When we asked for nominations for our Women to Watch in 2012 awards, we expected some pretty awesome women—but you blew us away. We couldn’t have imagined the number of incredible profiles we would receive.
In just a week, we were flooded by nominations for women who are changing the world—challenging the norms in media, business, and education, creating the products that will define tomorrow, and saving lives in the developing world.
It was tough, but we narrowed it down to a fabulous dozen who have big stuff planned for 2012. We can’t wait to watch this year to see what they have in store—for themselves, and for the world.
President, COO, and Co-Founder, JESS3
Named one of the top five female executives in the tech industry and a Top Woman in Tech Under 30, Leslie Bradshaw is the operational force behind JESS3, an internationally known creative interactive agency that she describes as being “as much BBDO as we are Facebook and Pixar.”
Her impressive client list already includes Nike, Google (check out the latest: Google Politics), and Intel—including a several major initiatives set to launch within the next few weeks. The Wall Street Journal calls Bradshaw the “brains” driving the company forward—and we can’t wait to see where she takes it next. Follow her @LeslieBradshaw or @JESS3.
CEO and Co-Founder, Women 2.0
Not a day goes by when someone isn’t asking “where are the women in tech?,” but Shaherose Charania (named one of the Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company in 2010) is trying to change that. As the co-founder of Women 2.0, an emerging media company aimed at increasing the number of female founders launching scalable technology ventures, she helps entrepreneurs find a network, resources, and knowledge to take their companies from from idea to launch.
2012 is a huge year for politics, which likely means it will also be a huge one for ElectNext, the brainchild of Keya Dannenbaum. The site works like an eHarmony for elections, matching you with your candidates based on what matters most to you, and helping you vote all the way down your ballot.
Dannenbaum got the idea working on political campaigns (Hillary Clinton in 2008 followed by two years at the city level), where she saw a vast drop in levels of political interest, knowledge, and participation from the national to the local level. Then, when she found herself “too busy” with the demands of her Wharton MBA program and neglected to vote in the 2010 midterm elections, she became determined to find a solution. We think it will be a solution for everyone else, too. Follow her @electnext.
Co-Founder and Chief Scientist, LightSail Energy
Some call it greentech’s holy grail: finding an economical way to store energy from sources like wind and solar energy. Accomplish that, and renewable energy could finally compete on a level playing field with dirty fossil fuels.
And the person who’s leading the charge is 24-year-old Danielle Fong, who’s company, LightSail Energy, is working on a “potentially game-changing” energy storage solution. Fong tells Forbes (where she was named one of the 30 Under 30 Rising Stars in Energy) that she hopes to make “renewables the choice for almost everywhere on our planet” within just 10 years. Check her out at DanielleFong.com.
Breast Cancer Biologist and Founder, Science Exchange
Elizabeth Iorns, an assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, isn’t just conducting breast cancer research—she’s changing the way research is done as a whole. In May 2011, she co-founded Science Exchange, an online marketplace for crowd-sourcing science experiments (or “an eBay of science”) that could “drastically change the way in which scientists do research.”
As CEO, Elizabeth has already helped the company secure major partnerships with UCSF, Eagle-i, Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs, and the Neuroscience Information Framework (plus landed a spot at Y Combinator). Follow her @elizabethiorns.
Founder and Executive Director, FACE Africa
Saran Kaba Jones was born in Liberia, but left shortly before the country’s first world war in 1989, when she was just eight years old. She returned almost 20 years later to find a country in desperate need—and made it her mission to help.
Enter FACE Africa. Since Jones launched in January 2009, the organization has raised almost $300,000 for clean water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in Liberia. Now, Jones (a Huffington Post Greatest Person of the Day and one of Forbes’ 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa) is gearing up to launch a social enterprise that will provide educational and skills training and economic opportunities for Liberian women. Follow her @sarankjones.
Managing Director, NY Tech Meetup
Each month, NY Tech Meetup gives the Big Apple’s tech community a place to gather, discuss ideas, and examine what their peers are creating. The organization has served as a springboard for hundreds of the city’s start-ups—from Tumblr to Foursquare to Livestream.
And the person who’s made it happen is Jessica Lawrence, who has worked since April 2011 to expand the capacity of the 19,000-member organization while also managing its day-to-day operations. As the NY tech community grows, we know Lawrence will be someone to watch, too. Follow her @jessicalawrence.
CEO and Co-Founder, Nestio
Anyone who’s lived in Manhattan knows how easy it is to find a place to live (or not). So Caren Maio, a 10-year New Yorker all too familiar with the nuances of apartment hunting, decided to take things into her own hands and founded Nestio, an easy way for renters to compile, organize, and share their apartment search.
The company, one of the 11 companies in the first TechStars NYC class, recently launched nationwide, and you can expect to see some significant updates—mobile features, more information for every listing, and easier ways to collaborate with roommates, friends, and brokers—in 2012. Follow her @carenmaio or @nestio.
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Hollaback!
When feminist icon Gloria Steinem was asked, “what women today make you feel that the movement continues?” her response was, “Emily May of Hollaback!, who has empowered women in the street, literally.”
May, who’s been named a Woman Making History by the Women’s Media Center, co-founded Hollaback! in 2005 to give women and LGBTQ folks an empowered response to street harassment. By collecting their stories and pictures in a safe and shareable way, Hollaback! hopes to transform discrimination from a lonely experience into a public movement that changes policy and minds. Follow her @emilymaynot or @iHollaback.
Managing Director, Sandbox Industries
Start-ups are hot, and, as the head of Sandbox Industries’ start-up incubator program, Millie Tadewaldt makes them happen. Since joining the firm in 2010, Millie has founded and grown companies including doggyloot (the leading daily deal site for dog owners), CakeStyle (curated personal shopping service for professional women), Lab42 (social media market research firm), Lost Crates (monthly curated crates of interesting design-related goods), and Get Fresh Kit (convenient subscription to high-end grooming products for busy men).
Look for more soon—she’ll be opening Sandbox’s San Francisco office in Februrary. Follow her @milliemay.
Her Twitter bio reads, “Breaks news, hearts,” and Alexia Tsotsis, recently named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 Rising Stars of Media, is indeed the darling of the tech media world. Tsotsis ran the SFweekly.com website before joining TechCrunch, where she covers early-stage technology start-ups, and has interviewed everyone from Groupon’s Andrew Mason to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
Founding Editor, The Hairpin
If you haven’t checked it out yet, The Hairpin (self-described as the online equivalent of “a low-key cocktail party among select female friends”) is one of our favorite sites for all things fun. We also love the woman behind it, “much sought after” writer Edith Zimmerman, who was the site’s founding editor in 2010 and now co-edits. On her plans for 2012, she tells BlackBook: “We want to get bigger. It’s basically where I wanted it to be now. So the next step is to come up with a cool new concept and try to get there.” We can’t wait. Follow Zimmerman on Twitter and Tumblr.