Fifty years ago, women were just beginning to become a major part of the workforce. Today, a two-income household is much more common, as women comprise more than 50% of American workers. Despite this, women still face wage gap issues and gender bias every day. According to the Department of Labor, in 2012, women earned around 81 cents for every dollar a man was paid.
This is especially true in executive roles. Just 6.4% of companies on the 2017 Fortune 500 list are run by a woman CEO, and this is the highest share in the 63-year history of the list. According to the Washington Post, investors are pushing for diversity in the top ranks of businesses. Women run seven of the largest companies in the United States, and despite the wage gap between genders, the average woman CEO earns more than the average man in the same role.
Here are 10 women who have a demonstrated influence in the business world:
- Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg has been the chief operating officer of Facebook since 2008. During her time at Facebook, she has increased revenue. Her net worth of $1.57 billion makes her one of the most influential business people in the United States. Along with her business experience, she’s also penned two books and founded a nonprofit named Lean In that works to support women’s empowerment. In an interview with NPR, Sandberg stated her feelings on typical gender roles.
“Success for me is that if my son chooses to be a stay-at-home parent, he is cheered on for that decision. And if my daughter chooses to work outside the home and is successful, she is cheered on and supported,” she said.
- Indra Nooyi
The Indian-American chairman and CEO of PepsiCo has worked to make a more-versatile company since attaining the CEO position in 2006. She’s added other products and successfully runs a company worth $166 billion. In 2016, profits jumped 16% and Nooyi added healthier options to the PepsiCo portfolio in order to cater to changing customer needs.
In an article she wrote for LinkedIn, Nooyi speaks about the importance of adaptability:
“I knew that if we wanted to continue to be successful in the 21st century, we needed to adapt … it was a philosophy that also pointed to a larger idea that’s fundamental to how I see the world – the idea that companies don’t exist in a vacuum.”
- Ginni Rometty
In 1981, Virginia “Ginni” Rometty began her career with IBM. In 2012, she was named the CEO and president, becoming the first woman to run the company. She’s also one of a few women who has been offered a membership to Augusta National Golf Club. During her time as CEO, she’s led programs for data analysis software, cloud computing and AI (artificial intelligence) technology.
Rometty was the daughter of a single mother. After her father left the family, Rometty’s mother set an example of hard work by returning to school. Her advice to women when they face challenges?
“You never let someone define who you are,” Rometty said in a 2016 keynote speech. “Only you define who you are.”
- Meg Whitman
As CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman increased sales from $5 million to $8 billion in a 10-year period. Currently, she is CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Before joining HP, she was also a 2010 Republican Party nominee for the governor of California. She has had executive-level positions at Procter & Gamble and The Walt Disney Company.
Early in her career, Whitman learned to never take no for an answer. When she was hired by Proctor & Gamble in 1979, the new employees were all given credit cards except four women. The company told them they didn’t get credit cards because it wasn’t safe for women to travel alone, but in a few weeks she got those cards for the women.
Whitman says, however, that the fight against gender bias has an advantage now – today’s women.
“I’m quite an admirer of this next generation. I think they have a lot more confidence than my generation did,” Whitman said in an interview with Business Insider.
- Marillyn Hewson
In 2015, Forbes named Marillyn Hewson the 20th-most powerful woman in the world. She is the Chairman, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation and has held that position since 2013. In the years since she took command, the firm has seen record profits and doubled stock values. Most sales come from the government, and the firm is expanding internationally as well.
In a 2016 speech at the Global Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament in Abu Dhabi, Hewson spoke on the importance of getting women into STEM fields.
“The United Nations recently reported that only 28% of scientific researchers around the world are women. This is alarming, because innovation is a team sport. By working together to ensure that women are fully represented in the scientific community, we can maximize innovation and unleash the full potential of human ingenuity.”
- Ursula Burns
From 2010 to 2017, Ursula Burns served as the CEO for Xerox, taking a company known for copiers to a profitable business. She is also first black woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She grew up in the projects in Manhattan but never let that hold her back, working with the support of her mother and a guidance counselor who advised her to go into engineering.
In an interview with Time, she gives advice to career-driven women:
“I say this to women all the time, particularly women trying to get into STEM, I guarantee you you will be the minority in the room. And instead of that being a burden, it should be an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself.”
- Angela Braly
Angela Braly was the CEO of WellPoint, Inc. (now known as Anthem) from 2007-2012. In 2007, Forbes listed her as the eighth-most powerful woman in the world in 2009. During her time as CEO, WellPoint acquired Amerigroup and 1-800-Contacts, and the company hit $60 billion in revenue. She also served as CEO at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri.
She credits her career advances to other women in her field, saying in an interview with Managed Care that they served as role models to her:
“While these women may not have been conscious of it, they did serve as mentors to me. Some were mentors in terms of how they managed their careers, and some were mentors in terms of how they managed their busy lives and that of their families.”
- Arianna Huffington
The Huffington Post is a name most know, and Arianna Huffington is the woman behind it. She founded the Post in 2005 and sold it to AOL in 2011 for about $300 million. She was born in Greece and came to America later on, even running for governor of California in 2003 against Arnold Schwarzenegger. She’s also written books about getting more sleep and creating a life of well-being.
Her advice to those looking to succeed is a quote she heard often from her mother, according to an interview with Business Insider:
“Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s a stepping stone to success.”
- Mary Barra
In 2014, Mary Barra became the first woman CEO of a major automobile company when she took the helm at General Motors. As a GM employee, she’s helped to strengthen U.S. sales, as well as growth in Europe and China markets. When she first joined the company in the 80s, it was a male-dominated company. Instead of thinking of herself as a woman in the working world, she thought of herself as a person in the working world, she told USA Today.
“I do sit here today because there were people 20 years ago who gave me career opportunities and gave me constructive feedback and allowed me to grow and took risks on me with the jobs they put me in,” she said.
- Safra Catz
In 1999, Safra Catz joined Oracle as a senior vice president and was quickly promoted through the ranks, becoming Oracle’s co-CEO in 2014. She is one of the highest-paid woman executives in the world, with a net worth of $670 million and has helped close more than 100 acquisitions in her time with the company.
In an interview with Time, she encourages women to become leaders.
“The best advice I can give to women is to go out and start something, ideally their own business. If you can’t see a path for leadership within your own company, go blaze a trail of your own,” she said. “Hopefully in the future, generational challenges will be measured by achievement, not gender.”