It might have been the year of the she-cession, but it was also the year of female disruptors creating positive vibrations for women around the world. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Not anymore. Female disruptors think less about the glitz and more about equal pay, equal rights, respect, the gender gap, and breaking the glass ceiling.

Females Took a Hit in 2020

As if 2020 COVID-19 pandemic did not disrupt the world enough; females took a hit in almost every category. There’s even a new term called the ‘she-cession’.

According to the World’s Women, 2020: Trends and Statistics the progress towards equal power and equal rights for women remains elusive. No country has achieved gender equality, and the COVID-19 crisis threatens to erode the limited gains that have been made.

The Biggest Issues for Women in 2021

  • Unpaid domestic and care work holding women back – In 2020, only 47% of women of working age participated in the labor market, compared to 74% of men – a gender gap that has remained relatively constant since 1995.
  • No cracks in the glass ceiling – Only 18% of enterprises surveyed had a female Chief Executive Officer in 2020. Among Fortune 500 corporations only 7.4%, or 37 Chief Executive Officers, were women.
  • Women’s participation in education on the rise worldwide – A plus is the world has made substantial progress in achieving universal primary education, with girls and boys participating equally in primary education in most regions.
  • Violence against women and girls remains a global issue – Most disturbing during COVID-19 lockdowns, many women and girls have been isolated in unsafe environments where they are at heightened risk of experiencing intimate partner violence. Around one-third of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner; 18% have experienced such violence in the past 12 months. In the most extreme cases, violence against women is lethal: globally, an estimated 137 women are killed by their intimate partner or a family member every day.

The editorial team behind Female Disruptors and the women featured have one thing in common, they are change agents. Ready to shake it up and make the future of females empowered and improved, even during a pandemic.

In 2020 we featured women disrupting and pivoting in the business world and beyond despite the challenges. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to make a shift, change course, thrive, and survive  – we’ve got you. Meet Female Disruptors most likely to succeed in 2021.

     Nicole Balistreri

Power in the Palm of Her Hands: Nicole Balistreri

Nicole Balistreri has boosted her career with a recent move to Social Media Manager at USCCA – a membership organization that provides self-defense education, training, and legal protection for responsible gun owners. Some key advice from Nicole is that you can teach skills but not passion. “Never pass up someone for a role just because they lack specific skills if they are passionate. You can teach skills, but you can’t force someone to care.”

     jessica lakritz

Meet Skin On Sundays Jessica Lakritz

Meet Jessica Lakritz, who combines the two worlds of poetry and the human body with Skin on Sundays. Some key advice from Jessica is that momentum comes and goes. “You have to keep pushing forward even when there is none. There are lots of times I have wondered, what am I doing, does anyone even see or care about my art, etc. when the momentum slows or stops. I guess I had to teach myself how to deal with that and have come to understand that you can still be disciplined even when you don’t feel motivated, and that’s how you succeed. Do it even when you don’t feel like it.”

    kim chronister

Dr. Kim Chronister: Tik Tok Famous Therapist

Mental health therapist, entrepreneur, influencer. Dr. Kim Chronister is spreading her advice all over Instagram and TikTok, and she might be the epitome of a Female Disruptor. A clinical psychologist, Dr. Kim is also a social media star. Key advice from Kim is to avoid burnout with self-care. Kim says that we need to feel good about ourselves, but that takes work. For instance, she schedules massages, workouts, and time with friends to avoid burnout. According to her, that makes her a better model for her clients and employees.

How you are balancing work/life as a result of the 2020 pandemic impact? 

As a result of the 2020 pandemic, my workload has increased due to the large impact it has had on people’s mental health. As a psychologist, I’ve seen an increase in substance use relapses, relationship conflicts, breakups, and depressive episodes with my clients. That has led me to work longer hours. However, the work gives me meaning and purpose which makes it pleasurable for the most part. The key for me is to increase my self-care as my workload increases. For example, if I’m working thirty percent harder, then my self-care (time with friends, massages, movie time, stretching, workouts, etc.) increases by thirty percent.

What tips or advice can you share with other women?

Increase your self-care time even when you think you don’t have enough time for anything. Just when you think you can’t add anything more to your plate is when it’s time to put more relaxation slots into your schedule. Also, studies show that we can ride the high of looking forward to an event or a getaway for up to three months on average.  Schedule something at least every three months so that there is some sort of pleasurable event you’re looking forward to so that it gets you through the challenges of work, relationship, or financial stressors.

  sarah axtell on naturopathic medicie

Sarah Axtell: Create Boundaries for Yourself

Sarah Axtell is an entrepreneur at heart. As an adolescent, she ran a busy boat-cleaning business during the summer. Throughout naturopathic medical school, she had a strong vision of what she wanted her future clinic to be like. But that drive and ambition didn’t come without challenges. She and her daughters live by Michelle Obama’s quote, “When they go low, we go high.” When the world seems like it is in turmoil, Sarah Axtell said this quote guides her family to be their best selves.

How you are balancing work/life as a result of the 2020 pandemic impact?

I make time every single day for exercise. It is an act of self-care and self-love. I also prioritize sleep. After I put my kids to bed, I go straight to bed. There is always the temptation to go back downstairs after putting them to bed to get just a little more work done, but I resist the urge, and every morning when my alarm goes off at 5 am, I am happy I went to bed early!

What tips or advice can you share with other women?

Make time for yourself. That may mean getting up at 5 am to fit in exercise if you are an early bird. It may mean letting the dishes soak in the sink while you take a bath after dinner. It may mean calling your best friend for a laugh, a cry, or simply a connection with another woman who “gets it.” Self-care can also mean making time to cook a nourishing meal for yourself. Figure out what nourishes you and do it daily.

  Beth Fiedler

Beth Fiedler: Positivity Matters for Entrepreneurs

Beth Fiedler is curious and determined, two qualities that helped her start her own businesses. A Toronto native, she runs an NLP training program. Some key advice from beth is to follow the 20/80 rule. “I used to put in 80% effort to realize 20% results. Now I focus on 20% efforts to realize 80% results. This principle helps me enjoy a work-life balance for inner peace and harmony.”

How you are balancing work/life as a result of the 2020 pandemic impact?

I realize that there are things I can’t change. For example, the weather here in Ontario is going to be grey and chilly in winter. We have no say on the lockdown. In order to maintain work/life balance, I’ve been starting each day with a clear intention and commitment to stay positive and hopeful. Yes, it needs conscious effort. Unexpected emotion will come up as I’m just human. It’s okay and I let it go. I forgive myself for the weak moments and promise myself not to make excuses to stay frustrated or depressed. When I feel stuck, I will get up and make some physical moves. This simple act is very effective to clear my head. When I get scared, I often remind myself that FEAR stands for:
  • False
  • Evidence
  • Appearing
  • Real

What tips or advice can you share with other women?

  • Let go of things that don’t serve us anymore.
  • The world is a different place for all of us. Look into possibilities and opportunities.
  • We always have at least three choices when we look deeper, not just yes and no or black and white.

   Sherron Washington

The Marketing Whisperer: Sherron Washington

The founder and CEO of the marketing and communication company the P3 Solution and creator of social media campaign #YourWorthIsValued, Sherron Washington is an accomplished professional, with a Master’s Degree in Communications. Juggling her careers as a marcomms strategist, speaker, trainer, and author, Sherron is a true female disruptor who’s set on changing the world. To women who want to start their own business, Sherron advises the first thing they do is get help. Before even deciding on a name or a logo, aspiring entrepreneurs should consult friends, colleagues, and experts in the field. “No matter how good an idea might sound, there is always something to be learned from outside perspectives.”

How you are balancing work/life as a result of the 2020 pandemic impact?  

Shifting my focus inward, I have spent these days getting to know myself fully and learning how to obtain happiness in this crazy world. I have kept with my understand that life doesn’t require balance, life requires synergy, and knowing this has helped me to pivot well and create an entirely new lifestyle brand called the SW Life.

What tips or advice can you share with other women?

1. Be kind and patient with yourself and how you navigate through your own life. Everyone’s process is different so don’t feel a need to be rushed.
2. Work on things in bite-sized portions, to reduce feelings of anxiety.
3. Celebrate Everything no matter the size. It is important that you factor in some feel-good time.

   Alexis Dean

Alexis Dean: We All Need to Stand for Equality

Alexis Dean’s goal seems simple: support female entrepreneurs. That’s why she founded The Dovetail Community in 2017, a global organization on a mission to advance female entrepreneurs through a powerful online membership and mastermind community, and unforgettable shared experiences. Alexis Dean’s advice for the next generation is that entrepreneurship is a long game. It takes effort and drives. A business doesn’t just grow overnight, but the journey is worth it.

How you are balancing work/life as a result of the 2020 pandemic impact?

The pandemic gave me the time and space to recognize how little I used to focus on self-care. Now I find myself making a conscious effort to take a full day (or two) off every week, and really disconnect. I’m no longer working late hours and going to events on weeknights and weekends. Instead, I’m spending the time connecting with family and friends out in the woods! I’ve also refocused on some goals that have nothing to do with my work. This year I ran two solo half marathons, took up a new exercise class (The Class), and got really into stand-up paddleboarding!

What tips or advice can you share with other women?

My advice for other women is to take the time to check in with yourself and give yourself permission to have and do what you really want. Take up a new hobby, make time for adventures, do what brings you joy. Work and family life will always be there, but now we have the gift of fewer in-person work and social obligations- let’s take advantage of it!

  Jessica Rafaeil

Jessica Rafaeil Helps Black-Owned Businesses and Entrepreneurs Get More Than Press

Having the guts to switch paths. An unapologetically big personality. Successfully launching her own business. Compassionate. These are some of the things that make Jessica Rafaeil a Female Disruptor. Jessica is a Public Relations Specialist who collaborates with The Buyer Group and her own business, More Than Press. Key advice from Jessica is to never stop learning. “Continuing to educate yourself and learn new things is so important in a world where things can shift and change with the click of a button. Also, apply that to your relationships with people. We can all learn something from one another, no matter our rank.”

How you are balancing work/life as a result of the 2020 pandemic impact? 

I’ve been working remotely for a few years, so that’s an adjustment I made a while back. However, the pandemic itself has added loaded stress and now clients are working from home – which makes the workload feel even more “round the clock.” At the beginning of 2020, I decided to pick one day (usually a Saturday or Sunday) as what I’ve dubbed my “veg out day.” This is the day that I allow myself to do absolutely whatever I want. If I want to stay in bed and rest all day – I do it. If I want to go out and explore the city or spend some time outdoors – I do it. It’s the one day I don’t allow work or any of life’s stresses to interfere with what I want.
I’ve also tried to make it a habit to regularly “detox” from digital devices by putting my phone on Do Not Disturb in the evenings and on weekends. At night I try to read and/or write (by hand on paper, not on my laptop). This helps me relax and unload, and I find that it helps me sleep better as well (something I’ve struggled with pre-COVID).

What tips or advice can you share with other women?

Own your time. It’s important to handle your work, but apply time management to your free time as well. I love the saying “Just because you have free time, doesn’t mean you’re available.”

  Ruby Raut

Ending Period Shame With FemTech: Ruby Raut

CEO and co-founder of UK start-up WUKA (Wake Up Kick-Ass), Ruby Raut, causes a significant disruption in the world of FemTech with a new period product that confronts period shame head-on with a focus on sustainability and intersectionality. “Millions of girls and women don’t have access to safe, menstrual hygiene, meaning girls missing education, and risking infections – and reusable period pants could solve this.”

   katie bulmer

Katie Bulmer: Your Passion Has Value

Katie Bulmer took years to figure out what she wanted to do with her life — it turns out, the answer is she wants to help other young women figure that out themselves. Motivational speaker, author of “Sorority Girls can Change the World” and the voice behind “Truth for your Twenties,” this Chattanooga gal draws on her own life experiences to make a difference. Katie is learning to change her internal rhetoric to something more appreciative of the time and effort she puts into her business. She makes sure she thanks herself for the work she does and congratulates herself on her accomplishments. Each night before she goes to bed, she thinks about the three things she’s going to accomplish the next day. Being able to check off the “Big 3” at the end of the day makes her feel accomplished and relieved.

How Can You Support Women in 2021?

As we head into another year, Female Disruptors to lift up and feature females who are helping the future of females improve equality, decrease the gender gap, and add more seats to the boardroom.

What can you do?

  • Investing in diversity and inclusion (D&I) within organizations
  • Supporting women-led businesses
  • Supporting the leadership development of women throughout their career journeys
  • Ensuring the organization is following D&I best practices

“If the She-cession is to be combated, and we are not to lose years of hard-fought, precious progress for women’s equality, we must be intentional. We must look very carefully at the decisions we make over the next year, and we must commit to supporting women — or risk losing them,”  notes Sarah Alter, president, and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning and leadership community representing 12,400 members in 22 regional groups in the United States and Canada.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. We can buy them ourselves.

Do you know a female disruptor who should be featured? Let us know by nominating here.

Featured Image Credit: Jessica Lakritz @Skinonsundays