The women who own Austin Woman magazine know what it takes to be change makers.
By Cy White
We at Austin Woman magazine know a thing or two about what it takes to be a change maker. In fact, we know eight things. The owners of the decades-old publication have all in some way elevated Austin’s community in their historic and storied careers. Each woman is an agent of intentional change, living and breathing examples of using their positions to do good for the people of this city. Their roles as business owners, entrepreneurs and in many cases C-suite career women are purely a means to something greater: a promise to leave the city they love better with everything they do.
As everything, it starts at the beginning. Co-Founder and -Owner Melinda Garvey has been hailed all over Austin as a true change agent, a co-conspirator and innovator. Twenty-two years ago, she had an idea to bring something unique and sorely needed to the city: a publication that celebrated women. A simple concept, but from the seeds of that idea bloomed a legacy that continues to look for areas of improvement, innovation and real, lasting change.
Being a change maker means knowing that when you help others rise, everyone rises. It means pushing past the fear, frustrations and doubt and showing up. It means continuing to advocate for change, even when your efforts are overlooked. It means throwing caution to the wind and literally throwing out an entire magazine full of ‘stories’ to list 318 female change makers because it matters.
Shuronda Robinson is an icon of change and intention, but her humility might make you overlook just how profound an impact she’s had on the ever-changing landscape of Austin. President of Adisa Communications, founder of the Joyful Living Center, Robinson’s mission has always been to help guide people to become their best selves. Her work and accomplishments are a master class of intentional leadership. In 2022, she was honored at the NAACP Austin 57th Annual Freedom Fund as the Dewitty/Overton Highest Honoree, not to mention being awarded the key to the city by Former Mayor of Austin Steve Adler.
“Being a change maker means being curious and humble,” Robinson says. “It also means being tough and going against general conventions for the sake of expressing our truth, exploring failure for the sake of one’s own learning and growth. Change makers carry a vision forward by having the tenacity to see it through.”
Being a change maker means being curious and humble. It also means being tough and going against general conventions for the sake of expressing our truth, exploring failure for the sake of one’s own learning and growth. Change makers carry a vision forward by having the tenacity to see it through.
In this same vein, Terry P. Mitchell has become an undeniable agent of progress in Austin. A native of East Austin, a serial entrepreneur and business woman, Mitchell has a fierce spirit for equity that translates to tangible change for the city’s most underrepresented. As co-chair and steering committee member of The Black Fund, she has been part of a shift in the economic landscape for Austin’s Black citizens. In February, members of the community gathered at the Paramount Theatre to celebrate The Black Fund awarding 21 nonprofits a total of $355,500, the start of a goal to award $1 million to Black-owned and -led organizations throughout Austin. As a founding member of Austin’s Black Leadership Collective, Mitchell is instrumental in the change she wants to see in the city, gathering with 100-plus like-minded Black leaders to enact shifts in the white supremacist narrative.
Gretel Perera has striven to break the mold for what it means to be a Latina in the tech industry. As a woman in a high position of influence at Expedia Group (the director of PR), she understands fully well what it means to be the only her in the room. In March of 2023, she envisioned a future where Latina leaders and executives could gather to give voice to power within the community. With that vision, she spearheaded the creation of L500, a private, invitation-only network of the most influential and inspiring Latina leaders in Austin. The world has taken notice. In December 2023, L500 received an invitation to the Hispanic Leadership Summit at the U.N. headquarters from Claudia Romo Edelman, founder of the We Are All Human Foundation.
A change maker is someone who makes an impact on their community by inspiring others through change, leadership and by breaking the mold.
Another powerful voice for Latina executives: Ana Ruelas. As the founder and managing partner of The Agency Austin, she’s paved the way for Latinas within the real estate space. She brings so much more to the table than her extensive experience as a Fortune 500 executive. With her ability to seek out and bring to the surface the boundless potential in everyone she meets comes a deep passion for education. She’s split her time throughout the years serving on the boards of community-forward organizations such as the Texas Book Festival, Latinitas and Con Mi Madre. She illustrates her heart for philanthropy through her support of local nonprofits like The Center for Child Protection Services, The Texas Advocacy Project and Ballet Austin.
As a private banker and executive director at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Lana Macrum-Craig knows full well the power of being a woman in a space that has historically been mostly saturated with men. She hasn’t allowed that fact to deter her or force her into mental submission. She’s a fighter, a vocal advocate for women in these isolated pockets of industry and a pillar of support for families within the community. As a member on the board of directors of nonprofit Hand to Hold and the SAFE Alliance’s Women of Hope, she not only speaks with purpose; she propels that purpose forward with her own hands.
With a team of ambitious tech professionals and a dream, Contentstack CEO Neha Sampat had a long and uncertain road to her current success. Imagine, a woman with zero technical background taking the reins at not one, but three tech-forward companies. With Contentstack, the funding rounds were grueling, but at the eleventh hour, Contentstack received an incredible $31.5 million in Series A funding. To date, the tech company has raised a grand total of $169 million in seed funding. She’s gained notable international attention from the likes of Forbes, Fortune and legendary hip hop icon and entrepreneur Snoop Dogg, to name a few. She also takes active roles in initiatives like the ScaleUp Diversity Pledge and Pledge 1%. (She also knows her wine as a certified sommelier, one of only 25 women with the title.)
Being a change maker means constantly challenging the status quo with the conviction that there’s always a smarter, better way. A change maker looks beyond the obvious, driven by the endless pursuit of possibility. It’s a journey of relentless optimism and courage, transforming every obstacle into a stepping stone toward innovation and progress. At its core, being a change maker is about shaping a future fueled by vision and unwavering belief in potential.
Lynelle McKay is the perfect example of putting her heart into her work, having experienced not one, but two retirements. In her latest post-professional journey, she gifted Austin Woman with her dedication and genuine love of helping others. The former CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA has leveraged her time and dedication to ensuring that future leaders have the guidance and support they deserve. She refers to herself as a “transformational leader,” and with the work she’s done, from her tenure with Girl Scouts of the USA to her time spent as a vice president and general manager at Motorola, she’s more than lived up to that tagline.