If you’re a leader looking for someone to inspire your team, or for a notable person to motivate your company during tough times, these highly-focused, professional women will help take things to the next level.
The list below features just some of the high-achieving women, from across the worlds of business, athletics and entertainment that will give you and your associates the tools needed to create a competitive advantage. These leaders have stayed relentless in their commitment to making a difference (digitally and virtually for now) and have found their voices needed more than ever. Many have incredible personal stories to tell, and are sure to inspire. I have ranked this list in no particular order.
40. Libby Gill
Libby Gill grew up on two continents and went to eight different schools before putting herself through college waiting tables. Starting her career as an assistant at Embassy Communications, a television company founded by the legendary Norman Lear, Libby survived three mergers to become head of publicity, advertising, and promotion for Sony’s worldwide television group in just five years.
39. Carla Harris
Carla Harris is a Vice Chairman, Managing Director, and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. She is responsible for increasing client connectivity and penetration to enhance revenue generation across the firm. In August 2013, Harris was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council. She is a top finance keynote speaker and was named to Fortune’s list of 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America. She is also the author of Strategize To Win.
38. Colonel Nicole Malachowski
Colonel Nicole Malachowski served as a mission-ready fighter pilot in three operational F-15E fighter squadrons and has flown more than 188 combat hours in both Operation Deliberate Forge and Operation Iraqi Freedom. She served in combat as an F-15E Flight Commander, F-15E Evaluator, Instructor Pilot, and Flight Lead. Upon her medical retirement, she voluntarily authored recommendations to the Air Force’s Chief of Staff on how to improve the support of the Air Force’s wounded, ill, and injured, specifically those patients enduring complex and chronic illnesses. She has turned her extraordinary challenges into an opportunity and found a new mission advocating for other patients of tick-borne disease. Nicole is a top virtual keynote speaker.
37. Dr. Natalie Stavas
Dr. Natalie Stavas is a physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She completed her training at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University. On April 15, 2013, Dr. Stavas approached the finish line of her fifth Boston marathon. Just blocks away, she heard explosions and ran toward the noise. Arriving at the carnage scene, she went to work administering CPR, applying tourniquets, and triaging the wounded.
Following her actions, President Barack Obama, Katie Couric, and Anderson Cooper honored her for her efforts. Improper Bostonian magazine named Dr. Stavas one of “Boston’s Best” and The Boston Globe awarded her the “2013 Bostonian of the Year” award — an honor bestowed upon those that shape the biggest story of the year. She delivers a keynote speech about her experience as a first responder and what ultimately led her to make that fateful decision to run toward a terrorist attack.
36. Annie Duke
Annie Duke is an author, corporate speaker, and consultant in the decision-making space. She is author of the book, How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices due to launch in September 2020. As a former professional poker player, Annie won over $4 million in tournament poker games before retiring from the game in 2012. As a speaker to business and professional groups since 2002, Annie Duke combines her experience as a professional poker player with the most advanced thinking on decision making, integrating psychology, economics, game theory, and neuroscience.
35. Tan Le
Tan Le is a top innovation and business keynote speaker, technology entrepreneur, author, and Founder and CEO of EMOTIV. She has won numerous awards, including Young Australian of the Year in 1998, Australia’s 30 Most Successful Women Under 30, Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company in 2010, and Forbes 50 Names You Need to Know in 2011.
34. Risha Grant
Risha Grant is a top diversity, and inclusion keynote speaker, Founder and CEO of Risha Grant LLC, an award-winning diversity consulting and communications firm, and author of That’s B.S.! How Bias Synapse Disrupts Inclusive Cultures. She has been awarded numerous honors, such as the 2019 Top 100 HR Influencers, 2018 Inclusive Leadership Award, Entrepreneur of the Year 2017, One of Four to Watch by the Tulsa World, one of the Most Influential African Americans, and one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurs by Engage Magazine.
33. Marissa Orr
Marissa Orr is a top leadership keynote speaker, former Google and Facebook executive, and the bestselling author of Lean Out. She spent 15 years working at many top tech giants and has conducted talks for thousands of people in the U.S., Europe, and Asia-Pacific, at companies and universities such as Google, Twitter, Pace University, New School, and American Express.
32. Natalie Nixon
Natalie Nixon is a top change management virtual keynote speaker, consultant, strategy, foresight, and innovation expert. As president and Founder of Figure 8 Thinking, she advises leaders on unique approaches for process transformation and leveraging creativity as an innovation resource to more rapidly achieve priority business goals.
She is a global speaker and the author of The Creativity Leap: Unleash Curiosity, Improvisation, and Intuition at Work; the editor of Strategic Design Thinking: Innovation in Products, Services, Experiences, and Beyond; and a regular contributor to Inc. magazine on creativity, design thinking and the future of work.
31. Barb Stegemann
Barb Stegemann is a top motivational virtual keynote speaker, social entrepreneur, one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, and the Founder of 7 Virtues. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen, which has empowered women (and men) to launch companies, run for public office, and end bullying.
She became known to millions of Canadians when she became the first woman from Atlantic Canada to land a venture-capital deal on the CBC TV show Dragons’ Den. She went on to become the “Top Game Changer” in the show’s history for creating her social enterprise. As a keynote speaker, Stegemann has opened for Erin Brockovich, and is often invited to moderate panels and attend events as a delegate with world leaders.
30. Nadja West
Nadja West is the first African American Surgeon General, first African American woman 3-star General in the Army, and the highest-ranking woman to graduate from West Point. She has more than 20 years of experience in executive leadership, crisis management, and disaster response and was instrumental in crafting the DOD medical response to the Ebola crisis. West was named one of Washington’s Most Powerful Women by Washingtonian Magazine. She speaks on how to lead teams through times of uncertainty and crisis effectively.
29. Bethenny Frankel
Bethenny Frankel is a self-made businesswoman, T.V. producer, multiple New York Times bestselling author, and mother. Bethenny recently made a multi-year deal with MGM Television and Mark Burnett to generate unscripted television projects that she will produce. Bethenny is the Founder & CEO of Skinnygirl, a lifestyle brand offering practical solutions to women. A sought-after speaker, Frankel has delivered her empowering message to hundreds of audiences around the globe. She is also a five-time New York Times bestselling author.
28. Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour
Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour is a top inspirational speaker, America’s first African-American female combat pilot, and the author of Zero to Breakthrough. FlyGirl’s fresh, edgy style, high, contagious energy and unique, gutsy essence jump off the stage, page, and screen and moves people to action.
After completing two tours in Iraq, Armour left the military and launched VAI Consulting and Training. She generated more than six-figures in revenue within the first 12 months and over a million in the first five years by applying her Zero to Breakthrough™ Success Model. She reveals her process and philosophy to help leaders, teams, and organizations adopt a “breakthrough mentality.” Outlining a variety of fundamentals, she provides critical examples and insight on how a mission-focused mindset can lead to success and achievement.
27. Liz Wiseman
Liz Wiseman is a top leadership keynote speaker, researcher, and executive advisor who teaches leadership to executives worldwide. She is the author of New York Times bestseller Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools, and Wall Street Journal bestseller Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work. She is the CEO of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research, and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley, California. Some of her recent clients include Apple, AT&T, Disney, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Salesforce, Tesla, and Twitter. Wiseman has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and, in 2019, was recognized as one of the top leadership thinkers in the world.
26. Jane Chen
Jane Chen is a top entrepreneur speaker and the co-founder and CEO of Embrace, a social enterprise that aims to help the 15 million premature and low birth-weight babies born every year, through a low-cost infant warmer. Her innovative idea takes the place of costly and technical incubators, allowing her technology to reach more remote villages around the world. Embrace Innovations recently launched a new line of baby products, Little Lotus, using the Embrace technology for the U.S. market.
She was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, a TED Fellow, Echoing Green Fellow, and Rainer Arnhold Fellow. She is a recipient of the Economist Innovation Award and Fast Company Innovation Award, and also recognized as Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the World Economic Forum.
25. Heather Monahan
Heather Monahan is a best-selling author, top inspirational keynote speaker, entrepreneur, and Founder of Boss In Heels. Having successfully climbed the corporate ladder for nearly 20 years, she broke the glass ceiling and claimed her spot in the C-suite. As a chief revenue officer in media, Monahan is a Glass Ceiling Award winner, was named one of the Most Influential Women in Radio in 2017, with Thrive Global naming her a Limit Breaking Female Founder in 2018. Her new book Confidence Creator shot to #1 on Amazon’s Business Biographies, and Business Motivation lists the first week it debuted on Amazon. Heather is a confidence expert and is currently working with Fortune 500 companies and professional sports to develop confidence in the workplace and on the court.
24. Rinat Sherzer
Rinat Sherzer is an interdisciplinary social entrepreneur, biotech engineer & experience designer. Working at the intersection of tech, design & social good. She has over 12 years of product design and entrepreneurial experience.
She lectures on Social Innovation and Human-Centered Design in various universities: Parsons, Cornell, Columbia University, and CCS. Her biggest passion is working towards a society with equal rights for all and believes the path to equality lies in collaboration. She recently gave a TEDx Talk that demonstrates a radical framework to achieve this, while de-shaming the female period. Sherzer mentors women from all over the world, helping them reclaim their power.
23. Amy Mahjoory
Amy Mahjoory is an expert real estate investor & educator, HGTV personality, best-selling author, networking coach, and top entrepreneur keynote speaker. For the past 21 years, she has studied the art of strategic networking. Before pursuing her passion for entrepreneurship, Mahjoory was a highly recognized global leader in procurement, logistics, and operations management for Dell.
22. Amanda Gore
Amanda Gore is a top emotional intelligence keynote speaker and best-selling author. She uses emotional intelligence principles to transform the spirit of people and cultures by changing perceptions, improving relationships, connecting people, managing change, leadership, innovation, and team dynamics. She understands that getting down to business isn’t all about targets and optimizing click-throughs. The heart and profit center of every business is about how people think, and consequently, feel about themselves; and how they make others feel. How we feel about a personal or business relationship informs every part of our decision to invest with them. Her action-packed performances offer an abundance of use-it-now tools to create deep, lasting relationships at every level — with family, customers, colleagues, and clients.
21. Jessica Matthews
Jessica Matthews is the founder and CEO of Uncharted Power, an award-winning power and data infrastructure technology company that develops infrastructure solutions for communities, facilities, and the Internet of Things. She was invited by President Barack Obama to the White House to represent small companies for the signing of the America Invents Act in 2012 and currently serves as an Ambassador of Entrepreneurship for Nigeria. In 2016, she raised the largest Series A ever by a black woman founder in history and was selected to ring the NASDAQ opening ceremony bell. Matthews inspires audiences to use innovation and disruptive technology to power the needs of people, businesses, and communities worldwide.
20. Aditee Prabhakar
Aditee Prabhakar is a scholar of future studies, an architect and urban planner. She is a research fellow conducting studies on the exchange between culture and city planning in ancient Silk Road cities at the Qazaq Research Institute for Future Studies (QRIFS) at Narxoz University. She is a Ph.D. Scholar in the Department of Architecture, Town and Regional Planning, at the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology in Shibpur, India. She is pursuing her Ph. D. in “Systems Approach for Special Planning of Human Settlements” by utilizing deep experience in sustainable architecture and planning to focus on ecologically fragile areas.
19. Dambisa Moyo
Dambisa Moyo is a pre-eminent thinker, who influences key decision-makers in strategic investment and public policy. She is respected for her unique perspectives, balance of contrarian thinking with measured judgment, and her ability to turn economic insight into investible ideas. She was named as Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World; has published in the Financial Times, WSJ, Barrons, and Harvard Business Review, and traveled to 65 countries.
18. Laila Ali
Laila Ali is a world-class athlete, fitness and wellness advocate, TV host, home chef, founder of the Laila Ali Lifestyle Brand, and mother of two. She is heralded as the most successful female in the history of women’s boxing. In 2012 when women’s boxing was included in the Olympics, Ali was the first woman to provide expert commentary for NBC Sports. She speaks about the importance of empowering young women — to find their strength, spirit, and power from within.
17. Patty Azzarello
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker, and CEO/business advisor. She has more than 25 years of experience working in high tech and business and held leadership roles in management, marketing, software product development, and sales. She has successfully run and transformed large and small companies and has significant international management experience. Azzarello is the Founder of Azzarello Group, which works with CEOs and leadership teams to help their companies (and people) get better at what they do. She is also the author of the bestseller: RISE: 3 Practical Steps to Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader (and Liking Your Life), and MOVE: How Decisive Leaders Execute Strategy Despite Obstacles, Setbacks, and Stalls.
16. Bridget Brennan
Bridget Brennan is CEO of the strategic consultancy, Female Factor, and author of several groundbreaking books. She is the world’s most sought-after speaker on engaging women as customers and decision-makers. She addresses audiences all over the world and has spoken on nearly every continent. Brennan has served as an instructor at Northwestern University’s Medill School graduate program in Integrated Marketing Communications, and as a guest lecturer at many universities and business schools, including the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Brennan is based in Chicago.
15. Minda Harts
Minda Harts is a well-connected, sought-after speaker and thought-leader who frequently speaks on topics of advancing women of color, leadership, diversity, and entrepreneurship. In 2018, she was named one of 25 Emerging Innovators by American Express. Harts is an assistant professor of public service of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the Founder of The Memo LLC, a career development company for women of color. She was also chosen by the General Assembly to serve as one of their Dream Mentors, alongside women such as Cindy Gallop. Secure The Seat is her weekly career podcast for women of color.
14. Crystal Washington
Crystal Washington works with organizations that want to leverage technology to increase profits and productivity — social media, apps, smartphones, and the web. Hired by companies such as Google, Microsoft, and G.E., companies in North America, Africa, and Europe book Washington when they want their teams to take action online.
She has appeared in numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Forbes, and is regularly called on by major television networks as a tech expert. Before becoming a professional speaker, she owned a successful social media consulting firm. Before that, she worked in revenue management and corporate sales, where she managed several Fortune 500 accounts and repeatedly broke company sales records while still in her early 20s. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and is a Certified Speaking Professional. Washington is also a certified futurist as a member of the Association of Professional Futurists and the World Future Society.
13. Blake Morgan
Blake Morgan is a leader in customer experience. She is a keynote speaker and customer experience futurist and author of two books on customer experience. She has worked with Comcast, Allstate, Genentech, Accor Hotels, Accenture, Adobe, Cisco, Parker Hannifin, Ericsson, Verizon, and more. Blake is a guest lecturer at Columbia University, the University of California, San Diego, and the adjunct faculty at the Rutgers executive education MBA program. Morgan contributes to Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, and Hemispheres Magazine. She is the host of The Modern Customer Podcast, The Be Your Own Boss Podcast, and a weekly customer experience video series on YouTube.
12. Susan Packard
Susan Packard has been on the ground floor and helped build powerhouse media brands like HBO, CNBC, and HGTV. She was the co-founder of Scripps Networks Interactive and former chief operating officer of HGTV. Under Packard’s helm, HGTV became one of the fastest-growing cable networks in television history. Today HGTV is available in more than 98 million U.S. homes and distributed in over 200 countries and territories. Packard helped to build Scripps Networks Interactive to a market value of over $15 billion. In December of 2019, she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from Michigan State University.
11. JJ DiGeronimo
JJ DiGeronimo, President of Tech Savvy Women, is one of the most highly regarded speakers, authors, and executive strategists to attract, retain, and advance professional women. She navigated her way from entry-level positions to top-level leadership roles within leading technology companies. She now shares the strategies and insights that helped her accelerate her career with her audiences. She shares her insights and discoveries with many corporations and women’s organizations across the nation, tapping into her experience to forge a meaningful connection with every audience.
10. Lavinia Errico
Lavinia Errico, the visionary Founder behind Equinox Fitness Clubs, is a nationally acclaimed workplace and wellness entrepreneur and speaks on various topics: values-driven entrepreneurship, developing next-generation leadership, the women-led workplace, spiritual entrepreneurship, keeping the soul in success, habits of success, building your brand, culture shifts, and joy in the hustle.
As a sought-after board member, consultant, and angel investor in diverse startup companies across a multitude of industries, Errico inspires and transforms individuals and organizations with her unique and often disruptive take on creating a richer, more authentic, inspiring, and joyful career and life journey.
9. Liza Pavlakos
Liza Pavlakos wasn’t always the confident entrepreneur she is today. She was once a victim. As a small child, Liza became homeless after running away to escape sexual abuse. As a young adult, she endured violence and disfigurement. But, not one to be cowed by adversity, she had the guts to take on the challenge and grow and bounce back stronger. Today, Pavlakos is a successful businesswoman and a motivational speaker who helps others overcome their challenges.
She engages and inspires thousands at international events, and guides corporate teams to tap into their leadership potential and achieve their business goals. She has been featured on CNN, Channels T.V., Hello Nigeria and Qatar Airways as an inspirational speaker. She’s a human rights supporter who encourages women to become successful entrepreneurs.
8. Kimberly Bryant
Kimberly Bryant is a social innovator working to increase opportunities for women and girls in the technology industry. She was recognized as one of “The Top 25 Most Influential African Americans” by Business Insider. Bryant speaks about how minorities have helped shape our technological culture and the importance of amplifying their innovations for the future.
7. Dana Perino
Dana Perino served as the first Republican woman to be a press secretary of the United States. She spent more than seven years in President George W. Bush administration, joining right after the 9/11 attacks as a spokesperson for the Justice Department. A year later, she was redeployed to the White House and remained until the last day of the Bush administration.
In January 2009, one day after President Bush left office, Perino and her husband traveled to Africa to volunteer at Living Hope in Cape Town, South Africa, a faith-based organization that leads several programs for people affected by HIV/AIDS. Upon her return, she was nominated by President Obama to serve on the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
6. Sheryl Connelly
Sheryl Connelly has served as Ford Motor Company’s futurist for more than a decade. She is responsible for identifying global trends, exploring potential implications, and relaying these insights throughout the company, including design, product development, and corporate strategy. She is a member of the Global Advisory Council on transportation for the World Economic Forum. Fast Company named her one of the Most Creative People in Business in 2013 and 2015.
She has been a featured speaker at TED Global, appeared on CBS This Morning, CNBC’s Fast Money, and NPR’s All Things Considered with Robert Siegel. Before working for Ford, she practiced law. In addition to a Juris doctorate, Connelly holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s in business administration. When her schedule permits, she teaches design research at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit.
5. Carol Seymour
Carol Seymour is a sought-after business leader and catalyst for growth. As an executive advisor to businesses and executives worldwide, she has a passion for helping leaders perform at maximum potential in both work and life. She frequently speaks at female network and industry association gatherings, such as NAPCO, CoreNet, and the California Women’s Banking Association. She also helps company’s structure key leadership meetings and acts as a facilitator for the events, including Avery Dennison’s Top 200 event and Walmart’s Executive Women forum.
4. Janice Bryant Howroyd
Janice Bryant Howroyd is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The ActOne Group, which provides customized, cutting edge solutions in the human resources industry. The ActOne Group is a multi-billion dollar (USD) award-winning, international Talent and Talent Technology enterprise with multiple divisions that each service unique areas of employment and provide talent management solutions. Bryant Howroyd is currently listed #39 in Forbes list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. In 2014, she was recognized by Black Enterprise as the first black woman to own and operate a billion-dollar company.
3. Patricia Aburdene
Patricia Aburdene is one of the world’s leading social forecasters, co-author of the New York Times number one bestseller Megatrends 2000, and a world-renown speaker. Her new book Conscious Money: Living, Creating, and Investing with Your Values for a Sustainable New Prosperity is a blueprint for growing wealth with integrity and making a difference by integrating human values into personal finance. In 2012, she was named one of America’s “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business” by Trust Across America. She is an Ambassador for the Conscious Capitalism Institute, an advisor to Dallas-based social equity firm, Satori Capital, and serves on the Vail Leadership Institute’s Board of Scholars.
2. Jodi Womack
Jodi Womack is the CEO of the Get Momentum Leadership Academy and the Founder of No More Nylons, a coaching program that provides women business leaders with professional networking expertise. She co-founded Get Momentum with her husband, Jason, to work together from anywhere in the world. Her firsthand experience in business management, marketing, and customer service is put to good use through their training and coaching firm.
1. Erica Dhawan
Erica Dhawan is the Founder and CEO of Cotential, a global organization that helps companies, leaders, and managers leverage 21st-century collaboration skills and behaviors to improve game-changing performance. She is the co-author of the bestselling book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence named #1 on What Corporate America is Reading.
Dhawan was named by Thinkers50 as “The Oprah of Management Ideas” and featured as one of the emerging management thinkers most likely to shape the future of business. She hosts the award-winning podcast ‘Masters of Leadership.’ Erica speaks on global stages ranging from the World Economic Forum at Davos and TED to companies like Coca-Cola, FedEx, Goldman Sachs, Walmart, SAP, and Cisco. Erica writes for Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fast Company. She has degrees from Harvard University, MIT Sloan, and The Wharton School.
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