What do an astronaut, the youngest female mayor in Japan and an Afghan entrepreneur have in common? They are young leaders who are radically changing their industries, politics and society. Entrepreneurial and optimistic, they represent the next generation of global leadership and so each year the World Economic Forum welcomes a new group of exceptional individuals under the age of 40 into our Young Global Leaders (YGL) community.

Current and former YGLs head governments and Fortune 500 companies, win Nobel Prizes and Academy Awards, become UN Goodwill Ambassadors and Social Entrepreneurs. They bridge cultures and have the skills to be successful in private, public and civil society organizations. The YGL community is the starting place for resolving the world’s challenges: YGL interactions have led to initiatives such as Tau Investment, The Circulars and Deworm the World.

This year’s class of 187 YGLs is split evenly between business and non-profit sectors, the latter including science and technology, arts and culture, civil society, policy and government, media and social entrepreneurs.

Women are strongly represented in this year’s class, and with half the intake coming from emerging economies, the world’s future leadership is becoming more broad-based in terms of both gender and geography. Alongside 44 selected from North America and 39 from Europe, the YGL class of 2015 includes 23 YGLs from East Asia, 19 from South Asia, 17 from Greater China, 17 from sub-Saharan Africa, 15 from the Middle East and North Africa, and 13 from Latin America.

From an Afghan tech entrepreneur to India’s youngest cabinet member

The class includes Afghan tech entrepreneur Roya Mahboob, whose classrooms are connecting more than 160,000 of her young countrywomen to the world, and Mumbai-born Ashish Goyal, who lost his sight by the age of 22 but became the first blind person to gain a Wharton MBA and trade on Wall Street.

From the political world are Smriti Irani, the youngest member of India’s cabinet; Safak Pavey, the first disabled woman elected to the Turkish parliament; and Japan’s youngest elected female mayor, Naomi Koshi. Leaders from civil society include Mamadou Toure, who heads the advocacy group Africa 2.0.

From the world of business, the class of 2015 includes Xiaomi vice-president Hugo Barra, Kickstarter’s 35-year-old CEO Yancey Strickler, New Zealand software entrepreneur Victoria Ransom – whose company Wildfire was bought by Google for $350 million – and Elizabeth Holmes, who dropped out of university to found blood analytics company Theranos, which now has a valuation of around $9 billion.

The class of 2015 also includes scientists, such as infertility pioneer Michelle Dipp and eye health researcher Andrew Bastawrous; sports personalities such as China’s tennis champion Li Na; artists, including Daan Roosegaarde, creator of the world’s first photoluminescent bicycle path; and cutting-edge South African architect Mokena Makeka.

I am confident that these newly recognized Young Global Leaders, like those before them, will find their membership in the community to be a stimulating and challenging experience that will enhance their worldview and shape their approach to leadership in their fields.

Author: David Aikman is Managing Director and Head of the New Champion Communities at the World Economic Forum

Image: A group of World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders take part in a meeting in China. Doug Kanter