It’s been declared the Year of the Woman for so many years running, it’s about time to acknowledge what we already know: We’re challenging paradigms, upending business as usual, and building a new world order. Not just this year, but from now on.
At Marie Claire, we make it our mission to celebrate women’s triumphs every day, and for our 6th annual New Guard list, we're highlighting the 50 women who really owned 2018. They're disrupting billion-dollar industries (like Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd and Glossier’s Emily Weiss), founding billion-dollar companies (including Adi Tatarko of Houzz and Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe), taking them public (see: Eventbrite’s Julia Hartz and Stitch Fix’s Katrina Lake), and of course, running them (congrats Susan Wojcicki of YouTube and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy of StubHub). Women are also changing the stories we tell (yes, Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay) and how we tell them (a round of applause for Netflix’s Cindy Holland and Disney’s Jennifer Lee).
Listed in alphabetical order—because they’re all on top!—these 50 disrupters, creators, and innovators are seriously leading the charge. We promise by the time you finish scrolling, you’ll feel inspired, empowered, and ready to join them as they shake up the status quo.
Ruzwana Bashir, 𝘊𝘰𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘊𝘌𝘖, 𝘗𝘦𝘦𝘬
Over half a million travelers in more than 18 major global cities have signed up for experiences through Peek, which also provides booking tech for excursion companies. Bashir recently announced a partnership with Google, meaning we’ll see Peek’s food tours, DJ lessons, and waterfall hikes on Google’s Search, Maps, and Trips functions. Fun fact: Bashir was the second Asian female president of Oxford University’s debate society. (Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was first.)
Ava DuVernay, 𝘍𝘪𝘭𝘮𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘳
Make history? Oh, yes, she did. The in-demand auteur was the first African-American woman to direct a film that had a $100-million-plus budget and grossed over $100 million (A Wrinkle in Time). Now on her to-do list: directing the DC Comics movie The New Gods, another $100-million-plus project, and producing and/or directing a series about the Central Park Five for Netflix, a CBS racial-crime drama, and a comedy based on Colin Kaepernick’s life. Just one Q: When can we expect that Rihanna/Lupita/Issa project?
Megan Ellison, 𝘍𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳, 𝘈𝘯𝘯𝘢𝘱𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘢 𝘗𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘴
Nearly every year since 2012, the notoriously private Ellison has had at least one of her production house’s films nominated for a best-picture Oscar, including Her, American Hustle, and, most recently, 2017’s Phantom Thread. Next year, the mogul is slated to produce Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart.
Audrey Gelman, 𝘊𝘰𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘊𝘌𝘖, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘨
The former deputy communications director for NYC comptroller Scott Stringer, who grew up with Lena Dunham and was reportedly the inspiration for Girls’s Marnie Michaels, opened the Wing in New York in 2016. Now, the women’s-focused, Instagram-bait social club/coworking space is also in D.C. and San Francisco, and its signature blush-pink scheme and color-coordinated libraries will soon take flight in L.A., Seattle, London, and Toronto.
Cindy Holland, 𝘝𝘗 𝘰𝘧 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘵, 𝘈𝘤𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘖𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘚𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴, 𝘕𝘦𝘵𝘧𝘭𝘪𝘹
If you did (screen) time at Litchfield Penitentiary and obsessed over Eleven, thank Holland, who oversaw development of a slate of Netflix’s acclaimed, highly bingeable shows, from House of Cards to Orange Is the New Black to Stranger Things. She’s nailed exclusive contracts with Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, and, oh, the Obamas. Netflix’s 130 million subscribers can’t be wrong.
Shonda Rhimes, 𝘍𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳, 𝘚𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥
Four years after she dominated ABC’s Thursday-night lineup, Rhimes and her venture Shondaland have conquered the entertainment world. She signed a $150 million deal with Netflix this summer and is working on two series, one based on grifter Anna Delvey and another based on Ellen Pao’s tale of sexism in tech, Reset; a documentary on choreographer Debbie Allen; and an adaptation of The Warmth of Other Suns, an award-winning book about black migration to the North. In other words, is there anything Rhimes can’t do?
Jennifer Salke, 𝘏𝘦𝘢𝘥, 𝘈𝘮𝘢𝘻𝘰𝘯 𝘚𝘵𝘶𝘥𝘪𝘰𝘴
Salke, who left her role as president of NBC Entertainment (where she shepherded This Is Us) to run Amazon Studios in February, has wasted no time. She’s locked in contracts with Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele and Lena Waithe, as well as the rights to Pulitzer Prize–winning author Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.
Meridith Valiando Rojas 𝘊𝘰𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘊𝘌𝘖, 𝘋𝘪𝘨𝘪𝘛𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘔𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘢
You may have never heard of Max & Harvey and Raegan Beast, but hundreds of thousands of rabid Gen-Z fans have. Valiando Rojas’s music-festival company, backed by Ryan Seacrest and Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary, makes top vocal talent from YouTube and Music.ly even bigger via concerts. Her experience working with digital influencers helped inform her first book, Selfie Made: The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Stardom, out last month.
A version of this article appears in the November 2018 issue of Marie Claire.
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