkshire-born Baroness Brenda Hale was appointed to the role of President of The Supreme Court in September 2017, following a long and varied career as a law academic, law reformer and judge. This amazing woman made history in 1984 when she became the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission, and again in 2004 when she became the UK’s first female Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. The 74-year-old has been an advocate for pay parity between male and female barristers, and has called for “more people who have had less privileged lives” to be given the opportunity to work in the judiciary.

Maggie Aderin-Pocock, space scientist and co-presenter of The Sky at Night, 51

The 51-year-old amazing woman is perhaps best known for co-presenting BBC4’s monthly astronomy documentary, The Sky at Night. But her pioneering work in the field of bespoke instrumentation, from hand-held landmine detectors to observational instruments for Nasa, is far reaching. Born in London to Nigerian parents, Aderin-Pocock recalls a time when she couldn’t even afford the transport fare for her PhD class.

“I couldn’t afford to pay the Tube fare regularly so I used to cycle in [to the university], and that involved pedalling like mad along the Hammersmith Gyratory. It was a pretty hairy way of saving money,” she recalled to The Telegraph last year. She was awarded an MBE in 2009 for services to science and education.

Dame Helena Morrissey, Financier and founder of the 30% club, 53

This amazing woman wears myriad hats, including prominent financier, board member of Eton College, author of career book A Good Time to Be a Girl, diversity campaigner, and mother of nine (yes, nine) children who range in age from preteen to grown up. She founded the 30% club, an initiative pushing for a better gender balance on business boards through voluntary change, in 2010.

The Financial Times named her ‘Person of the Year’ in 2017 at its Boldness in Business Awards, and she has been awarded a number of honorary doctorates, including one from her alma mater, The University of Cambridge. She was made a Dame Commander (DBE) of the Order of the British Empire in the 2017 Birthday Honours for her work championing diversity in financial services.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party politician and climate activist, 58

58-year-old amazing woman Caroline Lucas became the first Green MP to be elected to Westminster at the 2010 General Election, and the first woman to be elected as an MP for Brighton. During her time in Westminster, she’s rallied against countless salient issues including fracking, austerity and the featuring of topless models in The Sun newspaper’s former ‘Page 3’ spread. She has been vocal in her support of campaign group Extinction Rebellion, who have garnered much media attention for their activism over the last number of weeks, and has called for parliament to “declare a climate emergency”.

Dame Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley, pioneering software engineer and philanthropist, 85

This indomitable amazing woman came to Britain as a Jewish child refugee from Dortmund, Germany, prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. As a young woman she spent six years in evening classes to obtain an honours degree in mathematics, before founding software company F.I. Group PLC in the early 1960’s. In an industry dominated by men, she adopted the alias “Steve” because the company letters she signed Stephanie had a dismal rate of reply. Her company employed only women until the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal to do so. Following the sale of her software company, the amazing Dame continued her inspiring work through philanthropy, reporting in 2013 that she’d given away at least £65 million of her estimated £150 million wealth to charity.

“I’m only alive because so long ago, I was helped by generous strangers,” she has said of her philanthropic work. “I decided to make mine a life that was worth saving.”

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Kate McCusker

Kate is a freelance contributor to woman&home, covering everything she loves most: fashion, fiction, and fancy face cream. If she’s not working, she’s probably reading, feeding her online shopping addiction, or judging the taste level of celebrity houses (10/10 for Dakota Johnson, 2/10 for Tan France).

She graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2020 with a BA in fashion journalism, and her byline has also appeared in British VogueThe Times, and Marie Claire.