19 Bay Area Women to Watch in 2019


Enterprise leaders. Social impact innovators. Future builders. Change makers. New faces standing out in the crowd. Inspired by Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women in Tech, we take a look at the Bay Area women who are making a difference and building a better world.

The Bay Area has long been a center of environmental activism and tech innovation, and while many of these women have become integral parts of these movements, we’re celebrating the full spectrum of fields where they contribute. Whether it’s through work in their industry, or how they find ways to give back in their everyday lives, these Bay Area women are changemakers making a definitive mark. While they aren’t all yet leaders in their fields (though most are), these are the women we think are going to make a lasting impact in the future and shape things to come.

Here’s our definitive list (In alphabetical order):

1. Melissa Blaustein, Sustainability Commissioner for Sausalito

Marin native, UC Berkeley grad and Sausalito resident Melissa Blaustein works in international development to address key issues in global and local sustainability. Blaustein works to create a level playing field and a healthy business environment across international boundaries. She’s worked to open the US market to competitive fueling alternatives to gasoline as Director at the Fuel Freedom Foundation and built partnerships with international organizations and governments as Founder at Allied for Startups. Her most recent task? Advising the City of Sausalito on climate action and waste reduction plans as Vice Chair of the Sustainability Commission.

2. Kimberly Bryant, Founder, Black Girls CODE

Nurtured from a young age by teachers who recognized her aptitude for math and science, Kimberly Bryant built a career in biotech from her foundational education in electrical engineering and computer science. Recognizing that her daughter, Kai, was equally passionate about tech, Bryant saw an opportunity to build a supportive community of girls and young women who were excited by tech. Bryant founded Black Girls CODE, where she works to provide girls and young women from underrepresented communities computer programming and technology skills. Her goal? To introduce one million girls to computer science by 2040.

3. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, CEO at Center for Youth Wellness

Dr Nadine Burke Harris
Photo: NBCnews.com

Slated to be sworn in as the first ever Surgeon General for the State of California on February 11, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris will focus her time combating the root causes of serious health conditions. As founder and chief executive for the Center of Youth Wellness in San Francisco, Burke Harris built a career helping children recover from adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress which can increase the likelihood of chronic diseases.

4. Brandi Chastain, Women’s Soccer World Cup Champion

Brandi Chastain
Photo courtesy of Great Heaights Corp

2019 will mark 20 years since Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal of the Women’s World Cup Final and struck a pose that inspired a generation of young girls to pursue their own goals on and off the field. In her role as the Executive Director of California Thorns Soccer Academy in San Jose, and through her non-profit, BAWSI, Chastain advocates for gender equality in sport, engaging and empowering young girls to find their voices through sport.

5. Dominique Crenn, Chef / Owner, Crenn Dining Group

Dominique Crenn
Photo: Nicole Mackinlay Hahn

After earning her first Michelin star at Luce at San Francisco’s Intercontinental Hotel in 2009, Dominique Crenn made history in 2012 when she won two Michelin stars for her work at Atelier Crenn, her eponymously named restaurant and then broke her own record, when the restaurant then received its third Michelin star in 2018. Crenn is also a tireless advocate for equal rights for all. Through her collaboration with organizations such as the Basque Culinary Center and Pan American Development Foundation, she remains an outspoken member of the international culinary community, promoting innovation, sustainability, and equality. Crenn was recently featured on an episode of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table“.

6. Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Apple

Apple is committed to reducing its impact on the environment at all levels of the supply chain and Lisa Jackson is at the center of this greening effort. With Apple’s global operations now 100% renewably powered, the company is tackling a new challenge: making products without mining new materials. The focus of Jackson’s efforts is sourcing more recycled or renewable materials, up-cycling disposed Apple components into new products, and developing new products with a longer product life, contributing to Apple’s ultimate goal of achieving a closed-loop supply chain.

7. Shelly Kapoor Collins, Shatter Fund, Founding Partner

Shelly Kapoor Collins, Founding Partner at the Shatter Fund, knew that a mere three to four percent of all venture capital funding is given to women and six percent of all venture capital investors are women. She boosted those stats when she set up the Shatter Fund in 2016, utilizing her deep experience in Silicon Valley to invest solely in female-founded and led technology companies. Her latest initiative is the Shatter Summit, a convening of industry leaders that is focused on accelerating investment and entrepreneurial opportunity for women.

8. Belinda Johnson, COO, Airbnb

In her new role at COO of Airbnb, Johnson is responsible for the company’s operating systems, business-enabling functions, legal, policy and communications. Known for her conciliatory approach to conflict, a rarity in the upper echelons of Silicon Valley, Johnson strives to build a corporate culture that is welcoming to women and inclusive of all.  She continually stresses the importance of learning from one another, that her colleagues’ contributions are valued and appreciated. Supporting others efforts builds trust and respect, ultimately boosting not only gender equality in the workplace but a team’s success.

9. Jessica Kilcullen, Co-founder and Chief Harvester of the Harvest Summit and President, Kilcullen Family Vineyard

Harvest Summit is driven by crafting innovation, a breath of fresh air and an alternative to the standard business conference. The brainchild of Jessica Kilcullen this annual, one-day experience in the heart of Sonoma is designed to be free of powerpoints or podiums, but rich in conversation among innovators and free thinkers across industries and disciplines, and focused on the issues and challenges shaping our current and future world. Call it an innovation field trip.

10. Joen Madonna, Executive Director, ArtSpan

Long-time community arts champion and UC Berkeley grad, Madonna stepped into the role of Executive Director at ArtSpan in 2014 with the goal of expanding the organization’s connections between artists and the public. Home of the largest (and oldest) open studios program in the United States, ArtSpan will open its first-ever community art space, the Onondaga Art Center, slated for late 2019, thanks to Madonna’s efforts. The move into a San Francisco city-owned historic building enables ArtSpan to provide artists, neighbors and the Bay Area community greater access to art and programming, and artists access to working studios.

11. Marilou McFarlane, Founder of WiST and President, North America, STATSports

Marilou McFarlane founded the non-profit Women in Sports Tech in early 2018 to change the ratio in the sports tech business world and develop growth opportunities for women throughout this field. McFarlane’s initiatives include WiST Fellowships for college student internships, and a jobs portal sponsored by Nike, IBM Sports, the NBA and others. She also works to encourage sports tech conferences to improve the gender balance of their panels. WiST is McFarlane’s volunteer side hustle; as the President of North America for  STATSports, she’s leading the introduction of GPS performance monitoring technology to field sport teams and athletes at all levels.

12. Liz McMillan, CEO of dictionary.com

In addition to being named to San Francisco Business Times‘ 2018 Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business, Liz McMillan is shaking up the nerdy world of words. Under her leadership, dictionary.com moved from a site for inspirational quotes to a definitive resource understanding words in their modern, socially relevant context. That is: McMillan nixed the boring and made searching for – and using words – fun.

13. Neka Pasquale, Founder, Urban Remedy

A Bay Area native, Neka Pasquale, has healed patients for a decade as a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist before founding Urban Remedy. Following her belief that access to healthy food is a right and not a privilege, Pasquale built Urban Remedy meals, bars, and beverages around the idea of using the restorative powers of food as a tool for improving and maintaining health. Pasquale recently undertook the effort to certify Urban Remedy as a B Corp, balancing purpose and profit and building an inclusive and sustainable economy. As a member of Sausalito’s The Conscious Kitchen board, Pasquale furthers her commitment to food as an instrumental part of good health, helping to transition school kitchens and the communities they serve from pre-packaged, processed food to scratch-cooked meals and bringing a measure of good health to all eaters.

14. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

When Sheryl Sandberg told women in business to “lean in,” it was an opportunity for women to support and encourage each other and learn new skills. Now Sandberg has launched a #MentorHer campaign to rebalance the power in the workplace. In the wake of #MeToo movement, LeanIn.org discovered that men are now less likely to to participate in common work activities with women, including mentoring. Sandberg’s #MentorHer challenges men to re-engage women in the workplace, noting that mentorship is critical to help women move into leadership roles.

15. Tina Sharkey, Co-Founder and CEO, Brandless

The way we buy and consume may forever change, thanks to the work of Tina Sharkey and her latest venture, Brandless. A serial entrepreneur, Sharkey digs in to create global consumer brands and companies with community at their soul. By offering products at simple, fair prices, eliminating layers of distribution to ship direct to consumer, and insisting that all products meet the highest standards of safety, quality, and social ethics, Brandless is shattering retail and sourcing norms, engaging customers in a fresh, inspired way and democratizing access to quality.

16. Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Writer, Director, Producer, First Partner

First lady? Jennifer Siebel Newsom prefers “First Partner.” With her husband, Gavin, newly elected Governor in January, Siebel Newsom will be using her new platform to focus on gender equality and social and economic immobility in California. Her second film, The Mask You Live In, explored issues of what masculinity means to boys; we spoke the Newsom about the film here.  A renown documentary filmmaker and the force behind the Representation Project, Siebel Newsom’s next project, The Great American Lie, focuses how on gender dynamics makes an impact on society at large.

17. Villy Wang, President and CEO of BAYCAT

The founder of the non-profit social enterprise BAYCAT, Villy Wang has spent her career creating greater social equity. By harnessing the power of digital media arts to capture stories and drive social change, Wang seeks to change the face of the creative industries, literally. Through BAYCAT, she provides access to digital media arts education and paid workforce training, supporting young women and youth of color to launch their careers while telling powerful stories of corporate and community partners who are solving some of the biggest world’s problems.

18. Anne Wojcicki, Cofounder and CEO, 23andMe

Anne Wojciciki 23andMe

23andMe wants to give individuals control over their health care data. Anne Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe in 2006 with the hope to empower consumers by providing access to their own genetic information. In turn, this more personalized information could create a way for researchers to better understand and develop new drugs and diagnostics. Wojcicki’s creation, now one of the world’s largest databases of individual genetic information, allows for the rapid recruitment of participants to many genome-wide association studies at once, shortening the path to new medical discoveries, helping people to understand potential medical issues they may have never know they had before. Personalized medicine has never been closer to hand.

19. Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube

One of the few women to ascend to the C-Suite in notoriously masculine Silicon Valley, Wojcicki uses her position atop video pioneer YouTube (a Google-owned business) to champion diversity and inclusion. One of Google’s first employees (Wojcicki’s sister, Anne, is the former wife of Google founder, Sergey Brin), Wojcicki was an early champion of online video and was instrumental in Google’s 2006 acquisition of YouTube. Named to Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2015 and recently named the most powerful women in tech by Forbes, Wojcicki’s business decisions are felt far beyond YouTube’s billion users.

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