Each year, Entrepreneur.com compiles a list of the most exciting, influential female entrepreneurs to watch across the globe. This year’s list is filled with a diverse range of businesses, initiatives and social programs, proving women are tapping into markets and advancing new ways for us all to connect for a better society.
Here are a snapshot of the leading figures, fighting for change, inspiring us with their fortitude, strength and charisma.
HEALTH and ENTERTAINMENT
Taraji P. Henson
This year’s list is headlined by Hidden Figures actress Taraji P. Henson, who just so happens to also be an entrepreneur. What has she done? Here’s a quick rundown: she has a hair care line, a mental health foundation, and a production company. As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety, Henson wanted to improve mental health in Black communities. So what did she decide to do?
She started a nonprofit to erase the stigma around mental health. This happened only 2 years ago, and she named it after her father, a Vietnam veteran who suffered mental illness; the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. Today, more than 3,000 therapy sessions have been provided to more than 600 people, and her foundation continues to grow in strength and mission.
Its latest fundraising round gathered $1 million in cash and $600,000 of in-kind contributions as it tries to increases access for larger population of people. Forty-five percent of people who signed up are receiving counselling for the first time, and 95 percent identified as African American. 90 percent of applicants were women, and a third round of funding will focus on Black men and teenagers.
“If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way,” Henson told Entrepreneur. “I created this organisation out of necessity.”
Searching for a Black therapist felt like “looking for a purple unicorn with a golden horn,” she said, because there were few options to get support from someone who looked like her. “For so long, we’ve had to be strong,” she said.
Henson also has a beauty TPH by Taraji hair care line, which is sold through Target, and her production company, TPH Entertainment, is in the process of developing a series about Cookie Lyon; an Empire spin-off of her character in the show.
Cofounder and CEO of Incredible Health
Three years ago, Iman Abuzeid decided to speed up the rate upon which nurses are hired in America. She was tired of seeing the lag in which nurses were hired in hospitals. Her business Incredible Health, streams in nurses through algorithms that find the best matches for each job, and hospitals pay for subscriptions.
The platform takes about 15 days on average to hire nurses. So far, she has raised $17 million and built her staff of 30 to be inclusive, “not just because it’s the right thing to do,” she told Entrepreneur, “but because diversity drives innovation. It’s helpful to have multiple perspectives in the room.”
SOCIAL JUSTICE RECRUITMENT
Mandy Price and Star Carter
Cofounders of Kanarys
Mandy Price and Star Carter worked as corporate lawyer for years. Both of them experienced racism, often being referred to as their law firms’ “diverse partner,” and other forms of discrimination. In fact, Carter was told she’d have to wait an extra year to make partner because she took two maternity leaves.
“I was essentially penalised for using the benefits my firm offered,” she told Entrepreneur. Two years ago, the pair decided to create Kanarys – a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) platform that has a special method of data-driven analysis. It tracks over 800 companies on a wide range of DEI metrics — from which ones recruit at historically Black colleges to which cover gender-transition insurance — and pairing these findings with anonymous employee reviews.
“Because diversity and inclusion can be an emotionally charged topic, it made a lot of sense to use technology, data, and analytics in the centre of those discussions,” Carter said.
Last year, Kanarys raised $1.6 million and accepted to Google’s accelerator for Black founders. “It’s easy to discount one voice,” Price said. “But when you add up all the Stars and the Mandys, you see a trend. People are starting to say, ‘Hey, if we can’t retain women and people of colour, there’s something within our organisation that needs to change.’ ”
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We are excited to announce that Kanarys Co-Founders, Mandy Price and Star Carter, have been named two of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Business by @Entrepreneur magazine! We are proud to be led by women who are driving change and impacting the landscape of the tech world as well as workplaces across the globe. The Kanarys platform has made a significant impact on workplace cultures this year and this achievement only underscores that, as stated in the article: “Currently it’s tracking about 800 companies on a wide range of DEI metris — from which ones recruit at historically Black colleges to which cover gender-transition insurance — and paring these findings with anonymous employee reviews.” We’re incredibly honored and humbled by this distinction and look forward to what’s next for Kanarys. Check out their feature and see all 100 powerful women featured in our link in bio. #Kanarys #Inclusion #DiversityandInclusion #DEI #Diversity #HR #workplaceculture #career #job #technology #startup #equity #workplaceequity #belonging #womeninbusiness #BeAKanary #DEIData
SOCIAL JUSTICE RECRUITMENT
Cofounder and executive director of Women on Boards Project, Talent partner of VMG Partners
Cassie Nielsen was tired of a lack of women on Boards, so she decided to do something about it. She founded Women on Boards Project (WOB) to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards and redefine good corporate governance and gender diversity standards. She wants to create a cultural imperative for corporate action and drive social change.
“Women drive 70 to 80 percent of household purchasing decisions,” Nielsen said. “Case studies show that when women aren’t in the room, products aren’t being thoughtfully created for the consumer who buys them. They recognise that women and ethnically diverse leaders can make such an important impact.”
Earlier this year, WOB announced the first 20 companies it’s working with, including Simple Mills, an organic foods brand, Urban Remedy, an organic food company that delivers ready-to-eat meals, juices, cleanses & snacks to homes and Ancient Harvest, a company that sells ancient grains such as quinoa and polenta.
SOCIAL JUSTICE RECRUITMENT
Founder and CEO of The Mom Project
In America, some research has indicated that 43 percent of top-rated female talent leaves the workforce within 12 months of having a baby. Allison Robinson was not happy with those figures. “It feels very all-or-nothing, like you have to go all-in at work or be a stay-at-home mom,” she said.
So four years ago, she founded The Mom Project, a platform that connects female workers with flexible career and work opportunities. Since then, Robinson has raised over $36 million and her network has grown to over 300,000 professionals and 2,000 companies, including Apple and Nike.
“We started out focusing on hiring, but now we’re creating exhaustive programmatic initiatives to bring women back to work after a leave,” Robinson said. “Companies are trying to keep agile. That’s a win for moms.”
Founding donor and primary instigator of Center for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality
Nicole Shanahan was in her late twenties when she wanted to start a family. She was working as a intellectual property lawyer and discovered that she had a low number of active egg cells; her doctor told her she was unlikely to get pregnant. Shanahan and her husband found there was nothing much out there to help them with getting help and knowledge about women’s reproductive abilities. So she created the Centre for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality – a first research institute to focus solely on reproductive longevity.
She and her husband began by committing 6 million dollars and last year, added an extra $7.4 million. The company hopes to realise ways women’s fertility could be extended.
“The social outcomes are so vast,” Shanahan said. “It would be like they’d been given a superpower.”
Founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises
In America, Black transgender people have an unemployment rate at 26 percent, two times the rate of the overall transgender sample and four times the rate of the general population. This year alone, at least 31 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been fatally shot or killed by other violent means.
Angelica Ross, an American businesswoman, actress, and transgender rights advocate, decided to fight these realities. A few years ago, she founded TransTech Social Enterprises, an incubator for LGBTQ talent with a focus on the transgender community.
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“You don’t need anything, but your #SELF to identify as a woman.” “I don’t need my hair anymore to define me as a woman. I don’t need my hair to make me feel beautiful and feel attractive. I just need to feel like myself no matter what I look like or what I’m doing.” “When I look in the mirror now, I see strength. I see resilience. I see femininity. I see Power. I see love and compassion. I see the battle scars that no one else sees.” Thank you @cesar4styles & @yolondafrederick for helping me reveal my SELF. @selfmagazine
“Through TransTech, I can shift focus to how trans people are living and thriving — not just surviving,” she said. “It’s improving awareness of the violence that happens against trans women of colour,”
Ross also acted in the series American Horror Story: 1984 and Pose, Transparent and Doubt. She is also hosting a podcast, as a lead up to her forthcoming book “Like A Butterfly: Leaving the Cocoon”.
“I’m writing this book in hopes that my story will help guide trans folks as well as our family members, friends, lovers and anyone else who recognizes that our society has changed and that we too must change with it,” she wrote on her website. “If you are a Cis person (not trans), this book Will help you let go of rigid rules for performing gender and discover a more authentic expression of yourself and allow others to do the same.”
Sandra Oh Lin
Founder and CEO of KiwiCo
Sandra Oh Lin was a products research engineer for many years for high profile companies including PayPal, eBay and Poshmark. She knew what worked and what didn’t. Ten years ago, she decided to use her skills and knowledge to create an educational platform fusing creativity and STEM. She founded KiwiCo, which sells educational projects for kids of all ages, and since the pandemic this year, created an online resource hub for learning at home, complete with tips and tricks, DIY experiments, and guides to help kids understand COVID-19.
“They need to engage their kids and keep their minds active — and that will hopefully provide sanity for parents,” said Sandra Oh Lin. The website crashed after it went live.
“That’s how much demand there was,” Lin says. Last month, her company launched Camp KiwiCo, a month-long online summer camp. “The content is all free, and we want to make sure there’s still time to capture fun,” Lin said.
Founder and CEO of Making Authentic Friendships
Making Authentic Friendships is a tool that helps people with special needs find friends who are nearby. Juliana Fetherman came up with the idea when she found herself unable to stop worrying about her younger brother, who has autism.
“His biggest struggle is being lonely, and his lack of social skills makes it hard for him to make and keep friends,” she said.
“Being stuck at home interrupted a lot of progress and therapies, so the app was a resource for social interaction,” she says. “I have parents tell me, ‘My daughter made friends across the world.’ It’s good for their self-esteem to see, There are people everywhere like me.”
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A common misconception of Making Authentic Friendships is that we only serve individuals with autism. I talk a lot about autism because that’s what we know best, but we serve an array of physical and intellectual special needs, including Cerebral Palsy. That is why I will be a speaker for the second year in a row, at the CP conference. It’s this coming weekend, Register on their website! 🥰
Today, her platform has users all over the US, and more than 30 countries. Fetherman had initialled wanted the app to enable in-person meetups, but lockdowns across the world mean that chat function have become vital for many.
“I am passionate about bettering the lives with those with autism and other special needs, and plan to dedicate my entire life to doing so,” Fetherman wrote on her website.