Editors' Note: We applaud each of these women for her contributions to her field, and they're all equal in our eyes. This list is presented in alphabetical order by first name.
Apple wooed Angela Ahrendts away from luxury fashion designer Burberry nearly four years ago and gave her the task of reimagining its popular Apple Stores. She dove right in, working with Apple creative chief Jony Ive and others to turn the retail stores into "town squares."
"We want people to say, 'Meet me at Apple, did you see what's going on at Apple?'" Ahrendts said during the May 2016 opening of a redesigned Apple Store in San Francisco.
Under Andredt's leadership, Apple has opened stores in new countries like South Korea and Austria, and it's started rolling out free "Today at Apple" events and classes. In the quarter that ended in December, Apple stores hosted over 200,000 such sessions.
Ahrendts is one of only two women at the top ranks of Apple, and she's long been rumored to be in the running to take over as CEO when Tim Cook eventually departs, something she laughed off during an October interview with Buzzfeed. For now, she'll remain the most powerful female executive at the most powerful technology company in the world.
Anna Patterson, PhD, leads Gradient Ventures, Google's new AI-focused venture fund that will connect startups with Google's resources, both technical and financial. It's considered one of the hottest AI incubation teams to watch in the years ahead and is just the latest example of Patterson being a key contributor to a major technology trend.
Her earlier work in internet search was seminal, starting as co-founder of the Cuil search engine and then writing the search engine for the Archive.org's Wayback Machine while she was on a break to focus on parenting.
That strategic career thinking paid off as she re-entered the Valley full-time with Google as a member of its still-small search engineering team, later becoming the 90th employee at Android and then rising to be Google's VP of Engineering in AI before co-founding Gradient.
"I guess one of the things I'd like to be remembered for the most is risk-taking," Patterson told AnitaB.org when she received the 2016 Technical Leadership ABIE Award. "When I went into AI at Google, it was kind of dead. It's hard to believe that it's hot now, but it wasn't that popular when the division was started. So I think risk-taking."
Listen to people who have worked with Anna and a couple of key innovator traits show: She's highly strategic while keeping a hand in at the code level, and she will trust team members to the point that they must stretch beyond anything they may have done before.
-- Written by editor at large Brian Cooley / Photo credit: Web Summit under CC 2.0
Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing computing -- helping our phones understand voice commands, predicting what we're trying to type and automatically editing our photos. But Anne Churchland studies natural intelligence, and she thinks it's time for computers to get an upgrade.
AI uses technology called neural networks loosely based on the billions of interconnected cells in our brains. Today's AI stemmed from 1980s neuroscience, though, and could be improved by reconnecting with everything that's happened since. "There are a lot of discoveries in neuroscience that are relevant to AI," Churchland says.
At her Churchill Lab, she and colleagues study how rodents make decisions, a process that surprisingly proved similar to how we primates do. Specifically, she's using technology called optogenetics that let researchers selectively disable particular neurons by flashing them with laser light, a technology useful for bridging from basic nervous-system reflexes to vastly more complicated mental processes.
Animals are good at combining multiple sources of information to make a decision -- sometimes better than humans, she says. That research can inform computational neural networks.
"The fields have diverged for so long," she says. "It's time for them to come back together."
Ashley Eckstein plays the main character Ahsoka Tano in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Star Wars: Rebels," which has earned her millions of Star Wars fans. But in addition to her acting, she started the geek apparel line Her Universe just for women and girls so they could celebrate their fandom for all things sci-fi in style. She even started an annual "Project Runway"-style contest where girls can submit their geek fashion creations to be made into ready-to-buy clothes in stores like Hot Topic.
Ashley constantly encourages fangirls to understand that they deserve the same attention as male fans from geek franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica and more. In her upcoming memoir and self-help book "It's Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make It Happen," Ashley continues to inspire fangirls everywhere.
Eckstein said she was "beyond honored to be chosen by CNET for this incredible list of women who inspire.
"When I founded Her Universe in 2010, I dreamed of a world where the sci-fi, fantasy and comic book genre would one day be openly enjoyed by everyone. My entire life, society called this genre that I loved so much, a genre for men and boys. Some of my favorite toys and clothes were put in the boys section, or the blue aisle. I was supposed to stay in the pink aisle and be content with only the properties that they deemed were 'for girls.'
"Fast forward to today, we live in a world where 'Wonder Woman' was one of the top grossing films, the lead in the new Star Wars trilogy is a female character and these stories and related merchandise are being enjoyed by the entire family. It brings me great joy that Her Universe was able to play a small part in the movement to change this perception."
It doesn't matter the type of picture -- Ava Duvernay (center) can direct it. She's tackled historical drama ("Selma"), documentary ("13th"), Disney fantasy (the much-anticipated "A Wrinkle in Time") and even an Apple Music ad (who can forget this delightful girls' hangout?).
And DuVernay is making sure to pull others up, too. She teamed up with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to launch a diversity program that will fund internships in the entertainment industry for young people from underserved communities. And she had Disney set up a screening of "Wrinkle in Time" in her hometown of Compton, California, even though there's not a movie theater in the city.
-- Written by senior associate editor Ashlee Clark-Thompson
Bozoma Saint John is one of the few black women you'll see in the executive suite of a Silicon Valley company. After stints at director Spike Lee's Spike DDB, the clothing brand Ashley Stewart and PepsiCo, Saint John became the head of global marketing for Apple Music and iTunes when it took over Beats Music.
Now, she's the chief brand officer for Uber, a role in which she's focused on rebuilding Uber's relationship with riders and drivers. She knows it's not going to be an easy job, but she's not afraid.
"It's about trying to be the representation for what I want to see," Saint John said in a CBS This Morning interview. "I want change, I want things to be great for people of color and for women. For us to be able to show up at work, do our best work and be appreciated for that work."
-- Written by senior associate editor Ashlee Clark-Thompson
Carrie Goldberg is the founder of law firm C.A. Goldberg, which specializes in assisting victims of internet abuse, revenge porn, sexual assault and domestic violence. On her website she describes her work as providing "cutting edge legal help for clients under attack by pervs, assholes, psychos, and trolls."
Goldberg founded her firm using $3,000 of her own money after a vengeful ex attempted to blackmail her with images he had of her. She was unable to find a lawyer with the requisite experience and expertise to help her out -- now she is that lawyer for other people in similar situations.
In September 2017, CBS announced it would make a drama based on Goldberg's experiences -- she is set to be an executive producer on the series. (Editors' note: CNET is owned by CBS.) Goldberg wants to see revenge porn criminalized across the US and frequently calls on major tech platforms to do their part in stemming abuse.
Mittermeier co-founded the non-profit ocean conservation organization, SeaLegacy, along with her partner, Paul Nicklen. She travels the world documenting far-flung regions for SeaLegacy and National Geographic through her photographs, speaking engagements and various published scientific works. Mittermeier and Nicklen recently shared a now-viral video of a starving polar bear to show concrete evidence of climate change, as well as to send a message of conservation.
Here's Mittermeier on her mission: "As a photographer and conservationist my work is about building a greater awareness of the responsibility of what it means to be a human. It is about understanding that the history of every living thing that has ever existed on this planet also lives within us. It is about the ethical imperative -- the urgent reminder that we are inextricably linked to all other species on this planet and that we have a duty to act as the keepers of our fellow life forms.
"There has never been a more critical time for women to participate not just in science but in the overall global discourse on the fate of our planet. As women, we need to step up because our planet needs us. As women, we exert huge influence over our families and communities and we can use that power to infuse everything we do with a new planetary ethic."
-- Written by senior associate editor Megan Wollerton
Diane Greene is the CEO of Google Cloud. Before she joined Google, she successfully led, and sold, three technology companies. She is perhaps best known for co-founding VMware in 1998 (acquired by EMC). Greene currently serves on the boards of MIT and Alphabet (Google's parent company) and is recognized globally as a leader in the tech and software industry.
-- Written by executive producer Harrison Westwater
Before #MeToo and #TimesUp, Ellen Pao found out just how difficult it is to get the world to believe a woman's story of discrimination. While she lost her March 2015 lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins, the legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm that backed Google and Amazon, she put the spotlight on the bad boys club that permeates tech land -- and chose to fight it out in court rather than go the typical route and take hush money to settle her complaint. Three years later, Pao is proud of helping to start conversations about sexism and racism in an industry that bills itself as progressive and innovative.
"The biggest change has been that the assumptions around tech have been turned around. Instead of being viewed as a meritocracy, most people understand that it's not," says Pao, who turned down a $2.7 million "gag order" from Kleiner in exchange for keeping quiet after she lost. Instead, she detailed her experiences in her 2017 memoir, "Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change." The self-described introvert is now a visible and vocal champion for diversity, serving as an investment partner at Kapor Capital and co-founder of Project Include, a nonprofit that gives HR advice to startups.
"People telling their stories and sharing their experiences of harassment, discrimination and retaliation are being believed," Pao adds. "It has taken many women telling their stories to get us here, and I am grateful to every one of them, especially to the ones who were doubted, shamed and ignored, but continued to push for change."
Eva has been a force in shaping the tech industry in LA and beyond for over a decade. She started as a founding executive at Applied Semantics (AdSense, sold to Google in 2003) and Factual (early big data company) and is now running her second seed fund, Fika Ventures. Eva has been committed to fostering diversity in the tech ecosystem through job creation and capital allocation. Given only 7 percent of investors are female globally, and only 2 percent of venture dollars go to women-led companies, she has been a longtime advocate in promoting diversity at the venture capital and founder community, most recently as one of the advocates for the Female Founders Office Hours.
She is active in building the STEM pipeline for the underserved via her non-profit board roles at the California Community Foundation and Iridescent, as well as serving as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2017.
Ho says she is "highly honored to be included amongst this incredible cohort of women. Deeply believe we are living in times where talent and entrepreneurial skills are much more evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. I am passionate about creating access to those opportunities."
-- Written by Michael Powers, senior vice president and general manager of GameSpot
Since 1992, Miralles has worked at the Johnson Space Center, at NASA's VR Lab. During a time when virtual reality was in a slump, lead engineer Miralles and the VR Lab turned it into a critical tool to train astronauts for space walks, teach them how to move payloads, and learn how to navigate back to the International Space Station should they become untethered.
So when an astronaut puts on a VR headset at the VR Lab, it's the closest they'll get to being immersed in space.
Miralles has taken her experience with VR, as well as her experience sometimes being the only woman in the room to tech conferences and events around the country. She wants to help inspire students to get into science, technology, engineering and math. In 2016, she also made CNET's list of the 20 most influential Latinos in tech.
She says she's honored to make the list and is looking forward to doing more outreach to girls and women in tech where she can remind them: "Find your unique passion and use it with a purpose as that will make you happy."
While actor Felicia Day is best known for her roles on the TV shows "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog," "Supernatural," "Eureka," and "The Magicians," it's her strong DIY spirit that made her an iconoclast among the web community. After being frustrated with the pitfalls and obstacles of being a woman in the entertainment industry, Felicia decided not to bother with the traditional avenues of TV and film, and created her own web series about life as a gamer with the hit show "The Guild."
If that wasn't groundbreaking enough, Felicia also created the YouTube channel Geek & Sundry that inspired other creators to produce both original scripted and improvised web shows. She also revealed much of her motivations and creative background in her best-selling memoir "You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)."
"I am so honored to be picked for this list," Day said. "My goal in life has always been to improve lives through creativity and encouraging people to accept themselves. This list holds many champions and I'm humbled to be among them!"
Frances Allen became, in 1989, the first woman named an IBM Fellow, the most prestigious achievement at the computing giant. Then in 2006, she became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, the highest honor in computer science.
Allen, who is 85 and lives in New York, started out as a high school math teacher but decided to take a job teaching Fortran at IBM in 1957 to pay off her student debt. She stayed for 45 years.
She's renowned for her work in the field of optimizing compilers, which make computer programs run more efficiently. She worked on one of the first supercomputers, which the National Security Agency used for code-breaking.
Allen said she never had a mentor but considers mentoring important, especially for women in technology. "It's still something we don't do well, don't do enough of, and don't understand," she said in an IBM oral history.
She sees determination as a key to her success.
"For me, being honest to myself has always been important, not just saying, 'Oh well, we'll just let that go.' I've always tried to do what I felt what the right thing or the best thing," she said. "That sounds a little Pollyanna-ish, but I think I became an IBM Fellow because I didn't always follow and didn't always do what I was told."
Long before daily conversations centered on Silicon Valley investors systemically leaving behind women and underrepresented people of color, Freada Kapor Klein was working to level the playing field.
As a founding partner at Kapor Capital, Kapor Klein focuses on investing in startups that tackle issues of diversity, education, nutrition and community outreach. She has also spearheaded initiatives, like Project Include, which aim to add more women and minorities to the tech pipeline.
"Our country has a talent shortage in tech, which hurts the overall economy," Kapor Klein said. "A deep and thoughtful approach to fixing the leaky tech pipeline can address all of these issues and simultaneously improve the prospects of individuals, families, communities and the economy of the country as a whole."
By actively working to close gaps of access and to create opportunities for women, people of color and low-income communities, Kapor Klein isn't just talking the talk, she's walking the walk.
"We have a growing inequality gap, disparities in access to computer science education by race and income, and tech products that don't address our most pernicious problems," she said. "There is no good reason not to devote resources to plugging the leaks in the tech pipeline and unleashing vast amounts of talent to solve real problems."
Ida Tin (left) used to run a motorcycle company with her father in her native Denmark and wrote a bestselling book about her adventures on two wheels. According to her Twitter bio, she still likes a bit of desert dust and motorcycle tracks, but since 2013 she's also been busy running healthcare startup Clue.
The menstruation-tracking app was one of the first dedicated apps designed to cater to women's health and is known for being progressive, inclusive and free of cliched pink, flowery branding. After Apple was publicly called out for ignoring women's health on its HealthKit platform, Tin also worked with the company to develop its own period-tracking software.
Tin is known for coining the term "femtech" and she has a passion for breaking down taboos around the subject. Her ultimate goal is for femtech to lose its "niche" status and for society to get to a stage where we can openly discuss menstrual health.
"People must be able to feel as comfortable talking about cramps and other period-related symptoms as they would do talking about a headache or a sore throat," she said. "Only once we have got to this point can we say we have fully broken down stigmas and changed the game for women."
Self-produced, independent, engaged, Imogen Heap blurs the boundaries between making music and creative entrepreneurship.
You may know her best for her song "Hide and Seek", but more recently Heap wrote the entire score for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. She's also been building Mycelia, an ecosystem based on blockchain designed to help artists have more control over distributing their work and be more fairly compensated in the process.
In her self-built home studio sits an Ivor Novello award, The Artist and Manager Pioneer award, the MPG Inspiration Award and an honorary Doctorate of Technology. This was awarded to her in recognition of the mi.mu gloves work: a gestural music making system developed by Heap for her studio and stage work along with a team of engineers, scientists and musicians.
Of the five Grammys Heap has won, one of them was for engineering and another for her Taylor Swift's contribution on the album "1989".
Jane Lu famously left her corporate job, started her own company, and spent six months hiding it from her parents.
Jane Lu is the founder and CEO of Showpo, an Australian-based shopping website with a social reach creeping up on 2 million. After landing what many would call a dream job at Ernst and Young, Jane looked at the cubicle she was going to be working in for the foreseeable future. That's when she decided the corporate life wasn't for her.
In 2010, aged 24, Jane launched Showpo in her garage. Seven years later Showpo hit a $30 million run rate for 2017 and hires over 30 people.
Jane Lu calls herself "The Lazy CEO" (that's her Twitter and Instagram handle). And that's not a reference to her work ethic. Jane believes that if you're doing what you love, it's hard to call it work.
Being hand-poached from Google by Sheryl Sandberg to run Facebook in Europe was not the first sign Joanna Shields was destined for greatness, but it was a pretty big clue.
Shields' career encompasses roles at some of the world's most powerful tech companies and within the British government.
After serving as digital advisor to David Cameron and CEO and chair of Tech City UK, Shields was made a life peer in the House of Lords in 2014. She served as UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security from 2015-2017 and in 2017 was appointed the Prime Minister's special representative on internet safety -- a role she still holds.
Safety, and in particular preventing the online exploitation of children, is Shields' true passion and in 2014 she founded the WEProtect Alliance, an initiative designed to engage internet companies in the development of technology aimed to combat online child abuse. The Alliance is led by Shields and the UK government, but also encompasses major initiatives run by the US Department of Justice and the European Commission.
Joy Buolamwini is the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, an organization fighting undesirable bias in AI. Formerly a CTO for global health tech consultancy SwiftTech Solutions, she is currently undertaking a Ph.D. at MIT.
Her most recent work "Gender Shades" is the first study to show large accuracy gaps in commercial gender classification software from companies including IBM, Microsoft, and billion dollar startup Megvii(Face++). Her TED talk on bias in algorithms has been watched over 1 million times around the web.
But Buolamwini's work goes far beyond identifying racist or sexist algorithms. She is creating tools, datasets and methods of classification that are leading to improved transparency and new international standards for facial analysis technology. Her hope is to contribute towards a future where technology works well for all of us and centers social change.
"As a poet of code, my life's mission is to show compassion through computation and expand the surface area of opportunity to enable more people of all backgrounds to shape the future of technology," she says. "I am inspired by the idea of full spectrum inclusion -- what would our world look like if everyone could thrive and express themselves fully?"
Juliana Rotich is a leading technology consultant and advisor in Kenya and served as Chair of World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Data Driven Development.
In 2013, Rotich co-founded BRCK Inc, a hardware and services company based in Kenya. BRCK is a self-powered mobile Wi-Fi router that has on-board battery and storage, a backup generator for the internet.
Rotich also co-founded Ushahidi, an open-source crowdsourcing platform for social activism and public accountability, and served as executive director of the company until 2015. Ushahidi was born out of the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya, and has since been deployed over 125,000 times in 160 countries, including during the 2016 US presidential election.
According to her website, Rotich's mission is to "make things, fix problems and help others." She is a champion for internet connectivity and supporting entrepreneurs.
Artificial intelligence seems like it'd be neutral. It's based on machines, so how can there be bias? That is the question scholar Kate Crawford has been investigating for the last decade.
What she's found is that AI can quickly skew toward being sexist, racist and discriminatory. She warns the danger here is that AI is now is being used in everything from personal banking to advertising.
"We're at an inflection point where the power and the reach of machine learning is rapidly expanding," Crawford said. "But these systems can also amplify form of bias and unfairness if they are uncritically applied in criminal justice, education, and employment."
Crawford is the co-founder of AI Now, which is a research center focused on understanding the social implications of AI. She's also a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and the chair of the World Economic Forum Network on AI and the Internet of Things. Her work focuses on figuring out when "intelligent" machines discriminate and how to avoid it.
"We urgently need methods to assess and fully understand the social implications of AI," Crawford said, "to ensure that they're sensitive to complex social domains."
Kathryn Haun is a former federal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice, who served as lead prosecutor on the team that brought down dark net and money laundering sites and the corrupt federal agents investigating the Silk Road. During her time at the DOJ she investigated and prosecuted hundreds of violations of federal criminal law in US courts, with a focus on organized crime syndicates, cybercrime, the Dark Net, digital currency and the blockchain.
Haun also served as the Justice Department's first-ever Digital Currency Coordinator, and taught Stanford Law School's first course on Digital Currency and Cybercrime. Currently Kathryn serves on the Board of Directors at Coinbase, advises investment funds and technology companies, and teaches cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies at Stanford Business School.
-- Written by executive producer Harrison Westwater
As the female cast member of the hit educational TV series "MythBusters" on Discovery Channel and "White Rabbit Project" on Netflix, Kari Byron used everything from duct tape to dynamite to show the exciting side of science. Kari also had her own Science Channel show, "Head Rush" aimed at science education for teens. Kari not only became a role model for budding female scientists from her work on TV, she also helps to promote the importance of STEM education for girls.
Her new memoir "Crash Test Girl: An Unlikely Experiment in Using the Scientific Method to Answer Life's Toughest Questions" shows how to use science to help in every aspect of our lives including career, relationships, finances, creativity and more.
"I am so honored to be in the company of these incredible women," Byron said. "Our world is evolving and I am humbled watching this generation of girls find their rebel yell."
Before starting Kode With Klossy, a program that hosts coding camps for girls, supermodel Karlie Kloss made headlines for things you'd expect from a model, like walking in fashion's hottest shows and being the face of major brands. Since the program's launch in 2015, however, Kloss has given the world even more reason to talk about her. Her efforts to encourage young women in tech landed her on Forbes' "30 Under 30" list last year, and the publication dubbed her "the new face of coding."
Kloss, 25, started learning the basics of Ruby on Rails at Flatiron School in New York four years ago. She began offering scholarships for young women to take a coding course at the school before launching her own two-week summer camps for girls ages 13-18. Kode With Klossy takes place in over 12 cities across the US, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Kloss' hometown of St. Louis.
Leah Missbach Day and her husband F.K. Day founded World Bicycle Relief (WBR) in 2005 in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, providing more than 24,000 bicycles to displaced survivors so they could have access to education, healthcare and maintain their livelihoods. Since then, WBR has created programs to provide specially designed, locally assembled bicycles for students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs across Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.
In rural developing countries like these, the biggest barrier to education is often the physical act of getting to school. Tasked with many more domestic chores than boys, girls fall behind because of the cultural obstacles they face. In many of the areas, it's common for girls to arrive at school late and tired, if at all. Girls also face the many dangers of walking to school as far as 8 miles or more in the dark early morning hours.
World Bicycle Relief's education program targets 70 percent of bicycle distribution to female students in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. By providing bicycles to females, WBR helps empower them with knowledge, safety and ultimately, change the course of their lives.
World Bicycle Relief points to research that shows girls who complete their secondary education are six times less likely to be married as children. Even completing primary education can drastically improve a girl's life in these countries. Thanks to Missbach Day and her husband, girls in the developing world are learning and living better than ever before.
Missbach Day said: "At World Bicycle Relief, our belief is that educating girls is an invaluable investment in them, in their community and nation. Beyond the proven results of increased attendance and improved performance, girls tell us they feel far safer riding than walking. It is powerful to hear girls expressing their confidence out loud because of their bicycle. For me, the ability to show people what overcoming adversity looks like is a gift of purpose."
Lena Waithe has accomplished more in the past year than a writer/actress could hope for in an entire career. Her humorous, engaging and earnest stories of the black LGBTQ experience rightfully earned her Out Magazine's 2017 Artist of the Year title.
She won an Emmy for her work on the "Thanksgiving" episode of the Netflix show "Master of None," which made her the first (!) black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series. Her autobiographical TV series, "The Chi," debuted this year on Showtime. TBS just picked up "Twenties," a comedy show Waithe has written that centers around a queer black woman. And Waithe is about to pop up on big screens everywhere in the Steven Spielberg-directed "Ready Player One."
-- Written by senior associate editor Ashlee Clark-Thompson
Lisy Kane is of the firm belief that she is a "good joke teller", but what she's really good at is making video games.
And helping other women also make video games.
Kane is a producer at League of Geeks, the Melbourne-based game studio that released Armello in 2015. She's also helped produce and launch games such as Push Me Pull You and Hand of Fate to global audience. Kane is also the co-founder of Girl Geek Academy, a global movement on a mission to help 1 million women in tech by 2025. Girl Geek Academy hosted Australia's first all-woman hackathon and ran #MissMakesCode, a hackathon for girls aged five to eight.
Kane made Forbes 30 under 30 list in the gaming category back in 2017. She's 31 now, and frequently complains about having "sore ankles", but still makes time to do the rounds on the Australian speaker circuit and mentor other multiple other women in the Australian games industry.
In 2018 she'll be keynoting at the Xbox Women in Games Rally at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Kane is also currently working on a top secret project she's not supposed to talk about.
Europe's Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is one of the few people in the world who goes up against the most powerful Silicon Valley CEOs and wins.
Formerly a politician for Denmark's Social Liberal party, Vestager now commands a team of over 900 staff and occupies one of the most powerful spots within the European Commission. Since her appointment in 2014, she has successfully pursued antitrust and tax investigations against Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple, which have cumulatively cost the companies billions of dollars in fines.
Her most famous run in was with Apple CEO Tim Cook, who reportedly lectured, interrupted and shouted at her during a visit to Brussels to discuss the company's tax arrangements in Europe. When Vestager later ordered Apple to pay back 13.5 million euros in taxes, Cook denounced the decision as "political crap."
As a regulator, she presents herself as a champion of consumers and as someone who prioritizes digital issues. This is not only because she is concerned about the size of technology companies, she told the New Statesman in January, but because of the way they are shaping society.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is one of the strongest defenders of the 2015 net neutrality rules the Republican-led majority repealed in December. And as her second five-year term on the commission nears an end, she has vowed to fight to restore the rules any way she can.
Clyburn, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, was the first African-American woman to serve on the FCC. She is also the first woman to chair the agency, a position she held from May 2013 until October that year when President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler as chairman.
Clyburn, a former public utility commissioner for South Carolina and a publisher and editor of a weekly newspaper serving the African American community of Charleston, has long championed consumer causes and promoted diversity in media. During her tenure on the FCC, she's been an outspoken supporter of reforming prison inmate calling services. She's fought to modernize and protect the FCC's Lifeline program, which subsidizes the cost of phone and broadband service for poor and disabled Americans. She's also been a strong advocate for enhanced accessibility in communications for the disability community. And she's pushed for media ownership rules that reflect the demographics of America.
"As an FCC Commissioner, I maintain that an agency with regulatory oversight over an industry representing one-sixth of the US economy, can either be an enabler of or a barrier to opportunities for all Americans," said in a statement. "With a focus on putting consumers first, my office has now translated the former into a fight for a free and open internet (Net Neutrality); affordable communications services; viewpoint diversity and just and reasonable phone rates for inmates."
Clyburn has to leave the agency by the end of the year since her term ended last summer. But she's vowed to continue making sure consumers' voices are heard.
A champion for digital inclusion and equality, Nanjira Sambuli's mantra is that Africa isn't poor, just mismanaged. Formerly the research lead at leading Nairobi tech incubator iHub, Sambuli now leads advocacy efforts at the Web Foundation.
Sambuli says that she's drawn to exposing, through research and advocacy, that digital inclusion is following traditional patterns of inequality -- with women and girls, especially in the global south, along with those living in poor and rural communities being left behind.
"These trends remind us that technology is not a panacea," she says. "I am keen to see the internet acknowledged as a public good (thus centering the role of governments in making sound policies) and a human right, to truly deliver digital equality, and it is to this that I work."
Sambuli's expertise is frequently sought out by high-level policymakers. From 2016-2017, she served on the UN Secretary General's High Level Panel on Women's Economic Empowerment, and was one of few people of color to serve on DFID's Digital Advisory Panel. She was also named on New African's list of most influential Africans in 2016.
Her nickname is the "Godmother of VR," the Oculus VR founder Palmer Lucky was her intern, she was one of the recipients of the 20 Latinos in Tech award from CNET en Español of 2017, and she was invited to lunch with Prince William. Meet Nonny de la Peña, a Harvard graduate of Mexican descent who's biggest passion is immersive journalism.
De la Peña is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Emblematic Group, a production company based in California that creates content using virtual reality, augmented reality and mix media to help viewers to step into the story.
Nonny de la Peña shared with CNET that it hasn't been easy to feel empowered as a woman in a man's world. She actually shied away from sitting across Prince William at that lunch and the first time she walked into a classroom full men she got so nervous she walked out. Twenty years later, she is empowered and thinks is important that women remember to "lean in, sit at the table, don't walk out, you belong here too. Your voice is what makes content interesting, diverse and unique and people are going to want to hear what you have to say."
-- Written by audience development manager Tania Gonzalez
Padmasree Warrior was a tech executive active on Twitter before it was cool. Warrior is best known for her tenure at Motorola, where she championed the idea of "seamless mobility," or the idea that people could communicate with anyone anywhere and using any device. We take this capability for granted now, but it was a novel idea in the early 2000s. Having served as the chief technology officer for Motorola and Cisco, and now the CEO of the US arm of autonomous vehicle startup NIO, she has one of the most respected resumes in all of tech.
She doesn't mince words when it comes the challenges women face in the tech world. "Being a woman in tech is not easy," she said. "Women often feel more pressure to prove themselves every step of the way. Unfortunately, this has not changed over the years."
Warrior added, however, she's encouraged that people are speaking up about harassment. "This more than anything is helping inclusion."
Polly Rodriguez is the CEO and co-founder of Unbound, a feminist brand/toy shop/sex education site -- essentially a self-described rebellious feminist brand started in order to further "fun, inclusive conversations around sex."
But sex tech isn't always an easy topic, which is partly why Rodriguez also began the Women of Sex Tech group with her friend Lidia Bonilla. "There has never been a more exciting time to be a female/femme-identifying founder in sex tech," Rodriguez said.
Sex sells, but selling sex is hard and the pair wanted to tap into a community of women who were facing similar challenges in their industry. Pushing societal norms, the community has transformed into a movement generating publicity, funding and more for its members.
"Women and non-binary entrepreneurs are building solutions to the problems we've encountered our whole lives. And as the womxn of sex tech are building diverse teams, our companies are thriving, and (venture capitalists) are finally starting to take notice. So, whatever your idea is, no matter how crazy or seemingly taboo, go build it. We need you now more than ever."
-- Written by engagement editor Caitlin Petrakovitz
It's been quite a year for Rachel Morrison. Not only was she the cinematographer on box office juggernaut and instantly iconic "Black Panther" (seen here on set with director Ryan Coogler), but her work on "Mudbound" made her the first female director of photography nominated for an Oscar.
Massachusetts-born Morrison has previously worked as cinematographer on eight Sundance festival premieres in seven years. She has earned numerous award nominations and worked multiple times with Ryan Coogler and Oprah Winfrey. Morrison has one child with her wife.
Pratchett writes across many different mediums, adapting her games to comic books for DC, as well as film and TV scripts.
Creating fantasy worlds is in Pratchett's blood. She is the daughter of the fantasy writer Terry Pratchett and in 2012, she became one of the four founders of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her late father's works.
Over the past year Pratchett has been working on adapting some of her father's books -- Good Omens, The Watch Series and Wee Free Men -- for television.
As a producer Carlsson is well known for embracing technology in making music and when she was honoured by Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology and asked to hold a lecture, she decided to do something bigger.
The first Tekla festival was held in Stockholm in April 2015. Over 200 girls and young women attended the festival and took part in workshops and lectures in which they got to sample different areas of future technology in a fun and imaginative environment. By the following year, the size of the festival doubled.
In conversations surrounding diversity in tech, it's a common refrain that you can't be what you can't see.
Sherrell Dorsey is making sure black founders and and business leaders are seen. In April 2016, she started a daily newsletter called ThePLUG with the aim of telling the stories of the black tech community.
"Day after day, I'm hearing about these incredible folks like Zuckerberg and Gates, but there's more than white guys in the world that are creating phenomenal technologies," she said.
Dorsey, who is finishing a master's degree in data journalism from Columbia University, wasn't always a journalist. She was a marketing manager at Uber and worked on the sales and strategy team for Google Fiber. Her experiences growing up around the Seattle tech scene shaped her desire to see people of color in tech not only highlighted, but covered equally, and not just treated as anomalies.
On the ground in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she lives part time, she's also founded Build the Good, which is a community development consulting firm that runs BLKTECH Interactive, which supports black tech companies in the area.
"Having the stamp of approval from CNET is a tremendous honor," Dorsey said. "It does stand out for us. It means we're doing something right."
Shonda Rhimes is the television hit-maker behind long-running and wildly-popular "Grey's Anatomy", "Scandal", and "How to Get Away With Murder", not to mention various spin-off shows. The Chicago-born writer and producer is known for compelling, complex characters and charged, forward-thinking story lines, all wrapped up in dynamic, dramatic television. Winner of multiple awards, Rhimes is in such demand that in 2017 she became one of the handful of star creators signed to an exclusive deal by Netflix.
With her production company Shondaland, Rhimes has not only put the spotlight on layered, three-dimensional women of colour in her shows but also recruits and supports diverse creators behind the camera.
After leaving her job as an engineer at Uber, Susan Fowler documented, in an intentionally matter-of-fact post on Medium in February 2016, her "very strange year" at the ride-hailing service. Calling out a chaotic company culture rife with gender bias, sexual harassment and unprofessional business practices -- and a jaw-dropping lack of accountability by the HR team -- she noted the number of women engineers fell from 25 percent of the team she'd worked on to just 3 percent.
But nothing highlights Uber's management craziness than the story of how the then-engineering director decided six female engineers shouldn't get leather jackets because the world's most valuable startup, with a valuation of about $70 billion, wasn't going to get a discount like the deal it was getting for 120 men's jackets.
"When other women spoke out, they were retaliated against. So there were certain things I thought I could avoid," she told Time magazine after if named her -- and other women -- Person of the Year in 2017 for being "The Silence Breakers." "I can't have any emotion in my blog. I have to be very, very detached.' And I had to make sure that every single thing that I included in there had extensive physical documentation, so it couldn't be 'he said, she said.'"
Startups are also no longer calling themselves the "next Uber," with Fowler telling Time: "There's a shift to, 'We're not disrupting anymore. We're trying to build something that's good for consumers and treats employees fairly.'"
She's been called "Her Deepness" and the "Sturgeon General." And even an "aquababe." (Hello, 1970!) Time magazine once named her a Hero for the Planet.
Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, 82, has made it her mission to save the planet by restoring its "blue heart": the ocean.
In 1970, she led the first team of female aquanauts on a two-week underwater expedition. Earle had applied for the Tektite Project, but only got the OK to participate on an all-female team. She calls it a turning point.
"I became more acutely aware than ever before of the strong bias that existed (and still does) against women in traditionally male roles," Earle said. "Men participating in the project were consistently referred to as 'aquanauts,' but the women made headlines as 'aquabelles,' 'aquachicks,' 'aquababes' and even 'aquanaughties.' We didn't really care what we were called as long as we could participate!"
Earle was the first woman to be chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She's also founder of nonprofit Mission Blue, which raises public awareness of and support for marine protected areas, or "hope spots," around the world.
Telle Whitney is, in part, responsible for this. She and her friend Anita Borg, for whom the Anita Borg Institute (now just called AnitaB.org) was named, founded the Grace Hopper conference in 1994 with just 500 attendees. The conference has since grown every year and in 2017, hit 18,000.
"The most important work of my life has been the influence the organization has on hundreds of thousands of women who aspire to be in technology," Whitney said.
Whitney served as CEO of Anita Borg from 1992 until 2017 when she retired. She also co-founded the National Center for Women and Information Technology, another organization for the advancement of women in tech.
"Role models are so important and I'm honored to be a part of this list of influential women," she said.
Whitney Wolfe Herd's early business efforts were notable for having a real social conscience behind them. In college, she sold bamboo tote bags to help areas affected by the BP oil spill, launched a non-profit business and volunteered in orphanages.
These days, she's still trying to do good, but in notoriously tricky world of online dating. Wolfe Herd was a co-founder of Tinder, reportedly coming up with the app's name, but left as she pursued a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company.
In 2014, she was approached by Badoo to create a dating app that gave women more control. And so Bumble was born.
The app was designed around giving women more control over the initial interaction with men, avoiding the problem of unsolicited pictures that is part of many women's online dating experience. It resonated with its target audience, and quickly took off.
Now the app boasts over 22 million users, a successful monetization strategy and 70 percent year-on-year growth, Wolfe Herd has reportedly batted away several buyout offers from Tinder's parent group Match -- the first for $450 million, then another for $1 billion. Wolfe Herd, it seems, is not one for settling.