When Ad Age began honoring women in 1997, our Women to Watch list felt like a critical way to prove to the doubters out there that female leaders were chipping away at that proverbial glass ceiling.
Each year’s list has gone on to show that women continue to rise and make strides across the industry. Donna Speciale was an exec VP at MediaCom when she was named to the class of 2001. This year, she became president of advertising and sales at Univision. Morgan Flatley was on the list in 2014 during her tenure as VP of marketing at Gatorade. Since 2017, she’s been leading the marketing overhaul at McDonald’s U.S.
Now, Ad Age brings you a list of 50 women who we feel have the power to continue to change the broader advertising and media industry in 2021 and beyond. Some are legends in their sectors, others are legends in the making.
This year, our list has a new name. Ad Age Leading Women is the same honor bestowed to hundreds of Women to Watch since 1997. Now, we are emphasizing our focus on leaders. That doesn’t mean we are only calling out women who have made it to the top. The list is not a who’s who of CEOs or agency presidents, though there are a few with such roles. We are also shining a light on women sparking innovation across agencies and brands in spaces including automotive, food, gaming and media.
We believe each woman has the drive to become a top executive if that’s what she sets out to do. In fact, two women in this year’s class — Cristina Burzako of Movistar+ and Fiona Gordon of Ogilvy UK — were promoted to CEO after their entries were reviewed and selected by our panel of reporters and editors.
The power each woman possesses takes a variety of forms. Some are creating new diversity, equity and inclusion plans for their organizations. Others are mentors. Many are working in categories that weren’t even in their imaginations back in 1997.
One of the beautiful things about this year’s list is that it honors women for greatness during a tumultuous time. Many women were serving as teacher-in-residence to young children, checking in on aged parents, and supporting colleagues with no family nearby during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. When the racial justice movement gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd, women on this list demanded change and led their organizations to act.
For all of their success, and to their futures, we honor the Ad Age Leading Women class of 2021.
Mark your calendar for Sept. 13, when we will host our virtual Ad Age Leading Women Conference & Awards. Tickets go on sale soon, stay tuned here: www.adage.com/events.