Meet the top young women leaders who are changing the face of technology.
1. Ruzwana Bashir, 31, cofounder and CEO, peek.com
As a frequent traveler, Bashir often found that researching fun activities was time-consuming and frustrating. “I couldn’t understand why something like OpenTable for activities didn’t exist,” she says, so she decided to start something herself. Peek.com helps travelers find and book excursions—like a Segway cheesesteak tour in Philly or kitesurfing lessons in Maui—online. It’s a concept others in the tech industry believe in too. The company has a group of A-list investors including Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, and Apple selected the app to be on all in-store iPhones nationwide.
What makes her proud: Bashir, who grew up in a British Pakistani community in the U.K., recently went public about being sexually abused as a child. “As a successful entrepreneur, I felt I owed it to my community to speak out about these issues,” she says, and her abuser was ultimately convicted of criminal charges.
2. Ayah Bdeir, 32, founder and CEO, LittleBits Electronics
“I imagine a world where, just as you go online and design your own window shades, you will be able to design your own electronic products; everyone becomes an inventor,” says Bdeir. Her company, LittleBits, makes electronic building blocks that allow customers to build the technology that would, say, make a teddy bear light up or control an air conditioner with an iPhone. Her market: everyone from kids to engineers who are prototyping new products.
Her big vision: “Electronics are controlling our lives,” she says. “Yet the tech world is an industry controlled in a top-down fashion by big companies, so there’s a slow cycle of innovation. We want to make hardware innovation limitless and put the power of electronics in everyone’s hands.”
Laura Borel, 26, product manager, Jawbone
Borel’s “aha!” moment came during a trip to an amusement park, where she noticed a concerning number of overweight children. In 2011 her idea became a reality when she founded Nutrivise, an app that delivers personalized meal recommendations to its users, which Jawbone acquired two and a half years later. Now product manager for Jawbone’s Up wristband, she focuses on nutrition and weight management and is responsible for features like the daily “Today I Will” health challenges that encourage users to do things like log extra steps or drink eight glasses of water.
What she hopes to accomplish through technology: “My ultimate vision is that we’re able to solve major issues like obesity and malnutrition,” says Borel. “To be able to get into this tech space and leverage the tools we have to reach millions of people…makes such a difference.”
4. Leah Busque, 35, founder and CEO, TaskRabbit
The idea for TaskRabbit came to Busque one wintery night in 2008 when she was confronted with a hungry pup and an empty dog food bowl. “I thought, Wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone online we could connect to and have them get us some dog food?” Four months later she quit her job at IBM to build the first version of TaskRabbit. Now the platform, which allows users to outsource home services to pre-vetted “taskers,” is in 19 U.S. cities with more on the way. Says Busque, “We want to revolutionize the way people work on a global scale.”
What makes her proud: “The impact we have on people’s lives.” A San Francisco mom once used TaskRabbit to find someone to visit and bring healthy meals to her Boston-based son, who was having chemotherapy. “It turned out to be another mom,” says Busque, and the two families formed a cross-country bond.
5. Shaherose Charania, 33, cofounder and CEO, Women 2.0
As a young woman working in Silicon Valley, Charania watched as her male peers started companies together and funded one another’s projects; she came to the conclusion that “tech and innovation were taking off without us.” So in 2006 she co-founded Women 2.0, now one of the world’s largest community-driven media brand for women in technology and entrepreneurship (the company has reached more than 100,000 women so far), which, among other things, offers meet-ups and conferences to bring visibility to women in tech.
What’s changing in tech: “Women no longer have a ‘if I can’ mindset,” she says. “Now it’s more about ‘how I can’—be in tech, start something in tech, fund something in tech. That shift is exciting! And it happened because we created a network where we show, daily, that women are innovating.”
6. Limor Fried, 35, founder of the electronics and tutorial company, Adafruit
Ever want to make your own mini robot? Fried’s company, Adafruit, makes that possible, selling open-source hardware kits to let tech gurus or everyday hobbyists DIY their own products. It all started when Fried made her own MP3 player and put the how-to on her website. “People kept emailing me, saying, ‘I saw your project, and I want to build that too. Can you send me a kit?'” she says. “So I thought, Maybe I should start a company.” Fried, the first female engineer ever to appear on the cover of Wired, did just that, and last year Adafruit earned more than $22 million in revenue.
Her words to live by: “I get to choose my own destiny. And you can look however you want because you’re the boss.”
7. Rebecca Garcia, 23, developer evangelist, Squarespace, and co-founder, CoderDojo NYC
Garcia’s day job is at the website-building platform Squarespace, where she splits her time between coding, community development, and education. But her weekends are spent at CoderDojo, an international nonprofit whose New York City chapter she co-founded. Drawing from New York’s tech community, she runs workshops with about 100 youths per month, signing on mentors who teach kids aged seven to 17 web, game, and app development.
Notable achievements: Last year Garcia became the youngest person ever to receive a White House Champion of Change Award for Tech Inclusion.
8. Laura I. Gómez, 35, cofounder, Vyv
Gómez earned her tech chops at Twitter, where she managed Twitter en Español and was a founding member of their international team, responsible for expanding the social network to 28 languages. She then played a similar role at Jawbone. Now she’s launching her own company, Vyv, “a game-ified Reddit,” she says. Users will publish content and get paid for it according to its popularity using the virtual currency Bitcoin.
What she’s most proud of: She’s active: “We’re trying to make sure we bridge the gap between technology and public policy,” she says.
9. Sara Haider, 28, lead Android engineer, Secret
Haider and her older sister taught themselves coding when Haider was just nine years old, spending hours building websites for each other about the things that interested them (i.e., the Backstreet Boys). Today her skills are being utilized as the lead Android engineer for Secret, a new social network that lets you share honestly, and anonymously, with your friends. Before becoming Secret’s first engineer, Haider worked at Twitter and built its Vine for Android app.
What she’s most proud of: Securing sponsorship and seed funding for Girls Who Code when it was just getting off the ground (Haider is an advisor to the organization). “You’ve got to go back to the next generation of kids,” she says. “Statistics show that around seventh or eighth grade, girls become less interested [than boys] in math and science, but before that their interest is the same. It’s important to remind girls that this is a career option.”
10. Rachel Haot, 31, chief digital officer and deputy secretary for technology, New York State
After founding GroundReport, one of the earliest global citizen-journalism platforms, in 2006, Haot made the shift to public service, acting as chief digital officer for New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg for three years before continuing on to a similar position at the state level under Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Day to day, my goal is to improve your digital experience with New York State government,” she says. In addition to overseeing a complete overhaul of ny.gov, Haot is also charged with promoting Start-Up NY, which offers tax incentives for companies to launch and create jobs in New York.
What got her hooked: “Technology is changing every aspect of our society,” she says. “[It’s powerful to] be able to participate in that from a design, engineering, or user perspective—they’re all exciting ways to impact the world.”
11. Ching-Yu Hu, 29, cofounder, Skybox Imaging
Six years ago Hu and her three cofounders wrote a business plan at Stanford University: They wanted to launch breadbox-sized satellites into space to map the earth much the way Google indexes the Internet. They achieved their goal—and Google took notice, buying the company for $500 million in June. Data from the company’s first two satellites will be used to monitor crops, traffic patterns, deforestation in the Amazon, and aid efforts at refugee camps in South Sudan. “It’s really powerful information, and it can touch every sector of the economy,” says Hu.
What blows her away: “It’s really incredible to think that six years ago this was a business plan, and now we’ve got satellites in space with our signatures on them taking pictures around the world. I have to pinch myself!”
12, Vanessa Hurst, 27, founder and CEO, CodeMontage
Can you change the world through coding? Absolutely, says Hurst. She co-founded Girl Develop It, which offers “low-cost and judgment-free” coding classes (the organization has taught more than 12,000 women how to build software) and now runs CodeMontage, which connects coders of all skill levels to social-good projects run by nonprofits. It’s a win-win: The coders get experience that will ultimately help them land jobs, and the nonprofits get tech help they couldn’t otherwise afford.
Why she loves being part of the tech industry: “My mission is to inspire people, to improve the human experience, and tech is one of the best resources we have. Empowering women is a huge part of that.”
13. Jocelyn Leavitt, 35, and Samantha John, 28, cofounders, Hopscotch
Hopscotch, an iPad app that enables kids to use blocks of code to create animation, games, and pictures using interactive software, “is an easy way for kids to get started with coding,” says Leavitt, a former teacher. Since she and John built the app, creating the first programming language specifically for a mobile device, users have made over 2.5 million projects. And recently the company launched an online community where users can upload and share their projects, which Leavitt says has allowed them to determine that nearly half of their participants are girls.
Best thing about their jobs: “It’s really enjoyable to be creating a new tool that’s accessible and inventing a new way of thinking about programming,” says Leavitt. John adds that they’re also really proud of the direct impact the app has had on their users. “A teen girl recently emailed us from Australia,” she says. “She didn’t really know what programming was, but she discovered Hopscotch and now she wants to be a programmer.”
14. Nikki Kaufman, 28, founder, Normal
“One size fits none” applies to every pair of uncomfortable earbuds you’ve ever owned. But it won’t be that way anymore if Kaufman has her way. Her company, Normal, launched in July and makes custom 3-D-printed earbuds based on photos of your ear taken with her company’s app, all for $199—not bad, considering that custom earphones can cost 10 times as much. In fact, Kaufman came up with the idea after her husband, Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman, paid $2,000 for his custom pair. “I thought that was ridiculous,” she says. Next up, her company is working on a Bluetooth version of the headphones.
The trends she’s banking on: “Everyone is talking about mass customization, 3-D printing, and the future of retail. Normal is all of those things.”
15. Erica Kochi, 35, cofounder and co-lead, UNICEF Innovation Unit
Seven years ago Kochi and her UNICEF colleague, Christopher Fabian, began talking about how the organization might better use technology to strengthen its programs worldwide. They cofounded UNICEF’s Innovation Unit, which operates 14 innovation labs that partner with governments, the private sector, academia, and individuals to come up with locally relevant solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Think youth entrepreneurship programs in Kosovo, mobile birth registration in Uganda, and renewable energy resources in Burundi.
Most exciting global use of tech: “With technology, people in remote places can suddenly have a say in what’s happening to them,” she says. “That was not possible five years ago.”
16. Vanessa Larco, 29, senior product manager, Box
Larco fell in love with computer science when she attended an engineering summer camp as a high school junior. “I liked that there were literally endless possibilities,” she says. As an iOS product manager at Box, which offers free, secure cloud-storage and file-sharing services, Larco’s job is enabling people to work collaboratively via their mobile devices. Before Box she worked at Microsoft, where she and her team pioneered voice recognition in gaming on Kinect.
What excites her most in the tech world: “I’m really excited to see the movement toward technology that changes people’s lives, like fitness bands and other wearable tech,” she says. “I think it’s going to be the key to tackling our country’s obesity problem.”
17. Dana Ledyard, 33, managing director, Girls Who Code
Girls Who Code is one of the best-known nonprofits geared toward generating interest in coding among young women, and as its managing director, Ledyard also runs the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, an intensive seven-week computer science class for high school girls. She’s expanded the program from a single New York City-based camp of 20 girls in 2012 to a cohort of 375 girls across 19 programs in five different states who graduated this year. “I see girls go from shy and unsure of themselves to pitching a product on stage,” she says. “We empower them to be builders and creators instead of just consumers of tech.”
Where she sees herself in 10 years: “I hope I’m retired because I’ve invested in all of our summer graduates’ successful companies!” Ledyard quips. “They’re all going to be CEOs and running their own companies; I joke that I’ll be working for them some day.”
18. Jess Lee, 32, cofounder and CEO, Polyvore
Lee got her start as the Google Maps product manager, but even after she logged out from her day job, she never logged off. Instead she spent her nights perusing Polyvore, a Pinterest-like platform where users can discover and shop for fashion, home decor, and beauty products. “I was a huge fan, but I got annoyed with some features on the site, so I wrote the founders a long email with all my complaints,” she recalls. “They wrote back, and said, ‘Why don’t you come work with us and fix this stuff yourself?'”
Why she’s hooked: “I think that a lot of products for women are underserved by tech, so being able to pioneer [in that sector] is exciting.”
19. Hilary Mason, 35, founder and CEO, Fast Forward Labs
When she was a kid, Mason wanted to be “a computer programmer, a taxi driver, or an astronaut.” She spent four years as a top data scientist at the URL-shortening service Bitly, where she helped “map what the world is paying attention to” by analyzing the hundreds of millions of links that people click on every day. Recently she started her own company, Fast Forward Labs, which helps corporations figure out how to use futuristic technology such as programming computers to create English-language sentences out of data.
Among the coolest things she’s built: A coffee table embedded with a tiny projector that can beam an image of a board game onto the surface. “It’s empowering to be able to build these things for yourself.”
20. Erie Meyer, 30, U.S. Digital Service, The White House
Recently appointed to the White House’s elite U.S. Digital Service team, she’s working with top tech leaders to improve how we all interact digitally with the government. That might mean, for instance, smoother rollouts of big Web-based initiatives such as healthcare.gov. And Meyer also cofounded Tech LadyMafia, a global members-only listserv that connects women in technology. “It’s awesome to see how willing women in tech are to team up with each other to solve problems.”
Where she see herself in 10 years: “I hope the women who are where I am today are counting on me for the kind of help I’m getting from women who are 10 years older than me right now.”
21. Kathryn Minshew, 29, cofounder and CEO, The Muse
Minshew’s idea for The Muse, a website that combines job listings with career advice, was born of her own frustration with the job-search process. “Women are told, ‘Don’t be too aggressive,’ and are then told to negotiate salaries for themselves,” she says. “I wanted to bring a sense of inspiration—having options and opportunities—back to the job-search process.” She and her two cofounders, Alexandra Cavoulacos and Melissa McCreery, built the first version of The Muse with the help of a web developer and later signed on some high-powered mentors and investors (finance superstar Sallie Krawcheck is one).
Best thing about being a woman in tech: “The other women in tech,” she says. “I’m constantly awed and impressed by the women in the community; so many of them have such an impact on my life.
22. Isabelle Olsson, 31, lead designer, Google
Olsson moved to San Francisco from Sweden because she was getting “too comfortable” in her furniture- and jewelry-design jobs, and she ended up designing one of the most anticipated products in recent history: Google Glass, a tiny computer attached to eyewear. (When Google hired her, the mock-up they handed her was a phone stuck to the side of a scuba mask.) “If you design a chair, you can look at an existing chair,” Olsson explains of the challenges. “But with Glass, there was nothing.” The Explorer edition of the device is already available.
Her words to live by: “Comfort makes sense for your home, car, your clothing,” says Olsson. “But you need a little discomfort to grow professionally.”
23. Michelle Phan, 27, cofounder, ipsy.com
Long before she was a YouTube sensation whose makeup tutorials have more than a billion views, Phan was passed over for a job at a department store’s makeup counter. Ah, sweet revenge! Since then she cofounded the beauty social networking site and sampling business ipsy.com; is the founder and executive producer of FAWN, an online women’s lifestyle network; and has her own makeup line of 300-plus products, Em Michelle Phan, available online. “Michelle Phan is an astounding businesswoman,” asserts tech journalist Kara Swisher.
Where she sees herself in 10 years: “Working smarter, not harder,” she says. “Having my businesses running like well-oiled machines [so I can] explore more of the culture around the world and connect more with people. I’ve been connecting with people in the virtual world for the past seven years, and I don’t want to lose connection to the real world.”
24. Lynn Root, 28, back-end engineer, Spotify
Three years ago Root was working in banking—but then she took a computer science class. “I did my final project in [the coding language] Python,” she recalls. “The idea of creating something out of nothing electrified me, and I said, ‘Screw finance!'” Now she’s an engineer at Spotify and a global leader of PyLadies, a mentorship organization for women in tech who code in or want to learn Python.
Her words to live by: “You don’t need a degree in computer science to work in tech,” she says. “You need gumption and focus. It’s OK not to know something as long as you show that you’re intelligent enough to learn it.”
25. Clara Shih, 32, founder and CEO, Hearsay Social
Before she even turned 30, Shih was named one of Fortune magazine’s most powerful women entrepreneurs, became a New York Times-featured best-selling author, and was elected to the Starbucks board of directors. But as an undergrad at Stanford University, she says, she suffered from “imposter syndrome”—the gut-wrenching feeling you’ve faked your way to success. “There’s a really intense geek culture at most university engineering and computer science departments, and a lot of women don’t fit in,” she says. Graduating at the top of her class boosted her confidence, and she eventually went on to start Hearsay Social—a social-media dashboard for businesses that allows them to engage and build relationships with their customers—with her friend and fellow Stanford grad Steve Garrity. Says Shih, “All of these people from all around the world were sharing unprecedented amounts of information about themselves, and we decided to start a company around that.”
Her best mentor: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. “The first couple of years, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the company,” she says. “She helped to reenergize me.”
26. Parisa Tabriz, 31, security princess, Google
Tabriz, whose team of 25 hackers at Google makes Chrome “the most secure way to browse the Internet,” has earned her unusual job title. In addition to all the behind-the-scenes things Tabriz and Co. are doing to make your Internet surfing experience safer, they’re also responsible, for example, for those warnings that let you know that you’re about to visit a potentially problematic site. “You have to understand the hacker mindset to build better defenses,” she says.
What she does when not foiling hackers: Rock climbing, which Tabriz says has a lot in common with hacking: “With climbing, you have an end result, but there are no set rules on how to get there. It’s similar to how you find security holes in software.”
27. Erin Teague, 33, director of product management, Yahoo
Teague, a veteran of Twitter and the mobile social network Path—where she increased new users to a million per week, on average—has been at Yahoo only a year, but she’s already a standout, working to make the sign-up process for its products (including Mail, Tumblr, and Flickr) more intuitive. “Women have a significant presence online,” she says, “so having women build the products is really important.”
Her words to live by: “When I was in school, I was one of the only black women in my department. It was isolating, but it prepared me. In every working group I’ve been in, I’ve been the only black woman, and I’ve learned I have a unique voice in the room—you have to find yours and use it.”
28. Kristen Titus, 30, founding director, Tech Talent Pipeline at the City of New York
From eradicating diseases to lifting communities out of poverty, Titus believes the most effective recipe for social change lies at the intersection of technology and community service. So it was no surprise to most in the industry when the former executive director of Girls Who Code was hand-picked by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to lead the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline: a $10 million commitment to support the growth of New York City’s tech sector and prepare New Yorkers for 21st century jobs. “There’s a population that doesn’t have access to training for these tech jobs,” says Titus. “That’s why this pipeline exists here in New York—I want to live in a world where everyone has the opportunity to be in this economy.”
Her career advice: “Have confidence,” says Titus. “Tech is about failure, creating, testing, iterating—getting a lot of things wrong before you get it right.”
29. Deena Varshavskaya, 34, founder and CEO, Wanelo
Varshavskaya is the first to admit that her mobile/social commerce platform Wanelo (which stands for Want Need Love) is hard on one’s bank account. Wanelo is an online shopping mall with over 350,000 stores and millions of users posting tens of thousands of new products each day for others to click and purchase, all right in your pocket. Varshavskaya hated traditional malls and “set out to solve my own problem and build a product I’m really excited about as a user.”
On why persistence pays off: “I took 40 investor rejections before my first seed round of $3 million closed in 2012,” she says. “Now Wanelo is valued at over $100 million.”
30. Amber Venz Box, 27, president and co-founder, RewardStyle and liketoknow.it
Fashion blogging rarely pays the rent, so Venz Box and her husband, Baxter, came up with an innovative solution: RewardStyle, a platform that allows fashion, style, and beauty bloggers to earn commissions when their readers buy linked items on their blogs. (We use it here on Glamour.com) RewardStyle has connected more than 14,000 bloggers with over 4,000 retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Sephora, and Target. And her most recent concept, liketoknow.it, has made Instagram shoppable; when registered users “like” an Instagram photo enabled by liketoknow.it, they receive an email with ready-to-shop links to the items featured in the image.
On being a woman in tech: “When I look at technology companies, especially in the fashion industry, that have failed, it’s really just technology without that social intelligence, and I think that’s what we women often bring to the table.”
31. Poornima Vijayashanker, 32, founder, Femgineer
After a stint as a founding engineer at mint.com, a personal-finance platform acquired by Intuit, Vijayashanker went on to turn her blog, Femgineer, into a bona fide business. The company advises professionals in the tech industry on how to advance their careers through courses and workshops online and off, and even published a guide in September called How to Transform Your Ideas into Software Products.
One of the most significant change she’s noticed within the industry: “Seeing women start tech companies,” she says. “While the percentage compared to men might still be relatively low, it’s happening more than it was about 10 years ago.”
32. Hanna Wallach, 35, researcher, Microsoft Research, and assistant professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“Hanna is by far the most badass woman I know in computer science,” says fellow 35 Under 35 honoree Hilary Mason. By day she’s a researcher who works with political scientists to learn how national, state, and local governments work by analyzing data, including public-record email networks, press releases, and meeting transcripts. The goal is “open government, transparency, data-driven journalism, and civic engagement,” says Wallach. By night she’s a competitive roller derby player who calls herself Logistic Aggression.
Lessons from the rink: “In addition to being an awesome adrenaline rush, roller derby has made me a better researcher and professor by changing the way I think about learning new skills,” says Wallach. “When I’m normally learning a new skill, my standard way is to think really hard about it. That doesn’t work with roller derby. You have to almost turn your brain off and listen to your body.”
33. Cassidy Williams, 22, software engineer, Venmo
While many college students struggle to balance a part-time job and classes, Williams spent her four years at Iowa State University winning hackathons, interning at Microsoft and racking up job offers. Google, Apple, Intel, and LinkedIn all wanted her—but Williams chose Venmo, a start-up that makes a popular payment app. “I wanted to go to a place where I could make a big impact,” she says.
Her words to live by: “Find something you love, and then find all the possible ways you can do that.”
34. Arielle Zuckerberg, 25, senior product manager, Humin
Zuckerberg (yep, Mark’s little sis) describes herself as “a startup girl.” So after the company she worked for, Wildfire, was acquired by Google, she bailed to join another startup called Humin, the phone app that organizes your contacts according to how you know them, where she manages the company’s execution of product vision. “Humin is solving a problem everyone is dealing with,” says Zuckerberg.
On her famous brother: “I try not to let it weigh on me,” she says. “If the expectations do exist, I try not to let that impact my everyday performance and how I contribute to the team.”