Last week, Apple released a diversity report that was refreshingly transparent—but disappointing for women. Globally, only 31 percent of its employees are female, and that number drops to 28 percent when it comes to leadership roles, then to 22 percent for “tech” positions. It’s not the only company with a gender gap. Industries such as banking, comedy, sports…heck, name any industry, and it’s probably male-dominated. These glass ceiling breakers are changing all of that, landing top spots in finance, gaming, and more. So the next time you look around the conference room and see a bunch of suits and ties, remember their names:
1. Carrie Mantha, Founder/CEO at Indira, Former Surgeon and Investor
Honestly, there’s not much Mantha hasn’t done: She’s been a surgeon, run healthcare investments, founded two tech companies, and consulted for biotech companies. Now, she has jumped into the startup world with Indira, a customized bridesmaid and wedding gown business. Growing up, she loved math and science, so studying biomedical engineering, researching molecular biology, and going to medical school seemed like obvious decisions. Drawn at first to the challenge and excitement of surgery, Mantha soon wanted to be on the cutting edge of new science in order to impact more people than she could see on an operating table—so she left medicine, got an MBA, joined a hedge fund, and invested in innovative biotech companies. In this entrepreneurial world, every “problem” was an opportunity to create a solution. For Mantha, success is a moving target—so who knows where the former Miss Florida USA will be after her current project.
Her secret: “I’ve always followed my heart, and focused on where I felt I could make the biggest difference. If you don’t look, walk, talk, or dress like people who’ve succeeded before you, people won’t assume you’re going to be successful yourself. That means you have to prove it to them.”
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2. Michelle DeFeo, President of Champagne Laurent-Perrier US
DeFeo comes from generations of coal miners, but she chose a path less traveled in her family: champagne. After starting out as a French translator—with hopes to eventually work for the U.N.—her dreams changed when she began to learn more about champagne and wine during her tenure at Clicquot, a luxury champagne brand. DeFeo has worked with mostly men in the sale and distribution side of the alcoholic beverage business, but she believes things are changing in the management space. During the past 5 years, she’s seen more women in executive roles and has continued to advance in her career as well.
Her secret: “I’ve never resented having to prove that I could do this. I accepted and continue to accept the challenge, and I’ve been delivering.”
3. Pocket Sun and Elizabeth Galbut, Co-Founders of SoGal Ventures
If you can believe it, Sun (left) is 24 and Galbut (right) is 26, and they are venture capitalists behind the first-ever female-led Millennial venture capital fund for diverse entrepreneurs in the United States and Asia. These ambitious young women met at the Stanford + 500 Startups Venture Capital Investor Course—which Sun calls “serendipitous, yet predestined.” They banded together because the two shared a mutual understanding of how they’d like to make an impact on the world, and they’re doing it by running a business that helps other young women start their own ventures. SoGal Ventures aims to invest in technologies and businesses that tackle major consumer or healthcare problems in the U.S. and Asia, while empowering females to push the boundaries. In a venture capitalist industry teeming with men, Sun and Galbut hope to disrupt the status quo as investors to make the entrepreneurial world more inclusive and diverse.
Pocket’s Secret: “My father often told me, ‘You are going to create jobs for people some day. Don’t worry about getting one.’”
Ellie’s Secret: “I knew I wanted to play a leading role in redesigning the future of our nation’s health.”
4. Sande Chen, Video Game Creator and Teacher
Ninety-five percent of all video game programmers are male, and the average salary for men is a whopping $15,000 more than women. Despite these stats, Chen has managed to write an award-winning video game and launch a non-profit to help women enter the industry. By college, she’d not so much as touched a gaming console, but after attending film school, Chen wanted to push the boundaries of screenwriting for video games—where few employment opportunities existed. She has since been profiled as one of the game industry’s top 100 most influential women by Next Generation magazine, co-authored a book on video gaming, and spoken at conferences worldwide. Chen enjoys working at the cutting edge of technology and creativity, where people design games for smart-watches and dabble in virtual reality. She believes women are able to succeed in gaming without getting sucked into the vicious publicity hacks and can overcome the hurdle of the big, invisible sign that tells women to stay out.
Her secret: “I had to be really persistent and keep at my goal. There were times when I felt like I was clawing my way up. To know that so many people cherish a game that’s occupied my life for months, that is success to me.”
5. Erin Coscarelli, Host on the NFL Network
Growing up, Coscarelli was raised around sports and competition. Saturday mornings were spent watching WWE and driving to soccer and volleyball tournaments, which eventually led to her sports career. She says, “Working in a male-dominated industry just means you have to be even more prepared than your male colleagues.” As she continues hosting on television, she has been inspired by Jen Welter, the first female coach in the NFL, and Beth Mowins, who recently became a play-by-play announcer for the Raiders, a rare gig and shining moment for women in the sports industry. Coscarelli is excited for the future of sports for female careers and looks forward to participating in the positive changes.
Her secret: “I love what I do. I love covering sports. I’m such a competitive person. It’s fun for me to interview these talented athletes who compete their entire lives to achieve their ultimate dreams. It’s inspiring.”
Photos Courtesy of Carrie Mantha, Michelle DeFeo, Pocket Sun, Sande Chen, Erin Coscarelli