Meet PEOPLE's 25 Women Changing the World of 2018
THE WOMEN OF MOMS AND STUDENTS DEMAND ACTION
"We need to put people over profits," says Shenee Johnson, 45, whose son Kedrick was shot in the chest at a 2010 party, just weeks before he graduated high school. "We're asking for common-sense laws." That's the message that Shannon Watts, who founded the nonpartisan Moms Demand at her kitchen table after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, works to promote after every devastating shooting. "When you look at activism in this country, from its very inception, women have been at the forefront of making things happen," says Watts, 47, a mom of five. "I believe in strength in numbers. Once you do decide to get off the sidelines, you will find a tribe of women who will hold you up." Among those women: Oscar winner Julianne Moore, 57, her daughter Liv Freundlich, 16, and Students Demand Action activists like Ryan Pascal, 16.
NIA BATTS & SOPHIA BUSH
When Batts noticed women of color frequently upcharged in salons for having "textured" hair, she and her partner, Katy Cockrel, 33, turned to her friend, One Tree Hill star Bush, with a big idea. "We decided to turn that offense into a business plan," says the actress, 36. They created Detroit Blows, an inclusive salon in Batts's hometown that invests in the "reinvigoration of the city" by committing $1 from every service and 25 percent of retail to enterprises with female entrepreneurs. "If we can contribute to women and the community, their ability to make those dollars go further is well-documented," says Batts, 33.
Divorce, death, sex, race: Higginbotham takes many of today's most complex issues and translates them for young readers with her book series Ordinary Terrible Things. "It's the series I wish I'd had as a child," says the mother of two. "Children who read my work are seeing their own internal lives on the page." The writer and illustrator, 47, who launched the series in 2015 with Divorce Is the Worst, says the books give kids "permission to feel everything." Her newest book, Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness, explores racism in America: "It invites young children to connect in an authentic and emotional way to justice."
Winning Miss World in 2000 showed Chopra she could make a difference on a global scale. "I realized I had a position of power and I could associate myself with causes I really believed in," says the Indian actress, 36. For 12 years, the Quantico star has worked with UNICEF as a global Goodwill Ambassador, visiting places in need like Zimbabwe and India's Mumbai slums. "The field trips are the most special, because you meet incredi- ble kids and survivors," Chopra says. "Working with these brave children around the world, the one thing that has changed in me is I do not take my life for granted."
As an advocate for the LGBTQ community — and the first black woman to win the comedy writing award, for her work on Netflix's Master of None — Waithe says, "my goal is to be employing writers, directors and actors and help to really change the face of Hollywood." Adds the Chicago native, 34: "I hope people can listen to each other and realize we're a lot more alike than we are different."
TARA MAYSON, TINA STRIDE & LISA MELCHER
Living in West Virginia at the epicenter of the opioid epidemic that touched their own families, Mayson, Stride and Melcher provide hotline and personal support to addicts and their families through The Hope Dealer Project. They often drive people up to five hours to detox and rehab, pay for plane tickets or rent money for a sober house. "We believe in helping any way we can to stay in sobriety," says Stride, whose son survived an overdose two months ago. The trio also helped pay for a funeral when one family lost two sons in one week. Says Stride: "We knew the family needed it."
SHARON FELDSTEIN & PATSY NOAH
The longtime friends and power moms — Noah's son is The Voice star and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, and Feldstein's kids are actors Jonah Hill and Beanie Feldstein — founded Your Mom Cares, a group of mothers of celebrities and influencers who bring attention to issues affecting underserved and impoverished children. "We give a voice to kids who don't have one," says Feldstein, 63, who along with Noah, 63, works with a multitude of youth-based charities "We're so grateful we get to do this."
After 49 people were murdered in the 2016 Pulse night- club shooting in Orlando, Ullman decided to act. So the L.A. filmmaker, 30, founded One Vote at a Time to create campaign ads directed by female filmmakers for candidates working to reduce gun violence. "There are more women in Afghanistan's parliament than there are in Congress," she says. "It's startling." Working on ads for female candidates, "We're finally allowing women to be full people. To see them as a mother, but also as a lawyer and also as a daughter who cares for an aging father. To see that identity as a strength."
After her stepdaughter, Kimae, was mistaken as the nanny because the color of her skin was darker than her family's, Hammer, chairman of NBC Universal Cable, was determined to eliminate unconscious bias. In 1994, Hammer, 68, created Erase The Hate, which recently relaunched with a renewed focus on supporting leaders who are working to combat hate in their communities. "We've lost the art of listening and trying to see and hear how other people think and feel," she says. "So often people think that embracing difference is about tolerance, when it really needs to be about acceptance and appreciation."
Twenty days after Boniadi was born, her parents fled Iran to raise her in London, where women were given more opportunity. "They gave up everything — I don't take that for granted ever," says the Counterpart actress, 38, who also stars in the upcoming film Hotel Mumbai. "So when I gained a platform, I wanted to be a voice for the voiceless in Iran." After working with Amnesty International to release prisoners of conscience for six years, Boniadi now serves on the board of the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
When Rodriguez made it big in Hollywood after landing the lead role on Jane the Virgin, she embarked on a mission to make every set she walked on more diverse. The actress, 34, started I Can and I Will Productions, which specializes in creating projects with minority and Latin representation in front of and behind the camera. "It's about finally putting people in spaces that reflect not only what I see in the mirror," she explains, "but what I see when I walk outside my door."
"I fell in love with Big Brothers Big Sisters because of their incredible work at the local level in all 50 states," says Iorio, 59, the president and CEO of the group, which matches a mentor — a "big" — with a mentee, known as a "little." "It's very emotional for me to hear them talk about their relationship," says Iorio. "The littles are always very open and share with me the positive impact of their mentor. They do better in school, have higher aspirations and greater self-esteem."
Whitson has spent more time living in outer space — 665 days to be exact — than any other American. "I wanted to be an astronaut ever since watching the Apollo 11 moon landing," says the biochemist, 58, who was also the first woman to command the International Space Station. "I'm lucky to have never quite recognized how the odds were stacked against me." Whitson has worked on hundreds of experiments ("Everything from superconductor crystals to soybeans and stem cells") that have led to breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, medicine and agriculture. "You can do more than you've ever dreamed," she says, "when you just keep pushing yourself—and keep on pushing."
"This is a global reckoning," says Borders, 60, the first-ever president and CEO of Time's Up, the organization that helps fight workplace harassment and injustice. (The group grew out of the movement of the same name.) "It's an opportunity to redefine the power relationship between men and women." The granddaughter of civil rights leader Rev. William Borders, she says that movement (supported by stars like Rashida Jones, pictured) informs her work today: "Often it's one step forward and two back. But it's a journey worth taking."
"Since I was a kid I had a low tolerance for injustice," says Najimy, an advocate for women, the LGBTQ community and animals — and a trailblazer for the #MeToo generation. At 61, the actress, who appears on Veep (she's also behind the Off-Broadway play Gloria: A Life, about Gloria Steinem), is helping create a global network of support for women who've suffered abuse and trauma.
As a mom of three children with special needs, Galvan, 38, struggled to find resources in her hometown of Kennewick, Washington. In 2009 she started the Family Resource Center of the Tri-Cities for low-income families and kids with special needs. "It's a beautiful feeling," says Galvan, pictured with kids Damian, 14, Diayanesis, 16, and Joshua, 13, of organizing everything from summer camps to hygiene programs to movie nights. "Families feel safe to bring their kids here. It hasn't been easy, but it's rewarding."
KERRY MAUNUS & APRIL GEORGE
The two moms — Maunus has three boys and George has two girls — were looking for a way to instill gratitude in their kids when they dreamed up Turkey on the Table, a sweater-clad centerpiece with attachable feathers for written notes of thanks. "When we started doing the research, we learned that it's not innate for kids to be grateful, and this is a way to teach that," says Maunus, 42. The best part? Ten meals are provided to those in need with each $39.99 turkey sold. Since 2015 they have donated 862,022 meals through their partnership with Feeding America, which identifies one in eight Americans as food insecure. "People told us we couldn't do this, and the response has been so validating," says George, 46.
Even before turning 18 in February, Shahidi encouraged Gen Z to engage politically via Eighteen x 18. "There are two major problems: information dissemination and voter registration," says the Black-ish star, who was accepted at Harvard for this year. "The information disseminated should allow us to form our opinions and determine partisanship, rather than the other way around," she says of keeping the platform nonpartisan. With early voting numbers already breaking records, Shahidi hopes it sparks a trend. "My goal is that it's a culture that's here to stay," she says.
As Bosworth and her director husband, Michael Polish, researched their film Nona, they met with members of the nonprofit CAST, which aims to rehabilitate survivors of human trafficking. For Bosworth, 35, it meant facing the brutal truth of the problem right here in America. "Often with that feeling of anger and sadness comes a feeling to try and help," she says. "If we lose our humanity to something like this, then we're very lost."
The Big Little Lies actress is focused on organizations that create "active change you can see." From replacing lead-tainted water pipes in Flint, Michigan, to working with the Environmental Protection Agency to ban dangerous pesticides, the Natural Resources Defense Council is "making a difference through law." Dern is also a strong supporter of groups like Justice in Motion, which protects migrant rights across borders to help separated families find each other. "We are leaving this world for the next generation of Republicans and Democrats alike," adds Dern, 51. "Your voice matters."
As the founder and CEO of Cluster, a recruitment firm, Taylor prioritizes placing people in thousands of unfilled manufacturing jobs. "We're focused on expanding the middle class," says the Wisconsin native, 36. As automation redefines manufacturing, "it's new-collar, not blue-collar," she says. "We have to include everyone in the vision for the future."
"The law of the universe is the more you have, the more you have to give," says Rafaelian, 52. So as her jewelry company Alex and Ani took off, she dedicated a portion of her profits to a wide range of causes. What started out as a few thousand dollars grew into $50 million through Charity by Design, the giving arm of Alex and Ani. "You can actually create a new blueprint, be generous and run a beautiful company," says the mom of three.
AMELIA FRANCK MEYER
Working in child welfare for 30 years taught Franck Meyer, 51, that "what children need is a consistent, nurturing protector," she says. "The magic is another human being looking you in the eye and saying, 'I've got your back.' " Franck Meyer founded Alia to reform foster care and help keep kids with their families. "The longing to be with our families is in all of us. It's a human truth."
Growing up on a farm in Washington with the closest makeup store an hour away meant Bodnar, 29, started formulating her own makeup in elementary school. After college she founded vegan cosmetics line Thrive, a celebrity favorite with an added benefit: Every purchase helps bring funds and products to women in need. "I've always had a vision for helping women who are going through a hard time to feel really confident and beautiful," Bodnar (pictured with her team) says.
JAMIE MARGOLIN & NADIA NAZAR
When they aren't in school, the teenage students are working on Zero Hour, a movement they created for young people who want to take climate change issues into their own hands. "I have no choice but to believe that somehow we will get through this," says Margolin. "Because otherwise, what are you even fighting for?"