President and CEO, Patagonia
As president and CEO of outdoor clothing company Patagonia, Marcario is not afraid to do things differently. Since joining the company in 2008, Marcario has not shied away from a political fight, or from expanding the company's environmental and social commitments, including protecting public lands, providing on-site childcare for workers, and eliminating excess waste in packaging.
President and CEO, Land O’Lakes
When Ford was appointed president and CEO of Land O’Lakes in 2018, she knew she would be thrust into the spotlight. Ford, who is the only openly gay woman at the helm of a Fortune 500 company, said she was ambitious from an early age. But she says she didn’t aspire to such an achievement until she was in her forties, in part because of the lack of available role models. “Think about the trajectory for female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies,” Ford says. “It has taken us a climb to get to [36 women].”
Founder and CEO, United Therapeutics
In 2013, Rothblatt made $38 million, making her the highest-paid female CEO in the country at the time. Though Rothblatt told New York magazine that topping the list was like "winning the lottery," it didn't quite sit right with her. "I can't claim that what I have achieved is equivalent to what a woman has achieved," she said at the time.
Musician, actor, and activist
If Monáe’s sexuality has been a subject of fascination, so too has her dizzying body of work. In 2018, Monáe released her widely acclaimed third album, Dirty Computer, which was paired with a 46-minute “emotion picture” and earned her two Grammy nominations. (Monáe has racked up eight nominations over the years.) The Prince-inflected single “Make Me Feel,” whose accompanying video featured Monáe and Tessa Thompson awash in neon lighting, was hailed as a “bisexual anthem” even before Monáe came out. [Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images]
SVP of retail and people, Apple
O'Brien has had the sort of career that many people dream about. In January 1988, as a newly minted college graduate, she took a job at Apple working on production of the Macintosh SE, an early iteration of the classic Macintosh line that introduced personal computers to laypeople. More than three decades later, Apple is a trillion-dollar company—and O'Brien is one of the highest-ranking executives at its helm. [Photo: David Paul/Morris Bloomberg via Getty Images]
VP of grocery, Amazon
As people seek to isolate themselves during the coronavirus outbreak, many are ordering food online, rather than braving the supermarket. Enter Landry, Amazon's vice president of grocery. The Seattle-based executive, who has worked at Amazon for 16 years, now has the enormous responsibility of overseeing all grocery delivery services, including Amazon Prime Now and Amazon Fresh. [Photo: Don Milgate]
Founder and managing partner, Backstage Capital
Before dating apps became ubiquitous, Hamilton envisioned making her debut in Silicon Valley with an online dating service that would prioritize quality over quantity. "It was going to be a version 2.0 of a matchmaking website," she says. "My idea was that I [could] make one couple happen once a day." But Hamilton, a gay black woman and former music tour manager from Texas, was hardly the prototypical founder, and she quickly realized people like her were being neglected by investors in Silicon Valley.
Cofounder, Recode, and tech journalist
Swisher admits that she’s not always right. But her opinions, now detailed in her New York Times column, on her podcasts Recode Decode and Pivot, and annually at her tech conference Code, are well informed by decades of reporting on an industry that has boomed and busted and boomed again—and have made her one of the most influential technology journalists of our time. [Photo: Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images]
Founder of Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and EVP of Sustainability, Mastercard
At the beginning of March, just as the coronavirus was beginning to take hold across the nation, Singh arrived back in the U.S. from a business trip to Ghana. Singh—who is founder and president of the Center for Inclusive Growth, the philanthropic hub of Mastercard, as well as the company's executive vice president of corporate sustainability—saw a need to take action.
Cofounder and CRO, Credit Karma
"Be happy" is the simple mantra that drives everything in Mustard's personal and professional life. It started when she bought a one-way ticket from Ohio to Los Angeles after college. "I didn't have a job, a place to live, or a car," she recalls. "But I figured if I was happy, the rest would follow." And it did.
Wong took over operations at Reddit in 2018, following a stint as president and chief operating officer of Time Inc., where she was the highest-ranking female executive. Since Wong became COO of Reddit, her goal has been to make the social media platform more attractive to advertisers used to sinking their ad dollars into Twitter or Snap. For years, Reddit didn’t hit $100 million in ad revenue. Now, under Wong’s watch, the company is reportedly on track to clock nearly $262 million in ad revenue by 2021, more than twice its revenue last year.
SVP of Planning, Delivery & Execution for Cybersecurity Technology, Bank of America
The last decade was rife with data breaches, and some of the most vulnerable institutions were in the finance industry. It’s little surprise, then, that Bank of America reportedly has an unlimited budget for cybersecurity—a “blank check,” as CEO Brian Moynihan has said. Farol works on both internal efforts and broader initiatives to help protect customer data across the industry. A seasoned cybersecurity technologist with 20 years of experience in a variety of industries, she came to Bank of America from JPMorgan Chase, where she worked across cybersecurity and tech infrastructure. Farol isn’t just the rare female leader in cybersecurity—she’s a queer Asian woman helping the nation’s second-largest bank thwart hackers. “Talent pipelines are important because you want to see yourself in your leaders,” she says. “I’d like to be that for someone else.”
Actor; president, Miss Ross Inc.; founder, TransTech Social Enterprises
Ross, an actor best known for her roles in Pose and American Horror Story: 1984, just landed a star turn for luxury brand Louis Vuitton’s ad campaign. She also happens to be a self-taught coder and the founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that helps members of the trans community get apprenticeships in graphic design and web development. “I wanted to create an environment that’s similar to the workforce without all the harassment and discrimination, a place where people know how to respect your gender identity,” Ross told Fast Company. “Let’s not fantasize about having a world of only trans people or only of LGBTQ people. Let’s fantasize about a world in which we all can coexist, and where there is just talent that recognizes talent.”
Co-captain, U.S. Women's National Soccer Team
Rapinoe’s open-armed victory stance at the culmination of the team’s historic second consecutive World Cup win spawned memes and got splashed across hats and T-shirts. But Rapinoe has become a champion off the field, too. She’s an outspoken advocate for equal pay and continues to be an ally to underrepresented groups. As a queer woman, Rapinoe has highlighted her sexuality as pivotal to the success of the team. “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team . . . that’s science right there,” she has said. Rapinoe also made the World Cup stage a place to bring global attention to police brutality when she took a knee in solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. And she cofounded Re-Inc., a site that sells athletic wear and art that revolve around the central themes of equity, progress, and creativity.
Product executive, Facebook
Most people would agree that a career spanning 16 countries and including stints at Intuit, OkCupid, Meetup, Zynga, and Capgemini is impressive. But Almendares also happens to be a three-time national ice-skating champion and speaks five languages. She’s also a passionate advocate for LGBTQ youth. As a board member for Out for Undergrad (O4U) she’s helping the organization’s efforts to provide undergrads with scholarships to attend a tech, engineering, marketing, or business conference. O4U then connects them to Fortune 500 companies with job opportunities. Almendares notes that in 2019, nearly three-quarters of those who went through O4U programs received internships or first jobs in the top 60 consulting firms. “With the board's renewed focus in intersectional diversity, between 2018 and 2019, our conferences grew from 1% transgender and 3% gender nonconforming to 8% and 12%, respectively,” she says. [Photo: Avery Wong]
Comedian and TV talk-show host
Although she has courted controversy recently, her influence on making LGBTQ representation mainstream was groundbreaking. A 2019 report by GLAAD found that more than 10% of regular characters on scripted prime-time broadcast programming identified as LGBTQ—the highest percentage ever. That’s thanks in part to the iconic 1997 coming-out episode of the ABC sitcom Ellen. While queer characters had been featured on shows before, DeGeneres became the first lead to openly acknowledge being gay on air. A Variety poll found that DeGeneres did more to influence Americans’ attitudes about gay rights than any other public figure.
DeGeneres has hosted a daytime talk show for 17 years and continues to use her show as a platform to speak about topics such as bullying, tolerance, and marriage equality. She has a reported net worth of $330 million and supports causes such as the Trevor Project, Human Rights Campaign, and GLAAD.
Founder and CEO, Rich Talent Group
Rich has spent the past 20-plus years of her career working to bring diversity to the boardroom. “It’s not a job for the impatient,” she wrote in The Washington Post in January. “Gender parity has moved at a glacial place.”
To help speed things up, Rich launched her executive recruitment firm, Rich Talent Group, in 2014. She works with fast-growing consumer tech businesses—big names like Warby Parker, Sweetgreen, and Dropbox—to move toward gender parity in the boardroom and C-suite. One client, Eventbrite, recently announced that it had achieved gender parity in both. In the six years since her firm launched, 75% of its recruits to top companies added diversity to their teams. Last year alone, all of Rich Talent Group’s searches for board members resulted in women, LGBTQ+ folk, or people of color sitting at the table. One of her latest wins? Helping install former Hyatt Hotels CMO Maryam Banikarim as head of marketing at social network Nextdoor.
YouTube creator and TV talk-show host
It is no coincidence that Singh’s production company bears the name Unicorn Island. Singh has said the term is synonymous with her happy place—but the YouTube star is something of a unicorn herself, as the first queer woman of color to land a late-night talk show. On A Little Late With Lilly Singh, which premiered in September as a replacement for Carson Daly’s late-night show on NBC, Singh puts her own spin on mainstays of the talk-show format, from celebrity interviews to comedy sketches. “I know you’re used to only Jimmys in the spotlight,” she rapped in the premiere episode. “But Imma throw some melanin up in your late night.”
On YouTube, where she has nearly 15 million subscribers and more than three billion views, Singh has built up a loyal following over the past decade through impressions of her Punjabi parents and comedy bits featuring celebrity cameos. In 2017, when she authored a New York Times bestseller, Forbes estimated Singh’s earnings at $10.5 million, making her one of the 10 highest paid YouTubers in the world.
Founder and CEO, Madison Reed
If you’ve resorted to dyeing your own hair during quarantine, you might be familiar with Madison Reed. Errett founded the hair-color subscription startup in 2013, to shake up what is traditionally a time-intensive and chemical-ridden process. Since then, Madison Reed has raised more than $135 million in venture funding, according to PitchBook, and opened 12 brick-and-mortar color bars across the U.S. In 2018, the startup brought in more than $50 million in revenue, and at the start of this year, the company was nearing profitability. No wonder, with products that have a gross margin of at least 78% and are carried in more than 1,200 Ulta stores.
Though Madison Reed’s color bars are currently closed due to the coronavirus, direct-to-consumer sales are now up 10x. Madison Reed has already exceeded its projected subscriber count for mid-2021, and reactivated memberships are up sixfold. With so many customers clamoring for Madison Reed’s offerings, Errett is confident she’ll be able to open no fewer than 10 new color bar locations within the calendar year—at least for curbside pickup. [Photo: Christopher Michel/Wikimedia Commons]
Founder and CEO, Shift7, and former U.S. CTO
A few years into President Obama’s second term, Smith left a cushy executive role at Google, trading her cutting-edge devices for a BlackBerry and floppy disks. Smith was the first woman to become the country’s third CTO, a position Obama created when he first took office. While there, Smith helped spearhead initiatives such as TechHire, which aimed to develop new tech talent in rural communities, and Computer Science for All, which increased federal funding and encouraged state and local leaders to invest in improving computer science training for K-12 students.
At Google, where she spent 11 years, Smith was behind the acquisitions of Google Maps and Google Earth. Later, she joined X, Google’s “moonshot factory,” where she cocreated Solve for X, a gathering of innovators around the world working on radically transformative ideas. Smith also started the group Women Techmakers and supported a number of other diversity and inclusion initiatives—an echo of her earlier work as the CEO of PlanetOut, a media company for the LGBTQ community that used to own Out magazine and The Advocate. These days, Smith is at the helm of Shift7, a company working to address systemic social, environmental, and economic problems by bringing together tech innovators across the world.
Writer, producer, and actor
Waithe has made a career of focusing the camera lens on underrepresented stories. In 2017, she won an Emmy for cowriting an episode of Netflix’s Master of None based on her own coming-out story—making her the first black woman, and the first queer black woman, to take home the coveted award. Since then she has gone on to make waves in the industry, creating Showtime’s The Chi, acting in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One and season 3 of HBO’s Westworld, and writing the 2019 feature film Queen & Slim. And Waithe isn’t done smashing barriers of representation.
Her new, semi-autobiographical BET comedy series, Twenties, is centered around a masculine-of-center black woman—which Waithe touts as a first for prime-time television. For her, part of the value of finding success is opening the door for other people like her. “To me,” Waithe told the Times of hiring the young star of Twenties, “it was so blatantly passing the torch and saying: ‘Now it’s your turn. I get to give you an opportunity and now your life gets to change.’”
Cofounder and CEO, Beautycon
Mahdara doesn’t wear makeup. But when she took over as CEO of Beautycon in 2014, the Persian American entrepreneur turned a trade show for industry types into a technicolor festival for beauty obsessives and YouTube influencers, complete with panels, meet-and-greet sessions, and brand activations. Last year, the bicoastal event packed 32,000 attendees into the Los Angeles Convention Center, alongside 157 beauty brands selling their wares. Beautycon, which has raised $20 million in funding, now draws high-profile speakers like Kim Kardashian and Cardi B. In recent years, the festival’s stage sessions have tackled issues such as financial literacyand disseminated entrepreneurial advice to aspiring beautypreneurs. And in 2019, the festival even offered what Mahdara called a “dream come true”: free childcare and children’s programming for guests.
This year, Mahdara has rallied beauty and wellness brands around a different cause: Through a coalition called BeautyUnited, Mahdara and more than 40 other leaders in the space have donated more than $2.5 million in essential products to frontline healthcare workers and are raising $10 million in funding for additional personal protective equipment. “Like every events-based business, we are of course regrouping and figuring out how to maintain community and create that magic sauce in a virtual setting,” Mahdara says, “while also looking forward and remembering that we will come together again in person.”
Irma Olguin Jr.
Cofounder and CEO, Bitwise Industries
At Bitwise Industries the mantra is “No one belongs here more than you.” But Olguin, the cofounder of this tech ecosystem designed to unlock the economic potential in overlooked cities, didn’t neatly fit the mold of a traditional startup founder. When she started looking for funding to grow the Fresno, California-based company, only 12% of venture capital went to female founders. Olguin also happens to be Latinx and queer. Nevertheless, it took just one year for Olguin to go from googling “series A” to landing $27 million from investors aligned with her mission. Thanks to that injection of capital, Bitwise Industries’ impact is growing. Its Geekwise Academy produced more than 1,000 new software developers and turned 250,000 square feet of unused real estate into desirably commercial space that attracted over 200 technology companies and created thousands of jobs in the region.
“I hope the size of what we've done is soon eclipsed by the next female or person of color,” Olguin said. “This country is filled with stories similar to mine—people from underserved communities, who never thought these kinds of opportunities would be accessible to them."
Offensive assistant coach, San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers may not have taken home the Vince Lombardi Trophy this year, but the team made history regardless. As the offensive assistant for the 49ers—a franchise reportedly worth $3.5 billion, making it one of the most valuable teams in the NFL—Sowers was the first woman to coach at a Super Bowl. "She's been tremendous," 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said before the big game. "Katie was here before I was, but just what she does with the receivers, all the skill position guys, how she interacts with them. It's special. She's feisty, man." But Sowers is no stranger to trailblazing. When she stepped into her role in 2017, she became the first openly gay coach in the NFL. Now she has another first in her sights: becoming a head coach. [Photo: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Getty Images]
VP of original content, Netflix
Before stay-at-home orders swept the country, Netflix released Love Is Blind, a dating reality show that seemed perfectly timed to captivate us as we retreated from public life. We have Holland, the streaming giant’s vice president of original content, to thank for that. Holland, who has been with Netflix since 2002—back when its core business was DVD-by-mail rentals—is the dealmaker who green-lights original series and oversees their execution. Netflix now looms large as a deep-pocketed competitor to studios and networks: Over the past decade, Holland’s team has lured some of Hollywood’s best directors and producers to Netflix, from David Fincher and Alfonso Cuarón to showrunners like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, who inked eye-popping multimillion-dollar deals with the streaming platform.
Though Netflix didn’t win big at the Academy Awards this year, it did snag a whopping 24 nominations, along with bragging rights for backing high-profile titles like The Irishman and Marriage Story. Amid the coronavirus crisis, Netflix has found a sizable new audience in people quarantined at home: During the first quarter of 2020, Netflix gained 15.8 million new subscribers across the world, bringing its total count to nearly 183 million. As of late April, 30 million subscribers had tuned in to watch Love Is Blind.
VP of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, Indeed
Diversity and inclusion professionals work to make sure all employees feel a sense of belonging. For Davis, a 15-year veteran of driving such organizational change, that means changing the conversation from talking about who would be a “culture fit” to seeing talented professionals as a “culture add.” At Indeed, Davis aims to foster that sense of inclusion among nearly 9,000 employees globally to better serve some 250 million job seekers who visit the platform each month and hail from 60 countries. The San Francisco native’s latest achievement with Indeed was to help launch a neurodiversity toolkit in partnership with DCU to assist employers who want to hire more people with autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. This, too, had an eye toward inclusion. Says Davis: “No matter how much time and resources you devote to recruitment, if your organization lacks a culture of inclusion and diversity, and, crucially, a sense of belonging, that open door will become a revolving one.”
Whether she’s subtweeting the president, interviewing a political candidate, or recapping the news with sweeping historical context, Maddow commands the attention of those on both sides of the political aisle. Her prime-time MSNBC series, The Rachel Maddow Show, has aired at 9 p.m. Eastern every weeknight since September 2008—but viewership went way up in 2017, from 1.1 million average nightly viewers to more than 2.7 million, the same year her show won two Emmys. No stranger to the “Trump bump,” Maddow’s viewership peaked again in September, after Representative Nancy Pelosi announced Trump’s impeachment hearing. Viewership reached 3.3 million that week.
Having the third-most-watched cable news show (in 2019) gives Maddow, the first openly lesbian host of a prime-time news program, a significant platform. She uses it to explain the news in a way that’s opinionated but not toxic. One woman traumatized by the 2016 presidential election, Rebecca Kee, told The New York Times in October, “I think of her as a news doula: You know the news is going to be painful . . . so we might as well have someone who helps us survive it.”
Head of VR hardware, Facebook
As the head of VR hardware at Facebook, Kalinowski was responsible for making the Oculus Quest, a stand-alone, cordless virtual reality headset that doesn’t require an expensive PC. Since its launch in May, the Oculus Quest has been in high demand: Mark Zuckerberg has said Facebook is selling the headset “as fast as we can make them," and sales estimates were at 400,000 just five months after its release. When she was a manager of product design—and after Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus—Kalinowski’s team put out the Oculus Rift, the first VR headset for consumers, along with the Oculus Touch, game controllers that mirror physical hand movements in virtual reality. Before Kalinowski took her talents to Oculus, she helped design the MacBook Air and the Mac Pro at Apple.
Since 2009, Nilsen has been speaking candidly about identity and lifestyle on her YouTube channel, which has racked up 3.63 million subscribers. The 31-year-old creator says she built her YouTube channel to develop on-camera confidence and share her interests through hair tutorials, makeup reviews, and styling videos. But her influence goes far beyond that. The online sensation’s openhearted sensibility has helped her nab a spokesperson gig with CoverGirl and a 2016 interview with President Barack Obama, in which Nilsen confronted the president about the “tampon tax,” a sales tax on feminine products. But one of her most popular uploads has nothing to do with beauty. In 2015, Nilsen posted a heartfelt 19-minute video where she came out as gay. It has nearly 18 million views to date.
CTO, Wells Fargo
Since Wells Fargo’s fake accounts scandal, the bank has worked to regain the trust of customers and upend the company culture where employees felt pressured into opening sham accounts. Wells Fargo’s new leadership has also put a greater emphasis on modernizing the bank’s tech offerings, an issue that reportedly came up when regulators inspected the bank’s records. Enter Debra Chrapaty, who first joined Wells Fargo as a group chief information officer for core platform services. Chrapaty, who was previously the CIO at Zynga, was named chief technology officer in June, after a short interim stint. As CTO, Chrapaty is leading the bank’s digital transformation, with an emphasis on empowering developers to iterate quickly.
Writer and producer
The return of The L Word this past winter introduced a whole new queer generation to creator and showrunner Ilene Chaiken’s groundbreaking franchise. Chaiken, who began her career in entertainment as a trainee at Creative Artists Agency, also produces The Handmaid’s Tale and executive produced and ran seasons 1-4 of Empire. Chaiken says she knew she was a lesbian after her first romantic experience with a woman, depicted in an early episode of The L Word’s first season. A fearless proponent of moving the cultural conversation forward, Chaiken told Variety that her goal with The L Word’s revamp is to imbue the show with her core values while making sure it feels modern. So far the plan is paying off: The L Word: Generation Q is slated to return for a second season.
Cofounder, Black Lives Matter and Supermajority, and founder, Black Futures Lab
Garza is perhaps best known as a cofounder of Black Lives Matter, having coined the potent phrase in a Facebook post after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the Trayvon Martin case. "Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter,” she wrote. More than six years later, what began as a call to action protesting anti-black racism and violence has grown into a movement and member-led network with over 40 chapters across the U.S.
But Garza’s influence extends well beyond Black Lives Matter, a nod to her intersectional approach to advocacy. She's the director of strategy and partnerships at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which lobbies to improve working conditions for domestic workers, and recently joined forces with former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and NDWA director Ai-jen Poo to form Supermajority, a group that seeks to educate and galvanize women leading up to the 2020 election. In 2018, Garza launched the Black Futures Lab to elucidate the needs of black communities and build political power, starting with a census that surveyed more than 30,000 black Americans. Those findings inspired the organization’s Black Agenda, a policy platform that aims to address the most pressing issues for black communities.
Writer, producer, and activist
Mock has racked up a number of impressive firsts in her career: Her script for the television series Pose made her the first transgender woman of color to write and direct an episode of television in 2018. A year later, she signed a three-year, multimillion-dollar deal with Netflix, making her the first trans woman of color to “call the creative shots at a major content company,” according to Variety. Mock’s first book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, became a New York Times best seller. And when millions gathered for the Women’s March in 2017, Mock delivered a historic speech about the importance of intersectional feminism. Mock believes representation in television can be a force for change. She and Pose creator Ryan Murphy also collaborated on the Netflix series Hollywood, which premiered in May. [Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images]
CMO, L’Oréal USA
As the largest beauty brand in the world, L’Oréal encompasses 36 brands, and in 2018, the company’s revenue crossed $30 billion. Saegh-Fleming joined L’Oréal in 2012 to shape the direct-to-consumer and e-commerce segments of luxury brands such as Lancôme and Yves Saint Laurent. When L’Oréal’s former chief marketing officer left in 2018, Saegh-Fleming was tapped to lead marketing for the 110-year-old beauty conglomerate. Since taking over the role, Saegh-Fleming has helped launch a personalized skincare service through cult brand Skinceuticals. Custom D.O.S.E., which L’Oréal unveiled at SXSW in 2018, is like a mini lab machine that creates customizable serums tailored to treat 250 skin types and conditions.
Writer and editor
Critically acclaimed writer Gay has been sharing personal stories for years. “When you can’t find someone to follow, you have to find a way to lead by example,” Gay writes in her 2014 best-seller Bad Feminist. Gay has been a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, where she explored the intersections of identity and culture. She is the author of World of Wakanda, Marvel’s Black Panther spin-off, which has been hailed for its portrayal of LGBTQ characters. Gay has also written novels and short story collections that often highlight marginalized people who don’t fit societal norms.
In 2019, she announced a partnership with Medium as editor of Gay Mag, which covered “thoughtful cultural criticism.” However, in March 2020, Medium announced that it would not renew the contract. But that won’t stop Gay, whom GLAAD calls “one of the most powerful voices in modern feminism today.” Whether she’s teaching students as a visiting professor at Yale University or addressing Congress on the topic of feminism, Gay will continue telling the stories that need to be told so others feel safe sharing their own.
General partner, Benchmark Capital
Though she’s been working in venture capital for nearly 15 years, Tavel remains something of a rarity in the industry: Only 29% of firms have a female partner, according to advocacy group All Raise. Tavel, who previously worked at Bessemer Venture Partners and Greylock Partners, firmly believes she brings fresh perspectives to her investments and board duties as a result of her gender, a difference she first noticed as an investor and later during an in-house stint at Pinterest.
“I understood the product at a more intuitive level than the male VCs walking up and down Sand Hill Road did,” she says, referring to the Silicon Valley thoroughfare that houses many venture firms. “That gave me an advantage.” Her posts on Medium are smart and analytical—valuable reads for founders and investors seeking to understand consumer engagement or building a marketplace—but once in a while she’ll get personal, as she did in an October 2018 entry on her wife, Christine, and their son, Marco.
Founder and chef, N/naka
Since opening in 2011, N/naka has become one of Los Angeles’s most coveted dining experiences. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was no easy feat to score a reservation: Tables were released on Sunday mornings about three months in advance and booked within minutes. Like many other restaurants, N/naka has now closed its doors and pivoted to selling about 150 bento boxes for pickup daily—all of which sell out in minutes, too. “We have to be malleable and go with the flow,” says chef and L.A. native Nakayama.
Nakayama studied the Japanese culinary art of kaiseki (the multicourse meal that emphasizes balance, color, and seasonality) at the renowned Shirakawa-ya Ryokan in Japan. Featuring minimalist dishes that showcase fresh, seasonal foods, Nakayama and her wife, sous-chef Carole Iida-Nakayama, have delighted customers by serving a version of kaiseki with a California flair. The restaurant has been awarded two Michelin stars, along with a slew of honors and food media accolades, and been featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
Founder, Lesbians Who Tech & Allies
It’s no secret that tech has a gender diversity issue, but recruiting efforts often overlook an important segment of women: members of the LGBTQ community. Pittsford is fighting daily to change that. In 2012, she founded Lesbians Who Tech & Allies to create networking opportunities and increase visibility for queer women in the industry. (The organization partnered with Fast Company to create this Queer 50 list. Pittsford recused herself from the ranking process.) Today the group is the largest LGBTQ community of technologists in the world, with 60,000 members and 40-plus city chapters.
Lesbians Who Tech & Allies helps further the careers of its members through scholarships, mentoring, and leadership programs. Its annual San Francisco Summit draws more than 6,000 women, nonbinary people, and allies. It’s also the largest event for women in tech in California. In 2017, Pittsford expanded her mission by creating job-listing and networking platform Include. To date, Lesbians Who Tech has connected diverse talent with more than 600,000 open jobs.
Cofounder and CEO, Wildfang
Leaving behind a six-figure salary at Nike couldn’t have been easy, but for McIlroy, it was a “great feeling.” Though her years as a brand manager and marketer at the athletic company taught her important lessons, the Northern Ireland native said goodbye in 2012 to start her own clothing brand, Wildfang. The label offers styles that tout feminism and flatter bodies without sticking to traditionally “femme” ideals—an answer for shoppers failing to find that perfectly fitted blazer in the men’s department. Popular enough to spur a Target copycat brand, Wildfang has found a following in queer celebrities from Evan Rachel Wood to Janelle Monáe.
Like other retailers, Wildfang had to temporarily close its three brick-and-mortar stores due to COVID-19, but the brand has continued selling to its ardent fans online. “Our tiny remaining team has been working around the clock to ensure Wildfang survives,” McIlroy says. In 2018 and 2019, Wildfang gave more than $400,000 to nonprofits including the ACLU, Joyful Heart Foundation, and RAICES. Its charitable efforts have not let up amid challenging times, between surprise care packages for frontline workers and more than a thousand clothing donations to Dress for Success, to outfit low-income women in Wildfang’s suiting.
Jonathan Van Ness
Hairstylist and media personality
The larger-than-life Queer Eye grooming expert may be America’s most visible nonbinary individual. In addition to fronting the popular Netflix makeover show (season 5 launches this summer, and the streaming giant recently green-lighted season 6), Van Ness landed on the January cover of Cosmopolitan U.K., starred in a Super Bowl advertisement for Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, and is publishing a children’s book later this month. Van Ness, who has said he identifies as genderqueer and uses he/him pronouns generally (though he has said he’s also fine with being referred to as she/her or they/them), is now using his notoriety to expand the conversation about gender identity: His children’s book, Peanut Goes for the Gold, features a nonbinary guinea pig who wants to be a rhythmic gymnast.
Venture capitalist and angel investor
As the first black partner at venture fund and accelerator 500 Startups, Woodard championed underrepresented founders, investing in black-owned businesses such as media startup Blavity and legal tech company Court Buddy. From 2016 to 2018, Woodard—who previously cofounded a network of black tech entrepreneurs, Black Founders—led a $25 million microfund at 500 Startups that focused on investing in pre-seed and seed-stage startups helmed by black and Latino founders. Woodard has since left 500 Startups to start her own fund, Cake Ventures, and has also made a name for herself as an angel investor, backing companies such as Mented Cosmetics, a direct-to-consumer beauty brand by and for women of color.
Theoretical neuroscientist and cofounder, Socos Labs
Ming may have once quipped in a TEDx Talk that she’s a “fundamentally boring person” who loves “conversations about equilibrium and convergence proofs on deep neural networks,” but her work is abundantly fascinating. She’s done everything from developing a predictive model of diabetes to creating an AI-powered app with her cofounder (and wife), Norma Ming, to help children develop life skills such as problem-solving and empathy. Vivienne Ming, who is trans, has a special eye for research about equity and inclusion. She’s spent time calculating “the tax on being different”—basically, the cost of not being a straight white man—and has consulted with the UN to use neuroscience and AI to improve hiring and retention of diverse candidates in the workplace.
Head of content, Gimlet Media
In 2016, Arianna Huffington impressed many when she announced Polgreen as her successor as editor-in-chief of HuffPost (formerly The Huffington Post). At the time, Polgreen had a nearly 15-year tenure with The New York Times, first as a foreign correspondent, then as associate masthead editor and editorial director of NYT Global. From the beginning, Polgreen took seriously the responsibility of telling personal stories, especially of marginalized people. Under the umbrella of HuffPost Community, launched in 2017, the website worked to amplify more voices through a variety of initiatives, including the Listen to America bus tour, during which reporters and editors interviewed more than 1,700 people around the country in advance of the 2018 midterm election, and the site’s Opinion and Personal sections. Such initiatives could be a hard sell even in good times, but Polgreen remained committed to this goal even in the face of revenue decline and layoffs. In March, Polgreen left HuffPost to take over as head of content at podcast powerhouse Gimlet Media.
Founder and CEO, O.school
Why does the orgasm gap exist? What does a healthy pelvic floor look like? How do aromantic people celebrate Valentine's Day? You can find the answers to these sorts of questions (and plenty of others) on O.School, a sex- and dating-education tool, created by Barrica. Barrica, who grew up queer and first gen in a religious Filipino American family, says that she became obsessed with creating an educational resource that would exist on a spectrum between medical resources (such as those Planned Parenthood provides) and porn (where many turn for an informal sex education). A former venture partner at 500 Startups and a cofounder of accounting software company inDinero, Barrica is the author of SexTech Revolution: The Future of Sexual Wellness.
A self-described “proud dyslexic,” Shantell Martin uses her art to remind us that “words are just made up of lines.” Her signature line-driven, black-and-white style requires one simple tool—a pen—and has led to collaborations with cultural institutions such as the MoCADA Museum, artists such as Kendrick Lamar, and brands such as Puma.
After five years creating performance art in Tokyo nightclubs, London-raised Martin moved to New York, where her work seems to get bigger every year—literally. In February, her “Lines of Mars” video installation spanned Times Square, just months after her art served as a backdrop for Lizzo’s performance during the city’s Pride Parade. The previous year, Martin’s line drawings covered both the New York City Ballet’s David H. Koch Theater and a limited-edition hoodie sold to benefit Kode With Klossy, which promotes coding education for girls. An inquiry into her own identity as a queer woman and artist of color, Martin’s art has appeared across LGBTQ+ events in Sydney, Stockholm, and New York through an ongoing partnership with Absolut Art. Between all that and teaching classes at NYU, Martin found time to write a book, Lines, published this spring.
CFO, The Wing
As the chief financial officer of the Wing, Nelson rounds out an all-female leadership team alongside cofounders Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan. Nelson, who was the CFO at Glamsquad and held finance roles at SoulCycle prior to joining the Wing in early 2018, has shepherded the coworking space and social club through a period of rapid growth. Since the Wing made its debut in October 2016, more than 12,000 members have flocked to its pink-hued spaces; in that time, the Wing has raised nearly $118 million and expanded its footprint to 11 locations, including an international outpost in London. As a queer black woman, Nelson says she sometimes catches business leaders and investors off guard. “When they hear me introduce myself as CFO of the Wing,” Nelson said in a recent Black Enterprise interview, “there is almost always a visible moment of disbelief, followed by a realization that their reaction was a result of the implicit bias they are harboring.”
When the coronavirus hit, the Wing temporarily closed its spaces and suspended membership fees. But the startup is keeping its community alive through a newsletter and on its app, where home cooks and entrepreneurs gather across more than 200 member groups tailored to specific interests. And the Wing continues to attract high-profile speakers like Kerry Washington and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a full slate of virtual events that have drawn more than 64,000 RSVPs.
Kelly Bush Novak
Founder and CEO, ID
Nearly three decades ago, Novak started her own PR agency, ID, with just three clients. Today, her firm represents more than 1,200 of the biggest names in Hollywood and beyond, from Madonna and Serena Williams to Lena Dunham and Alejandro González Iñárritu. ID has offices in New York and Los Angeles and boasts a roster of PR veterans that includes Mara Buxbaum and Bebe Lerner (who represent Michelle Williams and Emily Blunt, respectively). The agency, which has departments dedicated to music and individual TV shows and movies, eventually moved into brand representation as well, taking on clients such as Peloton and Universal Music Group. But Novak’s purview isn’t limited to representation: In 2008, she launched VIE Entertainment, through which she has coproduced two of Ellen Page’s films, Into the Forest and the LGBTQ-themed Freeheld.
SVP and CIO, Cisco
Guichelaar joined Cisco last July to focus on refining its IT organization and digital infrastructure and applications. At her appointment, Irving Tan, Cisco's senior vice president and COO, noted that Guichelaar is, “a strong advocate of talent development and diversity, [who] takes pride in watching teams grow to face industry and global challenges.” The Uruguay native, who was raised in Australia, has worked in many countries and held senior business and technology roles at organizations such as Deutsche Bank, Lloyds Banking Group, Computer Sciences Corporation, and IBM. She’s passionate about building and retaining a diverse global workforce, particularly among younger professionals. In support of Cisco’s human resources, she’s been talking to millennials about what they need to encourage them to stay at the company. “Part of what they said was that they wanted more opportunities to take primary roles in projects, which is what I want to facilitate as well,” she said in an interview with YourStory.
CISO of Consumer and Investment Management Division, Goldman Sachs
According to the most recent data from (ISC)², women make up less than a quarter of the cybersecurity industry. And although it’s a sector where women are often paid less despite having higher levels of education, women are advancing to leadership positions in greater numbers. Tan is a 15-year veteran of the field who is currently the chief information security officer and head of technology risk for the Consumer and Investment Management Division at Goldman Sachs. “I manage security throughout our division’s overall business strategy, with emphasis on the confidentiality and integrity of the division’s and our clients’ data,” she says.
As a queer woman in tech, Tan says her advocacy is all-encompassing—from promoting the accomplishments of others to acting as a mentor. “Within any company I work for, I contribute to diversity and inclusion initiatives, rally people to do more, and tell my stories in forums,” Tan explains. And she’s always looking for ways to improve how she tells those stories. Her proudest accomplishment in the past year was learning improv after she had to hit pause on competing in triathlons because of a fracture. “As a methodological person, I felt improv would be a great stretch of my comfort zone.”
Writer, editor, and activist
In 2018, the activist and journalist Willis became the first black transgender woman to hold a senior leadership role at Out magazine. During her two-year tenure at the LGBTQ publication, she led the highly regarded Trans Obituaries Project, which honored the lives of trans women who had died before their time and proposed ways to take action against the epidemic of violence against them.
In addition to her journalism, Willis has become a force for change and a voice for intersectionality. Willis has worked as a Soros Equality Fellow at the nonprofit Transgender Law Center, where she founded Black Trans Circles. The ongoing program provides spaces for black trans women to share their experiences and come together to organize for justice. At the 2017 Women’s March, she spoke to a crowd of millions in Washington, D.C., about the importance of inclusivity in social justice movements. “As we commit to each other to build this movement of resistance and liberation, no one can be an afterthought,” she said. [Photo: Texas Isaiah]