As a woman in business, I’m always looking for inspirational success stories, whether in fashion, politics, entertainment, sports, business, literature or art. Of course, there are the obvious women I admire, your Sheryl Sandbergs, your Oprahs, your Christiane Amanpours, your Angela Merkels.
But there are so many other, off-the-beaten-path women who are equally inspiring. These are the eight women – eight because it’s a lucky number in Chinese culture – I’m keeping my eye on these days:
CEO and founder of Parachute
It would be enough if all Ariel Kaye had accomplished is founding the company that creates amazing sheets that make you want to melt between them. But she’s done so much more than that. Not only has she built a successful company from the ground up, but she has found at least two (there may be more) ways to use her company’s success to help those in need. First, any returns of Parachute sheets are donated to Habitat for Humanity for use in their clients’ homes. Second, for every set of their Venice sets of sheets, they send a malaria prevention bed net to Nothing But Nets, which provides them to residents of sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is a leading killer of children. Another interesting note: a significant portion of her funding was spearheaded by two female-led VC’s, Flybridge Capital Partners and Upfront Ventures. This Cosmo article about her is also a great read.
Fashion designer, Carolina Herrera New York
Not only is Carolina Herrera one of my favorite designers – see here, here, here and here, among others – but she is one of the most elegant women I’ve ever seen (not that we’re personal friends, mind you). She has built an extraordinary, multifaceted, global business and stayed true to her philosophy of making only high-quality, beautiful products that she would be proud to put her name on. Even better, she is a dedicated philanthropist, and has been honored on numerous occasions for her extraordinary commitment to cancer research.
U.S. Senator from California
Sen. Kamala Harris started her career as a prosecutor and eventually became California’s Attorney General. In 2016, she became the junior senator from California, making her the first Indian-American to serve in the U.S. Senate (her mother is Indian and her father is Jamaican). Harris immediately became a “One to Watch” and political betmakers have already given her a top seed in the 2020 presidential race. Harris is engaging, warm and funny, but she doesn’t hesitate to go to the mattresses when the situation calls for it. Keep an eye on her.
Play-by-Play Announcer, ESPN
Beth Mowins has been a play-by-play commentator with ESPN since 1994, calling a variety of major events. But neither she – nor any woman, for that matter – has called a regular season NFL game since 1987, when Tampa news anchor Gayle Sierens called the Seahawks-Chiefs game. We recently learnedthat Mowins will call the Sept. 11 game between the Chargers and the Broncos in Denver, the late game of the Monday NightFootball opening week doubleheader. Hopefully, this won’t be an every-30-years kind of gig. Let’s be sure to tune in and cheer her (and your team of choice, of course) on.
Jhumpa Lahiri won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her debut book, Interpreter of Maladies, and she hasn’t slowed down since. Her books catapult instantly to the top of the best seller lists, despite their seemingly niche appeal: they almost all deal with Indian immigrants coping with life in these United States. Each book, however, manages to transcend that niche and have universal appeal. I don’t know if it’s her elegant, spare writing style or her richly developed characters, but Lahiri’s books are always worth a read, and usually a re-read.
It’s not often a financial columnist makes me cry, but Michelle Singletary manages to do it again and again – all while delivering practical, easy-to-understand financial advice. Raised by her grandmother after being abandoned by her own mom, Singletary is no stranger to hard times. And she uses her own background to illustrate the importance of smart financial decision-making, even when you’re not making very much money. A recent column she did on pending legislation to help grandparents raising their grandchildren was a tear-jerker, but that’s not an isolated incident. Anybody who can turn “managing your money” into a lump in the throat is earning her keep.
Host and co-creator of Serial podcast
Sarah Koenig has been a fixture to radio audiences as a contributor and producer on This American Life. A few years ago, she got a call from a woman asking her to look into the murder conviction of a family friend – the kind of call reporters get all the time. But this call put her on a path to the story that, seemingly, never ends. The convicted murderer was a man named Adnan Syed, who was serving time for the murder of his former girlfriend. The family friend insisted the evidence didn’t add up and convinced Koenig to look into it. The result of her work was Serial, a podcast that shattered all podcasting records and made Koenig into a cult figure. It also resulted in Syed beinggranted a new trial. Stay tuned to see where that goes.
Asst. U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York
Like me, Zainab Ahmad grew up on Long Island and became a lawyer. Unlike me, she travels the world interviewing witnesses and possible collaborators in international terrorism plots. She is one of the most successful prosecutors of terrorism cases, due to the combination of a relentless work ethic, an ability to relate to jurors, and a keen ability to “flip” terrorism suspects who then lead her to bigger fish in the world of international terrorists. She’s definitely one of the “guys in white hats” who have dedicated their lives to keeping our country safe.
There are a million other women out there who are equally inspiring. Please share your nominations with me in the comments section.