There are two ways of looking at the marriage of George Clooney to Amal Alamuddin in Venice this past weekend. The first is the most common one: “Wow, the world’s most eligible bachelor and Hollywood heart-throb has finally been bagged – what a lucky woman!” The second turns that on its head. One relative has been quoted as telling a journalist that “George will run for office now, as marriage to Amal will open so many doors for him”. In other words, she is the bigger catch.
Alamuddin is one of the world’s most successful campaigning human rights lawyers and a very big deal in her own right. She, along with 99 other women who are calling the shots in their lives and having an impact on the wider world, makes the joint GQ/Editorial Intelligence inaugural list of the “100 Most Connected Women in Britain” published today. And for good reason.
Given that GQ is a magazine aimed essentially at those with a Y chromosome, the men’s version of the list had to come first. So six months ago, we compiled it, highlighting the fact that the most fashionable commodity these days is not money and influence in the old-fashioned sense, but connection and being connected to sexy ideas, as well as to the movers and the shakers.
Now it’s women’s turn. Women are taking full advantage of the “connected age”, using what Dylan Jones, the editor, calls “the careful application of ‘soft power’ rather than the hard sell of ‘top-down’ influence”.
We have kept some of the definitions of connectedness from the men’s list, such as whether someone can be categorised as a “spider” at the centre of many webs, like Tessa Ross, the chief executive of the National Theatre, or as “leader” or “influencer”, a woman whose connectedness is derived from their status as a powerful role model. The Revd Lucy Winkett, who is tipped to be the Church of England’s first woman bishop, certainly qualifies for that; Tracey Emin and Cara Delevingne do so too, as does the Queen. (This is a list that treats the women in equal terms, not as part of a hierarchy or league table.)
We also celebrate the category of “connector” that includes Sally Osman, communications chief to the Royal Household. We found that stand-out women in the “connected age” do the same thing, over and over again: they collaborate creatively, forming unlikely and unique alliances with creative aplomb – from Victoria Beckham to Jess Search of Britdoc Foundation, which matchmakes documentary makers with every kind of help they might need.
Then there are the “Campaigners and Change agents”. Without doubt, the definition of a connected woman who counts is one who wants to change the world. Many of those listed achieve a combination of the categories we have defined, and we salute the likes of Baroness (Beeban) Kidron, the filmaker now forging alliances all over Europe to bring some kind of regulation to internet access for children. We laud Jude Kelly of the South Bank, who wasn’t content with being one of the finest artistic directors of her generation, so she set up the now global WOW Festival celebrating “women of the world”. And we cheer Helena Morrissey, who has used her charm, business acumen and steely focus to get more women on to executive boards.
The happy couple both wore shades as they left the Cipriani hotel (AFP)
At my all-girls school in the Seventies, we used to sing the hymn “Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us”. Some of the women who have made the list do have famous fathers, brothers and husbands – among them Jemima Khan, Rachel Johnson, Hannah Rothschild and Lily Allen. We did not discriminate against those who are connected to famous blokes when they are clearly so brilliant themselves, but this is not about replicating an old boys’ network. It’s about celebrating the age of the networker.
Interestingly, the average age of the women on our list is 49 – my generation. Yes, there are some incredibly over-achieving young women, including Ella Weston, 28, whom advertising guru Martin Sorrell has put in charge of his famous annual creative conference, Stream. But in the main it takes serious time to break through that glass ceiling – and a whole lot of effort. When they get there, these women bring with them a wealth of experience and wisdom.
Finally, I’m glad that we have shown that glamour can go hand in hand with seriousness. So please forgive me but I’m unable to resist pointing out that my byline on the magazine’s front cover appears next to a photograph of one of the world’s sexiest men: Brad Pitt. And he, let’s not forget, is married to Angelina Jolie. Now there’s a seriously connected woman.