10 Trailblazing Women Paving the Way for a Better Future

UPDATED: March 8, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 8, 2024
Davielle Jackson trailblazing women 2024

From clearing criminal records for second chances to supporting cancer survivors with delivered self-care goods, these 10 women are creating their own industry niches. Read on to learn more about these trailblazing women and the work they’re doing to pave the way for a better future.

Sheena Meade, CEO of The Clean Slate Initiative

Sheena Meade, CEO of The Clean Slate Initiative. Trailblazing women.
Photo courtesy of The Clean Slate Initiative

Sheena Meade “leads a national bipartisan organization to advance policy that automatically clears all eligible arrest and conviction records across the US,” according to CSI’s website. Through grassroots organizing, she unites politicians to address critical justice issues and organizes national voter registration drives, where she’s worked with artists such as Lady Gaga and John Legend. Her own journey of resilience started from teenage motherhood and surviving domestic violence to becoming an executive and mom of five.

Impact: CSI has helped pass legislation providing a path for 6 million people to receive full or partial record clearance, which can allow people to have a fresh start. This can lead to future employment opportunities, the right to vote again or simply the feeling of a clean slate.

Interesting fact: Meade’s TED2023 Talk, titled “How ‘Second Chance’ Laws Could Transform the U.S. Justice System,” has over a million views.

Words of wisdom: “As a leader, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, nor do you need to know everything. But you must have a clear vision and surround yourself with people who know how to get the job done and who can manifest your vision.” 

Elizabeth Chambers, owner of Bird bakery

Elizabeth Chambers, owner of Bird bakery. Trailblazing women
Photo courtesy of Lilliana Story Photographer

The founder and CEO of Bird bakery, TV host and journalist is slated to produce and host a new Investigation Discovery show about toxic and traumatic relationships. (Her divorce from actor Armie Hammer was settled in 2023 after 10 years of marriage.) Elizabeth Chambers has also served as a guest judge on various Food Network shows, including Cupcake Wars: Celebrity, and appears regularly on Today.

Impact: Her San Antonio bakery has expanded to four locations across the country and in Grand Cayman. At the end of the day, remaining treats go to local nonprofits.

Interesting fact: Chambers received an outstanding alumni award from the Moody School of Communication at her alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin. “It was presented to me by Dan Rather, which basically made my entire life. I have so much respect for that man.”

Words of wisdom: “If you ask for something and the answer’s ‘no,’ that’s just a great place to start.” —her mother

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Dr. Whitney Casares, pediatrician and founder of Modern Mommy Doc

Whitney Casares, Modern Mommy. Trailblazing women
Photo courtesy of Ashlie Behm Photography

Maternal child health care expert Dr. Casares founded Modern Mommy Doc, where she teaches career-minded moms to prioritize what matters most to them and to stop letting their to-do lists define them. She leads workshops for working mom groups and is the author of Doing It All: Stop Over-Functioning and Become the Mom and Person You’re Meant to Be.

Impact: She serves over 31,000 moms on her virtual platform, sees thousands of moms each year in her clinical practice and has sold over 17,000 copies of her last two books. Casares is leading the charge into a new type of work-life balance, including boundary setting and creating workplaces that serve parents—not the other way around.

Interesting fact: Though her new book is about doing it all, she herself has done quite a bit. She’s been to a concert on each Beyoncé tour since 2004, has a personal record of reading seven novels on a four-day vacation, has lived in 10 places in 10 years and completed five half-marathons.

Words of wisdom: “It looks like it’s a man’s world, but women really run it.” —her mother

Laura Hendricks, cancer survivor and nonprofit co-founder of Luminaries

Laura Hendricks Luminaries Co Founder trailblazing women
Photo courtesy of Laura Hendricks

Hendricks survived acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer. Now, she helps other cancer survivors through her nonprofit survivorship program, Luminaries, delivering science-backed self-care kits to cancer survivors’ doorsteps.

Impact: Alongside her husband and co-founder, Brock, she has supported survivors by delivering over 4,000 kits to their doorsteps in addition to forming partnerships with like-minded brands such as Instacart.

Interesting fact: The nonprofit has assisted over 1,500 survivors across North America who are financially burdened or living in communities underserved by the health care system.

Words of wisdom: “One of my first female competitive swim coaches told me: ‘You are stronger than you know, and you can do anything if you put your mind to it.’ I believed I could beat my disease and be a survivor from the moment I was diagnosed. I know this is one of the reasons I am still here today.”

Lauren Sanchez Gilbert, Ed.D., CEO of BellXcel

Lauren Sanchez Gilbert, CEO of BellXcel. Trailblazing women
Photo courtesy of Lauren Sanchez Gilbert

As CEO of nonprofit BellXcel, Sanchez Gilbert helps schools and organizations with solutions and resources to advance the quality of youth experiences outside of the school day. It provides everything needed to start a youth program from scratch or to improve a current one, from software upgrades to online enrollment to family communication apps, through a software program called Arly. YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs and libraries are often Arly users, but it can work for other programs too.

Impact: Through her leadership, BellXcel has reached nearly a half-million children in 35+ states by making after-school programming accessible.

Interesting fact: As a single mom, Sanchez Gilbert learned to prioritize time with her daughter by being present in her active sports life.

Words of wisdom: “Not everyone will like you or what you’re doing. It is more important to be respected than liked, and one must be careful not to confuse the two.” —her mother

Sofie Roux, CEO of BloomBox Design Labs

Sofie Roux, CEO of BloomBox Design Labs. Trailblazing women
Photo courtesy of Sofie Roux

A sophomore at Stanford University, 19-year-old Roux is transforming education accessibility for girls and women across the globe. BloomBoxes, crafted from repurposed shipping containers, provide solar power access to computers in Malawi.

Impact: Through strategic collaborations with government ministries, nongovernmental organizations, private sector partners and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, BloomBox Design Labs is on a path to scale their impact by installing 70 additional BloomBoxes across Malawi. So far, three BloomBoxes have been installed, serving over 5,000 students.

Interesting fact: As a freshman, Roux presented at Stanford’s BASES’ $100,000 Startup Challenge. She made a case for girls’ education and off-grid architecture and was selected as the winner in the sustainability category.

Words of wisdom: “Every day, my mom has shown me the power of small routines—start early, eat a healthy breakfast, respond quickly, break complex problems down, be resilient and brave in pursuing things that matter—to navigate life’s chaotic moments and to move forward even in times of doubt or uncertainty.”

Davielle Jackson, founder and president of Femi Secrets

Davielle Jackson, founder and president of Femi Secrets. Trailblazing women
Photo courtesy of Davielle Jackson

As a scientist and CEO of Femi Secrets, Davielle Jackson created a patented disposable sanitary panty and a new health app (set to release later this year) that allows women to help track and find a preventative cure for fibroids. By age 50, up to 80% of women will have experienced uterine fibroids at some point, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Fibroids can push against the uterine lining, leading to a host of difficult symptoms. For some, this time can be exceptionally disruptive to daily life. A disposable, noninvasive, chemical-free panty helps ease the discomfort of fibroids and other medical conditions, such as infections.

Impact: Fem Tech is slated to reach $1 billion by 2025, according to company revenues and predicted growth.

Interesting fact: Jackson is from a small Louisiana town where she spent her days riding horses and catching chickens, she says.

Words of wisdom: “If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.” —her mother

Melinda Alexander, mom, stylist, shop owner, body positivity and social justice activist

Melinda Alexander
Photo courtesy of Eric Allen Photo

Melinda Alexander owns the size-inclusive vintage shop MuMu Mansion in Los Angeles. She used to work as a stylist where she helped launch plus-size brands and also did personal wardrobe consulting for people during life transitions. She believes in the “transformative power” of clothing and also in increasing access to plus-size clothes in an otherwise hard-to-find market (especially if it’s vintage).

Impact: As a plus-size woman, Alexander understands the common struggle of finding clothing that fits and inspires confidence. Her greatest reward has been seeing the delight on shoppers’ faces when they discover clothing that not only fits but is cute.

Interesting fact: The name MuMu Mansion came from Melinda’s shared love of beautiful things with her grandmother. The shop is an embodiment of their relationship with a little bit of magic and a lot of style.

Words of wisdom: “My late grandmother was my greatest source of inspiration. Though she passed away just two weeks after I opened the shop, her life served as a vivid example of resilience, self-prioritization and personal style.… She made me believe anything was possible… and not in the married, children and picket fence kind of way.”

Tracee Perryman, Ph.D. author, CEO and co-founder of Center of Hope Family Services Inc.

Dr. Tracee Perryman
Photo courtesy of Joshua Ball: The Vanity Studios

Tracee Perryman, author of Elevating Women Leaders: Stories of Strength, Survival and Success, is helping women flourish through her leadership as CEO and co-founder of Center of Hope Family Services, an organization working to improve outcomes for families living in urban areas.

Impact: Perryman’s leadership has led Toledo, Ohio’s ELEVATE! after-school program to win statewide awards for literacy enrichment. The program helped quadruple the number of students reading at grade level in one of the city’s lowest-performing schools.

Interesting fact: Perryman is a songwriter and musical performer who has written and recorded over 20 songs.

Words of wisdom: “Don’t wait until you achieve a certain status, a certain position or you have a certain amount of money. Live NOW!” —her mother

Lauren Smith Brody, CEO of The Fifth Trimester and co-founder of the Chamber of Mothers

Lauren Smith Brody
Photo courtesy of Michelle Rose Sulcov

As a journalist, advocate, entrepreneur and author, Lauren Smith Brody works to bridge the private and public sectors for working moms and caregivers through public policy solutions and gender equality.

Impact: Smith Brody’s businesses, The Fifth Trimester and the Chamber of Mothers, grew out of her book, The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Success After Baby, which has empowered women to negotiate the support they need to stay in the workforce. She has given women a community, and the ripple effect has been instrumental in keeping women in the pipeline to leadership, decreasing gender discrimination and improving the gender wage gap.

Interesting fact: As a recovering “girlboss,” Brody is an advocate for gender equity and transparency at work. 

Words of wisdom: “My friend, Lisa Sun, taught me to always ask people: ‘What do you really want to be doing?’ She asked me that very question years ago, and within days, I had trademarked ‘the fifth trimester’ and started dreaming up ways for a book to grow into my next career.”

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo courtesy of Davielle Jackson.