Tiffany Shlain, 30
When she created the "Webby" awards in 1996, Shlain launched the event of the digerati social season. Each year celebrity judges evaluate sites; winners can count on digital fame and fortune. "The nominees are heroes of intellect, computing and creativity, thrust from the fringe into the spotlight," says Shlain. "For consumers overwhelmed by the Internet, we shine a light on the very best for them." She wants the Webbys to reflect Internet pop culture, just like the Oscars. But Hollywood could learn from the Webheads: Shlain limits acceptance speeches to five words or less.
Jayshree Ullal, 39
As vice president and general manager at Cisco Systems, Ullal ran a $5 billion division of the Internet networking giant when she was only 36. But the recent death of her grandfather prompted her to step off the fast track at Cisco. She's now trying "an experiment in balance." In addition to spending more time with her family, Ullal coaches women- and minority-run tech start-ups: "I give them confidence."
Kim Smith, 33
She calls herself a "social entrepreneur." As president of the New Schools Venture Fund, Smith raises money from New Economy business leaders and "invests" the philanthropic funds in public-education experiments like charter schools and literacy programs. And she takes pride in her role as a liaison between two very different worlds. "Educators and business people don't speak the same language," she says. "I'm bilingual."
Dr. Carolyn Kaelin, 39
Kaelin may look like she just got out of med school, but her 10-page resume attests to her position as a leader in breast-cancer care. As a surgeon and Harvard Medical School faculty member, her research focuses on patient quality of life following breast-cancer treatment. How dedicated is she? She attended a residency-award dinner when she was pregnant and in labor. The contractions were 10 minutes apart when she received an award for being the best chief resident that year. "The speech," says Kaelin, "was short."
Thelma Golden, 33
Deputy director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Golden is one of the nation's most-watched museum curators. She made her name through 10 years at the Whitney Museum, particularly with "Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary Art," a controversial 1994 show that drew huge crowds. Her ultimate goal: to direct a major American museum.
Michele Serros, 34
The Los Angeles-based author and poet writes about growing up in a working-class Mexican-American family, and her tales of never quite fitting in are both poignant and hilarious. In 1998 she published her first book of poetry and short stories, "Chicana Falsa," while she was still a college student. Last year her second short-story collection, "How to Be a Chicana Role Model," quickly climbed the best-seller lists--and became required reading in many classrooms. "A lot of people have gone through the things I write about," she says. "I just happen to be Chicana."
Shirley Sagawa, 39
When Sagawa got the call that the Clinton administration wanted her to work at the White House, her son Jackson was 1 month old. "I didn't have any business clothes that fit," she says. Eight years later, as deputy assistant to President Clinton and deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton, Sagawa had become a key player in national child-care policy, community service and philanthropy. Next up: she plans to start a consulting firm counseling nonprofits and helping companies create "venture philanthropy" programs.
Michele Forman, 29
As an artsy undergrad at Harvard, Forman took a screenwriting course from Spike Lee. When she graduated in 1993, the Birmingham, Ala., native went to work for Lee, eventually helping produce "Four Little Girls," a film about the lives of people affected by the 1963 bombing of Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist …