These 10 women make history and break molds in adulthood: neither old nor invisible

The first woman to direct the Louvre was 55 years old when she debuted in the position.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 10:25
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These 10 women make history and break molds in adulthood: neither old nor invisible

The first woman to direct the Louvre was 55 years old when she debuted in the position. The first to command a private mission to the International Space Station was 63 when it made headlines. She was the first to take charge of the World Trade Organization at 66, and the first to get seven Michelin stars at 61.

Boomers? Seniors? Old? What is clear is that they are women who are making history after 55.

This doctor in biochemistry applied up to ten times before landing a position as an astronaut. Since then, she has had a career full of historic moments: she has spent the most time in space, a total of 675 days. She was the first female commander of the International Space Station and the only one to serve twice as commander of the ISS. She is the first woman and first non-military head of NASA's Astronaut Office, and she also holds the record for the greatest number of spacewalks performed by a woman, a total of ten.

In the spring of 2023, at the age of 63, she broke a new record by being the first woman in command of a private space mission, the Ax-2. Despite this race, she herself warns that “it is important to understand that the path is probably not always a straight line towards a goal. Looking back, I don't think failure was a bad thing, because it pushed me to challenge myself and set me up to succeed.”

For the first time since its creation in 1793, the Louvre Museum is under the direction of a woman. “I will never forget that call,” said Laurence des Cars when she debuted in the position in 2021. She came from the direction of the Orangerie Museum and the Musée d’Orsay, where she had already left her mark. Under her leadership, Orsay curated an unprecedented exhibition on black female figures in 19th-century Western painting and a Gustav Klimt painting looted by the Nazis was returned to an Austrian Jewish family. The only Klimt that the French state had.

One of his first decisions as head of the Louvre, the most visited art gallery in the world, was to reduce the number of daily visitors to 30,000 (previously it was up to 45,000) so that tourists have a “better experience.” De Cars wants to bring culture closer to young people and also expand the hours to reach the younger audience.

It took 112 years for FIFA to have a general secretary. The highest body in world football was going through delicate moments in 2016 after having to fire Jérôme Valcke (the previous secretary) for the alleged resale of tickets for the World Cup in Brazil. With the desire to restore credibility in the organization, President Gianni Infantino went in search of Fatma Samoura, a Senegalese with decades of experience in the United Nations who had worked in humanitarian and economic programs and in conflict territories. He saw in her ability to “improve the performance of organizations” and put “transparency at the center of the organization.”

Samoura gave an important boost to women's football (also to the number of women within the organization) and became, according to the BBC; in the most powerful woman in the world of sport, while Valcke's suspension for 12 years from all activities related to this sport was confirmed. At the end of 2023, and after 7 years in office, Samoura left the institution to spend more time with her family. “When I was eight years old I fell in love with football and it has been a true honor to live this experience,” she said in her farewell message.

Since its creation, 29 years ago, the World Trade Organization had had European, Asian, and South American directors... but never Africans, nor any women. On 15 February 2021, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took office. She was 66 years old and was backed by a career that she had broken other glass ceilings before. She was the first woman to serve as Nigerian Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs and worked for 20 years at the World Bank.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has been named one of the 100 most powerful women in the world (Forbes, 2023, 2022, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011), one of the 100 most influential people in the world (Time, 2014 and 2021 ); one of the 25 most influential women (Financial Times, 2021) and one of the 50 most important leaders in the world (Fortune, 2015).

This 2024 Anne Hidalgo celebrates 10 years as mayor of Paris. In her case, she was not only the first woman to hold the position, but also the first person to do so, having been born abroad, in San Fernando (Cádiz). Hidalgo, who began working in the administration as a Labor inspector, has been in different ministries and has promoted laws and projects in favor of gender equality. She has been a pioneer in promoting what is known as “the 15-minute city”, an urban model in which citizens should have all essential services just a quarter of an hour away on foot or by bike.

These ten years of mandate have also been marked by the Islamist attacks against the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the attack on the Bataclán concert hall and the “yellow vest” protests. Now his challenge is the Olympic Games that begin in the French capital on July 26 and will test the city that he has helped design.

Of the 93 winners throughout history of the Nobel Prize in Economics, only three are women. And only one has won it alone. This is the Harvard economic historian Claudia Goldin, who in 2023 - and at the age of 77 - was awarded precisely for her work on the causes of wage and labor market inequality between men and women.

“We will never have gender equality, nor will we reduce the wage gap, until we have couples equity,” Goldin assured CNBC. A difference that, according to the economist, is accentuated after the first baby in a relationship, since it requires greater availability to be at home and this directly affects women, who are the ones who reduce their working hours, reject promotions or even leave their jobs. . “If women can achieve equality within their families, they will also have a better chance of achieving equality at work.” She herself was a pioneer when in 1990 she became the first woman to hold a permanent position in the Economics department at Harvard and later in Pennsylvania.

One of the most viral images of the current president of the European Commission is the one called

Indeed, she is the first woman to hold this position in 61 years, which she arrived in 2019, at the age of 60 and after also being the first German Defense Minister. During his mandate, the Recovery Fund was created, the joint purchase of vaccines was managed - with some controversies - and a directive was approved that requires listed companies to reach a minimum quota of 40% for women on their board of directors before June 2026. Now, the focus is on the conflict in Ukraine, although Von der Leyen has already spoken: “War is not impossible.”

She was 61 years old when she became the first woman in the world to achieve 7 Michelin stars: she had achieved three for her restaurant Sant Pau, in Sant Pol de Mar, two for Moments in Barcelona and now the second for the Sant Pau restaurant in Tokyo. . She had been the first to be recognized with three stars with her own restaurant in Spain and to export Mediterranean cuisine to Japan. And she was also a pioneer when it came to rejecting the award for the best Female Chef in the world, from The World's 50 Best Restaurant list.

“For that to happen today is ugly, very ugly. It is putting us in the second row, it is putting us on the shoulder. Women don't walk on the shoulder. We go along the circulating lane. It seems like they have to give you the crumbs. Nothing at all, gentlemen, what did you think? We do work like yours. And we work with men and women like you. Nobody deducts anything from us. That's ugly, very ugly. And I feel that in a modern world that faces life with modernity, that there are these things that are so old, it is sad. They will understand, I'm sure,” she said in an interview in La Vanguardia.

Her mother told her that she couldn't be an actress with a face like hers, but she decided to try. Since then, she has starred in more than 100 films, television series and theater productions. At the age of 60 she became Professor Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter saga, and the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey. We saw her traveling with a group of elderly people in The Exotic Marigold Hotel. And now, about to reach 90, she has debuted as the face of Loewe.

Despite an intense career, Smith says that it is with his latest roles that his life has changed the most. “I led a perfectly normal life until Downton Abbey. I went to the theater, shopping and did things on my own. Now this is impossible.” In 1990, when she was 56, Elizabeth II gave her the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her service to the performing arts and in 2014, she inducted her into the Order of the Companions of Honour.

When I was little I thought about having a stationery store, but failing in chemistry changed everything. After having to study in the summer, he discovered that this subject could be understood and ended up making it her passion. At 77 years old, Maria Vallet-Regí serves as an emeritus professor of inorganic chemistry and continues as director of the Intelligent Biomaterials Research Group at the Complutense University of Madrid. She has more than 800 publications and 20 books, and is also the most cited Spanish scientific figure in the area of ​​materials science in the last two decades.

“I started working on magnetic and superconducting materials, then in Pharmacy I worked with biomaterials, which are spare parts for the human body. Then I opted for biotechnology and began making nanoparticles to transport drugs and be able to selectively take them to the part of the body that was needed and release them there. 20 years ago all this seemed like science fiction and today we know that it is reality,” she explained in the Complutense.

Fortunately, these are just some of the women who have broken glass ceilings over 55. There are many more. Catalina Russell (62) took over as executive director of UNICEF in 2022, when she was 60 years old. Christine Lagarde (66) was the first in history to head the International Monetary Fund in 2011, at 55, and in 2019 she was also the first to preside over the European Central Bank. Journalist Emma Tucker was named editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal in 2022, at age 56; She was the first woman to head the newsroom since its founding in 1889! In June 2023, Linda Yaccarino (59) succeeded Elon Musk as CEO of Twitter. But not everything is business achievements. Actress and producer Jamie Lee Curtis won her first Academy Award in 2023, at age 64. And Ángela Molina (68) has just surprised by walking as a catwalk model for Miu Miu.