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10 California Women Who Are Shaping Our World

10 California Women Who Are Shaping Our World

In honor of Women’s History Month, celebrate these inspiring game-changers who hail from the Golden State

Posted 2 years ago

In 1978, the Sonoma County school district created a weeklong celebration to honor the contributions of female pioneers. Students competed in a “Real Woman” essay contest, experts traveled across the county to hold presentations, and the county organized a parade in downtown Santa Rosa. What started as a local event eventually gained momentum, leading to the nationally recognized Women’s History Month our entire nation now celebrates every March.

In keeping with California’s legacy of highlighting incredible women, we are putting the spotlight on 10 modern trailblazers. Get inspired by these creators, business leaders, thinkers, writers, and activists working to shape our future.

Changing the way we watch…

The woman behind your Netflix queue, Bela Bajaria is almost certainly responsible for at least one of your favorite shows. As the head of content at Netflix, and a former executive at CBS and Universal Television, she has helped create blockbuster programs like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, and the Queer Eye reboot. See the magic happen from Bajaria’s perspective on a virtual tour of a Netflix set—or go behind the scenes with an in-person studio tour in Los Angeles.

Revolutionizing fine dining...

The only female chef in America to earn three Michelin stars, Dominique Crenn has created an empire out of her three San Francisco–based restaurants: Atelier Crenn, Bar Crenn, and Petit Crenn. But her innovative thinking extends well beyond traditional concepts of fine dining. In 2019, Crenn removed all meat from her menus for environmental reasons; and in 2020, she co-founded VitaBowl, a vegan delivery service to ensure people everywhere had access to fresh, plant-based foods.

Rethinking the way we drive…

If you’re riding around in a robo taxi in 2030, you can thank Aicha Evans. The CEO of Zoox, Evans is breaking ground on the road and in the boardroom as the first Black female to lead an autonomous vehicle technology company. Last year, Evans secured an impressive $1.3 billion acquisition of the company by Amazon, and she still runs the day-to-day operations for Zoox. Explore the stomping grounds of incredible innovators like Evans with a visit to Silicon Valley, where you can embark on a local tech tour.

Aicha Evans

Making farming more sustainable…

Anya Fernald cofounded Siskiyou County’s Belcampo Farms in 2012 with a mission to create meat that’s better for people, animals, and the planet. All meat out of Belcampo is cultivated by farmers who practice low-stress animal-handling, regenerative agriculture, and climate-positive techniques. Get a taste of Belcampo yourself by ordering online, or visit one of its farms such as Big Bluff in Tehama County or California Heritage Farms in Fort Jones.

Shaping the national conversation...

As the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, the immensely talented Amanda Gorman captivated the country with her stunning reading of “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s January inauguration ceremony. Born and raised in Los Angeles, the poet and activist became her city’s Youth Poet Laureate at the age of 16 and credits the city’s beauty and diversity for shaping her perspective. Today, she has three books forthcoming from Penguin Random House. Get inspired to craft your own work by visiting one of Gorman’s hometown bookstores like Book Soup, The Last Bookstore, or Eso Won Books.

Disrupting the friendly skies…

San Diego native Kimberly Herrell, co-founder and CEO of Schubach Aviation, is breaking boundaries in the aviation industry, where only a tiny percent of leadership is female. In 2020, after nearly a decade working for the brand, Herrell purchased the private jet charter company alongside a financial partner. Book a charter to escape to the location of your choosing or opt for a curated experience. Past trips include vacations to posh spots like Napa Valley and Pebble Beach.

Challenging physical limits…

A six-time Paralympic medalist, Alana Nichols is a longtime triple threat, dominating in wheelchair basketball, alpine skiing, and paracanoe. But after being nominated for an ESPY as one of the Best Female Athletes with a Disability, Nichols decided to tackle a new sport. Today, she trains as a surfer in San Diego, with regular sessions at her favorite spot, Cardiff Reef. Inspired by Alana? Learn how to ride a wave yourself with lessons from the female-owned Surf Diva School in La Jolla.

Preserving our oceans…

Julie Packard has served as the executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium since its opening in 1984. Under her leadership, the aquarium has welcomed more than six million guests, encouraging visitors to better understand and conserve our oceans via exhibits such as Open Sea and the playful rescued sea otters. Packard also helped found the sustainability-focused Seafood Watch Program and has played an active role in promoting ocean policy reform.

Julie Packard, Moneterey Bay Aquarium

Modernizing hospitality...

As managing partner of Central Coast–based Nomada Hotel Group, Kimberly Walker specializes in transforming forgotten properties into thoroughly modern resorts. Walker also focuses on bringing an influx of energy into the surrounding communities, hiring local staff and working with farmers and nearby vineyards to source food and wine. Stay in one of Nomada’s stunning spaces: the Granada Hotel & Bistro in SLO, Skyview Motel in Los Alamos, and Hotel Ynez in Solvang.

Creating stunning cinema...

Chloé Zhao made history at the 2021 Golden Globes, becoming the first Asian woman and the second woman ever to win the coveted Best Director honor for her film Nomadland. The Ventura resident, born in China, has also gained critical acclaim for Songs My Brother Taught Me and The Rider. Visit some of the spots where Zhao created stunning shots for Nomadland, including Redwood National and State Parks and the Mendocino Coast.

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