Adweek’s Women Trailblazers Talk Inspiration, Career Milestones and Future Victories

This year's honorees include execs from CBS News, Land O'Lakes, Carbon, Universal Standard, Starz, MAC, Goodby and Twitter

Dara Treseder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Padma Lakshmi and Minjae Ormes
Adweek’s Women Trailblazers 2020 include (l. to r.) Dara Treseder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Padma Lakshmi and Minjae Ormes. - Credit by Photo Illustration: Adweek, Sources: Carbon, Bumble, Inez and Vinoodh, Visible
Headshot of Kristina Feliciano

When we interviewed our picks for this year’s Women Trailblazers issue, the mood was understandably introspective. Not only was the pandemic reshaping life at work and home, but the nation was (and remains) at a cultural tipping point. While many of us wonder what the future will bring, the women featured here are actively building the future they want—pursuing an end to racial and gender inequality, leveling the playing field and making room for those who might otherwise be overlooked. Here, they talk about career milestones, the people who inspire them, what they’re setting their sights on next and even their go-to songs (hello, Prince and Lizzo). —Kristina Feliciano

(Read Adweek’s feature on trailblazer Gabrielle Union here.)


Whitney Wolfe Herd
Founder, CEO, Bumble; CEO, MagicLab

Courtesy of Bumble

Proudest career moments of all time
Our team’s response to both the pandemic and the tragic racial injustices that have reignited the BLM movement.

Proudest moment of 2019 
Professionally, the unanimous passing of Texas House Bill 2789, which makes the unsolicited sending of lewd nude images punishable by law, was without a doubt our proudest moment. We’re committed to creating accountability in the online world, and this was just the first step. On a personal note, nothing will top giving birth to my first child late in 2019. Becoming a mom has been magical.

Words to live by
Don’t worry about what other people think you should be doing. Find out what it is that you love, and go immerse yourself in that world. Find out what breaks your heart, and go help find a solution. Never be intimidated by what you don’t know.

My next big project/initiative/goal
We have so much work to do to achieve the vision we have for the company and brands, and that’s a “big project” that will occupy my time for the foreseeable future.

What I want to be remembered for
It’s not about me. I want Bumble to be remembered as an organization that made a positive social impact and changed human behavior for the better.


Alex Waldman and Polina Veksler
Co-founders, Universal Standard

Courtesy of Universal Standard

Proudest career moments of all time
Veksler: The day we officially registered Universal Standard as a company. Everything suddenly became a lot more “real.”
Waldman: When we got our very first orders for Universal Standard pieces. Knowing that someone was willing to spend their hard-earned money on something we had made from scratch was very emotional.

Proudest moment of 2019
Veksler: Getting to visit over 20 cities and have dinners with customers in each one in order to be able to open our new 1:1 locations in Seattle, Portland, Houston, Chicago and New York.

Words to live by
Veksler: Bite off more than you can chew, and chew it.
Waldman: This too shall pass.

Who inspires me
Veksler: I am inspired by anyone who overcomes great difficulties through sheer will and hard work. I grew up surrounded by an immigrant community. The work, patience and effort I saw there still inspires me.
Waldman: I am inspired by a lot of different people for a lot of different things. I admire reinvention and fearlessness. I am in awe of people who can get up and dust themselves off so that they can keep going or try something new.

If I could change one thing in the world
Veksler: Peace and justice would be at the top of my list.
Waldman: I know this sounds a bit sappy, but I think everything would be better if everyone felt loved. If I could wave a magic wand and make that happen, I would.

Book that changed my life
Veksler: Walden [by Henry David Thoreau]. It allowed me to see how much possibility exists in each moment.

My go-to song
Veksler: I’m an unabashed ABBA fan.
Waldman: That changes constantly! At the moment it’s still “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish.

My next big project/initiative/goal
Veksler: My third child, due to arrive any day now.
Waldman: I’m working on a couple of projects that I’m excited about but cannot yet discuss. Having said that, we are always looking for interesting projects and collaborations that allow us to give back, and support charities and organizations we believe in.

What I want to be remembered for
Veksler: Building a brand that helped change the way fashion looks at women, and the way women look back.
Waldman: Being among the first voices in fashion to truly provide access for women to dress as they please, and for breaking down the outmoded barriers so many women had to put up with when it came to looking and feeling great in their clothes.


Alison Hoffman
President, domestic networks, Starz

Courtesy of Starz

Proudest career moment of all time
Successfully launching our new series Hightown from quarantine. In general, I’m incredibly proud of how the teams at Starz have supported one another and continued to drive the business through these unprecedented and difficult times.

Proudest moment of 2019
Rolling out the red carpet for the final season of Power, a groundbreaking show I had the privilege of working on from its very first season.

Words to live by
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ―George Eliot

Who inspires me
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama, my late mother and mother-in-law.

If I could change one thing in the world
For us to hand to the next generation a world free from hate and prejudice.

Books that changed my life
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Difficult Women by Roxane Gay and My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent.

How I spend my downtime
Alternating between reading and watching my three sons play baseball and Fortnite.

My go-to song
“Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies.

My next big project/initiative/goal
To continue to build Starz as a premium network committed to putting women in front of and behind the camera to tell their stories.

What I want to be remembered for
As someone who cared.


Beth Ford
President, CEO, Land O’Lakes

Courtesy of Land O Lakes

Proudest moment of 2019
Making significant progress toward connecting and revitalizing the rural communities where our members live and work, bridging both the technology and investment divide and telling the story of the American farmer and their families.

Words to live by
Relationships are critical, calm is contagious and resilience is key.

Who inspires me
My mom. She raised eight kids, changed careers three times and has, throughout, managed to lead by the most empowering example. She taught us that failures in life are all part of our journey. It may be hard at times, but that’s part of life.

If I could change one thing in the world
I’d change the misperception that rural communities are less worthy of investment.

How I spend my downtime
With my family. The pandemic has been a bit of a blessing in that I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with them. With high school-age kids who are getting closer to heading off to college, this time has been invaluable.

My next big project/initiative/goal
As the shared destiny of urban and rural Americans becomes more and more evident, we’ve led in advancing policy, advocacy for and investment in the rural communities in which our members live and work. We established and advanced the Land O’Lakes American Connection Project, spelling out and taking required steps to advance internet access to improve healthcare, education and job creation. Within this effort, we convened and drove a partnership with healthcare providers (Mayo, Cleveland Clinic), tech companies (Microsoft, HP, others) and businesses with sites in rural communities (Polaris, Tractor Supply Co.).

What I want to be remembered for
Driving meaningful change and enabling and encouraging others to do the same along the way. Your team should believe and feel as though you were more focused on their success than your own. That’s the leader I aspire to be every day.


Christine Fruechte
CEO, Colle McVoy

Courtesy of Colle+McVoy

Proudest career moments of all time
Leading with a people-first philosophy. Putting people first has defined my approach to leadership, especially over the past six months as we’ve acted to protect our employees and their health, well-being and jobs. We’ve also focused much of our efforts in our community, including our 10-year partnership with The BrandLab, a nonprofit changing the face and voice of the marketing industry, and our relationship with the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Intern Program. We have also led efforts to bring the national Time’s Up Advertising movement and the 3% Conference to the Twin Cities to help empower more women. And I’m currently galvanizing the Minneapolis creative community to combine forces to remedy injustice and systemic racism in our community and our nation. It’s vital that we act and that efforts emerge from the place where the current global social unrest began.

Proudest moment of 2019
Given the last six months, it’s hard to focus on 2019 or anything prior to 2020. My proudest moments in the last six months have been watching how Colle McVoy has navigated the Covid-19 pandemic and social crisis that began in Minneapolis with the murder of George Floyd. Through empathy, transparency, empowerment and thought leadership at all levels, we’ve been able to lead our staff, clients and community.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
An artist. I was a painfully shy child and expressed myself through drawing and painting.

Words to live by
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” You cannot control the world around you, but you can control how you choose to respond.

If I could change one thing in the world
Equality for all. If every human was valued, respected and protected for who they are, our world would be a much better place and peace could be attainable.

My next big project/initiative/goal
Emerging from 2020 as a better person and better community member, as well as the leader of a better company. I’m committed to using this year’s many challenges and sometimes painful experiences to listen, learn and grow.


Dalana Brand
Vp, people experience, and head of inclusion and diversity, Twitter

Courtesy of Twitter

Proudest career moments of all time
In the early stages of my career, I was interviewing for my dream job and the interviewer asked, “Why would a woman be interested in this male-dominated industry?” I was furious that despite all of my skills and experiences, at that moment the only thing he seemed to be concerned about was the fact that I was a woman. I remained calm and aced the rest of the interview because I believe in the old saying, “Never let them see you sweat!” Well, not only did I get that job and get my foot in the door—I blew the doors off of it! I learned everything I could and quickly excelled and earned recognition for my capabilities and contributions. Even though everything turned out positive in the end, that moment has always stuck with me. It was career defining in a sense because it was at that moment that I vowed to make sure I open doors for other women and commit to doing my part to ensure that no other woman felt the way I did that day. That was the beginning of my journey toward workplace advocacy for equality, diversity and inclusion.

Proudest moment of 2019
Rebuilding our inclusion and diversity team at Twitter and collaborating with this new team in partnership with leadership to build our new inclusion and diversity strategy.

Words to live by
One of my favorite quotes is by Mary Church Terrell: “And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go …” The statement “lift as you climb” is so simple yet so powerful in its premise. I was raised to always give back and try to help others along the way, and this has been my life’s motto. We are each blessed with certain talents, capabilities, resources, etc., and I believe that we are given these gifts to share with others. This is certainly the case in corporate America. We all know the struggle for women to advance up the corporate ladder in our pursuit to shatter the glass ceiling. This requires recognition that we are all in this together, and if we are fortunate enough to ascend up the ladder, we darn sure better be bringing a few people along—who bring a few people along, who bring a few people along, etc. I will always make time to mentor, coach and develop young talent because I recognize that I am standing on the shoulders of those who invested in me. This work also extends into my community through my support of several nonprofit organizations.

Who inspires me
I take my inspiration from several people because I believe you can learn from anyone. Who I really admire, however, are the Black women trailblazers in corporate America, like former CEO Ursula Burns. She broke ground for Black women like myself who aspire to reach new heights. What is most astounding is that she did it without role models herself because, sadly, only two Black women have ever led an S&P 500 company: Ursula, who served as CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016, and Mary Winston, who was the interim CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond for six months in 2019. I am truly motivated and encouraged by pioneers like this.

If I could change one thing in the world
These days I feel there are so many things that need to change, so it’s hard to pin it down to one. But I think if I had to, it would be inequality in all of its forms. Whether you are talking about inequality in income, social class, education or healthcare, inequality anywhere harms individual well-being and our society. If you can change people’s hearts and minds to accept at their core that all people should be treated equally and deserve the same opportunities in life, you can address so many of the social justice issues we face today, like racism, oppression, poverty, etc. I have dedicated my life’s work to the fight against inequality, particularly racial inequality and gender disparity, and will stay in this fight until we win.

Book that changed my life
I am an avid reader and enjoy reading both for pleasure and career growth. One book that continues to have a lasting imprint on my life is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book is a beautifully written (almost poetic) fable that teaches you to embrace the power within you and to learn how to never let the obstacles in life stand in the way of the pursuit of your dreams. The essence of the book is about not losing faith or hope, and never quitting. There are also so many good quotes. A couple of my favorites: “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times” and “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

My go-to songs
I don’t have a go-to song as much as I have a go-to catalog, and that would be anything by Prince. Any era, any song, from “When Doves Cry” to “Thieves in the Temple” to his final work, “HITnRUN Phase 2.” I have seen the movie Purple Rain countless times, and I even once decorated my conference meeting room at a previous employer in purple Prince-themed decor and named the room Purple Reign. He was a true musical genius, and every song has a special meaning because I grew up on his music and it is truly the soundtrack to my soul.

My next big project/initiative/goal
Twitter has publicly stated that we are on a journey to be the most diverse and inclusive tech company in the world. This is an ambitious goal, and we have a lot of work to do to realize this vision. All of my focus will be on making changes and driving progress toward this goal, and I am committed to stay on this journey #UntilWeAllBelong.

What I want to be remembered for
That’s a big question and one I really take to heart. I guess, simply put, I want to be remembered for being a good human—that I left this world better than when I came into it by living a life in service to others. I hope people will say that I was a great mom to my amazing children so that they could be their best selves. I hope I will be remembered for being a true life partner to my husband, that we were able to be a team that was more together than apart. Finally, that I honored my mother and father all the days of their lives and that I was fearless in my fight for equality for all.


Dara Treseder
CMO, Carbon

Courtesy of Carbon

Proudest moment of 2019
I believe in the power of technology and innovation to improve lives. My proudest moment of 2019 was when Carbon partnered with Riddell to introduce next-generation head protection for today’s athletes—a customized, 3D-printed helmet liner precisely contoured to the athlete’s head. Our #ProtectItAll campaign launched at the Super Bowl that year and focused attention on the importance of investing in player protection. The NFL and its players association recently recognized the helmet as one of the top three on the market in its latest ranking.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
I wanted to be a singer and actress, and I dreamed of moving to California. Today, I put on many amateur performances for my husband and two children in our home in California—so one could say I am living the dream. 🙂

Words to live by
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If I could change one thing in the world
I would end systemic racism and discrimination.

Book that changed my life
I first read When Things Fall Apart [by Pema Chödrön] when I was 10 years old. I didn’t fully understand it then, but I have reread this book over a dozen times since, and each time it still speaks to me. I love this book because it helps me understand and navigate tensions between change and tradition.

My go-to song
“Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. Whether it’s pushing through the last mile on a run or getting myself ready to take on a new challenge, “Survivor” gets me through it.

My next big project/initiative/goal
My kids’ yearly highlight is spending part of their summer with my parents. This year, because of Covid, this won’t be possible. My husband and I are working on a fun staycation and summer camp schedule.

What I want to be remembered for
Helping others unlock their potential and fulfill their dreams.


Jacki Kelley
CEO, Americas, Dentsu Aegis Network

Courtesy of Dentsu Aegis Network

Proudest career moments of all time
Let me start by saying, I am competitive. If I am going to invest energy, I want it to count; I want to win. Years ago, I was asked to lead a pitch where everything was stacked against us. The agencies that had to support it did not think we could win. The individuals that got tagged to play felt it was futile. And it was massive. But with every meeting and each document submitted, we began to turn a corner. We began to believe. Only agency people who love a war room will appreciate the fog of those six months that in hindsight become magical (only in hindsight!) I will never forget the morning we got the call that we had won a majority of the scope. I have won (and lost!) plenty of pitches, but this one remains my proudest, as it was improbable—proof that the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.

Proudest moment of 2019
Joining Dentsu. I decided in 2018 that I wanted to return to “work I love with people I love.” Mike Hughes, a creative genius who we lost in 2013 to cancer, taught me this a long time ago. I went searching and found a family of entrepreneurs determined to create an alternative that was idea led, data driven and tech enabled. Clients will want fewer agencies solving bigger problems, and Dentsu has the capability and the culture to deliver this. I joined in April 2019 and never looked back.

Words to live by
Not trying is wondering your whole life if you gave up too soon!

If I could change one thing in the world
I would like to improve the foster system in our country; 70% of those incarcerated and 50% of the homeless were at one point in the foster system. Imagine the impact on our society, families and the future of these kids if we could change these stats. We have been a foster family for five years and have seen the challenges, and also what works. I would love to create a public/private partnership that brings additional funding and resources to states to create a better net for families and kids.

Book that changed my life
The Bible.

How I spend my downtime
I balance the extremes of running, cooking and chilling on the couch watching a family favorite. I am loving Council of Dads.

My go-to song
I have so many! Right now, my go-to is “Champagne Night” by [Lady A]. We are big fans of Songland and enjoy watching the creative process of songwriting. This is one of the many hits produced by the show and a fun episode to watch.

My next big project/initiative/goal
Eliminating racism and creating representation in our industry is both my big initiative and what I want to be remembered for. The murder of George Floyd created a galvanizing moment for our country and our industry. It is no longer enough to strive for inclusivity; we must also be actively anti-racist. I am going to use my privilege, power and platform to create meaningful progress. Period.


Jacqueline Parkes
CMO, evp, digital studios, entertainment and youth group, ViacomCBS

Courtesy of ViacomCBS

Proudest moments of 2019
For Mother’s Day 2019, our creative team collaborated with Emmy Award-winner Lena Waithe, with Christy Turlington Burns’ Every Mother Counts organization and with the Black Mamas Matter Alliance to address the shocking rise of maternal mortality in the U.S. by providing life-saving resources for expectant mothers, their friends and families. The “Save Our Moms” campaign activated across MTV and MTV News on all platforms with original content and educational resources, articles, op-eds and talent testimonials. I was part of the leadership team that led the +1 the Vote campaign to drive voting and registration in the 2020 national election. We drove the CMT Awards to the highest ratings and most social in the history of CMT with a 360 holistic campaign that celebrated the CMT Awards as Nashville’s Biggest Party. I oversaw the development of VH1 social originals in 2019 and launched multiple new seasons of the YouTube series Brunch with Tiffany starring Tiffany Pollard, which became the most popular VH1 YouTube show in history and is now running as a syndicated show on Snapchat Discover.

Words to live by
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” —Jackie Robinson

Who inspires me
My father, Dr. James C. Parkes, a pioneer in his field who loved what he did in making people feel better and took care of anyone who needed help.

If I could change one thing in the world
Stop human trafficking.

My go-to song
Van Morrison’s “Bright Side of the Road.”

My next big project/initiative/goal
+1 the Vote voter registration and turnout initiative, working with our social impact team.


Janeen Uzzell
COO, Wikimedia Foundation

Courtesy of Wikimedia Foundation

Proudest career moments of all time
Leading a global health effort at GE. I was a part of creating a diverse team that included technologists, global health leaders, volunteers, executives, midwives and other community members to ensure that mothers and their children in at-risk countries in emerging markets could receive the care they needed for safe and healthy birth practices. We coordinated across every level of the health system, and as a result, the program was not only successful but is sustaining even to this day, as part of GE’s global health platform.

Proudest moment of 2019
When I joined the Wikimedia Foundation as COO at the beginning of 2019, I traveled from my home base of D.C. to San Francisco for what was supposed to be two weeks. I ended up moving to Oakland for 11 months, in order to work out of our West Coast office. I went from a massive Fortune 50 company to a nonprofit, working with different groups of people, solving problems in a completely different way. I did the opposite of everything I had done leading up to that point—and I loved it! What I am most proud of in 2019 is how I embraced complete change, in every aspect of my life.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a businesswoman. I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but watching my mom go to work, I knew that I wanted to wear business suits and perfume like she did, drink coffee and go to work. Some kids played house—I played “work.” My mother gave me an old briefcase, and I would take that and pretend to be a “boss,” sitting at a desk in our family rec room typing, copying the encyclopedia or anything else I had, so that I could say, “I’m working!”

Words to live by
Leave people better than you found them.

If I could change one thing in the world
If I could change one thing, it would be the world’s negative perception of Black America, and Black women specifically. Everyone else gets to start with a clean slate. Yet there is a false narrative that has been written for Black people, and what people think they know about who we are. Because of that, while growing up I was always being told what I couldn’t be, what I shouldn’t be. While that didn’t stop me from being successful, it has taken its toll. I want to change that for the generations of women that are growing up now. I want them to be ahead of the curve in all aspects of life: emotionally, socially, financially, educationally … I want them to know their power.

My next big project/initiative/goal
My next big project is working within the Wikimedia Foundation and within our volunteer communities to help change the perception of diverse voices. Wikipedia and our other free knowledge projects are resources that are relevant and highly used around the world. They are platforms that people trust. Our platforms represent an opportunity to shape equity, inclusion and diversity, and to change the narrative.


Kate Johnson
President, Microsoft US

Courtesy of Microsoft US

Proudest career moments of all time
Winning the 2020 Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) Ally of the Year Award was undoubtedly the best moment of my career. Leadership is about building organizations where everyone can succeed, and today’s harsh reality is that most enterprises are falling short. Inclusive, equitable cultures can only be created with systemic empathy, and ally-ship is the critical enabler. The BAM Award gives me hope that we are setting the right tone to drive real progress in creating empathic muscle at scale in Microsoft US.

Proudest moment in 2019
When 8,500 coworkers and partners greeted Bryan Stevenson, civil rights activist, award-winning author and world-renowned attorney, with a lengthy standing ovation at the opening of his keynote address at our sales kickoff event. It confirmed for me that we had done a good job preparing the team to embark on our courageous journey to change Microsoft’s culture, where we could be authentic, vulnerable and talk about difficult issues in an open way. Three months later (January 6, 2020), we took the entire division to see Bryan’s movie, Just Mercy, on the same day in 42 theaters across the country. The impact was significant, as our entire team experienced a unique, emotional and powerful learning experience together as a community. While reactions to the themes of the film were powerful and deeply personal, one truth was universal: Our teams appreciated the opportunity to talk to each other about the complex issues of race and injustice. It opened up dialogue and a level of vulnerability we’d never seen before.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
Since eighth grade, I was convinced that I wanted to be an engineer. It wasn’t until I stepped foot in my first job as an engineering college intern at Bell Labs that I realized I had made a terrible mistake! I just didn’t have any affinity for the discipline. So, I quickly pivoted into a tech sales career, where I could leverage my ability to bridge the gap between the engineers and customers. The experience was an early lesson in the importance of developing two enduring qualities: humility and agility! And it gave me the credibility to tell my kids that picking the right college major is less important than picking the right spouse.

Who inspires me and words to live by
Brene Brown’s humorous but inspirational advice, “Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not a jackass whisperer,” has been life changing for me. Leading successful change programs requires the ability to build coalitions of support, without getting distracted by the naysayers. While it’s important to listen to all feedback signals and keep an open mind, we can’t waste time and energy converting those who are defined by negative energy.

If I could change one thing in the world
I would give every human being impeccable listening skills, an innate ability to collaborate and the minimum viable dose of courage required to eliminate fear of failure and change. Not only would my job as a change leader become a lot easier; many of our societal issues would likely disappear.

Book that changed my life
More than a decade ago, our school principal gave my husband and I the book Mindset: A New Psychology for Success by Carol Dweck to help us rethink our approach to supporting our son with his high school education. The book did more than that—it had a profound effect on me in terms of how I think about all my roles in life: daughter, sibling, wife, mother, friend and professional. It helped me reorient my thinking to aspire to “learn it all” instead of having the pressure to “know it all.” It also serendipitously prepared me for my job at Microsoft, where Dweck’s concept of “growth mindset” is the foundational principle upon which our cultural aspiration was built.

How I spend my downtime
If I can convince my husband and kids to exercise with me, I consider it a perfect day. While sheltering in place this year, I let the kids direct more of my time, which is how wakesurfing became my go-to exercise fix.

My next big project/initiative/goal
I will continue to focus on driving the fundamental changes in Microsoft’s commercial and public sector organization to ensure that we fulfill our lofty mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. At the center of this mission is the belief that great technology is table stakes in the modern world, but great people and diverse culture are what truly differentiate winning tech companies. And great people will only reach their true potential in an organization that creates a growth-mindset culture: celebrates their unique perspectives, makes them feel a strong sense of belonging, and creates an environment where they can learn, grow and deliver impactful results.

I’m also excited to drive lasting change beyond the four walls of Microsoft by leveraging all our technical and nontechnical capabilities to begin bridging the digital divide. The global pandemic and subsequent economic downturn have exacerbated the problem by dramatically increasing the need for digital skills to help reimagine the future of business. Yet there is a profound lack of digital skills, particularly in areas of underserved communities, where the effects of the downturn were felt most dramatically. Together with key members of our technology ecosystem as well as private and public partnerships with local government, commercial businesses, nonprofit, learning partners and universities, Microsoft will announce a broad range of technical education programs targeted to help millions of people across the United States. Our great hope is that this will accelerate our country’s economic recovery, creating equitable access while narrowing the digital divide.

What I want to be remembered for
At a minimum, I hope to be known as a leader who delivered systemic culture change to enable breakthrough customer success and business results for an iconic tech company. More than that, I hope to be remembered as someone who used her platform to show how technology can drive positive social change.


Vita M. Harris
CSO, FCB Global

Courtesy of FCB Global

Proudest career moments of all time
My first promotion, about 35 years ago. Back then, a formal memo penned by your department head was left on every desk in the agency to announce all promotions. It was a really big deal. Mine was written by Jacqueline Silver, one of the first female C-suite executives in our industry. Her note referred to me as a “rising star.” It was that moment that changed the trajectory of my career because I felt a profound sense of obligation to be exactly that.

Over the years, I have received many industry accolades, but the ones that I have been most proud of have been those bestowed by my own community before the wider industry even saw me as worthy of recognition. IPG Merge, Adcolor, Black Enterprise, The Network Journal and Savoy have all been there to provide the validation and encouragement I needed to persevere and thrive in this career path. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Words to live by
“To whom much is given, much is required.” —Luke 12:46. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” —Mark 10:25. “It’s not about what you’ve done, Vita. It’s about what you are doing.” —Laurence Boschetto.

Who inspires me
My 91-year-old mother is my inspiration. A trailblazer—the first Black female CPA in the Commonwealth of Virginia, succeeding her older sister, who was the first Black CPA in the state of New York—and a three-time cancer survivor. Her life has defied the odds of racism and segregation, as well as life-threatening illness. Her mantra through it all, driven by her faith: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” These simple words are resounding whenever I start to feel defeated by life. I am reminded that I am not helpless and have the power to do my part. (Thank you, Mom, for being such a light in my life.)

Book that changed my life
The Bible.

My go-to song
Since 2013, my go-to song has been “Every Praise” by Hezekiah Walker. It inspires gratitude through the ups and downs of life.

My next big project/initiative/goal
It’s hard for me to have a next big goal when what so many have been striving for in our industry has not come to fruition. So, for now, I will continue every single day to play my part in provoking this industry to be more equitable in its workforce, workplaces and the work it creates. I have great hope.


Lorraine Twohill
CMO, Google

Courtesy of Google

Proudest career moments of all time
Being asked (by three senior male execs) 11 years ago to move to the U.S. from London and take on the global CMO role at Google, to define what marketing should look like for Google, was a major personal and professional moment for me. I was also pregnant at the time I got offered that role, and it didn’t matter at all.

Proudest moment of 2019
I was really proud to represent Google at the United Nations on International Women’s Day last year. I was invited by one of my heroes, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, to talk about the programs Google has launched around the world to empower women through technology, and share a new collaboration with the U.N. called Courage to Question, which uses the immersive, empathic power of VR to tell the stories of four very brave women working to defend women’s rights.

Words to live by
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” —Mary Robinson, first female president of Ireland and former United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

If I could change one thing in the world
Make every day feel like an episode of Some Good News. There is so much goodness and humanity in people, and it needs to be more powerful than any divisiveness or hate.

Books that changed my life
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, and his message of hope had a profound effect on me. Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips, by Kris Carr, helped me so much, showing me that other young women got sick too, and made me laugh when I badly needed it.

My go-to song
“Beautiful Day” by U2.

My next big project/initiative/goal
Frankly, the past few months have given all of us a lot of time to think. And recent weeks have been a huge wake-up call. So my goals right now range from seeing my team face to face at some time in the future and working out how/when we can be together again, all the way to making sure we don’t lose this moment and I don’t let down my team, because they are counting on me to give a damn. And I do.

What I want to be remembered for
Helping to build a more diverse and inclusive advertising industry. For example, only 11% of creative directors are women, and less than 6% of people in the advertising industry are Black. It’s up to me to help change that. And it starts with my own team, making sure we have a representative team, where everyone feels empowered to perform at their best and grow, and where everyone feels it’s their responsibility to ensure the work we put out into the world represents and reaches everyone. And it’s also partnering with the industry to move forward together, like the work we have done with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to audit representation in creative using machine learning, and our partnership with Adcolor to recognize and grow multiculturalism in the industry.


Margaret Johnson
Partner, CCO, Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Courtesy of Goodby Silverstein

Proudest career moments of all time
In 2017 my daughter, Vivian, and I did a panel at Cannes called Daughters of the Evolution with several other female advertising CCOs and their daughters. The panel was such a hit that we took it on the road to the 3% Conference, Dropbox, etc. Also, becoming the first female partner at Goodby Silverstein & Partners and being inducted into the NC [North Carolina] Media & Journalism Hall of Fame.

Proudest moment of 2019
Co-founding Daughters of the Evolution as a nonprofit with Vivian. And then launching Herstory, an augmented-reality app that rewrites history books and helps celebrate the lost stories of women in history. It was the first product that Daughters of the Evolution put out into the world in service of our mission: helping our daughters create the world they want to live in.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
An elevator operator.

Words to live by
Lift as you rise.

If I could change one thing in the world
I’d bring about gender and racial equality.

Book that changed my life
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. My mom gave me this book when I graduated from college, and it reminds me that a parent’s love is unconditional and something you carry with you your whole life—even after they’re gone.

How I spend my downtime
Riding my Peloton bike, watching movies/shows and posting to my Instagram account, Out the Window (@outthewindow_mj), where I document the interesting things I see out car/plane/living room windows.

My go-to song
I grew up in North Carolina, so whenever I’m homesick, I listen to “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor.

What I want to be remembered for
Being a fearless leader who wants to better the world, fights for equality and is always open to new ideas.


Ukonwa Ojo
Global CMO, svp, MAC Cosmetics

Courtesy of MAC Cosmetics

Proudest moment of 2019
In December 2019, I started my current role, and it was a total pinch-me, full-circle moment. While in business school about 17 years earlier, a very common brand management interview question was, “Give me an example of a brand that is marketed well,” and my answer was MAC Cosmetics. That was, because among many reasons, when I was a young Black girl, MAC chose to serve me and many other people of color when most beauty brands intentionally chose not to do so. I never imagined that I would one day lead the global marketing organization for a brand I believed then to already be a best-in-class marketing organization.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
When I was a very young girl, I loved to dance, and I still do, so I wanted to become a musician and entertainer. But my grandfather did not think that was a respectable enough profession (LOL), so I followed in the footsteps of many in my family: to strive for a career in business and entrepreneurship.

Words to live by
Work hard, play harder, pray hardest.

Who inspires me
My parents! My mom was a fashion designer and my father an entrepreneur. They gave me my balance of both left and right brain that has been critical to my career as a business leader in a creative field. I tap into that every day, and I thank God for them daily.

If I could change one thing in the world
For leadership teams in every sector (business, government, nonprofit) to reflect the communities they serve. It will drive growth for those organizations by delivering insights to develop better products and services to serve those communities. With more diverse representation in leadership, it will go a long way to close the significant wealth gap prevalent in minority communities, and more importantly, in my view, make the world a much better place. It’s a win, win, win!

Book that changed my life
The Bible. I discovered God and Jesus when I was a very young girl and till this day my faith is the ultimate compass by which I live my life.

My go-to song
I am obsessed with Afrobeat. It is impossible for me to listen to an Afrobeat song and sit still.

My next big project/initiative/goal
To continue to work with our incredible team at MAC Cosmetics to further expand this brand we love to many consumers all over the world.


Susan Zirinsky
President, senior executive producer, CBS News

Courtesy of CBS News

Proudest moment of 2019
Taking over as the first woman president of CBS News. Having begun as a weekend desk assistant, having worked my way up doing every administrative and editorial job, I know what everyone does. I know what everyone gives up to be part of the driving forces of CBS News. I know how committed CBS News’ reporters are to telling impactful stories that help make sense of our world. There has never been a more important time to be a journalist. I could not be more proud to lead the organization at this time.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
A doctor. My goal shifted when I realized people could die under your care.

Words to live by
Fear is empowering.

Who inspires me
My mother. She never went to college, but she found her calling as a devoted advocate for mental health services. She became involved in the Queens County Mental Health Association in the ’50s. There had been issues in her family relating to mental health, and it led her to discover so many disadvantaged communities that had no mental health services. It became her mission. Cynthia Zirinsky and other family came together and founded Gracie Square Hospital in 1959. She became the director of the psychiatric hospital. The hospital was taken over by New York-Presbyterian Hospital after more than 30 years of operation. My mother continued sitting on the board. At 91, she remains active in the mental health field.

My next big project/initiative/goal
With so many Americans moved by the death of George Floyd, could this be the country’s watershed moment for finally addressing systemic racial injustice and police violence? The work we do as journalists often shield us from the subjects we cover. However, these are not times for detachment. We’re in it. We’re listening to the protestors; some journalists are under fire. We see the video. We cover the violence. We hear the pain. We report it. We try to explain it and put it into context. We as journalists recognize that rooting out racism takes a lifelong commitment. But we must first have the voices inside our organization to help us see the stories that need to be told.

What I want to be remembered for
An agent of change. Honest, transparent, dedicated to the mission of a free, independent and inclusive press. Proud of being a journalist, proud to have told the stories that both touched hearts and brought about change. The person you could call in the middle of the night when you were in trouble. A caring, loving leader who finds sheer, unadulterated joy in the successes of those around her.


Minjae Ormes
CMO, Visible

Courtesy of Visible

Proudest moment of 2019
Celebrating Visible’s first birthday, and shortly thereafter hitting a new growth milestone!

Words to live by
Make it work. It speaks to the importance of resilience and resourcefulness I’ve learned over the years and, also, Tim Gunn.

Who inspires me
Issa Rae. I was fortunate enough to have followed her journey since her Awkward Black Girl days. I admire the way she’s stayed true to who she is, what she wants and how she wants it done. It’s so easy to let other people dictate your life.

If I could change one thing in the world
Racial and gender equity now.

Book that changed my life
The English Patient. It was the first book written in English that I was able to work through (took me 30 tries!) I’ll never forget the feeling of getting to the final chapter, and welling up with the pride that I actually worked through a very difficult book and understood it enough to feel something from it.

My go-to song
Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts”!

My next big project/initiative/goal
I’d like to serve on the board of a company whose mission and vision match with my own values and expertise.

What I want to be remembered for
My integrity.


Kara Swisher
Editor at large, Recode; host, Recode Decode; co-host, Pivot; New York Times contributing opinion writer

Courtesy of Decode

Proudest career moments of all time
The last thing I did (I try never to be satisfied). That said, the Bill Gates-Steve Jobs interview at D: All Things Digital conference.

Proudest moment of 2019
Having a daughter.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
A spy.

Words to live by
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on until you come to the end; then stop.” —Lewis Carroll

If I could change one thing in the world
I would end willful ignorance.

Books that changed my life
A Wrinkle in Time and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

My go-to song
Anything by Dolly Parton.

My next big project/initiative/goal
To make a dent.

What I want to be remembered for
Making a dent.


Michelle Lam
Co-founder and president, True&Co.

Courtesy of True&Co.

Proudest career moments of all time
The founding moments. The original one was when we launched the first-ever Fit Quiz in May 2012 and established our roots as a consumer-centric brand. Immediately, women around the world responded to the idea that a brand was listening—that everything from our product selection and new product development to how the brand chose to represent images of real bodies was based on listening to what they had to say. Since then, 9 million women have taken the Fit Quiz.

There are “multiple founding moments” in a company’s life (a phrase first mentioned by [Twitter CEO] Jack Dorsey), moments where the company changes and renews itself in a significant way, thanks to dedicated teams and team members who play the role of “co-founder.” Our launch of the True Body bra at the end of 2016 was a response to all the women who had shared their feedback about bras and bodies with True over the years. How could we reinvent the bra in a way that flattered a woman’s natural shape, so that each woman could feel comfortable in her own skin? On a business note, I led our amazing team (Anda Pho, vp of marketing, Beatrice Pang, vp of operations, Stan Golubstov, CTO, and Nikki Dekker, design director) through the acquisition of True&Co. by PVH Corp., owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, in 2017. We needed scale to help us meet the demand for True Body. On a brand mission note, what we as a team love most is how women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds shared their true stories and their journey to appreciate their own beautiful bodies. Women praised other women for sharing photos of their stretch marks and scars; women commented how this was the first time they had seen someone who looked like them, showing their body on social media.

We embarked on the biggest change in the brand’s history in 2019. The only rules: 1) we keep the name True, 2) we continue to focus on making and selling great bras and 3) we continue to be a consumer-centric brand. We partnered with brand agency Made Thought and Sasha Tulchin (now True&Co’s vp of brand and creative) to rediscover and reexamine everything else about the brand. By the fall of 2019, we had launched a new website experience, a new logo and a new look and feel across all of our marketing channels, expressing a bolder brand ambition as a community of women who are stronger together, who strive together to live in the best version of their true selves.

Proudest moment of 2019
I’d like to share a personal anecdote of how our role as leaders and boundary breakers at work can help the communities we live in. When the eviction notice came in the mail, I was resigned to be another statistic in San Francisco’s Mission District—here was yet another developer ready to convert our rental Victorian into dormitory-style housing for the city’s tech workers. That day, for the first time, my neighbor stopped me in our shared hallway. She had lived there for 17 years, three doors down from her mother. Her son had lived in that one apartment unit for almost his entire life; their family had been embedded in the local community for generations. We banded together, and while nothing can replace the loss of a home, we spent months to win the family a settlement and to create a plan of action to fund a new home on their family’s street and the start of college for her son.

Words to live by
I keep a fortune cookie saying on my desk to remind me what is truly important over a lifetime: “Your kindness will lead you to happiness.”

Who inspires me
Two people who embraced change in their own way. My grandfather was a refugee who started as a porter or manual laborer (traditionally referred to as a coolie) on the Kowloon docks. In a little over 10 years, he worked his way up from the docks to starting a street-vendor stand and, later, the town’s main rice and dry goods store, the traditional kind of shop where rice of different qualities were heaped high in pyramids on top of two-foot-in-diameter buckets. My father was his third son. He almost died at 17, vowed to live up to the life he had been given, crossed an ocean to St. Andrews in Scotland and crossed another ocean to Canada, where he was one of the founders of a new field known as computerized traffic management of major highways all around the world.

If I could change one thing in the world
I’d change the way our eyes work—how we see each other. With new eyes, we would only see the bridges that connect us, not the differences that often divide us.

Book that changed my life
The Magic of Awareness by Anam Thubten is the kind of book that is best read in physical form, slowly. I learn how to be still (for just a moment) in our fast, ever-changing world every time I read it.


Sheila Shekar Pollak
CMO, Athleta

Courtesy of Athleta

Proudest career moments of all time
A while back, I had the opportunity to define Athleta’s mission and values. Our mission is to ignite a community of active, healthy, confident women and girls who empower each other to reach their limitless potential. Seeing the impact our mission has had in empowering and connecting women and girls, both within our own team and with our customers, has been incredibly rewarding.

Proudest moment of 2019
Last year was a big year for Athleta. We sponsored our first pro athlete, Olympic track gold medalist Allyson Felix. Allyson is a shining example of the “power of she”—she found strength in hearing the stories of challenges other women and girls had faced in sports and spoke out to create change. This was more than just a moment for Athleta. Bringing Allyson on board changed the trajectory of the way female athletes are treated in today’s world.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
I wanted to be a photographer. My bedroom walls were (and still are!) covered in collages. I loved the work of French photographer Patrick Demarchelier. I’ve always been very visually driven and loved taking portraits or capturing moments of people. It was a form of creative expression for me.

Words to live by
“Live the life you love, and love the life you live.” Whether it’s life or career, this grounds how I make any choice. There’s something really powerful about the circularity of creating what you love and being grateful for it. To that end, I’ve never followed the traditional path to becoming a woman in business. When I was in my 20s, I quit my job in public relations and became a dolphin trainer, veering off the standard corporate path. But here I am, and I am so grateful.

Who inspires me
I have always been inspired by my best friend since high school, Kirsten. She is an extraordinary person. A D3 college women’s basketball coach, she’s one of those people with a crazy inner drive. Even when she tragically lost her husband when she was nine months pregnant and became a single mom, she didn’t give up. She still took her team to win a national championship. As a coach and a mom, she is always advocating for the next generation of women and pushing them to the next level. Kirsten and I are the ultimate sisterhood. We help each other reach for our dreams.

If I could change one thing in the world
I want every girl to believe that she is capable of anything—to stop worrying about what all the outside forces say, and just truly believe that she was born with everything she needs to be strong and powerful and realize her dreams. We get so focused on superficial aspects of life rather than focusing on what we are capable of on the inside. We should focus all of our energy on climbing the next mountain or crushing our next meeting. My mom died when she was only in her 50s, and it made me realize that we only have so much time in our life. I want everyone to realize that life is about finding your unique gifts and honoring them.

Book that changed my life
I love Latin American poetry. One of my favorite collections is Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s 100 Love Sonnets. He writes the most amazing love stories that feed my inner romantic. Sometimes you just need some beautiful writing to soften the day.

How I spend my downtime
My ideal day includes as many adrenaline sports as I can fit in—starting with a mountain bike ride, taking a break to stand-up paddleboard with my two daughters and ending with a kiteboarding session in the San Francisco Bay.

My go-to song
French Montana, “Unforgettable.”

My next big project/initiative/goal
This year we are relaunching the Power of She, doubling down on our purpose to ignite confidence in women and girls at every stage of life through movement and connection. We’ll be launching a major Power of She campaign this fall that we hope will inspire and mobilize our Athleta community. Now more than ever, we think the Power of She can make a tangible impact on the world.

What I want to be remembered for
Building and reinforcing confidence in women and girls. As a mom, I know the power of sports and staying active in building girls’ confidence—and the same goes for myself and women across life stages. Our confidence is fueled by movement and connection with other women. This is our purpose as a brand, but it is also personal for me as a mom. To my daughters, actions, not words, matter. I want to set a strong example that you can be a confident working mom, an athlete and an ally. I’m thinking about the Athleta brand the same way: Through our actions, we’re showing women they have collective power to move forward no matter what life throws at them.


Singleton Beato
Chief diversity and engagement officer, McCann Worldgroup

Courtesy of McCann Worldgroup

Proudest career moments of all time
Landing my first corporate leadership role. It was my first time leading the entire HR function in an organization, and I was both nervous and excited about taking on such enormous responsibility. But my mom had always encouraged me to be brave and have confidence that I was equal to the task before me. When I left this job, years later, I was as proud of the lessons I learned and the deep relationships I formed as I was proud of the strength and performance of the department I left behind.

Also, the design and launch of the 4A’s Face of Talent symposium, which was created to celebrate, challenge and connect the large pool of diverse college students and alumni from the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program with industry leaders in a meaningful way that also produced results for the students. The idea behind this initiative was to put an end to the commonly held but erroneous assumption that diverse talent “isn’t out there” for agencies to hire. The goal was to ensure that each MAIP class was made visible to industry decision makers and to directly increase the opportunities for the hundreds of graduates to become advertising professionals. Additionally, the symposium attracted thousands of MAIP alums, providing diverse talent at middle and senior levels with an expanded network and increased exposure to agency leaders.

And the design and launch of the 4A’s Talent@2030, the only leadership conference in our industry convening both business and HR leaders for the sole purpose of advancing talent innovation and promoting agency practices that impact people and culture in advertising.

It’s important to note that what made these career moments important to me was the amazing and dynamic team that I was fortunate to have working with me.

Proudest moment of 2019
Launching the Global Day for Meaning activation at McCann Worldgroup. This was a first-of-its-kind global change-management initiative focused on diversity and inclusion. The activation model was designed to apply the same strategic tools and creative thinking we use to solve business challenges for clients to our own business—to challenge our practices and to measurably advance inclusion. Our leaders championed the initiative, which required bringing business as usual to a halt so that employees around the world could have the time to discover what diversity means on a local level and why inclusion is critical for business growth as well as for the richness of office culture. The goal was to ignite a community-building experience to foster a sense of connection, belonging and shared purpose among employees and generate a feeling of personal responsibility in each employee that they were expected to practice inclusive behaviors and decision making every day. The final outcome of the experience was that each local office would create, and commit to, an actual plan for inclusion, customized to reflect the nuances of their particular market, to drive inclusive behaviors across the agency, at all levels, complete with KPI and accountability measures.

Words to live by
“The greatest glory in living is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” —Nelson Mandela

Who inspires me
My grandmother Elizabeth C. Adams. Born in 1927 to a Caucasian mother and an African-American father, she is a living example of resilience and strength. At the age of 8, she lost her mother to cancer, so she navigated all of her formative years with only her older sister for a sense of comfort and support. My grandmother has lived through times of war, many recessions and poverty. She has been a witness to the many incredible achievements in our society for over nine decades, from the invention of the jet engine to the personal computer to the cellphone. And her life experiences include navigating the world before and after the 1963 March on Washington and many other historic social and legislative actions aimed at achieving equality and justice for women and minorities, both in business and in society. My grandmother, the Original Badass in my family, was fearless in the face of the unimaginable forces she was up against as a Black woman in America. And she raised a beautiful family and achieved career fulfillment as a special-needs teacher; her former students still call her on her birthday. Today, she spends her time texting (yes, texting like crazy) friends, listening to gospel music and watching her soaps. And even though she suffers from disease and disability, my grandmother is a high-spirited, wickedly smart, tough lady who serves as my daily inspiration and reminds me that our lived experiences strengthen us, and our families make us whole.

If I could change one thing in the world
The social systems and institutions around the world that perpetuate the abuse of power, as well as the longstanding injustices and history of oppression our nation faces to this day.

Books that changed my life
There are three: Night by Elie Wiesel, The Shack by William P. Young and The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois.

How I spend my downtime
Ha! What downtime? I have less and less of that, it seems. However, my favorite thing to do is just hang out with my son and my husband. They are the air I breathe. The three of us on the couch watching movies is my idea of heaven.

My go-to songs
“Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross and “Scream” by Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson.

My next big project/initiative/goal
Designing and organizing our next Day for Meaning.

What I want to be remembered for
Making a positive, meaningful, measurable impact in progressing D&I in our industry and raising a well-rounded, confident, Black-Dominican man who lives and speaks his truth unapologetically and with pride.


Judy John
Global CCO, Edelman

Courtesy of Edelman

Proudest career moment of all time
Winning an Emmy.

Words to live by
One idea away from changing the world.

If I could change one thing in the world
Systemic inequality.

How I spend my downtime
Getting up early and working out. No, not really. Sleeping in and watching Netflix and Amazon Prime.

My go-to song
Drake’s “Started From the Bottom.”

My next big project/initiative/goal
Use my power for good.


Padma Lakshmi
Host, executive producer and author, Delicious Entertainment

Inez and Vinoodh

Proudest career moments of all time
I think I’m having that right now with the premiere of Taste the Nation [on Hulu]. It’s the first time I’m doing my own material and have full creative control, and it makes a world of difference. I’ve thought about this project and have worked hard to get it off the ground for over two years. It’s a very personal topic for me, and one that is a direct offshoot of my life experience both as a woman of color and an immigrant working in media/entertainment, and is informed considerably by my advocacy work with the ACLU on immigrants’ rights. It’s a gratifying feeling when you can marry what you love to do with a cause you truly believe in. I’ve been fortunate enough to break through the crowd and tell my story. In turn, I wanted to use my platform to tell other people’s stories because I think they’re important, compelling and have much to teach us.

Proudest moment of 2019
Creating a show and getting it green lit and into production.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
I came here to America at the age of 4 as an unaccompanied minor on Pan Am airlines. I would fly back and forth from America to India so often, I became enamored by the flight attendants in their gorgeous silk saris, big bouffant hairstyles and Hollywood-style makeup. I saw them as free, independent, globe-trotting women who made their own money and decisions. Coming from India, this appealed to me very much. I wanted to have that freedom; I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to wear beautiful saris and lipstick.

Words to live by
Don’t say; do.

Who inspires me
My daughter inspires me constantly. I see what a beautiful mind she has, how creative she is, and I want to leave a legacy that will make her proud.

If I could change one thing in the world
It would be that men and women of all ethnicities would be valued equally and have the same opportunities.

Book that changed my life
M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating.

How I spend my downtime
I like to read.

My go-to song
Anything by Prince.

My next big project/initiative/goal
Publishing a children’s book next year.

What I want to be remembered for
I would like to be remembered for telling stories that illuminate the world around us.


Dahvi Waller
Creator, showrunner and executive producer, Mrs. America on FX on Hulu

Courtesy of Fx/Hulu

Proudest career moment of all time
The first time someone paid me for my writing.

Proudest moment of 2019
Getting to be that someone for another writer’s “first time someone paid me for my writing.”

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
Happy.

Words to live by
Don’t send texts angry.

Who inspires me
All the women who kicked down the doors that I walk through.

Book that changed my life
Final Draft 6 User Manual.

My go-to song
“Happy Birthday” while washing my hands.

My next big project/initiative/goal
Helping other writers get the same opportunities I got and bringing more diverse stories to television.


Angela Benton
Founder, CEO, Streamlytics

Courtesy of Streamlytics

Proudest career moments of all time
One of my proudest moments of all time was definitely in 2011, when I started my previous business NewME. It was the first accelerator for minorities globally and was based out of Silicon Valley. We had the great fortune of being selected to participate in the Black in America documentary series with Soledad O’Brien, which aired internationally. While we knew what we were building was important and palpable, having Soledad’s platform at CNN share it with the world and having people from all walks of life resonate with the need for there to be more equality in technology was … I don’t think there is a single way to describe it. It’s one of the proudest career moments for me of all time because I was able to see the direct impact of my work through Black entrepreneurs who decided to move to Silicon Valley, take a risk on themselves, and stand up to be counted in and not counted out. It makes me proud to meet new people in technology who may not know of me and my work but were inspired by someone I helped directly. This type of impact is immeasurable and one that you can only hope to achieve in a lifetime.

Proudest moment of 2019
On January 1, 2019, I relocated to L.A. to begin to grow Streamlytics. This was probably the proudest moment of the year for me because I had the courage, post cancer, to break out and take a risk on myself … again! Much of my life prior to that had been around treatment and the things that usually go undocumented for survivors of illnesses, which typically consist of getting some sense of your old life back while building a new one. It can be a scary thing to do.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
Interestingly enough, I don’t remember wanting to be anything specific as I was growing up. But I did have a conversation with my mother the other day, and she reminded me how I begged to go to this science and technology school. While I never ended up going, it was something I had completely forgotten about! She brought it up to remind me how long I have been interested in technology. I must have been 13 at the time.

Words to live by
“Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage, you cannot practice any of the other virtues consistently.” —Maya Angelou

If I could change one thing in the world
Racism.

Book that changed my life
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

How I spend my downtime
I spend most of my downtime with my kids or in nature. Since moving to California, I’ve enjoyed morning hikes, even though I don’t actually consider myself a “hiker.” Also, I have a personal challenge of cooking the tastiest, restaurant-quality vegan dishes. I enjoy having friends and family try the dishes since many people still turn a nose up at vegan meals.

My go-to song
My go-to really depends on my mood. But the one I tend to gravitate toward the most is “Clair de Lune” by Flight Facilities. The lightness of it feels good, and the tempo is motivating.

My next big project/initiative/goal
We’re lucky enough, at this point in time when so many businesses have been impacted by Covid-19, to be growing at Streamlytics, so my main focus and goal right now is to continue to do so.

What I want to be remembered for
I think one of the most powerful things that we can be remembered for is standing up for what is right, even when it is uncomfortable to do so. I would like to be remembered for that.


Rosi Ajjam
Vp, gm, Aramis and Designer Fragrances and Lab Series, North America, Estée Lauder Cos.

Courtesy of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.

Proudest career moments of all time
I want to share three: The first one was about discovering my passion for marketing. After completing my internship at Procter & Gamble Venezuela, I was offered the opportunity to explore different roles for a permanent position. I talked with leaders in marketing, sales, finance and engineering.  When I was asked to share my top three options in order of priority, I said: 1) marketing, 2) marketing, 3) marketing. Fortunately, I got the job, and my first brand was Pampers. I was convinced about my passion to focus on the consumer. I didn’t know too much about purpose then, but I was drawn to the idea of improving consumers’ lives, and I also knew that marketing was one of the best places to be in order to become a general manager. Over those 18 years, I learned the foundation of my marketing and business skills, as well as shaped my leadership style with a lot of focus on developing and caring for people.

The second defining moment is one that positioned me as a transformational leader and catapulted my career. It required trusting my mentors and building my confidence. After returning from my third maternity leave, I was given the challenge to turn around a struggling hair color brand in Latin America. My mentors helped me to see that it represented an opportunity to make a difference, stay close to leaders that I admired and work in the beauty category, which I loved. I successfully led the turnaround, transforming both the business and the organization. To do this, I understood the business drivers, brought to life a purpose-driven Big Idea anchored on boosting women’s confidence, elevated the morale in my team by bringing in the right people, and building the right skills and capabilities to succeed. Those were the early years of digital and the beginning of a new type of influencer marketing in Latin America. We had a lot of fun. At the beginning it was not easy, especially because this was a category that I didn’t know before. I had to study, and listen, and be curious asking a lot of questions to understand the business dynamics and reaching out to the experts, but I ultimately built my expertise and confidence. This experience catapulted my career from a regional role to becoming a global leader, with the mission of expanding the successful model to other markets. This meant a bigger scope in the hair color and styling category, including a portfolio of brands with a presence in over 110 markets.

Soon after starting this global role there were discussions around a potential divestiture of the business, and with this the third defining moment that I want to share: leading through change and uncertainty. There were multiple conversations with my husband, my managers and mentors, and a temptation to explore other options to stay at the company. I kept course and trusted my expertise in the business to navigate the uncertainty in a way that could bring a bright future. I started to live under the mantra of “not waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance under the rain.” We continued the transformation journey delivering very strong results and developing the team. The discussions of the potential divestiture became a reality, and in the summer of 2016 and after nine years in Panama, I moved with my husband and our three kids to New York to become the global svp for the hair color and styling business at Coty. I started a whole new transformational journey both at a personal and professional level with my family and my team. At Coty, I had the opportunity to take my skills to the next level by leading a big cultural and organizational transformation, challenging the team to think of possibilities, breaking paradigms and reinventing the way we operated, becoming more agile in my decision-making and taking more and bigger risks.

It has been an exciting journey, and certainly not an easy one with multiple changes and uncertainty. Moving to New York has been the toughest one, completely taking us out of our comfort zone. Getting to a new country, new schools, new friends, embracing a new social and corporate culture, creating new family traditions, while staying true to who we are. This experience has also opened new and amazing opportunities for us. I believe that those are the type of experiences that shape us and make us better, stronger and more resilient. Each of the different challenges have added critical skills to my life toolbox. I also have to say that it takes a village. I have had an amazing support from my husband and kids, from my leaders and team players, as well as from amazing mentors that shared their expert advice and held my hand to keep going.

Proudest moment of 2019
A new beginning at the Estée Lauder Companies. As a purpose-driven person, with passion for boosting women’s confidence and caring for people, I found a home there. I’m proud to be a part of a company that is leading the way in the industry, and one that is rooted in long-held values of respect for the individual, inclusion and equality. The balance between the family values and a high-performance leadership approach highly resonates with me.

What I wanted to be when I was growing up
My mom and my dad are both civil engineers, so I grew up knowing that I wanted to be an engineer, combined with something related to design. I always loved math, physics and solving problems, and spent hours drawing and doing graphic designs. I remember my mom as a working mom and a great role model for me, and I always felt proud of my dad having his own business. I wanted to be a working mom and a boss.

Words to live by
“Don’t wait for the storm to pass. Learn to dance under the rain.” “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Listen, listen, listen and develop superpowers to listen to the word that is not said.

If I could change one thing in the world
After what we have lived over the past three months, I cannot think of only one thing. Here, I share some: more empathy and tolerance—more acceptance of our differences, more inclusion; more access to education; more respect for life.

Diversity and inclusion are key values for me. Different perspectives, disciplines and experiences are all recognized, respected and cultivated in my team. I have strong passion for supporting women’s growth. I stay close and establish personal relationships to get to know them better, listening to their needs, their passions, their interests and creating opportunities for them to move forward. I also stay close to men, and equally coach them on how to navigate some of the diversity challenges that women face. I help everyone on my team to manage and value their work-life integration.

Book that changed my life
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I took a philosophy elective class at university. We spent three months discussing the book. My favorite phrase: “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

My next big project/initiative/goal
This past year has brought many new experiences and challenges in all aspects of our family life: new job, new team, new house, new ways of working and social dynamics, and even new ways of interacting with our kids with school at home. We are living the present, taking the time to settle, to absorb, to focus on our core and to identify what that next big project is. I have many ideas, from giving more to the community to teaching and coaching or being part of a board. Maybe write a book.


Rita Ferro
President, Disney Advertising Sales, The Walt Disney Co.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Company

Proudest career moment of all time
The first time my family was able to watch me present on stage. I think they didn’t realize what I actually did at Disney until that moment.

Proudest moment of 2019
Being honored with the Frank Stanton Award by the Center for Communication. I was the first Latinx woman to receive the award.

Words to live by
As you rise, lift.

If I could change one thing in the world
Every child or person, regardless of race, gender or circumstance, would have an equal opportunity to realize their dreams.

Book that changed my life
Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, which speaks to making your childhood dreams a reality.

How I spend my downtime
With my family, and lately that means really experimenting a lot in the kitchen. I’ve been baking treats and making my way through my Cuban cookbook.

My go-to song
Lizzo’s “Good as Hell.”

My next big project/initiative/goal
Making sure I have a team that reflects the diverse audiences we serve and where diverse team members are thriving.

This story first appeared in the July 13, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

kristina.feliciano@adweek.com Kristina Feliciano is the features editor at Adweek.
Publish date: July 12, 2020 https://dev.adweek.com/brand-marketing/adweeks-women-trailblazers-talk-inspiration-career-milestones-and-future-victories/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT