20 Most Influential Moms: First Annual Awards
The 20 women we chose for our first-ever Most Influential Moms Awards inspire us.
When she is taking care of her family and taking care of business, a mother is a force to be reckoned with. She doesn't let anything dampen her passion and commitment — not the naysayers, a few career bumps or the occasional (but sadly) missed school event. The 20 extraordinary women we chose for our first-ever Most Influential Moms Awards inspire us. They are examples of how far passion and tenacity can take you, and also bring out the best in others.
Actress and founder of The Honest Company. Age 33, mother of Honor, 6, and Haven, 3
Known for her work on the big screen, Jessica created her company to provide parents with safe, affordable, eco-friendly baby products while emphasizing sustainability as well as giving back to the community.
What do you love most about your work? I'm grateful to have the opportunity to make people's lives safer, healthier, easier and more inspired so they can focus on what's important to them.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? To keep pushing people not to do things the way they're used to, because I'm not a believer in maintaining the status quo. I'm also irked when I'm not taken seriously; people assume that I'm only a spokesperson for my company and not involved with the details of the business.
How has motherhood changed you? Completely! Becoming a mother inspired me to create The Honest Company, because I understood firsthand the need to protect and provide for my children's well-being.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Cuddly, silly and encouraging.
Quoted: "I enjoy showing my daughters that hard work can make your dreams come to life."
Founder of Girls on the Run and the Red Boot Coalition. Age 54, mother of Hank, 19, and Helen, 16
After her success with her nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and empowering girls through running, Molly founded the Red Boot Coalition, an organization whose purpose is to get beyond prevalent labels, ideologies and fears by creating safe places for people to engage.
What do you love most about your work? Being witness to that aha! moment — when someone sees or taps into a level of strength and power within herself that she didn't realize was there.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? I'm not typically labeled as weak, but I think there are some who would suggest the work I do, particularly when it comes to leadership, is touchy-feely and therefore weak and ineffective. I am asking people to consider the power that connectedness and compassion bring to leadership.
How has motherhood changed you? In that to truly and unconditionally love another, I must allow them to struggle, fall at times, delight and live their own journey.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Spunky, nonconforming, caring.
Quoted: "Our best work and greatest contribution to the world comes when we show up as our true, imperfect, vulnerable selves."
Christy Turlington Burns
Model and founder of Every Mother Counts. Age 46, mother of Grace, 12, and Finn, 9
One of the most successful models in the world, Christy is also an activist. Her nonprofit works to reduce complications that can occur during pregnancy and childbirth by providing women across the globe with access to the care they need.
What do you love most about your work? I love that we all have the opportunity to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for more mothers. Of the hundreds of thousands of maternal deaths that occur around the world every year, almost all are preventable. We are not waiting for a cure. We know how to save these women's lives.
What is your definition of success? We measure success at Every Mother Counts by the impact we can make to improve the health and well-being of girls and women. Since 2012 we have impacted nearly 70,000 lives. But we do need others to join this effort to continue and build upon our success.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? Bringing programs to scale. As a small nonprofit we are limited by how much we can do, but that also allows us to grow mindfully.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? According to my son, nice, loving and caring. And my daughter chimed in with happy, loving and cuddly.
Quoted: "Being a mom has multiplied my emotional capacity. It has taught me that my ability to nurture and care for others is limitless."
Nora de Hoyos Comstock
President and CEO of Las Comadres. Age 69, mother of twins Paul and Ariel, 44
Nora's brainchild is a national community- building organization for Latinas that connects more than 20,000 women in 100 cities and provides mentoring, networking and social opportunities for them.
What do you love most about your work? The contact I have with Latinas in all walks of life and family situations and their willingness to be vulnerable with their questions. Their gracious offers to assist each other continue to keep me humble.
How has motherhood changed you? It has taught me to be patient. I always wanted things to happen now. With young children and family commitments, some things just have to go on the back burner. Things will work out — maybe not the way you expected, but sometimes better.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Persistent, curious and fun-loving.
Quoted: "I've learned that we can actually live through things that appear to be insurmountable."
Executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme. Age 57, mother of Maurice, 30s
Ertharin heads up the largest humanitarian organization fighting hunger in the world. Her job is to help meet urgent food needs globally and seek longer-term solutions to food insecurity and hunger.
What do you love most about your work? The people I work with and the people who they work for; I am always moved by their dedication. I am also amazed when I'm out in the field talking to people who live in circumstances that are hard for most of us to even imagine, and the level of hope they still have.
What is your definition of success? It changes for me all the time. (I remember being so broke in law school that success meant being able to get my hair done!) When you are young, success is your career, but as you get older, it's achievement in the career and the opportunity to make a difference in the world. Now I look toward what I want to accomplish next. It's truly about how to set the platform for ending hunger in our lifetime. I say those words and people see them as visionary, but it's more than visionary; we really do have the ability to end hunger in our lifetime.
How has motherhood changed you? Once you're a mom, it's all about "How do I take care of this other person and ensure that the bumps and bruises of life don't leave him scarred? How can I make sure he moves forward?"
Quoted: "How would my son describe me? As someone who loves him unconditionally."
Sarah Kate Ellis
CEO and president of GLAAD. Age 43, mother of Thomas and Kate, both 6
Sarah, an award-winning media executive and communications strategist, took her activism for LGBT equality to the next level when she stepped into her current role in January 2014.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? We still have an uncomfortable America when it comes to LGBT equality. What keeps me up at night is seeking new and powerful ways to close the gap to full acceptance.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? Patience. My mother always told me that patience is a virtue, and I finally understand what she meant.
How has motherhood changed you? I now have an always-on vigilance to ensure that my children never face discrimination.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Loving. Smart. Awesome.
Quoted: "It is meaningful to go to work and contribute to helping make the world a better, more accepting place."
Margaret A. Hamburg, MD
Former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (stepped down in April 2015). Age 59, mother of Rachel, 21, and Evan, 19
A Harvard graduate, medical doctor, scientist and public health executive, Margaret served in her role with the FDA for nearly six years, and has received multiple awards and honors, including a place on Forbes' The World's 100 Most Powerful Women list in 2014.
What do you love most about your work? Doing something that makes a real difference in the lives of others. President Teddy Roosevelt signed the FDA into law in 1906 and he has a quote that I think about a lot: "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? That life takes many unexpected twists and turns. The critical thing is not to worry so much about each and every step but to make sure that when a door opens you're not afraid to walk through it.
How has motherhood changed you? It brings many competing demands for your attention and forces you to really consider your priorities and choices. For example, when I was working on bioterrorism my daughter said to me, "I wish I just had a normal mom who drove carpool and didn't talk about anthrax all the time." That made me think, and in fact I soon stepped down from an executive position in order to have a more flexible schedule for my kids and their activities.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? I asked my daughter and she said devoted, patient and wise. My son said calm. He doesn't follow directions quite as well!
Quoted: "My definition of success really focuses on feeling like I'm immersed in something I care about."
LT. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho
Army surgeon general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command. Age 55, mother of John Francis, 22, and Mary Margaret, 21
Patricia is a lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and the first woman and first nurse to serve as the U.S. Army's surgeon general. Decorated with multiple military awards, including the Order of Military Medical Merit Medallion and the Distinguished Service Medal, she has also been recognized as a "Nurse Hero" by the American Red Cross.
What do you love most about your work? Building an environment that allows individuals to be successful in improving the lives of those we serve.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? Health care is only a small piece of what we do. It really is the focus on health readiness. Educating all the stakeholders that have an influence on military medicine can be daunting. They need to understand the uniqueness of the contributions that we provide to overall health readiness for those who serve and their families.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? More about the importance of nutrition, sleep and activity. It would have impacted my overall health and wellness as a wife, a mother, a daughter, an officer, a nurse and a leader. But it's good that I learned in my 50s and not in my 80s!
Which three words would your children use to describe you? My son: passionate, grounded, humble. My daughter: compassionate, balanced, positive, thoughtful.
Quoted: "When trying to decide about a personal or professional obligation, I always ask: Who would remember if I wasn't there?"
CEO and founder of Outdoor Afro. Age 43, mother of Seth 18, Arwen, 13, and William, 11
Rue started her organization in order to help reconnect African American communities with nature and outdoor activities and promote overall good health. She has also worked with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign.
What is your definition of success? It has meant so much to me to cultivate both leadership and a community of supporters. They are just as invested in the future of the work I do as I am and celebrate each win with me as their own.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? That it's okay to make mistakes. Now I see mistakes as a natural stage of evolution — of getting better. Back then, it was easier to stay stuck or sometimes judge myself too harshly. Now I search for the lesson. There is always a lesson!
How has motherhood changed you? My kids inspire me to do and be better all the time. I am inspired to go the extra mile, put in the extra time and do my very best because I know they are constantly learning from me by example.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Their words: Awesome! Beautiful! Dedicated!
Quoted: "Success means that one day it will not be a big deal to see a family that looks like mine on a nature trail."
Holly Robinson Peete
Actress and founder of the HollyRod Foundation. Age 50, mother of twins Ryan Elizabeth and Rodney Jackson, 17, Robinson James, 12, and Roman, 10
Holly, whose eldest son has autism, created her foundation to provide support to families of children with autism as well as individuals living with Parkinson's — a disease her father lost his battle with years ago.
What do you love most about your work? Having a platform to effect change, especially in the lives of families living every day with autism. Not everyone feels obligated to use their visibility to speak for others, but I feel it's a true blessing.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? "Philanthropically challenged" people are my pet peeve. Not everyone can write a check, but there are so many ways to give back — your time, your services, your love.
How has motherhood changed you? Dramatically! I discovered strengths I didn't know I had and fears I didn't know existed. What a massively beautiful responsibility!
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Moving. Busy. Passionate.
Quoted: "What do I wish I'd known when I was younger? That everything in life is cyclical, and that all mistakes are lessons."
Founder of CureDiva.com. Age 47, mother of Eden, 18, and Adam, 15
Efrat, an Israeli-born writer and photographer, is a breast cancer survivor whose one-stop lifestyle shopping site and virtual community connects women facing breast cancer.
What do you love most about your work? CureDiva really improves the day-to-day of so many women fighting breast cancer and its side effects. They have to worry about so much; at least they don't have to worry about style and feeling feminine and comfortable.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? Since CureDiva is for women with breast cancer, pain, fear and struggles are an integral part of our everyday work. Many of these ladies have become my friends, and while an oncologist loses patients, the hardest personal challenge for me is that I am losing friends.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? First, that I will survive. Second, that I am capable of fulfilling my dreams.
How has motherhood changed you? It put everything into proportion and made my vision and priorities become realistic, sustainable and most of all, unlimited. It was clearest to me when I was going through a nightmare divorce and my breast cancer at the same time, and there were moments when giving up seemed like the easiest solution, but there were my two kids who needed me. They are the reason and the cause.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? They told me that I am their hero, an inspiration and a role model.
Quoted: "Reaching your goals without losing your center: That's success."
Bettina Elias Siegal
National school food advocate and blogger at The Lunch Tray. Age 49, mother of Lily, 15, and Asher, 12
The former lawyer and freelance writer launched a change.org petition that led the USDA to alter its policy on the use of "lean, finely textured beef " — aka "pink slime" — in school cafeterias, a first step in her quest to improve the food our kids are served.
What is your definition of success? I practiced law in New York City for about a decade, and while I may have looked like a success on paper, I didn't particularly enjoy that work.
How has motherhood changed you? If you'd told me even just a few years ago that today I'd often be referred to as an activist, I would have been baffled. I was someone who was uncomfortable with conflict, disliked being in the spotlight and wasn't particularly politically engaged. But after I had kids, I looked at the world in a new way. I started to see how my children could be harmed by today's junk-food-rich environment. Because it was their health at stake and, by extension, the health of every child, I found the courage to step far outside my comfort zone to advocate on their behalf.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? On my worst days, they'd probably say distracted, forgetful and impatient. But on my best days (which I hope outnumber the bad!), I hope they'd say loving, committed and kind.
Quoted: "I don't even think about what I do each day as work because I'm so gratified by it."
Singer, actress and fashion designer at the Jessica Simpson Collection. Age 34, mother of Maxwell, 2, and Ace, 1
The singer and actress added a third feather to her cap when she launched her company in 2005. Jessica's business-which includes everything from shoes, jewelry and accessories to maternity and home products, brings in nearly $1 billion a year in retail globally.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? I've been through a lot publicly for over 15 years now. I am constantly reminding myself that I am here for a reason. That normally helps me rise above and power through any negativity.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? I used to be a lot harder on myself when I was younger, but I still don't know what I wish I would have known, because every uncertainty and every decision has made me who I am today as a wife, a mother and a believer in my own purpose. Imperfections are extremely precious to me.
How has motherhood changed you? Motherhood has definitely refocused my life in the most amazing way. I think I've changed most by accepting all parts of myself.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Peaceful, silly, present.
Quoted: "I want to teach my kids to be confident and believe that anything is possible."
U.S. chief technology officer and assistant to the President of the United States. Age 50, mother of Louie, 12, and Alex, 10
Megan, a former vice president at Google, where she led new business development, was chosen by the White House to guide the federal government's technology, data and innovation initiatives.
What is your definition of success? Success means both great ends and great means, whenever possible.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? When people do not realize what is possible. Many of the issues we face are solvable if we'd collaborate well, work in cross-functional teams, pilot and try different approaches, and especially find and help talented people who have great ideas do their thing. When people do wonderful things, it helps the rest of us rethink the limits we put on our dreams.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? So many things! And I still have much to learn. One thing I'm grateful for is that early on, many people encouraged me to pursue my interests — which included STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics. One of my hopes is that other parents will encourage their boys and girls to pursue a broad range of subjects, including STEM topics.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Louie said caring, soulful and intuitive. Alex said loquacious, smart and funny.
Quoted: "Children add another dimension to your life. They're challenging, fun, have unexpected insights and are generally amazing."
Anchor of ESPN's SportsCenter, host of the recurring series Face to Face with Hannah Storm and creator of the Hannah Storm Foundation and her own eponymous production company. Age 52, mother of Hannah, 18, Ellery, 16, and Riley, 14
The first female host of CNN's Sports Tonight, Hannah has covered a range of major sporting events. In 2008 she established her foundation, which raises awareness and funds treatments for children suffering from debilitating and disfiguring vascular birthmarks.
What do you love most about your work? The ability to use my talents. Broadcasting is constantly challenging and different each day. Being a role model for other women in a traditionally male field has been important to me, as well as having a strong voice on important issues that resonate beyond sports.
How has motherhood changed you? It's hard to answer that question because I can barely remember not being a mother. I am truly happiest in small, everyday moments with my daughters.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? You mean after "annoying"? Generous, warm, enthusiastic. At least that's what their friends say! (And a good cook!)
Quoted: "When I was younger, I wish I'd known how useless it is to worry, how important it is to slow down, and how to embrace my strength and intellect."
Dana Suskind, MD
Professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine and founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative and Project Aspire. Age 47, mother of Genevieve, 15, Asher, 13, and Amelie, 10
The goal of the Thirty Million Words research initiative and Project Aspire is to ensure that all children, from all backgrounds, develop to their greatest intellectual potential by helping their parents create an optimum home language environment for them.
What do you love most about your work? The hope that I may make a difference in tomorrow's world, making it better by helping children reach their greatest potential. To do that I have to help parents understand the power of their words.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? I believe that every child in this country, no matter from what socio-economic level, should have the same opportunity to reach his or her potential. This can only happen when good science and practical methods are applied to policymaking and program support. I also believe that this benefits not only our children but the future of our country in which these children will be adults.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Trustworthy, motivating and unconditionally loving.
Quoted: "I love helping parents understand their power and how important they are in helping kids grow into stable adults."
Founder of Moms Demand Action. Age 44, mom of Kelly, 25, Samantha, 21, Abby, 19, Emma, 18, and Sam, 14
In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings, Shannon, a former communications executive, founded her organization to advocate for safe gun laws. Today there is a chapter in every state, and it has become part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the biggest gun violence prevention organization in the country.
What do you love most about your work? It is an honor to work with survivors who have been impacted by gun violence — families who are so grateful that we're driving real change in the dangerous gun culture our country's weak gun laws have helped create.
How has motherhood changed you? In every single way possible: I have a child in the workforce, two in college, a child in high school and one in middle school — we cover the spectrum. I have learned that every child needs a different parental ecosystem in order to survive: One size does not fit all. I've learned that parenting is a job that doesn't end abruptly at 18. And I've learned that children will tell you to your face that the clothes they are wearing aren't yours, even though you know they are.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Strict, organized and busy.
Quoted: "My children are like breakaway pieces of my heart journeying around the world, and yet I want them to be independent."
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson
Cofounder and CEO of Glamsquad and cofounder and strategic advisor of Gilt. Age 38, mother of Conrad, 5, and Arabella, 2
Alexandra led Gilt, the innovative shopping website, from a small startup to a global business. Her latest venture is Glamsquad, a beauty app for ordering at-home or in-office professional makeup and hair services.
What is your definition of success? One of our goals is to spread joy and happiness to our clients by making it easier for them to get ready for their important events.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? Figure out what you love and what you are good at. Be honest with yourself: If you aren't happy, then make a change.
How has motherhood changed you? How hasn't motherhood changed me? It is the most incredible and fulfilling part of my life, and I can't imagine not experiencing it.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? They are young so their vocabulary is limited: loving, warm and fun!
Quoted: "If we can increase women's self-confidence, then I feel like we have succeeded in our mission."
Gretchen Holt Witt
Founder of Cookies for Kids' Cancer. Age 46, mother of Ella, 9, and Liam, whom she lost at age 6
Having her then two-and-half-year-old son, Liam, diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of nerve cancer, inspired Gretchen and her husband to start her grassroots organization, which raises research funds for children's cancer treatment.
What do you love most about your work? Honoring my son's legacy by doing what I know he would want me to do — help others. I know that I will see Liam again, and I know that his very first question will be whether I did everything I could to make the fight against cancer better for kids.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? No one wants to talk about kids getting cancer. Adults have a hard enough time talking about the scary topic, but when the discussion is about kids, it's a place no one wants to go.
How has motherhood changed you? It changed everything because I knew my life was about someone else.
Which three words would your child use to describe you? Loving, caring, strong. My daughter Ella has a fourth: goofy!
What is your definition of success? When childhood cancer receives a proper amount of funding from the federal government and private sector to see it fall from its dubious position as the number one disease killer of children in the United States.
Quoted: "I wish I had known sooner the power inside each one of us to impact change."
Olympic champion, fashion designer, author and founder of the Always Dream Foundation. Age 43, mother of Keara, 11, and Emma, 9
Kristi's foundation focuses on childhood literacy. She is also a children's book author, an activewear designer and the season 6 winner of Dancing with the Stars.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your field? My many ventures tend to take me on the road. With Keara and Emma at home I don't like to travel so much anymore, but when I do, we keep in touch with Skype and phone calls.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were younger? I was very intense with my focus and attitude when I was training. I would have told myself to loosen up and enjoy it all a little more. Your youth passes by so fast!
How has motherhood changed you? Besides becoming completely maternal and understanding absolute unconditional love, it's opened my eyes up to enjoying the world in a new way with my daughters, through their eyes.
Which three words would your children use to describe you? Loving, helpful, fun.
Quoted: "Success means having a goal, working toward it, overcoming any challenges and then achieving it."