There may be a curated list of content marketing “thought leaders” that skews female, but I sure haven’t seen one.

Case in point: I was recently invited to participate in series of posts that brought together 29 influential content marketers. When the blog posts — and subsequent eBook — featuring my contributions ran, I was shocked at the imbalance. Of the 29 “brilliant minds,” only four were women. Four!

When and why did content marketing become a boy’s club? My guess is this: At some point, we stopped thinking about who is most likely to contribute fresh and relevant content, and instead shifted our thinking to asking, “Who holds enough sway to thrust our content into the mainstream?” Originality — and in some cases, quality — has taken a back seat to built-in distribution.

In other words, curation has devolved into influencer “trophy hunting.” We want to mount big names with big followings onto our content, as if we were hanging an exotic animal head on our wall.

If this practice continues unchecked, it threatens to derail our emerging industry, not only because we will dissuade half of the population from participating, but also because we won’t benefit from any new thinking. (Seriously, if I hear myself talk about “staggering distribution” one more time, I am going to unfollow me.)

My counsel to the industy is this: When you curate, don’t place such a high priority on trying to hijack someone’s following. Instead try to earn distribution by highlighting new perspectives. Include students. Invite marketers from different verticals. Blend product vendors and service providers. Juxtapose B2B marketing pros with their consumer counterparts. Incorporate multicultural points of view. Or, at the very least, make sure your finished product isn’t stranded in “guy town.”

It’s with this urging in mind that I have — with the help of Ann Handley, who, for the record (and to her credit), hates the necessity of this post — curated a list of 20 women who rock content marketing. If you want to follow this group en masse, I’ve built a Twitter list here.

  1. Ardath Albee: Ardath is the E.F. Hutton of B2B marketing: When she talks, people listen. Her blog and Twitter stream are among the most influential in her category.
  2. Leslie Bradshaw: Leslie runs data visualization firm JESS3, which has produced some of the most shared content of the entire social web. Ever. Her “More Seats” column for the Forbes Blog highlights women in tech.
  3. Dierdre Breakenridge: Dierdre is proof that PR and content marketing are kindred spirits. She’s omnipresent across her blog, Twitter, webinars, social Q&A sites, and more.
  4. Jennifer Cisney: Jennifer runs Kodak’s blog and social media presence. She’s also a prominent speaker at industry events. Anyone who follows Kodak marketing knows it takes smarts and swagger to succeed. She’s got both.
  5. April Dunford: April’s probably the least “classic” content marketer on this list, but her RocketWatcher blog might just be the smartest, most interesting marketing-related content on the blogosphere.
  6. Barbra Gago: Content, meet demand generation. World, meet Barbra. She might know more about the role content plays in generating demand than anyone in her market. And that’s a very important niche to own.
  7. Ann Handley: Forbes just listed Ann as the second-most influential person in social media. When it comes to content, she’s tops. Her book, “Content Rules,” is a building block for any effective content strategy.
  8. Christina “CK” Kerley: CK is a writer, speaker, trainer, and professor, yet she still finds time to churn out killer guides and videos on B2B marketing. Prolific.
  9. Kirsten Knipp: As one of the driving forces behind this category, HubSpot has content marketing in its DNA, and A-lister Kirsten Knipp has been vital to its marketing success.
  10. Kelly LeVoyer: You try convincing a massive company like SAS to publish a blog post titled, “The poop on change management” and see how far you get. Kelly, well, she gets it done.
  11. Rebecca Lieb: Rebecca not only covers content marketing for the Altimeter Group, she also wrote the new book “Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher.” She’s the definition of thought leader.
  12. Michele Linn: Content Marketing Institute’s own Michele Linn is the type of content marketer who makes everyone else’s output better. It’d be easy to overlook someone like her. But if you enjoy CMI, you have her to thank.
  13. Valeria Maltoni: Valeria is a content factotum. She’s a strategist, top blogger, compelling speaker, and she ain’t afraid of data (or anything else for that matter). One of the sharpest minds in all of marketing.
  14. Amanda Maksymiw: A rising star in content marketing, Amanda helps lead OpenView Labs, the inbound marketing arm of a venture capital firm. How’s that for an original role?
  15. Maria Pergolino: The bottom line is this: Maria gets results. She not only understands content, she also knows her audience. That’s a powerful combo.
  16. Leslie Poston: The question isn’t where can you find Leslie, but where can’t you. She runs her own company, co-founded FilmPop, started Social Media Breakfast NH, writes for Mashable and jams out “For Dummies” books like most people write blog posts.
  17. Stephanie Tilton: Whom do I turn to when I need help creating B2B content that’s as insightful as it is accessible? Stephanie, that’s who. She and her “Savvy Sisters” also run a rocking blog called SavvyB2BMarketing.
  18. Susan Wassel: When her @sharpiesusan Twitter handle was replaced with a corporate account, fans rebelled. If that’s not a testament to “getting it,” what is? She’s done it all: broadcast producer, reporter, PR pro, social strategist…, you name it.
  19. Karen Wickre: Someone I am very interested in tracking moving forward, Karen recently joined Twitter as Editorial Director. Given her creative and strategic background, the possibilities for awesome content are endless.
  20. Kirsten Watson: If someone were to issue a “Content Marketer of the Year” award, the smart money would be on Kirsten. Don’t know why? Read “Content Rules” and the reasons will be clear.

Certainly there are more than 20 star women in content marketing, and this list isn’t meant to be the finish line. It’s the starting block. Please add the names and handles of women who inspire you to the comments field. I’ll add them to the Twitter list.