Women on Top Awards: The Transformers

For Marie Claire's third annual Women on Top Awards, we combed the country for the up-and-comers leading thought-revolutions, creating businesses, and making names for themselves in fields from the military to the arts. None is a day over 40, with a couple of notable exceptions: We've added a "Super Woman" category to celebrate women of any age who made their mark on 2012. But their accomplishments speak for themselves...

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    11. Top Military Woman

    Lieutenant Commander Megan Donnelly, 32, assistant strike operations officer on the USS Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Navy

    Résumé: As a Navy pilot, Donnelly has racked up 2,400 hours of flight time, including two deployments to Iraq and Qatar. This year, she won a leadership award, in part for safely navigating a key international oil route and pirate-infested waters aboard the Abraham Lincoln, a 5,000-troop aircraft carrier.

    Path to the Top: "In high school, I did a program at the Naval Academy. I was interested in aviation; an astronaut came to speak to us, and I realized: I could fly for the Navy! It was a tough four years. My class of 1,000 had 195 women, 69 of whom dropped out."

    Defining Moment: "I was one of 12 people on the Abraham Lincoln to earn the 'Officer of the Deck' qualification. Every day I had a shift steering the ship, second-in-command to the captain. He trusted me with our most difficult routes because of my calm under pressure."

    Classified Couple: "My husband is a Navy pilot, too, but the Navy won't put married couples on the same squadron, so we've alternated deployments for years. But having the same job gives me peace of mind. If he says he has a mission, I don't worry when I don't hear from him for a week."

    Graeme Mitchell
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