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Groundbreakers 2021: 50 Women Changing the World

Despite enduring a pandemic that has disproportionately affected women and minorities, many women used last year to make real strides creating impact and accelerating progress toward building a more equitable society for the benefit of all. 

DéLana R.A. Dameron Founder and Chief Strategist, Red Olive Creative Consulting

DéLana R.A. Dameron

DéLana R.A. Dameron founded Red Olive Creative Consulting in 2013 to address the growing needs of fundraising and organizational development for small arts and culture organizations and has since expanded to include two funds: the Black Art Futures Fund, launched in 2018, and Nurture Neighborhoods, launched last year. In 2020, the Black Art Futures Fund distributed $132,000 in grants to 33 grantees—up from $21,000 distributed in 2019. 

“Maybe, looking at the beginning of 2021, we are in the Infinity Wars,” Dameron wrote in Red Olive’s 2020 Impact Report. “A long slog through a battle for a future we hope is just beyond our reach. But we’re pushing needles forward for culture from all corners of the universe—with Black and small and community-based arts and culture organizations at the center.”

Beatrice Dixon Founder and CEO, The Honey Pot Co.

Back in 2014, Dixon launched the world’s first plant-based feminine care line, The Honey Pot Co. The company came to be after Dixon had been looking for something to help her bacterial vaginosis, and one night, her grandmother came to her in a dream with a remedy that could help. This remedy set in motion what would ultimately become The Honey Pot Co. By 2017, Target began carrying the company’s products, and now they’re sold at Walmart, Walgreens and Whole Foods, in addition to other big-name retailers. In 2020, The Honey Pot Co. won an ESSENCE Best in Black Beauty Award.

“It is such an honor and privilege to be a part of the Groundbreaking Women list! Honey Pot has surely been my life’s work and by no means do we do the work to get accolades, but we are always grateful and appreciative when it happens,” Dixon told Worth. “I couldn’t have done any of this without the growth, support and love of my team!”

T. Morgan Dixon Cofounder and CEO, GirlTrek

T. Morgan Dixon

Since 2010—long before the devastating murder of George Floyd—GirlTrek was addressing the need for healing and strength within communities. Dixon, along with her college friend Vanessa Garrison, founded the organization with a mission to improve Black women’s health and create a walking movement that aimed to “heal our bodies, inspire our daughters and reclaim the streets of our neighborhoods.” Last summer, GirlTrek launched its first Black History Bootcamp, a 21-day series of walk-and-talk episodes that people could listen to on their walks with each recording honoring Black female activists and leaders, such as Audre Lorde, Olive Morris and Shirley Chisholm. 

“In this moment, as we fight for our very sanity, our communities, our babies, ourselves, our men, we turn to the most beautiful source, the Black women who walked before us,” Dixon told Vogue, explaining the inspiration behind the initiative. “It is an acknowledgement that we walk in the footsteps of women who made a way out of no way, and that we have a blueprint for self-care and survival like no other. We intend to claim that legacy.”

Ariel Dumas Head Writer, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
Ariel Dumas

Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images

A veteran of The Second City touring company RedCo, Dumas joined the writing staff at The Colbert Report in 2014, following Stephen Colbert to CBS when he took over The Late Show in 2015, where she worked as a writer and digital producer. In November of 2019, Dumas was promoted to head writer of The Late Show. She is currently one of only four female head writers on America’s late-night talk show scene. 

Billie Eilish Singer-Songwriter
Billie Eilish

Photo by Rich Fury/VF20/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

The American singer-songwriter rose to fame on SoundCloud in 2015 and has taken the world by storm since. The musician is most known for her unique style and voice. Her talent was recognized by the Grammys in 2020, when she became the youngest artist at age 18—and the only woman ever—to win in all general field categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. 

Cathy Engelbert Commissioner, Women's National Basketball Association
Cathy Engelbert

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After a 33-year career with Deloitte, including serving as the company’s first female CEO from 2015 to 2019, Cathy Engelbert was named the first commissioner of the WNBA. One of her first acts as leader of the league was negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement early last year, which was heralded as historic and groundbreaking. The eight-year agreement features a 53 percent cash compensation increase, better family leave benefits (including full salary while on maternity leave and an annual child care stipend), upgraded travel accommodations and more career development opportunities in the off-season, among other benefits.

“My thought is we went big on our collective bargaining agreement, and the players were very, very happy with where we came out because it was a holistic look at how to treat a professional female athlete, and my hope is that that transcends into, not just women in basketball, but women in sport and women in society,” Engelbert told Worth.

Harris Faulkner Anchor, Fox News

2020 was a big year for Faulkner. Not only is she the only Black woman to host a daytime cable news show, but she hosted the first one-on-one cable news interview with President Donald Trump after George Floyd’s murder. From there, Faulkner hosted primetime special Harris Faulkner Presents: The Fight for America, where she explored the conversation around injustice in the U.S., as well as virtual town halls discussing the psychological impact of the pandemic and the challenges of educating students during this time. As if this wasn’t enough, Faulkner also moderated voter panels for Fox News during the 2020 presidential election cycle. Additionally, Faulkner hosts both The Faulkner Focus and Outnumbered on Fox News Channel and has received six Emmy Awards over the course of her career.

“2020 taught us so many lessons, we will need years to process it all,” Faulkner told Worth. “And it’s still teaching us about loving our neighbors, the art of compromise and handling levels of emotional pain that we never dreamed we’d have to endure. The optimistic truth is that we are enough to do all of that and more.” 

“It is a tremendous honor to be included on Worth’s Groundbreaking Women list. It takes every voice and idea to pull us through tough times,” she added. “These are exactly the women I want to be with to usher in the post-COVID sunrise that we all are looking forward to in 2021!”

Jane Fraser CEO, Citigroup

Jane Fraser

Hailing from Scotland, Fraser made headlines in 2020 after being named the new CEO of Citigroup, making her the first woman to run a major U.S. bank. While she was appointed in September 2020, she didn’t take the reins from Michael Corbat until February. Despite this, she came in ready to make big changes to the bank, including creating a new wealth management unit meant to cater to both high net worth individuals as well as the bank’s less affluent customers. This change is just the start of how Fraser will lead the bank’s transformation.

Adena Friedman CEO, Nasdaq

© Matt Greenslade/photo-nyc.com

Friedman was named president of Nasdaq in 2014 and then earned the title of CEO in 2017, which made her the first woman to helm a global stock exchange. Friedman is no stranger to big moves, but at the end of 2020, she made an unprecedented one: She proposed a rule that would require all companies listed on the stock exchange to have diversity in terms of gender and race on their boards. The proposed rule was met with some backlash, but Friedman isn’t backing down, telling TIME that “it does really encourage progress in diversifying the boards.”

“Nasdaq’s purpose is to champion inclusive growth and prosperity to power stronger economies,” Friedman said. “Our goal with this proposal is to provide a transparent framework for Nasdaq-listed companies to present their board composition and diversity philosophy effectively to all stakeholders; we believe this listing rule is one step in a broader journey to achieve inclusive representation across corporate America.”

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Women on the Frontlines
women on the frontlines

Photo by Emanuele Perrone/Getty Images

As COVID wreaked havoc all over the world, we collectively looked to our health care and frontline workers to take care of us and our loved ones. In the U.S., 91 percent of nurses are female, while only 9 percent are male. Despite this, male nurses still outearn female nurses. Ironically, women earn 91 cents to every dollar a man earns in nursing. To all of the women who stood—and still stand—on the frontlines during this pandemic, we thank you, and now it is up to us to help repay you by working to close the gender pay gap in nursing and all other industries.

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