50 Women Making the World a Better Place in 2021
Each February, InStyle celebrates its Badass Women issue by honoring 50 women who show up, speak up, and get things done.
It's been a time. But fortunately for us, the women on this list are not easily daunted. Even in the darkest of hours, they forged ahead with courage and conviction to provide hope, solace, and even a few laughs. What is that strange feeling? It might just be the tiniest bit of hope.
1. Bridgett Floyd
"The world knows him as George Floyd, but to me, he was my big brother," Bridgett Floyd says. His devastating death in May at the hands of the Minneapolis police ignited protests around the world. Floyd and her siblings have bravely turned "pain into purpose," establishing the George Floyd Memorial Foundation to uphold their brother's legacy of mentorship and service, as well as to fight for nationwide police reform. Since its inception, the foundation has handed out hot meals to the homeless in Fayetteville, N.C. (where George was born), and also created an internship program geared toward Black men at his alma mater, Texas A&M University. Floyd insists these steps are just the beginning. "I believe that's what it means to be a badass: remaining confident and standing in your purpose," she says. "My brother would always say to me, 'I'm for ya,' and it's an honor to know that today and for the rest of my life, I'm for him."
2. Olivia Troye
"I spent my entire career focused on protecting Americans. I couldn't just stay silent," says Troye. The former homeland security, counterterrorism, and coronavirus adviser to VP Pence was among the first to speak out against her own party's mishandling of COVID-19 and defend healthcare workers, like colleague and friend Dr. Anthony Fauci. "I took on the president, the most powerful man in the country," she says. "Because even if it means giving everything up, it's important to do the right thing for the greater good."
3. Abby Phillip
"A good journalist seeks the truth and thinks carefully about how to break down misleading information," says CNN's senior political correspondent. When election night in America went on for five days, Phillip kept calmly delivering around-the-clock updates, along with concise, thoughtful commentary, until CNN became the first network to project Joe Biden as the winner. "I took it one moment at a time," she says. "Despite the long hours, it was an honor to play that role in our democracy."
4. Maatalii Okalik
"We are the original conservationists, and we need the rest of the globe to join us in protecting our planet," says the youth activist and former president of Canada's National Inuit Youth Council. Okalik was most recently featured in National Geographic's The Last Ice documentary to urge for Inuit inclusion in climate discussions. She hopes her visibility and activism will push others to be more considerate and accepting of indigenous peoples' rights and culture.
5. Blaire Erskine
In July a video of Erskine pretending to be the wife of a mask-averse Costco customer went viral. Since then she has spoofed frozen Trump supporters and Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Erskine now uses her ever-growing platform to post explainers on how to navigate the complicated campaigns in her home state of Georgia, which earned her another fan: "Stacey Abrams reached out to me, and I nearly died," she says. "You should have heard the guttural noise that came from my body. She's amazing."
6. Debbie Allen
There simply are no limits to the iconic entertainer’s creativity and love for the arts.
"I shut down the Debbie Allen Dance Academy [DADA] on March 12 [due to COVID-19]. And by March 17, I was doing my first Instagram class as a gift to the world," says the dancer, choreographer, actress, director, and cultural ambassador, whose revolutionary virtual dance class attracted more than 35,000 people on Day 1. For the past 30-plus years, the Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner has consistently refused to let anything, be it the racism she faced as a young dancer or now a crippling pandemic, keep her from achieving her dreams and inspiring others to do the same.
This year, she is most looking forward to watching her students, including hospital workers, cancer patients, and elderly people who attend special classes online, put in the work to find joy and success through the arts. "When I look at my students, whom I refer to as the DADA Diaspora because they are everywhere, I see the pride, growth, possibility, humanity, and compassion that exist in the world that come through dance," she says. "The Academy is an oasis, a birthplace for young people to find their voice, their creativity, and their identity."
Allen has several projects in the works, including a television series based on her children's book Brothers of the Night and a dance-focused musical about the disenfranchisement of Black and Latino youth.
7. Maya Wiley
The New York City mayoral candidate, who could become the city’s first Black female mayor, chats with InStyle editor in chief Laura Brown about her aspirations.
What do you want for the city?
To recover economically from COVID. That means we have to address our inequalities: The extreme pain has been significantly more devastating in communities of color.
You’re running a campaign in a pandemic. What have your interactions been like?
Central to this campaign are virtual people’s assemblies where folks talk about their highest priorities. This does not require an endorsement of me. We just want to create a space for people to engage and learn.
What are you ambitious for?
For this magical, innovative, pulsing city to show the world how you hold on to your people. Cities become so unaffordable. Their vibrancy is extinguished in painful ways for many. That’s not a natural condition. It is a failure to fight.
If elected, what will you do on your first day?
Introduce the smartest, most strategic and committed experts to show the city exactly how we’ll get through this. It takes all of us. And women know how to surround themselves with folks who get it done.
8. Cori Bush
The nurse, single mom, pastor, activist, and first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress says, “My goal is to do my part to end racism in this country. And I am proud of my journey. I overcame homelessness, domestic violence, sexual assault, police brutality, and attempts on my life. Now I’m in Congress representing the district that I’ve lived in and loved for my entire life.”
9. Mauree Turner
"I get to work on behalf of the folks of Oklahoma's House District 88 for the next two years because magic happens when you show up. Other than that, I mind my business, wear overalls, and try to remember to breathe," says the first nonbinary state lawmaker in the U.S. and first Muslim in Oklahoma's House of Representatives. "The messages I receive about how people feel seen, heard, and represented are something I don't think I'll ever get used to. [I hope I inspire] folks to pursue their dreams — whether that is going into politics or telling their families what their pronouns are."
10. Taylor Small
At age 26, Small became Vermont's first transgender legislator. "I dream of a day when all Americans can easily and affordably access health care," she says. Her proudest pre-election moment? "Providing Drag Queen Story Hour across the state of Vermont via my drag persona, Nikki Champagne, [in an effort to encourage] rural libraries to make queer representation more accessible."
11. Suleika Jaouad
After receiving a leukemia diagnosis at age 22, the writer channeled her struggles into the now-famous New York Times column–turned–Emmy-winning video series Life Interrupted — all from her hospital bed. A decade later, she is fostering connection through her online project "The Isolation Journals" and the release of Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of Life Interrupted. "I hope the book is a lesson in the tenacity of the human spirit," she says. "Resilience is a creative act that we all have within ourselves."
12. Paola Velez
In 2020 the star pastry chef launched Doña Dona, a Latin-American doughnut popup that benefits undocumented restaurant workers hit hard by the pandemic, and Bakers Against Racism, a worldwide bake sale that raised over $1.9 million for organizations supporting Black lives. “You don’t need a million dollars to start an organization. You just need a Google folder and tenacity,” says Velez, who is the executive pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Maydan and award-winning Compass Rose in Washington, D.C.
13. Charmaine McGuffey
"It didn't matter how battered and bruised I was going to be at the end of the fight — I was gonna win," says the sheriff, who beat out her former boss for the top spot three years after he fired her for being gay and for calling attention to excessive force used against inmates at an Ohio jail. Now the first queer person and first woman to serve as sheriff of Hamilton County, Ohio, continues to push for inclusion and criminal-justice reform. "This system is languishing in a 1950s model," she says. "We have to move past that. We can do better."
14. Kristen Welker
"Asking important questions and demanding accountability from elected leaders are privileges and responsibilities," says the NBC News Chief White House correspondent and Weekend Today co-anchor, whose decisiveness and unflappable spirit brought order to the final presidential debate. "I recognize that I was only the second Black woman in history to do that; the pressure was immense," she says. "Now I feel relieved and proud."
15. Dawn Porter
The fearless documentary filmmaker discusses the value of truth, hope, and gumption with her The Way I See It co-producer, Laura Dern.
Laura Dern: Since meeting at a cocktail hour, we spent time together filming The Way I See It [about former White House photographer Pete Souza]. Tell me, what does being a badass mean to you?
Dawn Porter: Having a fearless approach to who you want to be. My work is a reflection of who I am, my values, and what’s important to me.
LD: What are you most proud of?
DP: For Gideon’s Army, I was determined to do what people said was impossible: film in a tremendously conservative, anti-choice judge’s courtroom in Georgia. After writing my own motion, flying there, and arguing in open court, the judge granted me access. I also spent months trying to film in a prison. When I did, I was alone in a room with a man accused of murder. But I was braver than I thought. You’ve got to go out into the world and see things for yourself if you’re going to explain the emotion behind these issues.
LD: I was raised by two actors [Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd] who believe it’s their moral obligation not to judge the people they portray. But you’ve taught me to be patient and to look at how complicated an issue is. We’ve also talked about gender disparity behind the camera. Have you felt any cultural shift?
DP: I didn’t call myself a director for years, even as I was making a movie. I think that was a mistake. I hope that young women and girls claim their titles. I learned quickly that I had to put on my big-girl pants and be the boss.
LD: Amidst a pandemic, you gave us an extraordinary homage to a civil-rights icon in John Lewis: Good Trouble and offered people the chance to renew their hope for nobility in the White House with The Way I See It. How did that feel?
DP: People cried watching The Way I See It. I didn’t expect that. It reinforced for me that people do want to believe in the good of human nature.
LD: What do you feel inspired to do next?
DP: I'd like to continue doing projects that demonstrate there is a path to hope. While making the mental-health series I'm working on with Oprah and Prince Harry, I had the opportunity to interview Oprah. She enjoyed being the subject. I think that's what Harry and Meghan [the Duchess of Sussex] valued too — the opportunity to not be a prince or a media mogul or whatever, but to just be people. Interviewing is really about getting people to feel fully like themselves.
16. Kim Ng
Sixteen years after she interviewed with Major League Baseball for a general-manager position, Ng became the first female GM in American sports history when she landed the top spot with the Miami Marlins. "I thought this was a big deal, but it exceeded expectations," she says. "I got calls from guys I've met over the years who were so excited to tell their daughters and wives, as well as voice mails from friends in tears. They were so happy for me, and for what this means for the sport and us as a society."
17. Esther Mahlangu
With fans like Oprah, Will Smith, and Usher, the 85-year-old artist is as relevant today as she was when she rose to fame. Using traditional feather-brush techniques, she continues to find creative ways to fuse her prints (inspired by her Ndebele heritage) with pop culture, like when she became the first South African artist to collaborate with Rolls-Royce last year.
18. Ayanna Pressley
The Massachusetts congresswoman tells InStyle how she honed her verbal command.
My mother, Sandy Pressley, didn’t raise me to ask permission to lead. Instead of bedtime stories, she read me the speeches of [Congresswomen] Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm. She taught me the words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” She made sure I knew I was powerful.
I am not in Congress to occupy space; I am here to create it. I walk into every room shoulders back, head held high, reminded that I am the manifestation of so many women who have been pursuing justice for generations. I am guided by my faith and the support of my family, colleagues, and community, which gives me the strength to show up authentically and unapologetically. From sharing my hair journey [Pressley has lost her hair due to alopecia] to legislating in Congress, I endeavor to speak loudly and clearly about the challenges we collectively face and the bold solutions we need.
As I look ahead, my abiding belief in the positive effect that policy can have on folks’ lives compels me to advocate, organize, legislate, and speak truth to power. I carry forward the legacy of my mother and all the sheroes who came before me.
19. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith
“The journey to health, particularly for marginalized communities in the U.S., deserves a wider lens,” says the founding director of Yale’s Equity Research and Innovation Center and co-chair of President Biden’s COVID-19 transition task force. As we navigate the “new normal,” Dr. Nunez-Smith looks forward to helping create policies rooted in science, data, and racial justice. “I’ll use my voice for folks who aren’t in the room,” she says. “It’s my responsibility.”
20. Dr. Edith Eger
The 93-year-old author, psychologist, and Holocaust survivor is a beacon of strength, despite the harrowing obstacles she faced as a young girl. Her first book, The Choice, which recounts her story of survival and healing, was an international best-seller. "In Auschwitz I chose not to listen to the guards. I did not allow them to touch my peace of mind," she says. "Positive thinking must be followed by positive action." Now, with her latest book, The Gift, she is teaching people how to deal with fear, anger, grief, and stress.
21. Dyllan McGee
This Emmy Award–winning filmmaker founded her production company, McGee Media, to make movies about history and progress. She also launched the media and events platform Makers to support the women's movement, with help from the likes of Gloria Steinem, Anita Hill, and Katie Couric. McGee's latest series, The Black Church, airs on PBS this month. "There's a consistent social-justice theme in everything I do," she says. "I just want people to get along."
22. Heather Foster
The Obama-era White House public-engagement adviser has dedicated her life to uplifting communities of color. As Lyft’s senior director of policy engagement and strategic partnerships, she works with organizations such as the NAACP and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to provide thousands of free rides to those most in need, especially during the pandemic. “I’m a fixer. When we saw an immediate issue, we jumped in and we fixed it,” she says. “I’m very proud of that.”
23. Brittany Underwood, Victoria Kiggundu & Sheeba Philip
As a college sophomore in 2007, Underwood launched Akola to teach women in Uganda how to craft and sell jewelry on a global scale, all while offering leadership training and financial literacy courses. "These women have the heart and the vision," Underwood says. "They just need an opportunity." This year, Underwood, Akola CEO Philip, and Akola's Uganda-based managing director, Victoria Kiggundu, reinvented their supply chain to ensure that their 181 female artisans (with an average family of six) remained employed through the pandemic. "Nothing is insurmountable," Kiggundu says. Adds Philip, "I want people to see Akola not just as pretty jewelry but as an opportunity for women to help other women."
24. Johnniqua Charles
A video of Charles ad-libbing “You about to lose yo job” into a song while being detained by a security officer went viral last summer amid protests against police brutality. Soon after, it was remixed into a catchy rap that became an anthem for protesters and was even referenced on SNL. Her popularity helped Charles, who was homeless at the time, reconnect with her family, including her toddler, Juju, and her sister, who started a GoFundMe account on Charles’s behalf that raised $55,000 and motivated her to also come to terms with her addiction issues. “I realized my life changed the moment I gave up my old lifestyle for good,” she says. Charles is now determined to help other women who are struggling and even hopes to start a clothing line.
25. Patti LuPone
The illustrious Broadway and Hollywood star reflects on her storied career.
Through the pandemic, you’ve done virtual benefits for the theater community. Why is that so important, especially now?
All the people who were just starting out, who came to New York for their Broadway début, are up shit's creek. And I want to help. I also get to express myself — to learn a play or sing a song or do something that makes me feel as though I'm still in the business.
What’s your secret to portraying women with such presence?
Thank god for Ryan Murphy and the writers on [the Netflix series] Hollywood. They allowed my character, Avis, to be a wounded soldier but still have an intensity. That was extremely important to me because I think women are made strong by obstacles they overcome.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced?
Conquering Evita [LuPone won a Tony in 1980 for starring in the musical]. That was a trial of a lifetime. It was a controversial hit. I had just broken up with my boyfriend, so I was totally alone. I had to sing. And the backstage environment was the worst experience. We had ineffectual stage managers. I felt like I was a chorus girl expected to perform a star role. At times I blew up because it was too much to take. But I survived.
Where does your confidence come from?
I was a precocious kid. If I saw something that I considered an injustice, I stood up against it. And I'm Italian. We're on overdrive all the time when it comes to our emotions, and I haven't mellowed. As long as I'm breathing, I'll be completely Italian.
26. Lauren Spencer
"I hope people learn that disability is not a death sentence. It is where life begins," says the actress, model, podcaster, and creative who is nicknamed Lolo. Spencer has not let being diagnosed with ALS at age 14 prevent her from succeeding — like earning recognition for her groundbreaking role in the film Give Me Liberty, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Her best advice? "Whatever you do, tell your truth: the good, bad, and ugly. That's how people feel your authenticity."
27. Nandi Bushell
The 10-year-old Zulu-British drummer battled (and beat) the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, played onstage with Lenny Kravitz, is currently featured in the new Cinderella movie alongside Camila Cabello, and has two original songs on Spotify. With star power and thousands of Instagram followers, Bushell says she draws inspiration from strong women like her mother, grandmother, and Billie Eilish. Her goals for the future? “Take over the world one stadium at a time and show how badass girls really are.”
28. Dr. Celine Gounder
This epidemiologist (or "disease detective"), journalist, and documentary filmmaker continually finds new ways to communicate vital information about diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19, as well as tackle healthcare inequities. In her new post on the Biden-Harris transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, she plans to continue that work. "We want to restore trust in science, public health, and government," she says. "That begins with transparency."
29. Melissa Cristina Márquez
"I'm an ocean ambassador. I hope I inspire people to pass on my enthusiasm," says the Puerto Rican marine biologist who is called the Mother of Sharks. She made headlines for her bravery when a crocodile attacked her during a taping of Shark Week in 2018. The millennial Ph.D. candidate — who does everything from ID-tagging great whites to dispelling misinformation about her favorite predators — is not easily rattled. Through her Fins United Initiative, the bilingual author, podcaster, and TV presenter also teaches people about the 500 species of shark while celebrating the scientists who study them. This spring she will launch her first children's book series, Wild Survival!, based on her animal encounters.
30. Rebecca van Bergen
Fifteen years ago van Bergen founded the nonprofit Nest to build a global handcrafter community focused on women's well-being beyond working in factories. Now the organization offers grants, e-commerce development, and digital marketing strategies to help thousands of artisans earn a living. In response to COVID-19, Nest produced 200,000 masks in three weeks for the U.S. Postal Service and New York City public housing. With initiatives like Makers United, van Bergen also supports marginalized creatives. "I think the pandemic opened our eyes to the resiliency of home-based labor, particularly women and moms," she says. "It's important that these people be paid fairly."
31. Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna & Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier
“Two women winning the Nobel Prize is news today, but I look forward to a day when it feels normal. The most meaningful part of this, for me, is showing girls around the world that there is a place in science for them,” says Dr. Doudna. Late last year she and Dr. Charpentier became the first women to be jointly awarded a Nobel Prize in the sciences. The biochemists won for discovering “genetic scissors,” which have the potential to contribute to new cancer therapies and cure inherited diseases. “Too often women have to work harder to earn respect,” Dr. Doudna says. “Rather than waiting for what’s long overdue, walk into a room knowing your achievements speak for themselves.”
32. Vanessa Nakate
“Climate change is not happening in the future; it is happening now,” says the 24-year-old Ugandan who was inspired to stand up for the environment in 2018, after becoming concerned about the effects of climate change on her home country, which suffers from landslides, floods, and droughts. She has since grown into the role of a global voice in the eco community. Her most badass moment? When she called out the Associated Press for cropping her out of a photo where she was the only Black activist pictured alongside other climate leaders, including Greta Thunberg. Her goal? “To see a world that is clean, livable, healthy, equitable, and sustainable for all of us.”
33. Isra Hirsi
As the 17-year-old daughter of U.S. congresswoman (and "squad" member) Ilhan Omar, Hirsi has activism in her blood. She co-founded the U.S. Youth Climate Strike in 2019 and is focused on highlighting the inherent racism in climate discussions, where a lack of information in marginalized communities can prove fatal. She has achieved all this while attending high school and becoming a burgeoning TikTok star. Moving forward, Hirsi says she is "ambitious for revolution, which I would love to see in my lifetime."
34. Norah, Rosa & Yarah Mukanga
“It’s really cool to do this with my sisters,” says Rosa. “We have the same passion.” Videos of the Dutch hip-hop dance crew Let It Happen, made up of twins Norah and Yarah, 15, and their 13-year-old sister, Rosa, have gone viral because of the trio’s undeniable talent and unwavering optimism even when addressing tough issues like Black Lives Matter. “We want to spread love,” Norah says. “It’s also about awareness; we try to express [ourselves] with our art.” Role models like Viola Davis and Janet Jackson have been charmed by their routines on social media. The secret to their joy? Yarah says simply, “I think what makes a good dancer and a good person is just staying true to yourself.”
35. Elsa Collins & America Ferrera
These BFFs are inspiring other Latinas to succeed with a new digital platform, She Se Puede.
America Ferrera: She Se Puede is rooted in friendship. We want all women, particularly Latinas, to see themselves reflected in culture and understand that they’re not alone.
Elsa Collins: That takes investing in our community 365 days a year.
AF: Like you do for families at the border. [Collins co-runs This Is About Humanity, an organization that aids vulnerable families at the U.S.-Mexico border.] You take care of families that have been reunited; you even celebrate their birthdays. It’s such an outpouring of love. And when we show up for what we care about, we create opportunities for other people to show up too. That is an incredible gift.
EC: And you don’t ask people to do things you’re not willing to do. That’s the sign of a true activist, advocate, and badass.
AF: I think every woman is a badass! It’s about finding out who you are and what matters to you and learning from your failures. I also think it’s important, when creating community spaces like She Se Puede, to accommodate all of who we are and not expect people to leave everything at the door to get the work done. Like when I had a baby in May, you guys said, “Go do you, and when you’re ready, come back in.” And that’s what I did.
EC: It’s exciting to think my daughters, who are 10 and 12, are not far away from being a part of this.
AF: That's what it's about: building real, lasting power for generations to come.
36. Vanessa Nadal
The attorney, chemical engineer, MIT grad, and wife of Hamilton co-creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is combining her passions to co-create and teach a first-of-its-kind class at the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University, on how cosmetics are made and sold and where the FDA can improve in terms of regulations to keep people safe. "Our skin is an amazing barrier, but it's not perfect," she says. "I see my role as a professor — training future lawyers, researchers, and others in the cosmetics space — as a way to help advance change in the industry."
37. Ai-Jen Poo
"Our political, economic, and spiritual freedom is bound to the freedom of women of color," says the co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-founder of the women's political action group Supermajority. The activist also runs a new podcast, Sunstorm, with Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza to help women find joy in times of chaos. "We need to feel connected to people who understand our experiences," she says. "It helps us recognize our power."
38. Briana Williams
In a $159 billion industry dominated by men, the gamer known as Storymode Bae is carving out a lane of her own. As a member of Black Girl Gamers, a group built to support Black women in the industry, Williams has been highlighting the overt disparities between Black female gamers and their white male counterparts within the Twitch platform. Now she wants to encourage her peers to do the same. Eventually, she would like to get brands like Fenty and Nike to collaborate with and promote female gamers. She says, “I hope my actions bring awareness and open doors.”
39. Arnelle Ansong & Erika Hairston
Friends Ansong and Hairston left engineering jobs at Facebook and Google to start Edlyft, an app that equips STEM college students with tools to get through tough computer-science courses. To secure over $1 million in venture funding, they took an unusual approach, reaching out to potential investors via Twitter. “Your journey doesn’t have to look like that of the loud men around you,” Ansong says. “Find people who uplift and ground you. You don’t have to make it alone.”
40 & 41. Fiona Hill & Lauren Bean Buitta
The former White House adviser on Russia and the Girl Security founder discuss why recruiting more women into their field is key.
Lauren Bean Buitta: I started Girl Security in July 2016 to help girls get into national-security careers because we need more women at the table. National security is part of our everyday lives, whether we’re talking about cybersecurity, disinformation, climate change, or nuclear weapons.
Fiona Hill: My dad was a coal miner, and I became the special assistant to the president. Not because I’m extraordinary but because I got help. That’s what you’re doing for these girls.
LBB: You are extraordinary, actually. And there are definitely barriers to advancement, but we’ve never tried to empower girls in the way that it’s been done in STEM. We can’t afford not to do it.
FH: A resilient, fully functioning democracy is also essential. That’s what I tried to get across at [President Trump’s impeachment] hearings. If we don’t get our act together, then we’ll be vulnerable to things like the interventions by Russia we saw in 2016.
LBB: Seeing a woman lead like you did from this powerful political place has a huge impact on girls.
FH: What's funny is, in preparation for testifying, a woman we worked with helped me choose my clothes, because "otherwise people will scrutinize what you're wearing instead of listen." As women, we've experienced some real shit in our lives. And, in my view, I had nothing to lose [by testifying]. I thought, "This is it. I'm just going to tell the truth."
42. Haley Sacks
Investing doesn’t have to be scary, says the self-taught financial guru known on social media as Mrs. Dow Jones. Here, she shares her tips for how to get started.
1. Get Your Ducks In A Row
Investing is a very sexy word, but if you invest without an emergency fund, your high-interest-rate debt being paid off, or your retirement contributions maxed out, you're putting yourself in a precarious situation.
2. Start By Changing Little Habits
Take 30 minutes a week to sit down and look at your bank statements. Think about what you actually need and where you can save a bit more and spend a bit less.
3. Set Goals
Make short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals. They can change, but you have to think about them.
4. Be Gentle On Yourself
You don't have to be peer pressured into popular investing trends. This is personal finance. It's your shit. It's all about how it fits into your life and deciding to make it a priority.
43. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
The author and determined reporter writes real accounts of women who support their war-torn communities against all odds. Her third book, The Daughters of Kobani (out this month), about those who took on ISIS and won, has already earned praise from the likes of Angelina Jolie. Tzemach Lemmon says, “It’s a universal story about people up against a wall who rise up for something greater.”
44. Mary Barra
The first female CEO of General Motors has invested billions of dollars in more eco-conscious modes of transportation, such as battery-powered self-driving cars and other electric vehicles. Through COVID-19, she led GM in shifting gears to produce 30,000 ventilators. And she is also committed to paying it forward as chair and founder of GM’s Inclusion Advisory Board. She says, “Diversity, in all of its many dimensions, makes us stronger.”
45. Holly Mitchell, Sheila Kuehl, Hilda Solis, Janice Hahn & Kathryn Barger
For the first time in its 150-year history, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors consists entirely of women, meaning these five ladies control a $35 billion budget for the largest, most diverse county in the country. Led by chairwoman Solis (the first Latina to serve in a U.S. cabinet as secretary of labor under Obama), they deal with issues ranging from arranging affordable housing to distributing upcoming COVID-19 vaccines. "We're women. Yes, it counts," Solis says. "But it's more important that we get the job done, providing a safety net for the 10 million people we represent."
46. Dr. Shereene Idriss
When Beirut experienced devastating explosions in August, the dermatologist and her sisters, whose family had fled the Lebanese civil war, leveraged her hundreds of thousands of social-media followers (including Emily Ratajkowski and Ashley Graham) to raise over $290,000 on GoFundMe, which helped feed 50,000 people there. “I still can’t believe how much we raised,” Dr. Idriss says. “Empathy can move mountains.”
47. Feyikemi Abudu & Jola Ayeye
When the End SARS protests against police brutality began happening in their home country of Nigeria, Abudu and Ayeye jumped into action, distributing food to protesters, organizing donations, and using their podcast, I Said What I Said, to discuss what was happening. “If you have a phone, access to information, and some spare change, then you can help,” says Ayeye. “Women have always taken a stand. And in the age of social media, it’s pretty visible who is actually doing the work.”
48. Norma Kamali
The legendary designer and wellness enthusiast reveals her secrets to "aging powerfully" in a new book, I Am Invincible.
The book has a really sweet dedication to your mom. What was she like?
She saw no barriers to what women can do. She was fearless! Whether she was pursuing her interest in a healthy lifestyle or making costumes, she was full of artistry.
You’ve always had a very specific aesthetic and way of living. Is she behind that?
At a young age I decided that I didn’t want to have children or get married. I just wanted a creative life more than anything. In order to do that, you have to know who you are.
How do you take care of yourself?
If I’m not feeling fabulous, I need to do a cleanse. I’ll take vitamins, work out, eat healthy, meditate. The energy you have as a result keeps you feeling spiritually in the moment. Not “younger.” I don’t want to be younger. I’m happy being smarter than most of the people I know because I’m older than they are. At 75, that’s a bonus card you really appreciate.
Still, everyone has vices — what are yours?
Bread is the demon for me. I make a nut-seed bread that I keep in the freezer, so when I'm having a craving I toast a slice and eat it with olive oil. If I'm not home where my bread is … it's not pretty.
49 & 50. Callie Brownson & Jennifer King
The Cleveland Browns chief of staff and the Washington Football Team full-year coaching intern were part of a historic game in September when their teams faced off and a female referee officiated for the first time in NFL history. The buds and Dartmouth College coaching alums plan to get other women on the gridiron as well — and they started 2021 among a group of six female coaches facing off in the playoffs.
Callie Brownson: We go way back. We played football against each other. Now you’re someone I call to bounce ideas off of and vice versa. The sports world is so competitive; to have women rooting for each other is great.
Jennifer King: When it was announced that you would be coaching the tight ends for the Browns [Brownson filled in as an interim positions coach in November, making her the first woman to do so for an NFL team], I freaked out!
CB: And when the Browns played your team in Cleveland, it was so cool walking onto an NFL field and seeing an old friend. I can’t stop thinking about the message that sends to little girls.
JK: As long as you are helping the players get better, whether you’re a man or a woman doesn’t matter. There’s no substitute for hard work.
CB: When you go into uncharted territory like this, the haters and doubters come included. On stressful days I remind myself that I’ve dreamed about this, so I’m not going to let it slip from my grasp.
For more stories like this, pick up the February 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Jan. 15.