Increasingly futurists are being hired by businesses to present visions of what the future could look like. Sometimes futurists are sci fi writers like Isaac Asimov (whose books inspired Elon Musk’s companies), and other times they predict business futures like Faith Popcorn. In 1991 Faith predicted that “humanoid robots” would become companions and workers. As we see automation and robotics have found their way into our businesses and our lives; we can see she was right.
There aren’t a ton of resources compiling lists of female futurists, other than this list from Ross Dawson. But this is an important community that has a voice. We need to make sure they have a platform to share their ideas. Women bring unique perspectives, and the experience of being able to bear children. After centuries of decisions being made almost entirely by men, now women are stepping up to shape the future in real and concrete ways. The way we approach global challenges for the future matters, and it’s critical that women are a central part of shaping this conversation.
In the past, the roles of corporate leaders and futurists have been predominantly male, but in recent years, women have started making their mark. Roughly one-third of members of the Association of Professional Futurists are women, and the leaders of many futurist groups are female. These women are looking at vast possibilities on topics ranging from business to education and technology to see what the future holds.
Women need to be visible in boardrooms, at conferences, and anywhere we are planning how to make our societies healthy and more equitable for tomorrow. The unique female perspective creates more diversity of thought and opinion, which opens the future to fresh ideas that represent the entire population.
On Sunday March 8, International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the women leaders working to create solutions for potential futures. These women are looking ahead to prepare themselves, their organizations and their audiences for how the world could change. And as they delve into the future, they have a chance to shape it. This list was created to help build community among this group, but also for conference organizers and businesses that want to engage futurists.
These 50 women are shaping the future and encouraging and inspiring other females to join them:
Named by Forbes as one of the “Women Changing the World,” Amy Webb is a quantitative futurist. She is a professor of strategic foresight at the NYU Stern School of Business and founder of the Future Today Institute, a leading foresight and strategy firm that helps leaders and their organizations prepare for complex futures. Founded in 2006, the Institute advises Fortune 100 and Global 1000 companies, investment firms and government agencies.
Cindy Frewen is an architect and urban designer who examines how buildings will grow and interact with people in the future. She consults on the future of cities and how architecture and technology can work together. Cindy is the head of the Association of Professional Futurists and has received awards for her sustainable designs and community development.
Amy Zalman specializes in using storytelling to guide strategy and communications and has worked with governments and companies around the world. She is the former CEO of the World Future Society and is involved in a number of global causes, including promoting peace and global security.
Madeline Ashby is a science fiction writer and speaker who has applied science fiction prototypes to a number of leading organizations. She examines the future by telling stories about topics ranging from smart cities to global security and the future of warfare.
Erica Orange is an executive at The Future Hunters, where she identifies trends and changes for large companies and public agencies. Erica is focused on changing demographics, including Millennials and the growth of the she-conomy, as well as new technology and its interaction with humans.
Shara Evans’ expertise lies in telecommunications analysis. Her expansive career has provided the foundation to look towards the future of telecom in Australia and around the world. She is focused on the future of technology, including robotics, cybercrime and consumer tech.
From a career of working with the world’s top organizations, Nancy Giordano has become a leading futurist helping businesses transform and succeed. She aims to help organizations become more sustainable and beneficial to society by combining the future of tech, business and social issues.
Tessa Finlev works at the intersection of cultural change, diversity and inclusion with an eye towards the future. She encourages civic engagement and social change to create sustainable systems that solve the world’s problems.
Combining science, art and innovation, Kristin Alford is passionate about driving sustainable change in the future and in inspiring the next generation of futurists. She is involved in developing smart cities that offer sustainable environmental and economic solutions.
As a professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan, Mei-Mei Song is a global leader in the future of education and globalization. Her work has the potential to shape future teachers and universities around the world, especially as more technology is integrated into education.
With a passion for the future of education and training new futurists, Fabienne Goux-Baudiment studies and speaks on a variety of topics ranging from climate change to robots and how cultures and people need to continually evolve. Her work has been applied to numerous government organizations and businesses.
Based in the Netherlands, Susan Cox-Smith helps organizations combine research and storytelling to prepare for the future and make strategic decisions. Her “How to Future” project helps organizations, especially in healthcare and technology, create teams and structures to succeed in the future.
With more than 25 years’ experience, Gayemarie Brown helps worldwide companies use emerging technologies to update their business models for the future. She is an expert and global speaker on digital transformation and disruption, especially AI, robotics and blockchain.
With a goal of leveraging new technology to make people as healthy as possible, Maria Konovalenko uses her scientific background to look at the future of aging, including AI, cell therapy and regenerative medicine. She hopes to create a future where people can live longer and happier lives thanks to science and technology.
Anne Lise Kjaer
Anne Lise Kjaer’s organization focuses on business and communications trend forecasting for global corporations. She encourages organizations to look towards the future with trend management and establish mindful leaders to create a more inclusive economy.
A vocal advocate for female empowerment, Faith Popcorn looks to the future as the “She-change.” She forecasts future trends and consumer patterns for numerous industries and has been called the “Nostradamus of Marketing” by Fortune Magazine.
Based in Turkey, Ufuk Tarhan uses her background in economics and IT to consult companies on creating strong strategies for the future. She is also the curator of Future Day, a day she hopes will be an international public holiday dedicated to the future.
Elina Hiltunen created a tool to crowdsource organizational futures, especially regarding new technology. She aims to anticipate the future through weak signals and has created tools for individuals and organizations to look towards the future and adapt as the world changes.
A prominent figure in South Korea, Youngsook Park focuses her efforts on social justice and human development. She trains students and organizations on the future of housing and interior design and has established programs to prepare her country for social issues of the future.
With a background in medicine and dance, Cecily Sommers looks towards the future of innovation. She runs a think tank that examines the impact of global trends on businesses and society over the next one to five decades.
Alexandra Whittington teaches Forecasting for Technology Entrepreneurship at the University of Houston. Her focus is on the future of social issues, including families, education and gender roles. She works with corporations and non-profit groups to prepare them for future changes.
With a background in education and psychology, Jennifer Gidley aims to raise awareness about new thinking that will be required in the future, especially in regards to youth education and sustainable urban development. Her work brings awareness to the growing climate crisis and the future plight of oceans.
Maree Conway has spent her career consulting on the future of universities and education. She is the founder of an organization that helps professionals in education and government plan for the future by re-framing strategic conversations about the future using foresight.
As cofounder of the School of International Futures, Cat Tully advises the U.S. and U.K. governments on the future and national security. She also trains business leaders, lawmakers and activists around the world to prepare for the future. Cat encourages her clients to adopt a long-term view with foresight tools to adapt to change.
- April Rinne, futurist, lawyer and former Chief Strategy Officer at Collaborative Lab
- Heather E. McGowan, author of The Adaptation Advantage and workplace futurist
- Ayelet Baron, author, speaker and former Chief Strategy Officer at Cisco Canada
- Elatia Abate, Stanford professor and human capital futurist
- Lisa Bodell, founder and CEO of FutureThink
- Maddy Dychtwald, author, cofounder of Age Wave
- Crystal Washington, technology strategist and cofounder of Socialtunities
- Sierra Modro, technology futurist and Senior Project Manager at Amazon Web Services
- Esther Dyson, journalist and chairman of EDventure Holdings to nurture startups.
- Karen Sands, futurist focusing on encouraging people of all ages and genders to the workforce
- Joyce Gioia, Clinical Professor of Innovation, Celebrity Futurist
- Eleonora Barbieri Masini, lawyer and professor of Social Forecasting in Rome
- Tracey Follows, futurist and founder of Futuremade Ltd
- Marina Gorbis, Executive Director at Institute for the Future
- Dana Klisanin, psychologist and CEO of Evolutionary Guidance Media R&D
- Yvette Montero Salvatico, partner at Kedge LLC
- Claire A. Nelson Ph.D., Chief Ideation Leader at The Futures Forum
- Maya Van Leemput, senior researcher and lecturer at Erasmushogeschool Brussel
- Cynthia G. Wagner, editor at AAI Foresight
- Jody Turner, strategic trendwatcher at The Marketing Arm
- Guillermina Baena Paz, professor at National Autonomous University of Mexico
- Emily Empel, former workforce futurist at Disney Company, currently at IDEA Couture
- Cathy Hackl, AR, VR and technology futurist
- Sheryl Connelly, global trends and futuring at Ford Motor Company
- Sari Stenfors, futurist at Augmented Leadership Institute
This article was first published on Forbes.com.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.