Groundbreaking Women 2023
Every year at Worth Magazine, we celebrate women from across every business sector who are making an impact, whether it’s an industry-specific innovation, moving the needle forward for other women, or addressing a difficult challenge that affects the world around us. You may know some women on our list this year, but you may not be familiar with all the ways she makes a difference. And others you may not recognize yet, but we assure you they are worth knowing about. In a world where women continue to face discrimination and inequality, it’s important to recognize those who have broken through barriers and achieved great success.
Sign up to watch some of our Groundbreakers virtually this Wednesday 4/26 at our Women & Worth Summit here.
The Political Trailblazer Who Ensures Everyone Has a Voice
Stacey Abrams is a trailblazer in American politics, known for her tireless advocacy for voting rights and social justice. In 2010, she became the first Black woman to serve as the minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives. In 2018, she ran for governor of Georgia, coming within a few percentage points of victory in a highly contested race. Since then, Abrams has dedicated herself to promoting fair and equitable access to the ballot box. She founded Fair Fight, which protects voting rights and ensures fair elections nationwide. And in 2020, she played a crucial role in turning Georgia blue in the presidential election and the subsequent Senate runoff races. Abrams remains an inspiration to millions of Americans, and now acts as co-founder of NOWaccount Corp. a financial services firm with a focus on solving cash flow challenges for small businesses.
Helping Women Build Confidence Through Sport
Ramla Ali is no stranger to adversity. She and her family fled word-torn Somalia after her eldest brother was killed by a grenade, eventually finding refuge in London. She discovered boxing while trying to find a way to fit in as a teenager, initially to her parents’ dismay. She became the first Muslim woman to win an English boxing title and, in 2022, broke barriers by winning Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female boxing match. Outside the ring, Ramala uses her platform to promote inclusion and gender equality in sports. She has been recognized for her advocacy work by organizations UNICEF, the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation, and her non-profit Sisters Club.
Making Fertility Care More Accessible and Affordable for Every Woman
Gina Bartasi had always dreamed of starting her own business. After years of working in the healthcare industry, she saw a need for a better way to provide women with access to affordable, quality reproductive care. So, she founded Progyny, a company specializing in fertility and family-building benefits for employers and individuals. Despite facing numerous challenges and setbacks along the way, Gina remained steadfast in her vision, determined to make a difference in the lives of others. After founding Progyny, she heard employers’ desire to purchase fertility benefits directly from providers, resulting in millions in savings. Based on employers’ feedback and industry insights, Gina launched Kindbody in August 2018 with a team of experienced healthcare and industry veterans.
Telling the Story of the Black Experience Onscreen
Ruth E. Carter
Ruth E. Carter is a renowned costume designer who has worked on some of the most iconic films in Hollywood history. She is the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, which she earned for her work on the groundbreaking film “Black Panther.” Throughout her career, Ruth has used her creative talent and artistic vision to create some of the most iconic looks in film, including “Malcolm X” and ‘Do The Right Thing’. In 2020, she collaborated with H&M on a capsule collection that reflected 80s streetwear, a nod to her onscreen aesthetic.
The First Female Chef in the U.S. to Earn Three Michelin Stars
An innovative and progressive chef who grew up in France and made a name for herself in San Francisco, Dominique Crenn is the first female chef in the United States to earn three Michelin stars, an honor that recognizes the highest level of culinary excellence and one that only eight women have received. When Crenn moved to San Francisco to work at the prestigious Campton Place Hotel in 1988, she quickly made a name for herself in the city’s culinary scene. In 2011, Crenn opened her restaurant, Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood. Crenn has developed a unique and highly personalized style of cooking that blends her French roots with her love of California’s local ingredients. Beyond her cooking, Crenn is also a passionate advocate for sustainability and social justice. She has spoken out about the need for chefs to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their restaurants, and she works to support organizations that promote food justice and equality. Crenn will open her highly anticipated restaurant Golden Poppy this summer in Paris, her first in the city of lights.
Changing the Ratio for Women in Hollywood
When Geena Davis began watching children’s television shows with her young daughter in the early 2000s, she noticed few female characters. This led her to sponsor a research project that grew into the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. This organization researches the representation of women and girls in film and television. Through its advocacy work, the institute has helped to bring attention to the issue of gender bias in media and has inspired change in the industry. The institute’s dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion in entertainment has earned it widespread recognition and respect, and its impact continues to grow. She has received both an honorary Emmy and an honorary Oscar for her work.
The First Woman to Lead a Major Wall Street Bank
Jane Fraser, the first female CEO in Citibank’s history, took over the bank during what many have called a ‘turnaround time’. Her strategic vision and innovative approach to business have earned her widespread recognition, and she has been named one of Forbes’ “Most Powerful Women in Business” multiple times. As CEO, Jane is committed to driving growth and innovation, and her commitment to diversity and inclusion within the organization and the industry is critical to her success. She has said that empathy is one of the key drivers behind her approach—building relationships with clients and providing solutions that genuinely impact their lives.
The First Female CEO to Lead a Global Stock Exchange
Adena Friedman was always drawn to the world of finance. Growing up, she spent time around T. Rowe Price, where her father worked. So it was no surprise when she pursued a career in finance, eventually rising to become the CEO of Nasdaq, one of the world’s largest stock exchanges. Known for her innovative technological approach, Adena pushed Nasdaq to embrace new platforms and expand into new markets. Under her leadership, the company’s revenue grew from $3.4 billion to over $5 billion in just five years. She’s a champion of diversity and inclusion and, in 2020, asked companies the SEC to require companies to publish board diversity data.
Bringing Climate Justice to the Mainstream
Wanjiku “Wawa" Gatheru
Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru believes that to solve the climate crisis, everyone must be involved. She has dedicated herself to making the message of the climate movement more relevant and accessible, with the goal of converting ‘unlikely’ environmentalists towards action. Her advocacy work focuses on environmental justice and the intersectionality of race, class, and the environment and she has been recognized for her dedication and leadership in promoting sustainability and environmental justice. She has earned numerous accolades, such as the Truman Scholarship, and the Udall Scholarship. She is also the first Rhodes Scholar in the history of the Connecticut public university school system.
A Champion for Climate and Environmental Justice
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist and climate policy expert who has dedicated her life to protecting the oceans and the communities that depend on them. From a young age, Ayana was drawn to the sea and its inhabitants, and she went on to earn a Ph.D. in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Throughout her career, Ayana has worked to bridge the gap between science and policy, advocating for sustainable practices and policies that protect marine life and coastal communities. Her tireless efforts have earned her numerous awards and recognition, including being named a National Geographic Explorer and a TED Fellow. Anaya is known for bringing more voices into the climate conversation through the All We Can Save project. Her research has shown that saving the oceans is as critical as protecting the rainforests, elevating this often overlooked issue.
Self-Made Female Billionaire Teaching Poker to Help Women Succeed at Every Table
Jenny Just is a visionary, powerhouse, and one of the few self-made female billionaires in the United States. From the days of cutting her teeth on the trading floor in Chicago to running a fintech empire, she has started and turned around more than 15 companies and has made hundreds of private investments. This passion led her to launch Poker Power in 2020, a woman-led company that teaches poker to all who identify as female. By extension, it teaches women strategic thinking, capital allocation, and decision-making skills to help them in the boardroom and beyond. She believes that the fundamentals of poker are the same in business. Poker can be a gateway for all women to be more confident with risk-taking and money—the game allows you to practice taking risks with imperfect information. Every hand is a negotiation like a boardroom. Claiming a seat at the poker table helps women grow in their careers and move into higher positions where they can create more room at the table for their female peers, which contributes to closing gender-based financial gaps and more. Poker Power is across 40 countries, working with more than 200 corporate partners and educational institutions, and has seen the transformational effect it can have on everyone from teenagers to CEOs40
The First Latinx Woman to Serve As Poet Laureate
Ada Limon, Poet Laureate
The Highest Ranking Female CEO in the Fortune 500
Karen Lynch was no stranger to the healthcare industry when she took the helm as CEO of CVS in February 2021. With over 30 years of experience in healthcare, Lynch had previously served as the President of Aetna, where she played a crucial role in the company’s merger with CVS. Lynch has continued to prioritize healthcare innovation and accessibility by spearheading initiatives to expand the company’s virtual care offerings, providing customers with easy access to telehealth services. She has also championed initiatives to improve healthcare affordability and reduce disparities in healthcare access.
Woodford Reserve’s First Female Master Distiller
Elizabeth McCall is the first woman to be Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve, a leading bourbon distillery in Kentucky. With a family history in the bourbon industry, Elizabeth developed a deep passion for distilling. She pursued a degree in chemical engineering to help her master the technical side of the process. She worked her way up the ranks at Woodford Reserve, learning every aspect of the distilling process and honing her skills as a taster and blender. Today, Elizabeth is a leading voice in the industry, working to innovate and push the boundaries of what’s possible in bourbon production. Her dedication and expertise have earned her numerous accolades, including being named Whisky Advocate’s “Innovator of the Year” in 2018.
The Woman Behind ChatGPT
Mira Murati is the CTO behind the most advanced AI chatbot ever deployed to a mass audience. Her interest in AI began when she was working at Tesla in 2013 while working on early versions of its Autopilot application. Since then, she has led product & engineering at Leap Motion, where she worked on an augmented reality system to replace keyboards. At OpenAI, she’s focused on how humans will interact with AI and believes in public testing. She’s also in favor of regulation for AI and includes a diverse set of voices to answer questions about the technology’s impact on society.
Dismantling the Myth of “Having It All”
Reshma Saujani is an American lawyer, activist, and author who has dedicated her career to promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls through education and technology. She founded Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization that teaches girls computer science skills and encourages gender diversity in the tech industry. Her work has earned her numerous accolades, including recognition as one of Fortune’s “World’s Greatest Leaders” and being named one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People.” her bestselling Book Pay UP: The Future of Women and Work confronts the “big lie” of corporate feminism and presents a bold plan to address the burnout and inequity harming America’s working women.
The Most Successful Skier in Alpine World History
Mikaela Shiffrin, the most decorated skier of all time, has won multiple Olympic and World Championship medals, including gold in slalom at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics. She also is known for her fierce determination and unparalleled technical ability on the slopes. In 2020, her father died in an accident, and she has been open about her struggles in the wake of his loss and what it took for her to get back on the slopes. She is an advocate for mental health, and her resilience and determination in the face of adversity have earned her widespread admiration.
Training the Next Generation of Climate Activists
Ayisha Siddiqa is a 24-year-old Pakistani human rights and climate defender who co-founded Polluters Out, a global youth activist coalition, and Fossil Free University, an activism training course. She has felt the effects of climate change throughout her entire life—from the death of her grandparents due to polluted water in their community to the impact of floods in Pakistan in 2012. Her work focuses on uplifting the rights of marginalized communities while holding polluting companies accountable at the international level. She is currently a research scholar at NYU School of Law. Ayisha was recently named a Time magazine Woman of the Year.
On a Mission to Diversify Boardrooms
In 2018 Breen Sullivan, an in-house tech lawyer, noticed something: her male colleagues were angel investing and serving on advisory and governing boards of startups (and getting promoted!), and her female colleagues weren’t. When she tried to find similar opportunities for herself, there was no obvious place to go. Breen also knew many startups don’t take advantage of advisory boards or fill all their open board seats, which meant fewer opportunities than needed. Since then, she’s launched the Pay It Forward Initiative, which aims to enlist thousands of companies between now and 2025 to pledge to close the gender wealth and funding gap by diversifying boardrooms and cap tables. They aim to get 75,000 women onto for-profit boards by the end of 2025.
Breaking Barriers for Women and People of Asian Descent
By now, you have probably seen the photo of Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis that went viral when Yeoh won an Oscar. It’s a visual representation of her status as one of the most incredible action heroines of all time and her work throughout her career fighting for representation, diversity, and women’s empowerment. Michelle has also worked to promote gender equality and environmental causes with the United Nations Development Programme. Her commitment to using her platform to impact the world positively has earned her widespread admiration and respect.