Welcome to this years top ten list of women who are making waves in technology. This is a moment where the Chip Chick team takes a stroll down memory lane to highlight some of the breathtakingly impressive and simply amazing feats that women have undertaken this year. Be it cutting swathes in traditionally male dominated areas like the auto business, or starting up social networks for good,we want to highlight some of the ladies that have rocked our world in 2013.
Rachel Haot, Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York
We should all be a little bit in awe of Rachel Haot. Sure, she’s another amazing intelligent woman, like all on this list, but she’s accomplished so much! Haot’s career is varied, and demonstrates many interests, always with a technology slant. She has interned at the United Nations, launched a global new platform, and worked with peer to peer file sharing company LimeWire to secure rights to music that could legally be streamed through their Magnet Mix library. Pretty eclectic and cool, right? Well, now she is breaking new ground, for both men and women as the Chief Digital Officer for New York, a role created specifically for her in 2011.
During her time their so far, she has developed and launched the We Are Made in NY technology initiative, reaching over 150 million pageviews online and letting visitors to the city understand who is hiring, and in what sectors. She also introduced the first ever city government hackathon, Reinvent NYC.GOV, which then led to the Reinvent Green sustainability hackathon and Reinvent the Payphones Design Challenge. Haot is unique in that she isn’t prepared merely to do a good job, she needs to disrupt the status quo and challenge traditional thinking which leads to happier, effective people, and a city which is consciously embracing change.
Lily Cole, Model and CEO the Impossible Network
Sure, Lily Cole is stunning and can rock a Givenchy gown like a creature pulled from a LOTR book, but with her beauty comes some serious brains and a passion to use her fame for good. The Impossible Network (still in beta), was launched back in April, and is designed to be “an altruistic social network”. Backed by Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder, it’s an online compendium of wishes and potential wishes. The idea is pay it forward, help someone out with spanish tutoring or a fish and in return – you get nothing.
This might be 25 year old Lily’s first social network, but the model has been involved in charitable works for a long time. Her first fray with modeling was when she got spotted at 14, and her first runway show was at 16. More than just a pretty face, she received five grade A “A-Levels” (an average British person takes three) and got accepted to Cambridge University to study Social and Political Sciences. Due to work commitments she deferred twice, and eventually attended and studied History of Art (she switched majors).
She is currently an ambassador for children’s charity Global Angels and has argued against child labor in the fashion industry. Animal and environmental issues also mean a lot to her and she received the Doctor of Letters for her “outstanding contribution to humanitarian and environmental causes,” from the chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University, Professor Muhammad Yunus.
Jess Lee, CEO of Polyvore
In a world where female CEO’s can often be counted on one hand, and where Forbes refuses to notice any female person of note under 35, 31 year old Jess Lee has risen to the top and managed to look stylish doing so (not that it matters, but hey, extra props).
But she’s not a sit at work, hands off CEO – she’s a fully trained computer science major with a love for innovation and a creative spark. She’s honorary CEO of Polyvore, where users create virtual “sets” using real life products they can buy from stores, custom graphics and cool designs.
Jess Lee grew up in Hong Kong and studied computer science at college. Her first role was at Google as an associate product manager, and then she became intrigued by a new startup she heard of – Polyvore.
Jess wasn’t a founding member of Polyvore, she’s one who saw it just after launch and liked it… but she had some issues. She told the New York Times, “I wrote a note to the founders — I didn’t know them — and just said: “Hey, this is amazing. I have some complaints and some suggestions.” I wrote a long list of complaints, and then they wrote back and said: “Hey, why don’t you fix this stuff yourself? Why don’t you join us? – We met for coffee and we clicked.”
Isabella “Bella” Weems, CEO Origami Owl
Isabella Weems (known as Bella by friends and fans) has been working hard since she was 14 years old. At 14, Isabella launched Origami Owl, a company which allows design curators with a platform to reach a larger audience under a unified brand.
Isabella was inspired by an average 14 year old desire – she wanted a car. But being broke at 14 was hard, so she went entrepreneurial, buying charms wholesale and selling them at parties.
It’s a big role for a young girl, but luckily she had her family to support her, with everything from software to outreach and branding. She’s not a figurehead though, she’s a proud business owner and a great example to show that you’re never too young to start thinking big.
And as for the car dream? She now has a lovely white jeep and a company that earns over $280,000 annually.
Gina Bartasi, Founder , Chief Executive Officer Fertility Authority
Gina Bartasi has a rather impressive resume She has worked in the entrepreneurial space for almost two decades and her dedication and know how has helped launch numerous brands, with her direct involvement in everything from branding to financial independence and outreach.
She graduated from the University of North Carolina , Chapel Hill in 1991, and went on to to be the president of the Harvard Business School Management program, where she also completed her graduate training. She founded the Leader Publishing Group in 2007, a publishing property which started with one local magazine and went on to build multiple titles serving the local Atlanta regions.
In 2008 she launched Fertility Authority, to enable men and women to get a better sense of understanding around their fertility options, everything from prices to choices. Think of it as a matchmaker for IVF patients and clinics. The website shares details, connects doctors to patients and makes money off being transparent- and referral practices. It was something lacking in the space, and as a first time mother of twins at 37 years old, Gina knew it was something missing in the space. Her drive not only demonstrates her entrepreneurial spirit, her understanding of the market, but also a drive to make things better for men and women, by giving them clear and defined options.
Kristin Bell, Actress and Kickstarter Queen
We all fell a little in love with Kristin Bell in 2004. She played Veronica Mars, the sassy high school girl detective, who negotiated tricky teenage years with a lot of sass and an eye for solving crime. She showed the world that a young female lead could be smart, sharp and vulnerable, and she even turned that annoying blonde stereotype on its head. This year Bell was part of a Kickstarter campaign to make a full length Veronica Mars movie, and it became the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the history of the site thus far.
Born in Detroit, Bell’s parents were divorced and she grew up moving between their houses. She got into acting in high school and went to NYU to study musical theater, which is how she started out in acting. When she started the Veronica Mars role, there was a lot in the script that resonated with Kristin- she too came from a broken home, had lost a good friend through tragedy when she was younger, and this might be one of the reasons that the show resonated so much; the angst felt very real.
Kristin Bell is excited about the upcoming Veronica Mars film, a project asked for by fans, that raised $5.7 million dollars on Kickstarter. The movie will cover Veronica’s 10 year reunion.
“I am currently the happiest blonde in a hamster ball the world has ever seen. We have been waiting so long to make this movie dream a movie reality, and it’s because of YOUR commitment, YOUR persistence, that we finally have a chance,” she wrote on her Kickstarter page. Don’t you just love the girl?
“Reality is Broken: Why games make us better and how they change the world” is the title of Jane McGonigal’s’ book. That might give you some indication of how incredibly awesome this lady is, a badass game designer with a mission to make us all play better.
Her deal is trying to let people use games to heal and grow, and if that sounds lofty and complex let us break it down for you. An example would be her SuperBetter game, designed to help stressed out people face personal difficulties such as anxiety and chronic pain. The game – which she created and founded – works by letting people build up resilience by completing and unlocking a variety of challenges.
Born in New Jersey, with an identical twin, she started her career with an English BA from Fordham and later completed a PhD in performance studies at UC Berkeley. During her career she taught game design and game theory at Berkeley at San Francisco Art Institute, and she used her skills of working with language and people to create game concepts that stretch the boundaries of the idea of games, blending reality with the virtual world and engaging people in a way that translated to real growth when the screen switched off.
Through her love of gaming and outreach work, Jane has been commissioned to help create and deploy strategic and smart games for a number of companies, which include the American Heart Association and the International Olympic Committee.
Angela Ahrendts, Senior Vice President, Retail and Online Stores for Apple
Not many people leave the logo’d shelter of the Burberry brand, and few of them are women with as much public importance as Angela Ahrendts. Angela was previously the CEO of Burberry, a fashion brand valued at more than 3 billion dollars, and Angela is credited at having tripled that revenue to what it is now. She left for the world of Apple, but what does a fashion maven know about working for a technology company? A lot as it turns out, as the skills that made Angela excel as CEO – innovation, leadership and determination work equally well in any innovation. Her move to Apple has led to massive speculation that Apple is seriously investing in wearables but having, her on board is a smart move however you look at it.
“If a seamless transition is my greatest legacy, then the greatest gift I can receive in return is to see the true measure of the company’s success by how many lives are touched and transformed by the power of our performance.” She wrote on LinkedIn.
Angela was born Indiana, and is one of six children. She studied Merchandising and Marketing at university, and then, hoping for a fashion job, made the move to Liz Claiborne. Her break came in 1989 where she started work with Donna Karan, developing the brand worldwide and this led to a move to Henri Bendel and then Fifth and Pacific Companies. In 2006 she took on her role at Burberry and made the move to London to spearhead changes there, which lead the company to huge success.
Angela has been very focused in building up companies, it’s a combination of savvy understanding of the market and a real understanding of what people want; the allure of designers, that allow her to establish herself as such a force. He role at Apple will be Senior Vice President, Retail and Online Stores, and we can expect to see some interesting changes there over the next year.
Kate Bailey, Industrial Designer at Microsoft
Kate studied at the California College of the Arts, and was hired on graduation day by Microsoft who immediately embedded her on their design team for the Surface. They had spotted her potential and encouraged that, and it’s cool to see someone talented given the opportunity to shine. Kate recently designed a skull embellished cover for the Surface, inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead, and Microsoft let her run with it.
She has also had the opportunity to do other cool projects, such as her design for a wireless keyboard that went into production in 2011.
Kate continues to work on the Surface design team, and Microsoft says that they are committed to future generations of the Surface. So we’re expecting to see great things from Kate… put her down as a watch this space woman.
Julia Kagnskiy is a very accomplished woman, At 27, she has just been announced as the NYC’s New Museum’s latest hire, as director for their art, tech and design incubator, a project valued at $2 million dollars. Her background is in art and community, and she founded the #ArtsTech meetup in 2008 which allowed social media networkers to connect and discuss new technology in the art scenes.
Other strings on her bow include her role as Editor-at-Large for the Creators Project, a Vice Media/ Intel mashup that showcases some of the most exciting new innovations and designs in the art-tech space, and she founded the Blue Box gallery in NYC which gives artists a space to be creative and “out there.”
Disclaimer: As always, there are many more women we wish could have made this list for 2013. But each year, we like to highlight women from all walks of life, from famous CEO’s to the ladies just starting out. And one thing they all have in common? The passion to succeed, and a burning ambition to make something out of their life and the lives of others.