The Female Lead: Our Journey to Be What We See

We were lucky last year to support an ambitious and inspirational UK-based women’s charity, The Female Lead, in an effort to spread the word in the US and distribute copies of their eponymous book. The book beautifully told the stories of successful women around the world… Because, if young girls and women, are never able ‘see’ what they can be; they never will be able to achieve something that was before unimaginable.

The Female Lead organization recently achieved their milestone of distributing 18,000 books in the UK and the US. Through the team’s hard work, books were delivered to educators who could use the stories to, not only inspire with the tales, but open the discussion about what is possible via accompanying curriculum.

We also found ourselves inspired by the many women and stories we came across in the work. So to celebrate the team’s 18,000 book milestone, we are sharing some of the women we came across during this experience and why they inspired us.

In no particular order…

The Female Lead: Edwina Dunn, OBE

Edwina Dunn, the founder of The Female Lead, is one of those people you immediately want to sit and talk to for hours. She is equal parts fun and steely tough-as-nails (as we all should be). In 1989, Edwina started the global consumer insights business dunnhumby with her husband Clive Humby. The company employed a ground-breaking approach to looking at customer data; later creating the Tesco Club Card (with Tesco later buying Edwina & Clive’s stake in the business). Edwina’s charitable efforts were never far behind; with The Female Lead evolving from an early effort called ‘What I See.’ Today, Edwina is also CEO of Starcount, a data-science consultancy focusing on consumer behavior and the resulting insights. This year Edwina received a much-deserved OBE (Office of the Most Excellent British Empire) for her services to data and business in the UK. The future of The Female Lead is bright.

In good company, Edwina accepts an award at the 2018 Fashion4Development awards. Pictured from left: Nadja Swarovski, Brigitte Lacombe, Livia Firth, Donna Karan, Evie Evangelou (host, Fashion4Development), Edwina Dunn. Credit: FromAtoSHE

Brigitte Lacombe

Legendary photographer, Brigitte Lacombe, created the beautiful images in The Female Lead book. French-born, long-time New York City resident, Brigitte is one of the most successful photographers of all time. For more than 40 years she has been capturing many of the world’s most celebrated artists, actors, politicians and intellectuals in her photography.

With work exhibited all around the world, Brigitte has also been on film sets with a dizzying array of talent. Too many to even list; so we recommend reading Brigitte’s impressive bio here. But the real joy for us was in seeing an artist who truly sees the world around her with deep interest. We joined Brigitte at the 2018 Fashion4Development luncheon and witnessed her use an iPhone to capture unexpected angles and viewpoints in a way that was truly exhilarating.

We loved seeing Brigitte use her iPhone to capture everything around her; even muscling past paparazzi (credit: FromAtoSHE)

Ellie Goulding

Singer, songwriter Ellie Goulding was also honored at the 2018 Fashion4Development luncheon. Ellie is a longtime favorite. Many know Ellie for her award-winning albums, but she is also a wonderfully well rounded role-model for young girls. She often talks of her commitment to fitness; struggles with anxiety and mental health; and has been committed to a number of charitable causes for years.

Ellie Goulding has been a fitness devotee for a long time; here as part of Shannon’s article for the 58th Grammy Awards magazine.

Judy Vredenburgh & Girls Inc.

And then there is Judy Vredenburgh who recently retired as CEO of Girls Inc. in 2019 after nine years leading the organization. We were lucky to have met with Judy before she parted and see what made her such a great leader. As an organization, Girls Inc. aims to ‘inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold’ serving more than 156,000 girls nationwide. Prior to Girls Inc., Judy was CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Senior Vice President of Revenue Development and Marketing at the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. Her corporate experience also includes leading Chess King as CEO. What we found most special about Judy was the way she questioned and showed interest in everyone at the table; and talked with incredible passion for a program that Girls Inc. was about to launch addressing the sexual harassment of teen girls.


One of the US organizations receiving The Female Lead books to help educate young women was Los Angeles-based WriteGirl. A creative writing and mentoring organization, WriteGirl describes itself as ‘spotlighting the power of a girl and her pen.’ WriteGirl was launched in 2001 and serves 500 girls annually (with 100% going on to college). Keren Taylor founded WriteGirl nearly 20 years ago and it has won numerous awards since, including the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award which Keren received from then First Lady Michelle Obama. WriteGirl used The Female Lead books in a number of innovative ways, including to help the girls write in a Characters & Dialogue workshop.

WriteGirl matches girls with women writers who mentor them in creative writing.

First Book

US-based organization First Book will also ensure thousands of schools receive The Female Lead book. Founded in 1992, First Book has ensured that more than 185 million books and educational resources make their way to low-income communities in more than 30 countries. Today, First Book reaches approximately 5 million children each year. President, CEO, and Co-founder Kyle Zimmer is an award-winning social entrepreneur who has paved the way for a number of younger entrepreneurs.

The Female Lead team

And finally, no remarkable effort can be a success without the work of a team. And some of our favorite hard-working entrepreneurs help Edwina make it happen. Congratulations to The Female Lead team.

Go team! From left: L-R: Florence Robson, Edwina Dunn, Veryan Dexter, Becky Small (source: The Female Lead)