The Female Lead profiles women of all ages and from varying professional sectors through in-depth interviews and beautiful photography by world-famous French photographer, Brigitte Lacombe and aims to provide young women with female role models from the most underrepresented sectors in society.


This year has been a historic year for women and not just for the Hollywood starlets who took to the red carpet with an important statement, namely, Time’s Up. Following the Weinstein effect and its resulting #MeToo movement, the world at large is finally taking note of the ongoing assault and sexual harassment cases women have been forced to endure in their work places. On top of that, it has opened a long-overdue and entirely necessary conversation about equal opportunities and the need for the diverse representation of female role models throughout all professional and artistic sectors.

It has been proven that a lack of accessible, inspirational role models acts as a barrier to developing successful, ambitious women

As a data science entrepreneur and co-founder of worldwide loyalty programmes such as Tesco’s Clubcard, Edwina Dunn is only too aware of the challenges of working in a male-dominated industry. That’s why, she felt it was high time a light was shined on the success stories of talented, independent women through her online platform and her beautiful, inspiring book, The Female Lead.

Throughout my career, I have come across so many inspirational women that have done amazing things. But for some reason, female role models don’t always make their way into the classroom. Despite many advances, women are still heavily underrepresented in many parts of society including the government and in media, so I thought to put together a book that could be sent to schools to prove to young girls that there are female role models that they can aspire to be like, and to encourage them to do things they may have not thought possible. It has been proven that a lack of accessible, inspirational role models acts as a barrier to developing successful, ambitious women’, Dunn told Shout Out UK.

The book, which was published in March 2017, profiles women of all ages and from varying professional sectors through in-depth interviews and beautiful photography by world-famous French photographer, Brigitte Lacombe.

I want to provide alternative role models to young women. I want young girls sat in a classroom to think “Yes, I can be what I want to be”. I want them to realise that being a woman doesn’t impose on our abilities to be what we want to be. I want young girls to realise that they can be scientists, mathematicians, dancers, footballers, politicians, painters, actors, directors, start their own businesses. The Female Lead is evidence that we can be whatever we want to be’, she explains.

‘The case studies in the book look at some of the most underrepresented sectors in society. The book has some of the more obvious role models like Meryl Streep, Jo Malone, Karlie Kloss. But, then we have Yeonmi Park who is a North Korean human rights activist and Roya Mahboob who is a Technology entrepreneur. The women included in this book cover lots of different industries and sectors of society. Being a woman in today’s society can sometimes be tough, but these women prove that we have no limits’.

More than promoting high-achievers, it was important to Edwina to promote women who simply followed their visions and pursued their goals.

I decided I wanted to create The Female Lead so one day I did it. One day Jo Malone decided she wanted to create a business, so she did it. One day Tracy Edwards decided she wanted to sail around the world, so she trained and eventually did it. It doesn’t matter how high you want to aim, it’s aiming where you want to aim, and not changing that aim because society is imposing restrictions on you’.

The aim of The Female Lead is to inspire young women to reach their true potential, and not one that society has imposed on them.

The Female Lead has now formed part of libraries in schools across the UK and USA and comes equipped with learning resources aimed at getting the very best out of the book. The response has been fantastic and only goes to show just how vital female role models are for young women in the throes of embarking on their own careers and life experiences. One of the most exciting aspects of The Female Lead’s journey so far, has been the overwhelming amount of support Edwina has received from women across all professional fields. American director, Ava DuVernay, insisted on having the European premiere of her film, A Wrinkle in Time associated with The Female Lead in support of this wonderful project.

We had a live Q&A at the premiere where I was sat next to these incredible women talking about how important this book is in providing young women with female role models. I’m so grateful to Ava for using her platform to promote this project. Now, we are working on extending the project to highlight as many inspirational female leaders that we can. We have just published our “20 in their 20s” list that looks at all of the amazing women that have done incredible things so far.

‘We have also just published our “20 in Data & Technology” list. The data and technology sector is one of the most unequal sectors with many more men studying for these subjects and applying for those jobs. Why is that? Because when you are in school, most of the role models in that sector are male. So if you are a young girl sitting in a classroom, you aren’t going to think that career is possible. The aim of The Female Lead is to inspire young women to reach their true potential, and not one that society has imposed on them. We are going to continue to highlight the achievements of so many women around the world and prove that you can be a female, and can be a leader in your own right.

‘Young women are very often told what they should think, how they should behave, what they should believe and what they should enjoy doing. Sometimes you just need to step back and think “What do I want to do? Where do I want to be? How do I want to live?” It may seem selfish, but as women, we need to lead by example, as the women have in The Female Lead, and show other women that the only version of yourself you can be is the true version. Be yourself. Because if you don’t, who will?’

If you would like to receive a free copy of the book along with its teaching resources for your school, click here.