Women in Leadership Roles

In this article, we're going to recognize the increasing numbers, and importance, of women in leadership roles.  Our list contains women in powerful positions; leaders and former leaders of Fortune 500 companies.

Women Leading Large Companies

Although many women don't like to discuss glass ceilings, these women have broken right through them.  They're using their leadership skills to take them to the very top of their companies.  They've beaten the odds by delivering above average results by means of their industry knowledge, and superior leadership abilities.

With that introduction, here is our list of the most influential women in business, past and present.

Marissa Ann Mayer

President and CEO, Yahoo!

Born in Wisconsin, Marissa graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in Symbolic Systems and an M.S. in Computer Science.  Marissa was employee number 20 when she joined Google in 1999.  While at Google, she progressed from an engineer to executive, playing a key role in Search, Images, News, Maps, Toolbar, and GMail.  Prior to leaving Google, she held the position of Vice President of Local, Maps, and Location Services.

In February 2013, Marissa made the news with her personnel policy change at Yahoo!; stating that all remote-working employees must convert to in-office duties, or separate from the company.  Marissa sits on a number of boards, including Walmart, Jawbone and the New York City Ballet.

At age 33, she was the youngest women ever to be listed on America's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.

Carleton Fiorina

Former President & CEO, Hewlett-Packard Company

H-P is the world's second-largest computer maker.  With close to $50 billion in annual revenue, it's one of the 20 largest companies in the world.

While still at AT&T, Carleton Fiorina was crowned the most powerful woman in American business by Fortune magazine.  She also played a critical role in the spin-off of Lucent Technologies Inc. in 1996.  Taking over at HP in 1999, she was thought by all to be the one who would rescue the faltering computer giant.  In 2002, Carleton's success at H-P began to falter with the $19 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer.

The acquisition was vehemently opposed by the still powerful heirs of HP's founders, yet Carleton prevailed.  Most industry analysts considered the acquisition a bad move, and HP's stock price stood still for nearly two years.  Carleton Fiorina was also blamed for putting an end to HP's traditional role as an innovator.  Her six-year tenure at Hewlett-Packard ended in February 2005.

Following her resignation from HP, Carleton was named to the board at Revolution Health Group.  She's also a board member at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum.  In April 2012, she became chairman of Good360, a nonprofit organization in Alexandria, Virginia.

As a child Ms. Fiorina moved around a lot and spent time at high schools in Ghana, England, and the United States. She graduated from Stanford where she studied medieval history and philosophy.  She later studied law at UCLA.  In 1980 she landed an entry-level job with AT&T and steadily rose through the ranks until finally landing atop Lucent Technologies.

Meg Whitman

Former President and CEO, eBay Technologies

Thanks to the company's IPO in 1998 and the stock options held by Meg Whitman, she was arguably the richest woman CEO in America.  Meg's leadership abilities were also recognized by Forbes when she was ranked in their Most Powerful Women list.

Meg Whitman was once the president of Stride Rite, and chief executive of Florists' Transworld Delivery (FTD).  Meg joined Hasbro Inc.'s preschool division in 1997 where she was responsible for global marketing of Playskool and other brands.  In March 1998, she joined eBay as president and CEO.

While still in high school, Ms. Whitman planned a career in medicine, and later attended the medical program at Princeton University.  After spending a summer selling advertising for a school publication she switched to business studies.  Meg graduated with a degree in economics in 1977 and later earned her MBA at Harvard Business School.

On September 22, 2009, Meg Whitman announced she would run for governor of California in the 2010 election.  The campaign was largely self-funded, with Meg reportedly spending $144 million of her own money.  Unfortunately, on November 2, 2010 Meg conceded the election to Jerry Brown.

Andrea Jung

President and CEO, Avon Products

A Fortune 500 company, Avon's products are sold in 135 countries with sales topping $5.0 billion worldwide.  Avon is also recognized as the world's leading direct seller of beauty products.

Andrea Jung started her career at Avon as a consultant.  Even though she played a key leadership role as COO of the company's global marketing initiatives, she was passed over for the CEO position in 1997.  Ms. Jung took over Avon in 1999, and has revitalized the company with her vast retail experience and marketing know-how.

In December 2011, Avon announced it was searching for a new CEO.  As the company's stock continued to decline, and following a series of controversies, Jung was forced to resign.  In April 2012, Avon's board brought Sheri McCoy, a top executive from Johnson & Johnson, to replace the 13-year veteran CEO Andrea Jung.

Like Whitman, Andrea Jung also attended Princeton University, majoring in English literature and graduated magna cum laude in 1979.  She began her retail career at Bloomingdale's as a management trainee.  She quickly rose through the ranks before joining the San Francisco based retailer I. Magnin.  Later she would join Neiman Marcus as executive vice president.


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