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Women in Sales Part-2: Top 9 Women CEOs who are leading some of the Top Brands in the world

7 minutes read

I hear a lot of people say that the glass ceiling in corporate boardrooms is still intact. But I do see a few cracks appearing, here and there.

Today, women are running some of the world’s most recognized brands. Although their number is significantly lower than that of the number of men in the executive roles, the women’s ranks are continuously growing.

In this blog, we are going to talk about 10 amazing women CEOs who are leading the Fortune 500 companies. From Youtube to Gap and from Oracle to Bumble, these inspiring women are changing the corporate game.

1. Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

Mary Barra, not only is the first female CEO of General Motors but she is pretty much the first for a major automobile company in the U.S. She took over as the CEO in January 2014 from Daniel Akerson (the man credited for turning the company profitable after it filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2011)

Barra is leading the charge at GM to transition their vehicles into electric vehicles by 2035. Most recently,

  • She was ranked second on Fortune’s 2020 Most Powerful Women in Business list
  • And she was ranked sixth on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2020

2. Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube

In 2014, Susan Wojcicki became the CEO of YouTube. But even before this raise as a CEO, she was already an entrepreneur paving her way as one of the highest-performing female CEOs.

Wojcicki was 11 years old when she started her first business. She used to go from door-to-door selling spice ropes (plaited yarn threaded with spices) in her hometown of Palo Alto, California.

She used to write for her school newspaper before she took up studying humanities in college. She then graduated in history and literature with honors, from Harvard University. She also had plans to do a Ph.D. in economics before moving into a career in academia. Those plans later shifted when she discovered her interest in technology.

She eventually found herself in a marketing role at Intel and it was here that a mutual friend introduced her to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google. The duo then rented Wojcicki’s garage to build the search engine. They soon rented out her bedrooms on the entire ground floor as well. Wojcicki welcomed the financial assistance since she and her husband were cash-strapped with a mortgage, student loan debts, and a baby on the way.

Wojcicki became the 16th employee and marketing manager of Google by 1999. She was then got promoted to the position of the Senior Vice President of Advertising and Commerce. At this point, she oversaw Google’s Google Video Service (which was YouTube’s competitor at that time). Seeing YouTube’s potential, Wojcicki proposed Google’s purchase of YouTube. Eventually, in 2006, she handled YouTube’s acquisition for US$1.65.

3. Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap

Syngal was made the CEO of Gap in March 2020. This was the time when retailers around the world were impacted by lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Before becoming Gap’s CEO, she served as CEO of Old Navy (one of Gap’s brands). She held this post since 2016.

In the spring and summer of 2020, she led the charge of repurposing fabric to make face masks. And this initiative resulted in bringing in $130 million in sales. She was also featured on Fortune’s 2020 Most Powerful Women in Business list.

4. Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle

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Safra Catz was serving as the CFO of Oracle. In 2014, she was appointed as one of two company CEOs. Following the death of co-CEO Mark Hurd, Catz became the sole CEO in 2019.

It was under her leadership that this tech giant has pursued an aggressive acquisition strategy, completing more than 130 acquisitions.

For her excellent leadership:

  • She got listed on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business 2020 list
  • She also got featured on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2020
  • And she made it to America’s Richest Self-Made Women lists

5. Whitney Wolf Herd, CEO of Bumble

Long before she started Bumble, Whitney Wolfe Herd began her entrepreneurial journey. At age of 22, she joined Hatch Labs. At this New York City incubator, she met Sean Rad and became involved with the startup Cardify. Although eventually, this project was abandoned, her connection with Rad soon saw her joining his other venture in 2012– a dating app called Tinder.

Whitney became the marketing manager for Tinder and she is also credited for creating the app’s name and logo. She says that the signature flame logo is a reference to her having to use small sticks (tinder) to start the fireplace at her father’s cabin in Montana.

In 2014, however, Whitney left tender because of some tensions with company’s executives. She then created her own dating app which was designed to give women more control. And thus, Bumble was born. By 2017, Bumble had over 22 million registered users.

6. Lisa Su, CEO of Advanced Micro Devices

In the year 2012, Dr. Su joined AMD as senior vice president and general manager of its global business units. Later she also briefly served as the COO (chief operating officer) of AMD before finally taking up the roles of CEO and president in 2014.

After taking the helm of the company, it was she who turned the company around from near bankruptcy. In early 2021, AMD had a market capitalization of more than $100 billion.

Dr. Su acquired her bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

  • She ranked second on Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year 2020 list
  • And she also got featured in Fortune’s 2020 Most Powerful Women in Business

7. Gail Boudreaux, CEO of Anthem

Boudreaux was crowned as the CEO of Anthem, one of the largest health insurers in the U.S. in the year 2017. Anthem’s stock increased by 20% within the first year of her CEO tenure itself.

Before joining Anthem, Boudreaux served as the CEO of UnitedHealthcare, the largest division within UnitedHealth Group.

  • Gail Boudreaux ranked fourth on Fortune’s 2020 Most Powerful Women in Business list
  • She ranked 10th on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2020

8. Marilyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin is an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technologies company. The name “Lockheed Martin” is on some of the world’s most advanced fighter weapons. The CEO of this powerful company is arguably one of the world’s most powerful women: Marillyn Hewson.

This company serves America’s most high-profile organizations. It provides surveillance and information processing for the CIA, FBI, IRS, NSA, and The Pentagon. In 2008 alone it received US$36 billion in government contracts, the most for any company in history.

Hewson was raised by her mother who was a former member of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) – the women’s branch of the United States Army. Her father passed away when she was only nine and she credits her leadership skills to her mother’s ability to raise five children on her own.

Before joining Lockheed Martin, Hewson got a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration as well as a Master of Arts degree in economics from the University of Alabama. She also eventually attend the Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School executive development programs.

In 1983, she joined the Lockheed Corporation as a senior industrial engineer. After that, she held numerous executive positions within the company including

  • President and Chief Operating Officer
  • Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin’s Electronic Systems business area
  • President of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration
  • Executive Vice President of Global Sustainment for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
  • President and General Manager of Kelly Aviation Center, L.P.
  • And President of Lockheed Martin Logistics Services

In the year 2012, she was elected to join the board of directors at Lockheed Martin. In 2013, she took the role of CEO of the company.

9. Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance

In 2021, the former COO of Starbucks, Rosalind Brewer has become the CEO of Walgreens. She is the third Black woman to run a Fortune 500 company.

Brewer, even before joining Starbucks in the year 2017, served the as president and CEO of Sam’s Club. She was the first Black CEO of Sam’s Club.

She was also the first black woman COO of Starbucks. At Starbucks, she helped to spearhead their diversity initiatives, including racial bias training. The company now ties executive pay to diversity targets.

  • Brewer was featured on Fortune’s 2020 Most Powerful Women in Business
  • Also, she got a place in Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2020 lists

Want to learn about the top 10 CEOs who started their career as sales reps?

Read: Top 10 CEOs who started as Sales Reps

Published on Thu Jul 8 2021

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