Happy Women’s History Month to women everywhere! Especially to all the incredible ladies in this creative community of women looking to blaze their own trail in entrepreneurship. It is such a passion of mine to lead and grow businesses, as well as mentor those who want to do the same.
While women are making strides in the top jobs in the creative industry, we still have a ways to go. In 2020, 53 percent of all graphic designers were women, but we only account for 11 percent of creative directors. Wow. Can you imagine never getting an opportunity to work under a female director? Female architects face a similar challenge: almost half of the students in architectural programs in the US are women, yet they don’t become registered or achieve upper management and ownership positions at the same rate as men. Only 17 percent of current registered architects are women.
Mentorship matters! We need women like you in these leadership positions, in board roles and elsewhere to inspire the generations who will follow in our footsteps.
I know firsthand the challenges that come with leadership, and I recognize and celebrate all the amazing women who have been instrumental in paving the way for me and you to achieve our goals. Women’s History Month serves as a reminder of how powerful female artists can be. From early trailblazers to those currently in the trenches, here are 10 women creatives who left their mark on history.
- Architecture: Amale Andraos (1972 to present)
Amale Andraos is the co-founder and a principal of WORKac, an award-winning architecture firm based in New York. WORKac concepts intersect urban, rural and natural elements. Its flagship projects include New York City’s Stealth Building and Brooklyn’s Edible Schoolyard at PS216. Her commitment to design research has led her to produce multiple publications which continue to influence the architectural community. She concurrently serves as dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
- Interior Design: Kelly Wearstler (1967 to present)
Kelly Wearstler founded her interior design studio in 1995, and the Los Angeles-based company has evolved into an interdisciplinary global lifestyle brand. Now she boasts an expansive portfolio of home product designs and creates multi-faceted, experiential residential, hospitality, commercial and retail environments. In addition to landing on the premier interior design lists from TIME Magazine, Architectural Digest and Elle Decor, Wearstler also teaches the interior design course for MasterClass, an educational streaming platform.
Old Hollywood glamour and modernism are key influences in her designs. Wearstler’s work has graced the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, the Viceroy Hotel brand, the Proper Hotel group and numerous boutique hotels.
“To my thinking there is no place for rigidity in design. A constant evolution is what inspires.”
- Graphic Design: Paula Scher (1948 to present)
As one of the world’s most acclaimed graphic designers, Paula Scher has been sought after by high profile clientele such as the Museum of Modern Art, Microsoft, Citibank and Tiffany & Co, among others. Her iconic aesthetic blends the line between pop culture and fine art, and she’s been highly influential with an eclectic approach to typography. Scher is a principal at Pentagram’s New York office, a prominent international design consultancy company. She is a recipient of the prestigious American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) medal, the profession’s highest honor.
When asked about creativity by Madame Architect, an online magazine which celebrates extraordinary women positively impacting the world, she shared:
“Creativity is something that is really within the subconscious, and mysterious. To invent something, it requires this period of time, of trial and error, and making mistakes so you can make a discovery.”
- Fine Art: Frida Kahlo (1907 to 1954)
A Women’s History Month tribute would not be complete without the inclusion of Frida Kahlo. She is regularly counted among the most famous female painters to have ever lived. Her works often depict a seamless coalescence of fantasy and reality which portray parts of her life story. Some pundits believe she featured herself not only to share her experiences, but also to shed light on gender and social class issues against the backdrop of what it meant to be a Mexican at the time.
Some of her most well-known paintings include:
- The Wounded Deer (1946)
- The Broken Column (1944)
- Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940)
- Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940)
- The Two Fridas (1939)
- Literature/Poetry: Amanda Gorman (1998 to present)
Poet. Activist. Genius. Phenom. There are many ways to describe 23-year-old Amanda Gorman. As the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, her performance of “The Hill We Climb” just two months ago catapulted her celebrity and influence around the globe.
Despite suffering a speech impediment during childhood, Gorman was selected as the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles in 2014, and National Poet Laureate plum in 2018. She was recently included in Time Magazine’s 2021 TIME100 Next list, which featured a lineup of fast-rising leaders who are influencing the future.
Her work centers around feminism, marginalization and oppression and she serves as proof that success may be achieved despite a modest socio-economic background, physical disabilities, age, race or gender.
- Blogger/Author: Rachel Hollis (1983 to present)
Rachel Hollis is a blogger turned influencer and motivational speaker turned three-time bestselling author. She turned her small media firm into The Hollis Company, which produces inspirational books, podcasts, movies, and even live events. Hollis created Rise, an annual, live, weekend-long women’s conference with empowering speakers to bring women together and empower them. Along the same lines, her StartToday.com site exists to help women build foundational daily routines that push them to succeed in life using planners, journals, lifestyle content, and other tools for success. Find her on Instagram @msrachelhollis.
- Journalism: Barbara Walters (1929 to present)
She may have already retired from broadcast journalism but her legacy has long been secured. Walters started as a writer for Today in 1961 and first appeared on the show as a reporter in 1964. This was an accomplishment at the time since it was rare for women to appear delivering “hard news.” Walters’ intelligence, keen interviewing skills and onscreen presence steadily gained popularity with viewers.
Walters moved up to co-host of Today in 1974, making her the first woman to secure a co-hosting position in American news. By 1976, she was again the first woman co-anchor for a network evening news program, the ABC Evening News. Walters was the highest paid journalist at the time, despite working in a field dominated by men. As part of the primetime news magazine program 20/20, which she worked for from 1979 – 2004, Walters interviewed world leaders, politicians, celebrities and athletes alike. She also created the daytime talk show The View in 1997, and served as co-host for several years. The show is now in its 24th season.
Not surprisingly, Walters is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation (1991), along with a slew of other honors.
- Choreography: Debbie Allen (1950 to present)
No one can dispute Debbie Allen’s place among the top choreographers of her generation. But as one of the most versatile talents in the entertainment industry, Allen also is an internationally recognized director, producer, author, dancer and actor. Here are just some of her accolades:
- Three-time Emmy Award winner
- Two-time Tony Award winner
- Golden Globe Award winner
- 2020 Kennedy Center honoree
- George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement
- Hollywood Walk of Fame star recipient
Allen garnered these honors and more starting in the 1980s from her performance as Anita in the Broadway revival of West Side Story, and her acting and choreography for the movie Fame, among others. The dance mogul has also worked with other women artists like Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton and Cardi B to help improve their performance skills. Today, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy uses dance and theater training and performance to enrich, inspire and transform the lives of students. The non-profit organization uses world-class faculty to offer a comprehensive dance curriculum to students ages four and up and focuses primarily on disenfranchised Black and Latino communities.
- Filmmaking: Kathryn Bigelow (1951 to present)
Kathryn Bigelow has been directing movies for decades. Known for her heart-pounding action sequences, Bigelow has a wide range of science fiction, thriller, historical drama and other credits to her name. After 30 years of perfecting her craft, her work on “The Hurt Locker” earned nominations for some of industry’s highest honors. Now, more than a decade after becoming the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director (2010), she remains the only female winner in the category. The same goes for her British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award win.
Bigelow’s Oscar win was even more significant because she won over her ex-husband, James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which was and still is the highest grossing film of all time (previously, Cameron’s “Titanic” held the top spot).
“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.”
- Fashion Design: Coco Chanel (1883 to 1971)
The Coco Chanel brand rose from humble beginnings to become the enduring powerhouse it is today. When she lost her mother at age 12, her father put her in an orphanage and the nuns taught her to sew. Her first clothing success came when people asked where she got her dress — something she made for herself out of an old jersey. Chanel earned the nickname “Coco” while performing as a café singer before eventually opening a small clothing shop in Paris. It was here that her legend took root.
Her “poor girl” style was a welcome relief to that era’s affluent women who sought comfortable clothes as respite from their stifling corsets. In the 1920s, she launched her first perfume and introduced the now legendary Chanel suit and revolutionary little black dress.
She had to close the shop during the depression and World War II, but reopened at the age of 70. Since then, the French fashion giant’s timeless designs and resourcefulness have created a long-lasting legacy (beyond her lifetime) that has evolved to also include skincare, jewelry, eyewear, and other accessories.
Ready to Make Your Mark on History?
Architect My Life CEO Aya Shlachter knows what it takes to find success in the architectural industry and she wants to help other women change creative businesses for the better. Visit Architect My Life to download Aya’s Foolproof Business Accelerator Checklist. Then, join our Facebook Group for a community of women like you who are interested in entrepreneurship and want to start, scale or accelerate a creative business and make their own history.