This trailblazing actress, writer, and producer not only earned a well-deserved Emmy for her work on Netflix’s Master of None, she’s putting Chicago on the map in the entertainment industry like never before, with her all-new Showtime series, The Chi. As a member and supporter of the Time’s Up movement, her presence at this year’s Golden Globes is an inspiration for all ladies, Chicago-based and beyond.
As the CEO of perhaps the most successful education startup in recent years, Eileen Murphy is a heavy-hitter amongst female executives and entrepreneurs. The former CPS English teacher’s multi-award winning company, ThinkCERCA, raised tons of funding this past fall, which means the sky’s the limit this year. With these investments, ThinkCERCA will launch 7,000 new interactive lessons that will help students in grades three through 12 exercise literacy and critical thinking skills.
With a reputation for being one of the most powerful women in the city, CEO of Ariel Investments Mellody Hobson is not only a savvy figure in finance, she’s also a philanthropist who rallies for the success of Chicago’s youth and for diversity in corporate America. Promoted as chair in the exclusive Economic Club of Chicago last year, Hobson is living proof that the voices of women of color can be heard! Also, her and her husband George Lucas (no big deal) donated millions to help underrepresented communities find opportunities in cinema. At the rate she’s going, we know she’ll take 2018 by storm.
This young breakout artist just radiates “Chicago” in its rawest form with her poetic, honest, and highly-acclaimed music. With friends in high places, like fellow local Chance the Rapper, there’s no question that Noname is on her way to the top. Although an official release date hasn’t been announced, we can’t wait for her upcoming album, Room 25. Catch her this year at the nation’s biggest festivals, such as Coachella, Hangout Music Fest, and Electric Forest.
This rockstar chef of the Midwest is the mastermind behind Kitsune and Elizabeth, of which the latter earned a Michelin star. Having worked in Chicago kitchens since the age of 15, Regan has become known for her fresh, seasonally foraged ingredients, gaining her James Beard Award nominations year after year for Best Chef of the Great Lakes. With a two-book deal under her belt, look out for her first in bookstores this year – a memoir called Burn the Place. Her endeavors don’t end there. Regan is also trying her hand at edibles this year. If you’re a fan of Kitsune’s ramen, stay tuned for Regan’s Kitsune meal kit delivery service.
Everyone knows that the world is Shondaland, and we’re just living in it. With television hits like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, Rhimes has had us glued to our TV screens for years. It was recently announced that she’ll soon be leaving ABC to team up with Netflix, which basically means it’s another network that she’ll totally conquer. Although she’s been championing for females and minorities in the entertainment industry for years, her involvement with the ladies of the Time’s Up movement only makes it that much more of a dream team. What we want from her this year? Word has it that she’s working on crossover episodes between Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder. What?! #MindBlown
Male or female, landing a spot on SNL is no easy feat. Cecily Strong knows this, and yet she’s still entertaining audiences every Saturday night, having been cast in some of what will be history’s most memorable skits. As an outspoken advocate for gender equality, Strong is a living reaction to the lack of females in comedic roles. Next up? See her in Whitney Cummings’ The Female Brain, a female-directed film that’s welcome in this present day, to say the least.
An even harder feat? Spearheading the reform of a public school system plagued by controversy, lack of funding, and ongoing political contention. That very environment is what Interim CEO of CPS, Janice Jackson, is walking into with her head held high. It won’t be easy, and the reality is that some of her actions will undoubtedly be met with opposition and backlash. The closing of four schools in Englewood, for example, is the latest topic of intense debate. However, despite what she’s been dealt and what the future holds, Jackson is tackling her position with an impressive attitude. After all, she came from the very system that she’s working to mend, which we feel is the kind of perspective that’s needed in a position like hers.
Anyone you were hoping to see on this list? Well, we want recognition for ALL ass-kickin’ ladies. Give a shout-out to a strong Chicago female in the comments so we can feature them in a future roundup.