The Winners! 12 Women to Watch in 2012

When we asked for nominations for our Women to Watch in 2012 awards, we expected some pretty awesome women—but you blew us away. We couldn’t have imagined the number of incredible profiles we would receive.

In just a week, we were flooded by nominations for women who are changing the world—challenging the norms in media, business, and education, creating the products that will define tomorrow, and saving lives in the developing world.

It was tough, but we narrowed it down to a fabulous dozen who have big stuff planned for 2012. We can’t wait to watch this year to see what they have in store—for themselves, and for the world.

Leslie Bradshaw

Named one of the top five female executives in the tech industry and a Top Woman in Tech Under 30 , Leslie Bradshaw is the operational force behindJESS3 , an internationally known creative interactive agency that she describes as being “as much BBDO as we are Facebook and Pixar.”

Her impressive client list already includes Nike, Google (check out the latest: Google Politics ), and Intel—including a several major initiatives set to launch within the next few weeks. The Wall Street

Finding Your Path: Making it on Your Own

We spend the first 20 years of our lives being asked what we want to be when we grow up. Then we spend the next 20 finding out for ourselves.

And though that can be exciting, it’s not easy. The first part of our lives is, with few exceptions, a step-by-step, guided path: Elementary school. High school. College. But after that, the roadmap stops. While you might have dreams and ideas of what you want to achieve in your career, the path getting there isn’t easily paved. And it’s different for everyone.

That’s why we’re bringing you this series: Over the next few months,40:20 Vision will feature successful 40-something women sharing their stories on how they found their career path, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. While everyone’s career path is ultimately different, we also know there’s a lot we can learn from the journeys of those who’ve been there.

Michelle Madhok, CEO and Founder, SheFinds Media

What did you want to be when you were a kid? Barbie. She had all the cool stuff.

Education: University of California at Berkeley, BS Communications; Northwestern

Lessons to My Younger Self: A Series by Inspiring Women

At The Daily Muse, we aim to bring you, the ambitious Gen Y woman, smart, practical, and inspirational advice for your career and your life.

In our experience, the best advice of all comes from those who have been there. Women who had big, crazy dreams—and achieved them. Who saw the glass ceiling—and crushed it. Who dealt with the same issues we deal with today—and learned from them, gathering wisdom, experience, and success along the way.

So, we’ve recruited a lineup of our role models—intelligent, influential, and inspiring women who’ve had insanely successful careers—to share with us what they wish they could tell their younger selves. We invite you to peek into the past (photos included!) of some of the most successful women around us, and glean some amazing advice from the lessons they’ve learned.

Because, let’s face it, figuring things out the hard way really kind of sucks.

Arianna Huffington, Founder of The Huffington Post

Now that we’ve got your attention, don’t worry: she’s not advocating anything inappropriate. We’re kicking off our series with the indomitable

What it’s Like Working at a Major Art Museum

Whether you’ve wandered through the soaring rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum and wondered what it takes to get art on the (rounded) walls or you’re considering a career in the arts , look no further.

We caught up with Nancy Spector, deputy director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator at the Guggenheim Museum to hear from a leader in the field and to get a glimpse at the balancing act required to be at the helm of one of the world’s most prestigious modern art museums. Spector generously shared her insights on art in the digital age, starting out in the industry as an intern (writer’s note: I did, too) and the first work of art that had an impact on her.

Can you describe what being the deputy director and chief curator of a world-class art museum entails?

In a few words, I would say that it is an intense balancing act. As a deputy director working closely with director Richard Armstrong, I am responsible for content development at the Guggenheim in New York but also at our affiliates in Bilbao, Venice, and Abu Dhabi (which is currently in development). I think about the institution in a global context

Fight Like a Girl: The Role of Women in Muay Thai Boxing

Anne Lieberman has always been interested in how gender and culture intersect—she studied African American Studies and Women’s Studies in college, and now works for a human rights organization on issues of gender and sexuality in Thailand. She’s also always been interested in martial arts, which she has studied since she was 7.

And in 2010, she got the opportunity to combine those interests, after being awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to research the role of women in Muay Thai boxing , Thailand’s national sport (and train in it, too!).

I first met Anne at a reception at the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and was fascinated by her work. Her practice of Muay Thai and her research on how women practice it challenged so many traditional notions of gender in Thailand and around the world, and I had to learn more. I recently caught up with Anne to discuss what she’s learned from the sport and her research—and what you can learn, too.

How did you get started in Muay Thai fighting? What made you stick with it over the years?

I grew up doing martial arts. My mom tried to get me to do ballet starting from

Emily-Anne Rigal: The 19-Year-Old Who’s Banishing Bullying

Emily-Anne Rigal was recently ranked as one of Newsweek ’s 150 Most Fearless Women in the World. She’s received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award from President Obama. And Lady Gaga has called the 19-year old her hero.

So, what is the college student doing that’s making such a splash?

Rigal is the founder of We Stop Hate, nonprofit dedicated to ending bullying by raising teens’ self-esteem. Through posts on YouTube and other social media channels, the site gives bullying victims from all corners of the world a chance to open up about their experiences in a judgment-free zone.

In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month , we spoke with Rigal about her efforts fighting back against bullying and starting an organization at age 16.

What was your motivation to found We Stop Hate?

When I was in elementary school, I was bullied so badly that I had to switch schools. At my new school, I developed a new group of friends who became an amazing source of encouragement. The happier and more supported I felt, the more I wanted to help others feel that same way. So I started posting videos on YouTube to stand up for

Power PR Women to Follow on Twitter

In the PR world, it’s all about connections. And what better place to make those connections than the Twitterverse?

So, on this #FF, we’re bringing you the public relations gurus you should be hanging out with online. If you’re in PR (or you want to be), follow these women to learn, be inspired, and keep your ear to the ground of what’s happening in the PR world.

1. @westlevyPR

The founder of West Levy PR (and a PR maven with serious Klout), New Yorker Heather West knows the fashion and entertainment PR world as well as she does the non-profit sphere. Follow for a great curation of industry articles from around the web.

2. @prsarahevans

The PR and Social Media guru and founder of Twitter industry chats#journchat and #commentz , Sarah Evans is definitely among of the big names you should know.

Cool Client: Macy’s “Path to Peace”

3. @dbreakenridge

A must-follow if you’re still in school, Deidre Breakenridge is a professor who lets you ask all of your questions at #PRStudChat . She’s also the author of several great PR books, including PR 2.0 and Putting the Public Back in Public Relations .

4. @ValerieSimon

Valerie’s the other mind behind #PRStudChat,

What We’ve Learned: A Q&A with Rent the Runway’s Founders

If the startup world had fairy tales, Jennifer (Jenny) Fleiss and Jennifer (Jenn) Hyman would be the main characters. Once upon a time, the Harvard Business School classmates—Fleiss from the finance world and Hyman from sales and marketing—met casually for lunch every week to brainstorm entrepreneurial ventures.

The idea that stuck came over Thanksgiving break, when Hyman’s sister, Becky, wanted something gorgeous to wear to an upcoming wedding, but didn’t want to drop an obscene amount of money on a dress she’d only wear once. From that moment on, Fleiss and Hyman had their concept: Rent the Runway, a “Netflix for dresses” that allowed women to rent designer gowns for a fraction of the retail price.

Now, just over three years later, Fleiss and Hyman oversee the rapidly growing, 125-person, multi-million dollar enterprise with a cultish following of customers who get their own Cinderella experience—a new, gorgeous dress for every special occasion.

We got to chat with the incredible duo to hear more about how they turned an “I have nothing to wear” dilemma into an opportunity that looks like it’s headed for happily ever after. Read on for the story of how they got started,

Books Sheryl Sandberg Thinks You Should Read

Previous posts have provided the recommended reading lists of Bill Gates ,Elon Musk , Steve Jobs , Warren Buffett , Jeff Bezos , and Mark Zuckerberg. Now I figure it’s time to expand our reading beyond the billionaire boys’ club.

This post consists of books that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recommended in a recent New York Times interview . While she didn’t identify these books as being specifically for women, they all fit well with Sandberg’s own book, Lean In .

1. A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

Five-Second Summary: A novelist explains her philosophy of life through a series of loosely connected personal observations.

Why You Should Read It: Quindlen’s fictional works center around women’s roles and how they see themselves, so women will find her encouragement and advice about thses topics particularly apt.

Fun Factoid: The core of this book was a commencement address that Quindlen didn’t deliver due to planned protests from anti-abortion activists.

Best Quote: “But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the

This Entrepreneur Has a Career Lesson for All of us

Hard work. Determination. A willingness to take feedback. A desire to keep learning and improving.

These are career-boosting traits we talk about all the time at The Muse. And sometimes, we’re lucky enough to see them in action.

Last month, I visited Soweto, a township in Johannesburg, South Africa, and met women who had started businesses in their community. It’s one of the poorest parts of the country, with unemployment rates of more than 30%.

One of those women was Gape, the 28-year-old owner of a fast food stand. She wakes up at 2 AM, seven days a week, to bake 150 loaves of bread and prepare the day’s food for her regular customers, mainly men who work at a nearby steel plant during the week. “Their wives are at home, and I like feeding them so they don’t go out and find new wives,” she tells me with a smile.

Her recipe for success is continuing to learn and grow. In the spare time she does have, she’s taken business classes through Coca-Cola’s 5by20 programto improve her skills in inventory management, accounting, and marketing. They’ve helped her business so much that she’s hired three

Mrs. Fields Cookies: How Debbi Fields Built an Empire From Scratch

This article is from our friends at LearnVest , a leading site for women and their money.

When people ask how she turned her cookie recipe into a $450 million company, Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields, likes to say she grew up in an extremely wealthy family.

But since her father made $15,000 per year as a welder for the United States Navy and her mother stayed home raising five children, their wealth wasn’t monetary.

“We made every dollar stretch ,” she remembers. “My father believed that true wealth was found in family, friends, and doing what you love.” Debbi managed to take that advice and build an empire around a lone cookie recipe.

While she no longer manages the day-to-day operations like she did in her original shop in Palo Alto, she is the company’s spokesperson and now working on a book of new cookie recipes to come out next year (yes, we’re excited!) and a television show about mentorship.

Which is why we picked the brain of the real-life Mrs. Fields about the dictionary that changed her life, how to get a business loan , and why good chocolate (and vanilla) is always best.

First of

The Gem Behind the Jewelry: lia sophia’s Elena Kiam

Meet Elena Kiam, the Creative Director and style genius behind lia sophia . lia sophia is based on what Elena calls social fashion , where “women get to experiment with jewelry in a judgment-free zone and feel confident and beautiful, all in the company of their closest girlfriends.” Founded in the 1970s, the Kiam family’s jewelry company is now a booming business with millions of devoted customers, over 25,000 entrepreneurial advisors hosting lia sophia parties, and dozens of celebrity fans.And beyond Elena’s traveling for creative stimulation, designing timeless pieces, and inspiring others to start their own businesses , she’s also a devoted wife and mother. Her ability to juggle it all (while remaining impeccably dressed) makes her a role model and style icon for women everywhere.We had the chance to chat with Elena about her career beginnings, design muses, and wardrobe favorites. Find out what inspires the lia sophia looks, plus snag her advice on accessories for every occasion.

How did your career within the design industry get started?

You know how things just kind of come together? I’d like to say that I had this master plan. I didn’t, but when I look back, it is interesting how these various pockets came

High-Powered Women Share Their Secrets for Success

I probably don’t have to remind you of the statistics about women in high-level leadership positions in the U.S. (And if I do, let’s put it this way:They’re grim .) Most of the time, all you have to do is look around the C-suite of your company, and the picture will be all too clear.

But there are plenty of women who have made it to the top—and today, they’re sharing their secrets for success. To learn more about their journeys, their career paths, and the advice they’d share with others, I recently chatted with six of the most prominent leaders I know. If you’re aiming for the top , read on for their quick nuggets of wisdom on leadership.

Kathleen Tierney

Recruited out of college to work at Chubb Insurance, Kathleen Tierney learned very quickly that she could distinguish herself by volunteering for projects and initiating ideas. Her strategy paid off, and after working in many different business units, today she sits at the helm as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. She is also the first woman to run a business unit at the organization.

Define a great leader. What are some traits you

Reasons You Can’t Take Shortcuts on Your Path to Success

So, you’ve got a bunch of friends who keep getting promoted and landing awesome new jobs (with accompanying awesome titles) and you’re feeling like your career is falling behind. You just can’t stop asking yourself how you’ll ever catch up.

Remember that old story about the tortoise and the hare? Well, as someone who’s always been in a hurry to get to the next level, I’ve come to realize that slow and steady is actually a really great approach. There is simply no substitute for hard-earned experience if you truly want to be successful in your chosen field.

My career’s journeyed for over 20 years through the airline industry, the music business as it was imploding, sports footwear, apparel, and nutrition where I ended up as Global President of Gatorade, and finally my most recent role as President of Equinox, the leader in the fitness industry. I’ve had some amazing team successes on my journey that’ll forever take me to that happy place in my mind—and I’ve also had some epic, epic fails.

Yeah, I’m not talking the type of fail like when you mistakenly forward an email to a giant CC list and announce a crush

How I Broke Into Entertainment: A Q&A With E! Anchor Catt Sadler

If you count down to the Oscars like it’s Christmas, pore over every page ofInStyle the day it comes out, and fill your DVR with every E! special known to man—well, Catt Sadler pretty much has your dream career. Acorrespondent and anchor for E! , she’s the host you see on E! News Weekend , E! specials, and all E! Live From the Red Carpet events.

But while her job is glamorous, the path to landing it wasn’t always. The “little girl from the farmlands of Indiana” got her start in a local news station in Indianapolis, and attributes her successful path to working tremendously hard, taking the time to learn the ins and outs of every part of the newsroom, and never letting the word “no” stop her.

Before you check Catt out on the red carpet this month , read on for her story on what it takes to break into broadcasting.

Catt, what did you want to do growing up?

To be honest, I always had a bit of the performing bug. I was in my school plays and when I was with my cousins, I was always creating scenes and directing everybody—that was our form of entertainment. Then when I

Why Women Must Ask (The Right Way)

Few Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA students would argue that Professor Margaret A. Neale is a powerful woman. At over six feel tall, even my male classmates would be intimidated to negotiate with her. And it’s not just because she often calls out students’ “sub-optimal” negotiation strategies in front of the whole class—it’s because she’s clearly a master negotiator .

Maggie, as her students know her, starts her two-week, highly sought-after Negotiation seminar by introducing people to the cost of not negotiating—which could be years of additional work to make the same salary as colleagues who negotiate. Unfortunately, women suffer the most from this—which is why Maggie spends much of her time outside of the MBA program, co-directing the Stanford GSB Executive Program for Women Leaders.

Personally, my most interesting moment in the class came when I was assigned to negotiate on behalf of constituents and I was able to play the mediator. It was also my best negotiated outcome of the semester, and that’s no coincidence—as I learned, women often do best in representative negotiations.

I recently sat down with Maggie in her Stanford office, me on a low chair in front of her packed desk, her

Career Blogs Worth A Read

If you’re looking to get some career inspiration in the new year, ramping up your reading list is one of the best places to start.

Even if you already subscribe to the blogging bigwigs like The Huffington Post and The Grindstone , some lesser-known blogs out there warrant your attention, too. Narrowing down a manageable list can be tough, but since hanging out in the blogosphere is part of my job, I’ve done the grunt work for you and sifted through the blogging noise to find the real gold.

Take a look at my favorites: a list of sensational women who offer resources, ideas, and inspiration for getting ahead in your career and developing your business.

1. Farnoosh Brock, Prolific Living

Brock, who recently left a very successful corporate career to pursue her goal of helping others to lead passion-driven lives, draws on her own experience to write about living life to its fullest, trusting your instincts, and following your dreams. She doesn’t tolerate senseless self-pity—and she speaks authentically here, because she’s been through personal struggles herself. Instead, Brock offers practical advice on getting to know yourself ,finding your path , and staying motivated in your corporate job . This is a must-read for anyone who needs

Sheryl Sandberg Motivates You to Do About Anything

Sheryl Sandberg’s a role model for anyone—yes, women and men—who aspire to be successful. As Facebook COO, Lean In: Woman, Work, and the Will to Succeed author, and the first woman to sit on Facebook’s board, she’s learned plenty of lessons along her journey—and has faced many struggles throughout it all.

In honor of her awesomeness, we’ve pulled 23 of her best quotes to help motivate you. So, whether you’re looking for some inspiration to reach your career goals or just need a quick pick-me-up to power through your to-do list, check these out.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

“Being confident and believing in your own self-worth is necessary to achieving your potential.”

“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”

“What I tell everyone, and I really do for myself is, I have a long-run dream, which is I want to work on stuff that I think matters.”

“It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very

A promise of successful women for International Women’s Day

Two words that matter in the workplace every day—but especially on March 8th, International Women’s Day , a day that “celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women,” as well as acts as a call to action for individuals and organizations to promote, enforce, and advocate for gender equality.

So, in honor of the big day, we’ve compiled our favorite inspirational quotes from successful women who make us feel empowered every day. Enjoy—and then go out there and be a part of the movement to advocate for women.

Famous People Who Will Inspire You to Never Give Up

“Never give up.” It’s probably one of the most cliché phrases you’ll hear as you’re building your career. But there’s a reason these sayings are clichés—you never know when success really does lie around the next corner.

We know believing that is easier said than done, so we collected the following stories of famous celebrities who definitely never gave up, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling, for starters.

All these folks are now household names, but they didn’t become one easily. Some lived in their car, others suffered family abuse, and almost all encountered rejection after rejection professionally and personally—before finally landing a foot in the door. Read on and get inspired!

1. J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling had just gotten a divorce, was on government aid, and could barely afford to feed her baby in 1994, just three years before the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, was published. When she was shopping it out, she was so poor she couldn’t afford a computer or even the cost of photocopying the 90,000-word novel, so she manually typed out each version to send to publishers. It was rejected dozens of times until finally Bloomsbury,