You may already know this woman. Or you may already aspire to be this woman. She is someone who’s made an indelible impact, inspired her peers or otherwise influenced countless people around her. She is a Woman of Influence.
This year, SUCCESS cast an important initiative: to do more than just notice these women and their achievements. That wouldn’t be nearly enough. It’s only enough when we sing their praises loud enough for the whole world to hear. Which is why the Women of Influence awards were created.
Starting in March, nominations for the first-ever Women of Influence awards were collected from around the world. An esteemed panel of judges—women of influence in their own right—narrowed the nominees to a list of 50 award recipients, an inaugural class that spans myriad industries and backgrounds.
In showcasing these visionary women, SUCCESS hopes to start a real conversation, an ongoing conversation about why we should never overlook the women who never overlook a thing. And there’s no better time than right now, post-pandemic. “As we’ve started to reemerge, women are tearing down barriers and teaching companies how to better support them in the workforce, and we are showing up for one another in big ways to support each other personally and professionally,” Megan Bozzuto, president of the International Association of Women, remarked during a virtual summit on International Women’s Day in early 2022. “The collective energy we’ve seen at this summit showed me that our voices, leadership, empathy and brilliance will help women continue to make forward progress.”
And progressing forward means making more than statements. It means helping women bring other women to the forefront.
Some recent data from Pew Research has shown that women of influence are having a ripple effect on the women who are on their way to the top—not just on their inner circle of peers. According to the research, “the share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high of 7.4% in 2020, with 37 women heading major firms.” Additionally, “the share of women sitting on the boards of those Fortune 500 companies has been gradually increasing for decades as well, rising from 9.6% in 1995 to 27% in 2019.”
This year’s SUCCESS Women of Influence are the ones not only making massive strides and revolutionizing entire industries, but opening locked doors and paving the way for others to join them. At SUCCESS, the hope is that the ones who come next will do more of the same: influence people gradually yet consistently, until we can see the scope of that influence through an even wider lens.
To celebrate this effort, we’ve highlighted a selection of our extraordinary nominees across 10 different industries—and we’ve showcased some of the women, pioneers both modern and historic, who inspired these awards along the way.
What you’ll find throughout these pages is this: women as real as the workday they inhabit; women with an unwavering-but-compassionate work ethic; women with the drive to do what others have failed to. Perhaps they’ve leaned in to their potential, or leaned out for a reset. Whatever the case, these are women who have manifested their ethos, and we are here for it.
We hope you’ll join the conversation.
Arts & Culture
Poet and Author
Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is serving her third term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, with her signature project serving as an introduction to native poets. To date, Harjo has authored nine books of poetry, including the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise, several plays and children’s books, and two memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior.
As a musician and performer, Harjo has produced seven award-winning music albums. Currently, she performs with “her saxophone and flutes, solo and with pulled-together players she often calls the Arrow Dynamics Band,” according to her website. Her most recent album, released on March 5, 2021, is entitled I Pray for My Enemies.
Her many honors include the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two NEA fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, board of directors chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation and is the first artist-in-residence for the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Amanda Gorman: The first U.S. youth poet laureate put these words in our head, and the world is a better place because of her poem The Hill We Climb: “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Maya Angelou: The American poet is known for many things, but especially this: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Angelou is also the first Black woman to be on quarters issued by the U.S. Mint.
Georgia O’Keeffe: She was an American modernist artist who painted with vivid color and conviction. She is most well-known for her paintings of enlarged flowers along with landscapes and skyscrapers.
Health & Wellness
Ashley Graham is an American supermodel, designer, author and body activist whose influence has reshaped the fashion and media industries and redefined traditional beauty standards. Graham has worked in numerous areas of the fashion industry including editorial, catalog, runway, commercial, television and film. In February 2016, Graham made history as the first size 14 model to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swim. In January 2018, she became a brand ambassador for Revlon, making her the first curvy model of her generation to receive a major beauty contract.
Graham’s past work on television shows and music videos includes hosting a Body Proud series with Good Morning America and starring in the miniseries the Ashley Graham Project. Recently, Graham partnered with founder and CEO Joanna Griffiths to create Big. Strong. Woman. The short was released in February 2022, a week prior to women’s history month, as a discussion of the gender norms that challenge women.
She also hosts the Pretty Big Deal podcast and published her book A New Model in 2017.
Allyson Felix: Felix is the most decorated track and field Olympian in U.S. history. She’s also an activist and an entrepreneur with her Saysh brand of lifestyle sneakers designed for and by women.
Florence Nightingale Graham: This early adopter of skin-care revolutions set out to create her very own “beauty cream,” which ultimately evolved into international cosmetics empire Elizabeth Arden.
Sofia Jirau: There has never been a fashion model quite like Jirau before. The Puerto Rican beauty is the first model with Down syndrome to ever be hired by Victoria’s Secret.
Film director, screenwriter and producer
Chloé Zhao seized the world’s attention with her 2017 film The Rider, a sparse and stunning portrait of a struggling Native American family in South Dakota. And she did so again with Nomadland, for which she became the first Asian woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. With a compassionate eye, she deftly weaves together narrative and documentary in a way that captures the spirit of the characters’ inner selves, allowing viewers to see into their lives and truly understand them. Even her heartbreakingly beautiful objective shots are a reflection of the mind—deeply sad, yet incredibly kind. Zhao is a true gem of an artist. Her study of human beings searching for their place in the world is uniquely compelling. In a world of divisiveness, her vision is something precious.
Dolly Parton: This legendary country music icon and singer-songwriter has six decades of hits to her name. And she is as prolific a songwriter as she is a generous donor to an array of causes close to her heart.
Ava Duvernay: The writer, producer and director of independent films works to amplify the work of women and people of color. She lives every day with a reminder to grasp joy with both arms and embrace it like a great love.
Carol Burnett: One of America’s most beloved Funny Girls, Burnett broke ground and opened doors for women in comedy. The Carol Burnett Show had the world laughing out loud. She says that some of her most memorable sketches were because of the women in the writers’ room.
Aviator and Astronaut
At age 82, Wally Funk became the oldest woman to go to space on July 20, 2021, as part of Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft during its suborbital flight. But she had an acclaimed career in aerospace prior to that.
At 16 years old, Funk enrolled in the aviation program at Stephens College and became a part of the “Flying Susies.” Three years after graduating, she volunteered for the “Women in Space” program and, despite being underage for the program, became the youngest member of Mercury 13. While the women endured—and excelled at—the same tests as the men, the Mercury 13 program was canceled when it was announced only men would be going to space.
Funk continued to break barriers with her career even as she dreamed of being able to go to space. She was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill and she was the first female Federal Aviation Agency inspector.
Rita Moreno: The Puerto Rican-born American actress, dancer and singer was the epitome of old Hollywood. She was and still is a game-changing advocate when it comes to inclusivity in the arts.
Jane Goodall: The famed anthropologist and chimpanzee expert believes women make better and more patient observers in the field than men.
Katherine Johnson: For Johnson, one of the first Black women to work as a NASA scientist, it actually was rocket science. The mathematician’s calculations at NASA pioneered the way the space agency operated.
Amber Venz Box
President of LTK
A recognized style creator, Amber Venz Box conceptualized and launched rewardStyle (now LTK) alongside her now-husband Baxter Box at the age of 23 as a solution to monetize her fashion blog, Venzedits. Her experience in almost every niche of the fashion industry—shop girl, editorial stylist, fit model, retail buyer and jewelry designer—provided a unique perspective in crafting the proprietary tools that would fuel LTK’s global success.
LTK is a combination of Venz Box’s companies rewardStyle and LiketoKnowIt, the name of both her website—launched in 2014—and an app launched in 2017. In 2021, the companies combined under the umbrella of LTK. The process for taking on influencers is still as selective as it was when the company was called rewardStyle, but well worth it. Influencers are trained in planning posts, creating content and attracting audiences, among other things.
A three-time featured keynote speaker at SXSW, she has been named in Forbes 30 Under 30, Inc. magazine’s Most Influential Millennials, the Business of Fashion 500 and Entrepreneur magazine’s 15 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch.
Sara Blakely: If you’ve ever worn SPANX, you have Blakely to thank for her revolutionary slimming idea that has made her one of the world’s youngest female self-made billionaires.
Kendra Scott: She is the designer and founder of her own line of jewelry and retail spaces. “We make a choice to see the good in every day,” Scott says. “When we see the good that’s possible, together, we can create it.”
Suzy Batiz: The creator of Poo-Pourri—the before-you-go toilet spray—and self-taught entrepreneur thinks of herself as a master artist of ideas, potential and energy.
Founder of Hello Fears
Michelle Poler is the founder of Hello Fears, a social movement that has reached more than 70 million people worldwide and empowered thousands to step outside their comfort zone and tap into their full potential. The movement was inspired by a project she embarked on, entitled 100 Days Without Fear.
In 2014, as a student pursuing a master’s degree, her class was given an assignment to create a project lasting 100 days. Due to “the frustration of not enjoying this city and life in general to the fullest,” Poler chose fear as a subject. Over the course of 100 days, Poler tasked herself with facing 100 fears—a project that culminated in a TEDx speech in 2015.
After her 100-day experience and the subsequent building of a social movement, Poler published her first book, Hello, Fears, in 2020. Her work has been featured on The TODAY show, Forbes, CBS, CNN, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Telemundo, Glamour, Elle and Refinery29 among many others.
Glennon Doyle: Doyle has done many things, and written many best-sellers, but it’s her work with her all-women-led nonprofit organization Together Rising that is making a difference for women and families in crisis.
Brené Brown: The social worker turned professor, lecturer, author and podcast host has written six best-selling books and has filmed a lecture for Netflix, The Call to Courage. She often cites her sobriety as her superpower.
Mel Robbins: Robbins wants to teach you how to improve your life one decision at a time. She encourages the invisible (often women) to become visible: at work, at home and everywhere in between. Her advice? Don’t confuse kindness with being a doormat.
Founder of Shondaland
Shonda Rhimes is an award-winning television creator, producer and author. She is also the CEO of Shondaland, the global media company that encompasses brand partnerships, merchandise, theatrical and streaming content and a digital division. In 2017, Rhimes shifted the entertainment industry’s business model when she left network television and brokered an unprecedented agreement for Shondaland to produce streaming content exclusively in partnership with Netflix. She has twice been included on the TIME 100 list of most influential people as well as Fortune magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. In 2018, Rhimes was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
Indra Nooyi: The Indian-American business executive and former CEO of PepsiCo is also the author of the best-selling book My Life in Full, which documents her career and the sacrifices it so often demanded.
Mary Barra: The CEO of General Motors made a bold move in 2022 when she shifted GM’s production lines to help Ventec Life Systems make ventilators, setting an example for other manufacturers to step up to help during the pandemic.
Jane Fraser: The CEO of Citi, the world’s most global bank, is the first female to land that coveted spot—and has been a loyal asset at Citi since starting with the firm nearly 20 years ago.
Future of Work
Whitney Wolfe Herd
Founder and CEO of Bumble
Whitney Wolfe Herd is the founder and CEO of Bumble. Prior to founding Bumble in 2014, Herd was a co-founder of Tinder, an online dating app, where she served as vice president of marketing from May 2012 to April 2014. After a tense exit from Tinder, Herd’s intention was a positivity-only social site, not a dating app. It was Andre Andreev who convinced her otherwise, but a major focus of the app remained creating a positive experience for female users. Two years after Bumble was founded, BumbleBFF—to find friendships—was launched, with Bumble Bizz—meant to help its users network—added on a year later.
Her hard work paid off, as Herd became the youngest self-made female billionaire in 2021. Additionally, at 32 years old she has become the 33rd richest self-made woman, according to Forbes.
Currently, Herd serves on the board of directors of Imagine Entertainment as well as the executive board at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international studies.
Dr. Sally Ride: After becoming the first American woman to fly in space, Ride’s mission was to inspire young people and motivate more students—especially girls and minorities—to stick with STEM.
Kathryn “Katie” Haun: Founder of Haun Ventures, Haun’s firm is helping build the next generation of the internet. Her intent is to step outside of her comfort zone and turn not fitting the mold into an asset.
Bozoma Saint John: The top-level marketing executive is committed to her motto, “I live out loud.” She says she is redefining badassery in her journey of life, and her memoir The Urgent Life is due out late this year.
Venus and Serena Williams
Professional Tennis Players
They arrived like an earthquake that shook the foundation of the country club atmosphere of tennis, a one-two punch of unnaturally gifted, unapologetically Black athletes who gained victories at the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. But while Venus and Serena Williams changed the face of the sport as they progressed from upstarts to unquestioned champions to revered veterans, they remained unchanged in their devotion to one another. Their sisterly love has lifted them through personal challenges, public failures and numerous heated battles for on-court bragging rights.
Currently, Serena has begun her return to tennis after a year-long absence. While she intends to play at Wimbledon this year—this time as a “wild card” entry—her sister has only confirmed that she intends to return to tennis, but has so far remained quiet as to when.
Sue Bird: The WNBA standout is an American-Israeli professional basketball player for the Seattle Storm and one half of a sports power couple with soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
Simone Biles: Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history. The Olympic gold medalist is also the co-author of her autobiography Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance.
Chloe Kim: She is not only a two-time Olympic snowboarding gold medalist, but also the inspiration for a Barbie Shero made to honor Kim and other women who have broken boundaries in their fields.
Founder of The Budgetnista
Tiffany Aliche, founder of The Budgetnista, is an award-winning teacher of financial education and America’s favorite personal financial educator. Her book Get Good with Money is a New York Times best-seller, and in 2020 she forayed into children’s books with Happy Birthday Mali Moore.
According to her website, it is education which serves as the driving force behind The Budgetnista. Not only did she found the Live Richer Academy, through which members can learn from financial experts and Aliche herself about personal finances, but she also helped to write a bill. In 2019, Aliche and Angela McKnight wrote a bill requiring financial literacy instruction through eighth grade which later became Law A1414 in New Jersey.
To date, Aliche has helped more than 1 million women worldwide completely transform the way they think about their finances. Additionally, she blogs regularly about personal finance on The Budgetnista blog and co-hosts a top-rated and award-winning financial podcast, Brown Ambition.
Sallie Krawcheck: She is the CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, a digital financial adviser for women, making her unabashedly passionate about putting more money into the hands of more women.
Christine Lagarde: She is the well-known current president of the European Central Bank, and it’s rumored her unassailable elegance and authority were Meryl Streep’s inspiration for her character in The Devil Wears Prada.
Mellody Hobson: The co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments holds board positions at Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase. She recently told Harper’s BAZAAR, “I want to make sure that wherever I am I share power.”
Meet The Judges
This year, six women—all members of the SUCCESS 125 Anniversary Awards—narrowed down the nominees for our inaugural class of 50 Women of Influence.
Candy Valentino was originally from a tiny, rural town and started her multimillion-dollar business at 19 years old with no degree, no corporate background, no money and no internet. She successfully started, scaled and sold businesses in addition to creating a vast real estate portfolio as a flipper and investor. At the age of 26, Valentino began to focus on a life of contribution by founding the nonprofit Animal Friends Sanctuary.
Elena Cardone is the author of the best-selling book Build an Empire: How to Have it All and is the executive producer of both the annual 10X ladies event and Build an Empire mastermind events. Drawing upon her vast experience, Cardone has developed her own curriculum to assist aspiring empire builders. Her “Build an Empire” course and one-on-one coaching provide clients with the tools to create their own success.
Kim Perell started her first company from her kitchen table, became a multimillionaire by the time she was 30 and sold her last company for $235 million. A great believer in paying it forward, Perell loves to help aspiring entrepreneurs achieve success and has invested in more than 90 startups. Her most recent book, Jump: Dare to Do What Scares You in Business and Life, is a Wall Street Journal bestseller.
Mally Roncal is a celebrity makeup artist and the founder of cosmetics line Mally Beauty. She is an author, motivational speaker and TV beauty expert. A self-proclaimed spiritual cheerleader and positivity preacher, Roncal seeks to help people feel their best both inside and out. Likewise, her book Love, Lashes and Lipstick: My Secrets for a Gorgeous, Happy Life provides tips for both looking your best and becoming more empowered and self-assured.
Lisa Bilyeu is the co-founder of the revolutionary Impact Theory Studios and billion-dollar brand Quest Nutrition alongside her husband, Tom. Her first book, entitled Radical Confidence: 10 No-BS Lessons on Becoming the Hero of Your Own Life, was published on May 10. It is the no-holds-barred, hilarious and inspiring story of how she went from unfulfilled housewife to co-founding billion-dollar Quest Nutrition and transitioning to an influential voice for women’s empowerment.
Patrice Washington is committed to teaching a holistic approach to life while redefining the term “wealth” back to its original meaning, “well-being.” Washington got her start as “America’s Money Maven,” but has since expanded her mission to encourage people to chase purpose, not money. Through her spirit-led teachings and intuitive guidance, Washington empowers her community to look at life through the lens of abundance and opportunity instead of lack and scarcity.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photos: ©Matikawilbur; Lev Radin; Gennaro Leonard/Shutterstock.com; Joe Raedle; David M. Benett/Getty Images; Courtesy of Poler; D Free/Shutterstock.com; Lev Radin/Shutterstock.com; Emma McIntyre/Getty Images; ©Tinneta Bell