Read the news, and it’s easy to feel like the cultural divide not just in this country but around the world is deepening beyond repair—as if every step that’s made toward progress is followed by a push toward the old retrograde ways. But there are those among us who see reason for hope. They’re not waiting for things to change around them; they’re toppling the pillars of injustice, owning their power and paving the way for others in the process. They are Adweek’s 2019 Women Trailblazers, and we are honored to celebrate their accomplishments. —Kristina Feliciano
Ruby Rose, actor
Last summer, as producers were struggling to cast Batwoman—the latest DC Comics character joining The CW’s Arrow-verse of superhero series—“We always joked, ‘We need a Ruby Rose,’” recalls Caroline Dries, Batwoman’s showrunner and writer. “And it was like, ‘That would be great, but that’s not going to happen. She’s a movie star.’”
Rose—a former model and MTV VJ in Australia who had her big U.S. breakout in 2015 as Stella on Orange Is the New Black, which led to films like John Wick: Chapter 2, Pitch Perfect 3 and The Meg—couldn’t pass up the chance to make history by starring in the first live-action superhero series led by an LGBTQ character, and played by an openly gay actress. Debuting on The CW this fall, Batwoman—whose trailer was one of the most enthusiastically received during last month’s upfronts week—focuses on Rose’s Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin, who after years of training off the grid, returns home to a Gotham in which Batman has been MIA for three years, and reluctantly steps into his Bat boots.
“When people see the show,” says Rose, “they will understand why this character is so important to me and why after reading the script, it was a no-brainer that I would happily spend as long as I’m allowed to playing this character.” —Jason Lynch
Ali Hanan, founder and CEO
Hanan launched Creative Equals in 2014 initially as a side hustle in response to gender discrimination she faced on a regular basis. Two years later, she quit her day job and delved in full time, and the organization has since trained close to 1,200 people with its Be Awesome Night School initiative and has helped over 14 companies spark their own positive cultural shifts.
In addition to increasing women’s visibility, Creative Equals—which runs the neurodiversity conference DiverseMinds with the Hobbs Consultancy and RISE, an inclusion-centric leadership day for creatives—aims to destigmatize those with autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and other potential career-hampering hurdles.
“We believe in inclusion as a driver for change, as an evolving workplace is good for all genders and women from all walks of life,” says Hanan. Among her next steps: Hanan intends to take the company global. —Nicole Ortiz
Bozoma Saint John, CMO
A member of Adcolor and a board member of Girls Who Code and Vital Voices, Saint John has made advocating for “diversity, inclusion and women’s empowerment” center points of her work.
“Being a black woman in corporate America, I’ve faced many challenges,” she says. “I realized, through my own personal journey, the struggles of being a double minority and took it upon myself to make sure that those facing similar circumstances have fewer obstacles to face—or at least more tools to overcome those obstacles.”
One of the pinnacles of her advocacy work was organizing a trip for 100 people to Ghana, a place that’s special to her, in the interest of “diversifying the narrative of Africa.” —Nicole Ortiz
Brie Larson, actor, director
As the first solo female star of a Marvel Studios film, Larson shattered stereotypes, along with box office records, as Captain Marvel snagged north of $1 billion at the global box office this spring.
An early and vocal proponent of the Time’s Up movement and the 4% Challenge, the Oscar-winning actor aims to see more inclusion in media—specifically, more women and people of color reviewing films, via the Critical database she helped launch.
Says fellow actor, co-star and friend Tessa Thompson in a Time essay, “Her activism is an extension of who she is.” —T.L. Stanley
Charlotte Cho, co-founder
The Korean-American co-founder of ecommerce skincare site Soko Glam helped usher Korean skin care and beauty to the forefront of Americans’ minds, piloting and formatting the now-iconic 10-step Korean skin-care method. She also launched skin-care content site The Klog, wrote 2015’s The Little Book of Skin Care and, just last year, debuted a new skin-care company called Then I Met You.
Cho, who was recognized by the Korea Economic Institute of America for Korean-American Day in 2019 and has served as a panelist for events like Beautycon and Asian Pacific Heritage Month, wants to inspire those who don’t think they fit the “traditional entrepreneur mold.”
“Using my platform, I also want to support women of color who need the extra help and push to get to where they need to,” says Cho, who’s at work on her second book. —Ann-Marie Alcántara
Christelle Delarue, founder, CEO
Even before the #MeToo movement propelled issues of harassment into the mainstream, Delarue had had enough of advertising’s sexism. But rather than leave an industry she’d loved for a decade, in 2012 she created what she calls “a feminist agency,” Mad&Women, in Paris.
“Women have been objectified, sexualized, damaged in our commercials since the very beginning of advertising as well as in our offices,” says Delarue. “I’d like to bring a paradigm shift.”
In April, Delarue—who penned a scathing op-ed on harassment in Le Monde in February—launched Les Lionnes, a nonprofit that defends the rights of women in advertising and communications. That same month, Mad&Women and Unesco announced a partnership to promote gender equality.
“[Inequality] is not tolerable anymore,” says Delarue, “and you can count on me, as well as other trailblazing women, to make it disappear so that our daughters won’t have to ask the permission to be free.” —Rae Ann Fera
Eva Longoria, actor, director, producer; co-founder, Time’s Up
As a serial entrepreneur, Longoria knows you need cash to make an idea take flight, so she launched an eponymous foundation to give micro loans to budding Latina businesswomen. The fund also supports Latina teenagers with educational programs (17,000 kids over five years).
Philanthropy is at the heart of the actor-director-producer’s work beyond Hollywood, where she’s helped expand the industry’s Time’s Up movement to service workers and minimum-wage employees in various fields.
Via her Unbelievable Entertainment production banner, Longoria—a proponent of #AskHerMore, urging red-carpet reporters to talk to female awards nominees about issues, not outfits—she’ll debut Grand Hotel on ABC June 17. The drama is a Latino-led remake of a telenovela that Longoria has called “Spain’s answer to Downton Abbey.” —T.L. Stanley
Fiona Carter, chief brand officer
Carter helped AT&T become the first advertiser for the #SeeHer campaign to improve the portrayal of women in advertising, including pushing for female filmmakers and developing an Inclusion Playbook for practicing what the brand preaches through its own marketing. She also pushes the boundaries of AT&T’s storytelling elsewhere—the telecom sponsored the Tribeca Film Festival’s “Untold Stories” series with a $1 million award to underrepresented filmmakers and a new campaign with the WNBA.
“My mother grew up in World War II Britain. She did not go to university because of the social mores of the time. She regretted that deeply, and so she taught me the importance of education, hard work and ambition,” notes Carter. “Fast forward to my first interview in the ’90s advertising world, and I had to contend with this question: ‘How do you think you will persuade people to take you seriously in business, being a blonde?’” If they could only see her now. —Marty Swant
Gail Tifford, global chief brand officer
Before #MeToo and Time’s Up broke into the mainstream, there was #SeeHer, a program the Association of National Advertisers and The Female Quotient launched in 2016 to strive for more accurate depictions of women and girls in media, marketing and advertising.
As one of the founders, Tifford says she realized at the time that her teenage daughter “had literally no positive role models to aspire to” in spite of her media saturation.
Gathering other deep-pocketed advertisers like herself (Tifford, now at WW International, was a longtime Unilever exec), she stoked the nascent movement to “change the perpetuation of stereotypes.”
#SeeHer, a groundbreaking movement that has become an influential voice some 70 marketers strong with offshoots like #WriteHerRight for entertainment content, is “just getting started,” she says. “Think global. Think beyond advertising. Think BIG.” And her daughter, by the way, wants to be a forensic scientist, which Tifford calls “my proudest achievement.” —T.L. Stanley
Jameela Jamil, actor, writer, ‘feminist-in-progress’
Jamil didn’t expect “much of a bother” when she vented on Instagram early last year about women being objectified and her desire to build a community to show female value “beyond the flesh on our bones.” Tagline: “I Weigh.”
But 430,000 followers and an IGTV interview series later (a formal company debuts this fall), Jamil realizes “the revolution against shame is here.”
“I Weigh” has become an online hub for body positivity, battling back against Photoshopping, unrealistic beauty standards, everyday sexism and what she calls “crazed toxic nonsense” from media, advertising and entertainment.
The star of The Good Place, The Misery Index and Mira, Royal Detective says women are “starting to acknowledge the misinformation we’ve been fed,” providing “an army of noise behind me when I fight.”
She took on Avon recently for its attempt at cellulite humor, and the marketer publicly apologized and killed the offending ad, with Jamil saying, “I believe we are at the start of a huge and permanent cultural shift.” —T.L. Stanley
Jennifer Breithaupt, global consumer chief marketing officer
The daughter of an architect, Breithaupt might have followed in her father’s footsteps had she found anyone who looked like her on childhood trips to his building sites, she says.
That early experience has shaped the way the longtime marketing exec does business today, bringing Citi into the Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer in 2018 and extending the effort to her brand’s global markets.
This spring, during a one-hour Citi-sponsored takeover of the Today show, Breithaupt launched #SeeHerHearHer with the ANA and Grammy winner Maren Morris to push for parity in the music industry, where female performers, artists and technicians are “woefully underrepresented,” she says.
She’s gathering other brand partners, with Citi leading the way because, “We can use our significant scale and deep relationships in music to make an impact and actively support the change needed for gender equality.” —T.L. Stanley
Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and CEO
Dismayed by how few women she saw in positions of power at investor pitches, meetings and conferences, Hyman decided to become an advocate for empowerment by co-launching a subscription service that makes women’s designer clothing more financially accessible.
As Rent the Runway grows and launches new categories, including a children’s offshoot, Hyman is making sure employees’ lives improve, too. She has equalized benefits for all salaried and hourly workers, including parental leave and sabbatical packages. Hyman has also mentored thousands of female-founded organizations, taken on initiatives to grow the representation of women and minorities on public boards and worked to highlight the issue of sustainability in the fashion industry.
“I am fortunate to be in a position with a platform to speak out on issues that matter,” Hyman says, “and I feel it’s my duty to use this opportunity in hopes of creating change.” —Sara Jerde
Joy Buolamwini, founder
While DC Comics’ Justice League comprises fictional superheroes, Buolamwini’s Algorithmic Justice League is closer to the real thing: It seeks to highlight and eliminate algorithmic bias, in which human bias is embedded in code and restricts who can accurately use technology.
In her research, Buolamwini determined facial-analysis systems from companies like Amazon work better on men and on lighter skin colors. (Buolamwini herself once had to wear a caucasian mask in order to be identified by a facial recognition system.) So she pushed for vendors to improve. Through her work, some have decreased their overall error rates—and she stood her ground when Amazon called her report “misleading.”
Now she’s calling for a moratorium on using this technology in law enforcement until we have “ethical and inclusive AI systems that respect our human dignity and rights.” —Nicole Ortiz
Kristen Cavallo, CEO; Karen Costello, CCO
When Cavallo became CEO in 2017, she had her work cut out for her. A #MeToo scandal had rocked The Martin Agency, and Cavallo’s first order of business was to build a safe, diverse, equitable and welcoming environment. To help her, she brought on Costello. “I can’t tell you how lionhearted I feel locking arms with a partner who cares about the same things I do,” says Cavallo.
This dynamic duo—one of advertising’s few female leadership teams—got rid of the gender wage gap, tripled the number of new hires who are people of color, increased parental leave for fathers and created a program to help new moms transition back to work. They’re also focusing on more quotidian pivots.
The “grind of advertising, particularly in creative departments—the late nights and weekend work, long productions away from family, the ‘cliques and clubs’ and everyday injustices—those are the real issues that burn folks out and make people, particularly women, leave the industry,” says Costello. “We all have a responsibility to change what we do and how we act.” —Sara Ivry
Kelly Bush Novak, founder and CEO
When newlyweds Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi appeared on the front cover of People magazine in 2008, it was revolutionary. Not because a “gay” marriage was on the cover, but because it was featured just like any other celeb wedding. For Bush Novak, herself a queer woman in Hollywood who has advocated for underrepresented voices since she founded ID PR in 1993, getting her client this mainstream coverage is a career highlight.
While much has changed since then, Bush Novak—whose roster includes Madonna, Ellen Page and Serena Williams—says championing the voices of women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community has never been more important because of today’s increasingly divisive climate.
“I want [my daughters] to enjoy all the benefits of a diverse and inclusive culture where our commonalities are more important than our differences,” she says. “I intend to advocate for what I believe in and for voices that matter with my last breath.” —Rae Ann Fera
Kim Perell, CEO
No sooner had Perell landed her dream job at a booming internet startup right out of college than the dot-com bubble burst, and she found herself “unemployed, broke and devastated.” Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Perell launched digital marketing company Frontline Direct “from my kitchen table” in 2002, despite naysayers who questioned her logic. “Everyone thought I was crazy and the internet was a fad,” she recalls. “I was scared. It took years of hard work and many ups and downs.”
By the age of 30, she had become a multimillionaire. Perell sold Frontline in 2008 to Adconion Direct and was named its CEO, and became CEO of Amobee in 2016, after it acquired Adconion.
Wanting to help other aspiring entrepreneurs, Perell penned the book The Execution Factor: The One Skill That Drives Success and named a fund after it. “I am so grateful for the success I have had, I personally put the first $1 million to the fund,” she says, as well as contributing “100% of the proceeds from the book.”
“The biggest gift is being able to help pave the path for those who will come after me,” Perell says. “I define success by the number of lives I can positively influence.” —Kimeko McCoy
Laura Jordan Bambach, founder and CCO
Bambach was a precocious kid. Embracing the adage “sometimes the best man for the job is a woman,” she fought to join an all-boys soccer league in her native Australia, showing pluck and determination. “We needed to be fearless (and create mischief) in the face of inequality,” Bambach says she realized in an early gig at Geekgirl, a feminist webzine.
Now London-based, Bambach remains committed to breaking barriers. In 2007, she co-founded SheSays, a 40,000-women-strong global mentorship organization, and in 2015 was an innovator behind the Great British Diversity Experiment, aimed at boosting heterogeneity in advertising and related fields.
“Diversity of thought is what creativity is all about,” she says. Her leadership and outspokenness earned her a spot on the BBC’s list of the top 100 innovative women two years ago. Meanwhile, her brief at Mr. President includes producing campaigns that address the gender pay gap. “Being an advocate is for life,” she says, “not just for Christmas.” —Sara Ivry
Laura Visco, deputy ecd; Maddy Kramer, acd, art director
Visco and Kramer co-founded inVisible Creatives after meeting just last year in an effort to provide a platform to female creatives who were often overlooked, showcasing their efforts “via the largest female creative database.”
Previously, Kramer launched a design project inspired by the phrase “playing the woman card”—each deck of The Woman Card spotlighted the “female pioneers that change culture.” Visco approaches her advocacy through public speaking, whether she’s talking about the eating-disorder struggles she’s dealt with or touring ad festivals around the world to discuss diversity and inclusion.
As of now, inVisible Creatives features talent from 31 countries and has received 25 pledges from agencies and brands that include Droga5, Google, Lego and Saatchi. —Nicole Ortiz
Liz Gray, head of strategic cultural and consumer insights
Last summer’s LoveLoud Festival brought together Imagine Dragons, Zedd, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda and other artists for a National Coming Out Day concert.
The event raised $1 million for LGBTQ groups around the country, with Gray working on behalf of primary sponsor AT&T, one of many CAA clients she helps “navigate through a time when it is imperative that brands engage with consumers through the lens of diversity and inclusion,” she says.
Gray, a veteran of The Female Quotient and ESPN, helped Bose reach a younger, more diverse audience through influencer marketing and Constellation Brands develop a music strategy to reach the Hispanic demo.
Monica Dreger, Mattel’s vp, head of global consumer insights, calls her “a crucial business ally and thought partner,” and Red Bull North American president and CMO Amy Taylor says Gray is “directly in touch with the current zeitgeist.” —T.L. Stanley
Lynne Biggar, chief marketing and communications officer
As a member of Visa’s executive team, Biggar feels it’s her responsibility to advocate for change, especially when it comes to women and money. She and her team developed the “Money Is Changing” campaign focusing on raising awareness of financial matters among young millennials.
“My hope is that through our efforts at Visa, we are able to provide the support and resources needed to encourage more women to realize their dreams,” Biggar explains, “and pave the way for future women business leaders.” —Kimeko McCoy
Maribel Vidal Giménez, president, Women Leadership Council
When McCann Worldgroup leaders gathered in Lima, Peru, in 2017, a group of female employees from across Latin America proposed a new initiative to close the agency’s gender gap. Executives embraced the program and named one of the women, McCann Chile vp and chief strategy officer Vidal Giménez, to take the lead.
A longtime advocate for equality, Vidal Giménez has since amplified her message regionally and globally as president of McCann’s new Women Leadership Council for Latam. She believes gender equity both gives women the respect they deserve and opens a massive new talent pool.
“When it comes to inclusion and equality,” she says, “my focus on women and female leadership does not only stem from a human rights perspective, but from the firm belief that by excluding half of the population from opportunities and leadership positions, our organizations, nations and the world at large lose out on the contributions from valuable talent.” —David Griner
Michelle Wilson, co-president
Women are on top at WWE these days. The organization’s female performers are its hottest acts, fan favorites who have become a ratings magnet for WWE Network, the No. 2 sports subscription service in the U.S. And Wilson is the architect behind the rise of wrestling’s women—and WWE in general.
As co-president, she helped make WWE’s flagship programs, Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, among two of the most-watched regularly scheduled programs on prime-time cable television, and through partnerships with blue-chip brands she’s helped increase sponsorship revenue by 30%.
Committed to mentoring female employees on managing their own career, she shares advice given to her by tennis legend Billie Jean King: “Pressure is a privilege. We all feel we have too much on our plates as friends, as moms, as leaders. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember: You are in a place to make a difference—and that is a privilege.” —Rae Ann Fera
Roxanna Sherwood, executive producer; Libby Leist, executive producer; Diana Miller, executive producer
Statistically, most morning-show viewers are women, but for decades, their favorite shows were run by men. Fast-forward to 2019, and that’s no longer true. There’s a female executive producer on each of the three major morning shows, an industry first that Sherwood, Leist and Miller are all acutely aware of.
“At NBC News, we are grateful to the women leaders before us, and we are proud to set an example for the younger generation,” says Leist, who enjoys mentoring younger producers and helping them succeed in the media industry. “It’s all about momentum.”
For Miller, the sexual-harassment allegations against CBS This Morning co-host Charlie Rose were a catalyst for her advocacy. “After speaking with many people on our hurting staff, I knew that how we handled the news would be crucial not just for our viewers, but for the team that cares so much about the show,” Miller says of the 2017 ordeal. “So when I was in a high-level meeting that evening, I pushed to have Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell handle the news together and without any fill-in anchors on set. I knew that their voices needed to stand out and they should own this moment. And they did.”
Sherwood, a GMA executive producer reporting to senior executive producer Michael Corn, acknowledges that while “big strides” have been made, she says there’s still more work to be done to truly achieve equality. “I’ll be happy when instead of being asked what it is like to be a woman leader,” she says, “to be asked what it is like to be a leader, period.” —A.J. Katz
Pip Jamieson, founder and CEO
The Dots, the social network for “no-collar” creative professionals that Jamieson founded five years ago to “democratize talent,” boasts 300,000 members (67% of whom are female, 31% BAME and 16% LGBT+) and over 12,000 brands—including AKQA, the BBC, Burberry, Net-A-Porter, Sony Pictures and Viacom—that use it to hire.
“For me, LinkedIn always felt like it encouraged homogeneity, but being a dyslexic sole female tech founder, I never fit the classic mold, says Jamieson, adding, “It’s our differences that make us individually brilliant.”
Her view of diversity also includes those from different socioeconomic strata. “An exciting project we’re currently working on with Google is the Fast Track 50,” which will jump-start the careers of 50 industry-ready rising stars who might otherwise be hindered by their financial background.
“It’s critical that companies build teams that represent wider society,” says Jamieson. “Only then are we going to start solving the most pressing problems.” —Rae Ann Fera
Christena Pyle, executive director
Along with pushing for safe, fair and dignified workplaces in the creative realm today, Time’s Up Advertising can serve as “the engine that helps to future-proof the business,” says Pyle, who’s starting her new role with the organization this month, as it’s navigating some thorny issues of its own. “It’s a way to pull the industry forward, keep our talent and get the best work.”
Pyle, director of Adcolor and former director of diversity and inclusion at Omnicom Group, believes that with great influence (advertising’s high-profile position in defining pop culture and swaying consumers) comes great responsibility (leading the charge for equality and human rights). And she’s energized about potentially shaping future laws. “We’re in a catalytic moment where we have people’s attention,” she says. “We have this window, especially coming to an election year, to inspire as much change as possible.” —T.L. Stanley
Sabrina Caluori, evp, digital and social media
If you don’t have money or connections, getting into the “right” school might be a pipe dream, which means that later landing a great internship could fall into that same category.
Caluori understands those concepts all too well—her college career was nearly curtailed by lack of funds and, once in the professional world, she saw a homogenous stream of entry-level workers coming from the same elite places.
To disrupt that system, Caluori developed a digital and social media fellowship at HBO, a yearlong immersive program that’s a “strictly merit-based and completely blind process” for finding diverse, high-potential candidates, she says. (Many of those grads have snagged full-time HBO gigs.)
Caluori, active in She Runs It, HBO’s LGBTQ employee group and Kindred (“a new event company designed to harness the power of influencers to create change”), aims to provide “a megaphone for voices that are traditionally underrepresented” and a “step stool” for the next generation. —T.L. Stanley
Sallie Lee Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO
We hear a lot about the gender pay gap, but not so much the gender investment gap: Women live longer, but typically retire with two-thirds the savings of men.
Krawcheck, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Citi Wealth Management and Smith Barney, says the problem isn’t women—it’s the industry itself, which was built for, and is dominated by, men. So after nearly 20 years in that male-centric industry, she took the Wall Street bull by the horns in 2016 with Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women. The goal is simple: Get more money in the hands of more women.
With its tagline, “Invest like a woman,” as a rallying cry, Ellevest provides data and tools to help women save for their goals and retire more securely. Equally notable: The website isn’t pink. —Lisa Lacy
Sarah Barnett, president, entertainment networks
When she oversaw BBC America, Barnett long advocated for gender representation on both sides of the camera in shows like Killing Eve. Last year, she launched Galaxy of Women, a consumer-facing initiative celebrating female representation, and partnered with the Women’s Media Center on a research project examining how film or TV representations of female superheroes change young boys’ and young girls’ perceptions.
After being promoted last November to oversee all four AMC entertainment networks, Barnett is now expanding Galaxy of Women to the whole network portfolio.
“Seeing an Orphan Black fan talk at Comic-Con about how the show helped her come out is the kind of thing that will never stop being meaningful,” says Barnett. “The very particular and passionate fan community that forms when an underserved audience sees itself represented is a fantastic thing.” —Jason Lynch
Sharon Napier, founder and CEO
With the launch of Partners & Napier in 2004, Napier became one of the industry’s few female agency founders, and her choices were unconventional from the start. She acknowledged her investors first in the firm’s name and set up headquarters in an unlikely burg—Rochester, N.Y.—demonstrating the dedication to teamwork and pioneering spirit that she cultivated as a volunteer coach for her then 10-year-old daughter’s basketball team more than a decade ago.
In 2011, Napier sold her company to Project: Worldwide, a global network of agencies, for an undisclosed sum. While she remains busy as Partners & Napier CEO, she also finds time to serve on the boards of the 4A’s and the business school at Rochester Institute of Technology, where she mentors female students. These efforts to help others succeed earned her an International Athena Award from the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Women’s Council last year.
This fall, RIT and the National Women’s Hall of Fame will launch the “Napier Leadership Experience” in her honor. “I’m all about making room for the next generation,” says Napier. “That means paving paths and opening doors for other women.” —Sara Ivry
Claire Stapleton, social marketer and curator; Meredith Whittaker, Open Research lead
Last November, Stapleton and Whittaker helped organize a walkout for 20,000 employees at Google to protest the company’s mishandling of sexual harassment claims at the company. But while the pair and several others are heralded as heroes, their employers thought otherwise.
In a letter published in April, Stapleton and Whittaker said they faced retaliation for their bravery. Whittaker, who leads an artificial intelligence research group at Google and an AI ethics group at New York University, was asked to drop her outside work, and her daily role was downsized. Stapleton, a veteran of YouTube’s marketing team, said she too was demoted and was asked to go on medical leave. (They were not available for comment.)
Their experience demonstrates how difficult it can be to stand up for what you believe in, and how admirable it is when you do. —Marty Swant
Suzanne Scott, CEO
When Scott was promoted to CEO in May 2018, she noticed she was often the only woman seated at the conference table. To her, this wasn’t acceptable. “My entire career up until then had been directly collaborating with women, and I wanted this to change,” Scott recalls.
Given that she assumed the top leadership role at a time when the network had been rocked by sexual-harassment lawsuits leading to talent and executive departures, the stakes were particularly high. She has since improved the ratio of the senior staff at Fox News and FBN to 50% women and installed several company-wide initiatives focused on growing the next generation of leaders.
“My hope is for all women who embark on a career in the field of media to have a pathway for growth, opportunity and career success,” she says. —A.J. Katz
Tanya Lopez, evp, original movie acquisitions
At Lifetime, Lopez says, she’s finally in a position where she can help empower women because she’s directly creating content for those who don’t feel represented. Stepping into the role of mentor, she has given women positions in front of and behind the camera and works with the American Film Institute to provide directing opportunities for graduating women.
It’s especially gratifying, she says, “when my colleagues get the notice they deserve for pushing for projects that are important,” pointing specifically to the release of the conversation-starting documentary Surviving R. Kelly. She’s also looking forward to the network’s upcoming movie about Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, noting that it not only involved women at every step of the film’s creation, but “we will be able to include a conversation about how women in country music have had to really push to be heard.” —Nicole Ortiz
Tawana Murphy Burnett, global marketing leader
When it comes to helping to rebalance the scales of diversity and power, Murphy Burnett is a many-faceted agent of change.
As a member of the Pipeline Angels, she’s invested in more than 10 companies founded by women and women of color. She’s also an advisory board member for Startup Newark, a project by digitalundivided that aims to support founders of color in the New Jersey city, and plans to help expand #biascorrect, a campaign to incorporate feedback into businesses to correct bias and elevate the discussion of women in leadership positions.
“I’m the great-granddaughter of a woman who cleaned houses for other people, and she along with her daughter and my mother represent the pace of change for women in this country,” she says. “Many points on the board, but not enough.” —Marty Swant
Val DiFebo, CEO; Kim Getty, president
The #MeToo movement has focused largely on perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault in recent years, but its organizers wanted to shift the narrative to victims, asking Deutsch to write its next chapter.
The agency, led by DiFebo and Getty, launched four powerful #MeToo PSAs in February highlighting “a range of diverse survivor stories, providing support for all survivors from all walks of life,” say the execs. The campaign brought #MeToo back to its original vision, with founder Tarana Burke praising its “intersectionality.”
“More than entertainment or even education, brands have the power to create and impact culture,” says Getty. “When we are driving business and also driving social positivity, we are succeeding.”
DiFebo and Getty, creating what they call “a true meritocracy” at their agency, have built open-door policies, D&I groups, mentorships and space for “courageous conversations,” along with community-based social outreach through Deutsch Good. They also partner with Adcolor Futures, DaVinci, Film2Future, Live Out Loud and the ANA’s Educational Foundation to nurture budding ad mavens.
“Strong performance earns you a seat at the table,” says DiFebo. “It’s what you do with that opportunity, that seat and your voice that counts.” —T.L. Stanley
Diana Frost, head of portfolio transformation
Before her recent return stateside, Frost spent several years at Mars Wrigley’s offices in Canada, where she made advocating for women and mental health a cornerstone of her work, heading up the Mars Canada Diversity and Inclusion Council from 2016 to 2019. There, she spearheaded the creation of initiatives like Headway, which helps companies foster positive mental health practices in their workplaces, in honor of Luke Sklar, one of Frost’s mentors, and the Women’s Network at Mars Canada, now the company’s biggest associate network in the country.
Working to advance women in particular within the company is a cause close to Frost’s heart. “I personally have been so fortunate to have had incredible senior female leaders to support me and provide me with phenomenal opportunities to progress and grow,” she says. “All I wish to do is continue to be that for the next generation.” —Diana Pearl