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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. 

Kate Ryder Founder and CEO, Maven Clinic

Kate Ryder

Named to Fortune’s 2020 40 Under 40 in Health, Kate Ryder was an early proponent of telehealth, founding Maven Clinic in 2014. And since COVID hit, Maven has continued to lead the way in the sector, creating a COVID-19 maternity product and partnering with MassHealth to give 1.8 million Massachusetts residents free access to telemedicine. Last year, Maven acquired the app Bright Parenting, which supports parents with young children, as well as launched Maven Wallet, a tool to help manage the costs of family planning.

As of 2020, the company’s total funding has reached $90 million with Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling among investors.

Deb Schwartz Former CFO, Bustle Digital Group

With 84 million readers, 42 million social media followers and nine leading content brands under its umbrella, Bustle Digital Group (BDG) is one of the fastest growing publishers in modern media. And despite 2020’s pandemic-fueled economic crisis, the company hasn’t slowed down; in fact, last August, BDG acquired revered fashion publication W Magazine—now to be known as W Media—in a buyout led by a group of investors, including supermodel Karlie Kloss, movie producer Jason Blum and racecar driver Lewis Hamilton.

And the woman propelling BDG into a media empire? Deb Schwartz. 

Schwartz has been a key figure in the media brand’s explosive growth since taking the reins as CFO in November 2017, leading BDG in the acquisition of six brands in less than three years. By leveraging her Wall Street background and previous experience in Big Tech, she has helped marry BDG’s homegrown technology infrastructure with the traditional value proposition of media to take Bustle to the next level—or, “to build the modern-day Condé Nast,” as she puts it.

“The piece of advice that I would give to young women leaders who have a lot of potential and are looking to really have greater business impact would be for them to be bold,” Schwartz told Worth. “For them to recognize that they’re empowered to have real business impact. That the impossible is possible. What I’ve been using as an ethos to drive me in my career over the last couple of years—and I would encourage young women leaders—is to be bold.”

Nicole Shanahan Founding Donor and Primary Instigator, Center for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality

Nicole Shanahan

In 2018, Nicole Shanahan seeded the Buck Institute for Research on Aging’s Center for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality with $6 million through her allocation from the Sergey Brin Family Foundation. Shanahan, the founder of patent management and valuation company ClearAccessIP, was searching for ways to harness intellectual property to help people live healthier longer when she learned that one of the first areas that aging affects is reproductive health; 10 percent of women are infertile by the time they turn 35, and few research groups were working on extending female reproductive life.

According to an article published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Shanahan has pledged to give $100 million to “programs that help women become pregnant later in life, that aim to overhaul the criminal justice system, and that address the effects of climate change.”

Sima Sistani Cofounder and CEO, Houseparty
Sima Sistani

Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Variety

In the last year, many apps rose up to help us change the way we worked and socialized in a pandemic-ridden world. One of the major players in this space is Houseparty, a video-chat-based social networking app founded by Sistani and Ben Rubin that houses virtual rooms of up to eight people, where users can hang out with their friends, attend virtual events and more. After lockdowns began, the app saw 50 million new users in a single month.

“This year has been a challenging year for so many, and for us at Houseparty, it solidified our mission of why we founded the company in the first place: to be the most human way to be together when we are physically apart,” Sistani told Martha Stewart in November.

Chrissy Teigen (And All Mothers Who’ve Lost Pregnancies)
Chrissy Teigen

Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for REVOLVE

Teigen is known for many things—her modeling career, her Cravings cookbooks, her Twitter account and more. Above all, it could be said Teigen is known for being quick-witted, funny and relatable. And last year, she allowed the world to see a new side of her—vulnerability and strength in the face of great tragedy. In September, Teigen took to social media to tell the world that she had suffered a pregnancy loss. 

“We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before,” Teigen wrote in her Instagram post.

Since then, Teigen has been very open about her healing journey. In sharing her loss on social media, she has helped other women who have been through similar situations find their strength and their voice. Teigen’s openness was groundbreaking because it gave many struggling women someone to relate to and not feel like they had to keep the shame and the grief to themselves. And so to celebrate that, we want to dedicate this space to not only Chrissy Teigen for opening up the conversation, but also to all the mothers who’ve experienced pregnancy loss so that they may know they’re not in this alone.

Greta Thunberg Environmental Activist
Greta Thunberg

Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

At just the age of 18, Greta Thunberg has an impressive list of accomplishments. The Swedish activist has made great efforts regarding climate change, which can most recently be seen in her documentary film, I Am Greta, released in November. When she was 15, she began the school strike for climate, which she eventually gained recognition for, making her an international figure. Though she has made quite the impact already, she’s nowhere near done. 

May 2021 be the year of awakening and real bold change,” she wrote on Instagram in December. “And let’s all continue the never-ending fight for the living planet.”

Opal Tometi Human Rights Activist and Cofounder, Black Lives Matter
Opal Tometi

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Tometi is a human rights activist and writer, best known as being a cofounder of Black Lives Matter (BLM), which became a movement in 2013. Tometi first started out as a community organizer in her hometown of Phoenix, Ariz. Her main priority has always been advocating for human rights. Prior to launching BLM, Tometi was an executive director at Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), a racial and migrant organization that focuses on social and economic justice for people of color.

Dalila Wilson-Scott Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation; and President, Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation
Dalila Wilson-Scott

Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Women in Cable Telecommunications

As president of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, as well as executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast Corporation, Dalila Wilson-Scott proves women can truly do it all. Wilson-Scott was appointed to executive vice president and chief diversity officer in late 2020. In this role, she oversees diversity, equity and inclusion activities for NBCUniversal. Previously, she worked for JPMorgan for over 16 years as head of global philanthropy. She was also president of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.

Jen Wong COO, Reddit

Jen Wong

As COO of Reddit since 2018, Wong wears a few different hats in the company. She is in charge of revenue, operations, consumer and product marketing, finance, talent and growth. Reddit’s success can be seen as a testament of Wong’s hard work. So far, Reddit is projected to reach $262 million in ad revenue this year, more than double 2019’s revenue. In addition to working for Reddit, Wong is a board member for Discover and Marfeel. 

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