Most entrepreneurs pound a long and difficult road, but it's well documented that women have the toughest time. A small library's worth of studies has shown that female founders receive a tiny sliver of the tens of billions in venture capital that are invested each year. What's worse, a depressing number of those who have tried to secure such funding say they were discriminated against. Inc. partnered with our sibling publication, Fast Company, for our first-ever State of Women and Entrepreneurship survey. It reveals that 62 percent of women seeking funding report that they have encountered bias in the process.

These findings are stubborn and aggravating, yet the big picture for female entrepreneurship is far from bleak. Women are launching more companies now than in recent decades. And, as editor-at-large Kimberly Weisul notes in "How #MeToo Has Forced Venture Capital to Become More Inclusive," many of the largest venture capital firms are now rushing to add women to their boardrooms.

Moreover, as our inaugural  Female Founders 100 list demonstrates, American business is teeming with creative, ambitious, and thriving women-led companies. Executive editor Danielle Sacks and her team have assembled an all-star roster of fascinating female founders from a vast array of industries. Some of them, like Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe, are already familiar to Inc. readers. Others, like Rachel Haurwitz and Jennifer Doudna of Caribou Biosciences and Tina Sharkey of Brandless, are newcomers to our pages whom we think you'll be hearing a lot more about soon.

The world of business has been achingly slow to create equal opportunities for women and other underrepresented groups. But we are confident that as change takes hold, the women you'll read about in this issue will be the women taking the lead.