Choosing the FT’s Person of the Year is an unenviable task. How many people do we risk offending, how many deserving candidates do we end up overlooking? Which winners will stand the test of time?
This year was as tough a challenge as ever. In politics, the standouts were Emmanuel Macron, the thirtysomething former Rothschild banker who came from nowhere to win the presidency of France; President Xi Jinping, the “core leader” of China who consolidated his power at this year’s party congress, cementing the rise of China as the world’s second superpower; and, finally, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, the young heir apparent hell-bent on modernising the desert kingdom’s oil-dependent economy.
In economics, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, could make a plausible case for the prize. This was the year when the ECB’s unconventional monetary policies were vindicated as the eurozone shifted gears into full recovery. Across the Atlantic, Janet Yellen stepped down as chair of the Federal Reserve after an impressively steady single term.
In business, two names pressed for consideration.
Amazon under the leadership of Jeff Bezos has been a household name for two decades, but 2017 has been the year the ecommerce juggernaut accelerated. Elon Musk’s bold visions for the future of cars — and space travel — captured the imagination of the world, driving the giants of the auto industry to follow suit.
All the above were credible candidates submitted by our network of more than 550 journalists. Each were considered and debated at a meeting of judges drawn from senior staff and chaired by the editor.
In the end, however, one theme asserted itself above all others: the changing politics of gender equality triggered by the wave of sexual harassment allegations in Silicon Valley, Hollywood and media-related businesses.
There are many actors in this story. No doubt more will come to the fore. But if there is one person who started the shift it was Susan Fowler, a young engineer in Silicon Valley who exposed the culture of harassment rife at Uber, the transportation company worth $54bn.
Ms Fowler’s courageous and devastating blog post, which was published last February in the wake of a worldwide women’s march a day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president, exposed the poisonous culture at the start-up company and led to the sidelining of its hard-driving founder and CEO Travis Kalanick.
The revelations helped spark a global #MeToo phenomenon that saw scores of women come forward with similar tales of abuse, harassment and discrimination. An injustice too long ignored is now centre stage. That is why Susan Fowler is the FT’s Person of the Year.
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