The monthly Manhattan-based magazine writes that the women were chosen for being "proven change agents, shape-shifters and power players across the nation and beyond."
"These women continuously fight the good fight by inspiring us and igniting movements — from the healthcare field to the Hill to Hollywood," the magazine writes.
The magazine's May edition features the list with a cover feature of Kerry Washington — "who, alongside Nina Shaw, is one of the founding members of the Time's Up campaign, and a consistent supporter of Black Lives Matter," Essence writes.
"The women on this list represent a vast spectrum of excellence: From #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke to Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter; from corporate women shattering glass ceilings to the countless women dismantling white supremacy," the magazine writes. "These women consistently leave their mark on their respective communities and industries."
Among them are Pugh, who tells the magazine that her definition of "woke" means "to be focused, to be attentive, to recognize your purpose."
"What matters is that we create a society that is more equal and more just," Pugh tells the magazine.
When contacted, Pugh was surprised to learn of her inclusion.
"Oh, wow. That's awesome," she said. "I'm grateful and honored."
Pugh was joined on the list by Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser. But the two big-city leaders — who govern a combined 1.3 million residents — were joined by four small town Maryland mayors, all from Prince George's County.
- Takisha D. James, mayor of Bladensburg (population: about 9,200)
- Tracy Farrish Gant, mayor of Edmonston (population: about 1,500)
- Sadara Barrow, mayor of Colmar Manor (population: about 1,400)
- Petrella Robinson, mayor of North Brentwood (population: about 500)
Robinson summarizes what it means to be part of a network of black women mayors: "We've always been strong, and we're getting stronger. We can make a powerful change like our ancestors did. The more women who come out and do what they're doing, the more we can keep our families together."