37 Women Who Are Disrupting the Status Quo and Championing Gender Diversity in Advertising and Tech

Celebrating top female leaders in media and marketing

These women are working to close the glaring gap in C-suites across the country.
Photo Illustration: Adweek

It should come as a shock to no one that there is a serious lack of gender diversity in C-suites across the country. Currently, just over 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by a female CEO, while only 19 percent of their senior management positions are held by women. In the advertising industry, a mere 11 percent of creative directors are female.

So what exactly is being done to fix this glaring gender gap—and, more importantly, who’s stepping up to fix it? Read on to find out about 37 of the women who are taking on that crucial task and disrupting the status quo.
—Emma Bazilian

Anjula Acharia
Partner, Trinity Ventures
A true connector, this venture capitalist and talent manager spans the worlds of Hollywood and Silicon Valley while also bridging the gaps that women and people of diverse backgrounds face in both industries. Her clients include Bollywood star turned American TV phenom Priyanka Chopra, who recently starred in the movie remake of Baywatch as the villain—a role that was originally written for a male actor. As a partner at Trinity Ventures, she’s invested in a number of female-founded tech companies while working with initiatives such as the Holberton School to help diversify the next generation of engineers. “We are not one thing,” she says. “And we can’t be defined by one story, as nobody can be.” —Marty Swant

Sharmi Albrechtsen
CEO, SmartGurlz
Sharmi Albrechtsen wants more women in technology jobs. The co-founder and CEO of SmartGurlz is hoping its products—coding robots made for girls, with girls’ play patterns in mind—will make that happen. The SmartGurlz coding robots look like typical dolls but come with different coding games that teach girls about science, technology, engineering and math. “Our mission is to catch as many young girls as possible,” says Albrechtsen. “[We want to] give them role models, confidence and interests in technology so that they do not ‘self-select’ away but instead ‘lean in.’” —Kristina Monllos

Gretchen Carlson
Television journalist
Since her well-publicized departure from Fox News last summer following a sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes (parent company 21st Century Fox settled with her for $20 million and issued a public apology), Carlson has become a prominent advocate for women’s issues, passionately speaking out against harassment in the workplace. “Empowering women has always been central to who I am, especially mentoring young women interested in the television business,” Carlson says. “My door has always been open.” Her mission is continuing through her new fund, Gift of Courage, which “inspires women and girls to stand up and speak up,” she adds. Meanwhile, her upcoming book, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back, will be published in October. —A.J. Katz

Solange Claudio
President, Moxie
Solange Claudio knows it’s hard to walk the walk when it comes to achieving a more diverse workplace, but as president of Publicis Groupe’s Moxie, she has done just that. In her first year in that role, Claudio elevated two women to round out the agency’s female leadership to six. “Our goal is to set up more programming of that nature so we continuously encourage women to take on leadership roles,” Claudio says. And she’s not stopping there. Within Moxie, Claudio created and now leads Amelia, an offshoot of Publicis Groupe’s VivaWomen program. As a member of the Atlanta ad community, she found the needs of Moxie’s women differed from the rest of the network. And with Amelia, she places a premium on promoting women in data, content and technology.
—Katie Richards 

Lisa Clunie and Jaime Robinson
Co-founders, CEO and CCO, respectively, Joan
Joan co-founders Lisa Clunie (CEO) and Jaime Robinson (CCO) took a big chance when they decided last year to bring yet another advertising shop into the world. Joan was born over a lunch during which the two made a list of all the things driving them nuts in the industry (it came out to about 90 items) and made a pact “that we would start a company if we felt we could topple those over one by one and bring a new energy and spirit to the industry,” Robinson recalls. By identifying key tension points that many agencies and clients face—from collaboration to the pricing model—Joan is able to present brands including General Mills and Netflix with a different business model. —K.R.