Top Disruptors of 2015

December 23, 2015You can’t make change in the world without stepping up, speaking out, and taking bold action to shake up the status quo. Catalyst applauds those who championed change this past year, proved what’s possible, and inspired others to do so too!  

Rosalind Brewer, President and CEO, Sam’s Club: After speaking honestly in a CNN interview about what it will take to ensure that more minority women are considered for executive positions, Brewer’s comments were met with hateful criticism on social media. Yet she was simply practicing the intentional action, inclusive leadership, and role modeling that is absolutely critical for ensuring that women and men have equal opportunities in the workplace. Brewer says that top leaders must make diversity and inclusion a priority for their companies and teams, and demand it of suppliers too. We couldn’t agree more.

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Canada:  When explaining his decision to appoint an equal number of women and men to his cabinet after his election in November, the new Prime Minister simply said, “Because it’s 2015.” And with those words, he raised the bar for leaders around the world.

Actors for Pay Equity: Shining a spotlight on the pay and gender gap in her acceptance speech at the 2015 Academy Awards, Patricia Arquette inspired other Hollywood A-listers to do the same. Jennifer Lawrence  spoke candidly on the topic in Lena Dunham’s Lenny letter, and Jessica Chastain and Rooney Mara weighed in as well.  Bradley Cooper vowed to do his part to fix the problem, promising to team with potential female co-stars to negotiate salaries before accepting film roles. Perhaps we should add “Equal Pay Champions” as a category at the next Oscars? May we have the envelope, please.

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Facebook: First, he announced he’s taking two months paternity leave, setting a great example for other dads and the companies they work for. Then he and his wife revealed—on Facebook, of course—that they’ll be donating 99% of their Facebook shares to charitable causes throughout their lives. Now who wouldn’t “like” that?

#LoveWins: Ireland made history in May by becoming the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote through its historic Yes campaign, “showing how positive leadership and open dialogue can combat bias,” as Sandra Ondraschek-Norris, Senior Director, Catalyst Europe explained in a Guardian article. Then, on June 26, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples be allowed to marry in all 50 states, prompting joyous celebrations in the street and the White House to be bathed in rainbow lights.

Serena Williams, Tennis Champion: With 21 Grand Slam tennis titles in hand and her eye on more, she’s shown strength on the court and off—through illness, racism, sexism, and cruel comments about her body. In her Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year acceptance speech, she noted that it had been over 30 years since the last time a woman was recognized with that honor, saying: “When I first started playing tennis, women weren’t really encouraged to play sports, let alone excel in sports. So my hope by winning this award is to inspire many, many, many more women—in less than 30 years, of course—to stand right here on this podium...”

Women in Sports Leadership: This year women made great strides off the courts and playing fields too. WNBA pioneer Becky Hammon was named head coach of the San Antonio Spurs summer league, becoming the first woman head coach in that league. In 2014, Hammon was hired as assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs, making her the first female full-time assistant coach in any of the four major North American sports. Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman became an assistant coach of the Sacramento Kings. And Jen Welter became the first woman coach in men’s professional football after being hired by the Texas Revolution of the Champions Indoor Football League. She also was hired as an assistant coaching intern for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, though that internship has now ended. We cheer their leagues’ efforts to level the playing field, and look forward to more sports-management roles opening for women in the coming year.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany: She de facto led the European Union through economic crises, demonstrated an inclusive mindset with her refugee policy, and was honored as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2015.

Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce:  To make sure that men and women are paid equally at his company, Benioff is reviewing all salaries.  He acknowledged that it may take a few years for all the data to be analyzed, but said that when he’s done there will be no gap at Salesforce. The efforts are part of a broader initiative called Women’s Surge, which Benioff instituted in 2013 to address why there were so few women working at the tech company.

Caitlyn Jenner, Former Athlete and TV Personality: By sharing her transition from man to woman publicly, through the media and the I Am Cait TV series, Jenner elevated transgender awareness and acceptance and showed the importance of being your authentic self.  

Misty Copeland, Ballerina.  She pirouetted into history, becoming the first African American female to be named a prinicipal dancer with the American Ballet Theater. When honoring her as one of the 10 Most Fascinating People of 2015, Barbara Walters called her a “trailblazer in a tutu.”


Who’s on your list?  Please share in the comments section below.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.