“Ultimately it’s about business performance… and the best companies in terms of performance will be those that truly embrace diversity [by] hiring, developing, and promoting women to key business leadership roles.” – Mary Fontaine
Have you heard of Indra Nooyi, the current chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo Inc., the 2nd largest food and beverage making business in the world? If the ratings given by Forbes are to be relied upon, Nooyi consistently ranks amongst the 100 most powerful women worldwide. The success Nooyi has achieved over the years is reminiscent of the way women are transforming business and society. Slowly but surely, they are gaining ground when it comes to taking leadership positions as business heads and corporate executives. In fact, stats are on their side. Currently, 18 Fortune 500 companies have women at the helm of their business. As per a study conducted by Catalyst, titled “The Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity”, companies with higher representation of women in top management positions have fared better financially than the ones which don’t. Having said that, let’s celebrate the achievements of a few of these glorious and powerful corporate women.
(President and Chief Executive, HP)
A Princeton University and Harvard Business School graduate, Whitman joined the board of directors of HP in January 2011. She was named CEO in September 2011. During her short stint so far at the position, a noteworthy decision she took, relates to the company’s commitment to the PC business, which her predecessor considered discarding. In her career that spans more than 3 decades, she has worked with the likes of Procter & Gamble, Walt Disney, and eBay. As the CEO of the company, Whitman was instrumental in turning eBay from an 18 member start-up to a 15000 member enterprise.
In 2010, Whitman was ranked as the fourth wealthiest woman in California, with a net worth of $1.3 billion. She also has political affinity, having competed for Governor of California candidacy in February 2009.
(President and CEO, IBM)
The first lady to head IBM ever, Rometty has also featured in Fortune Magazine’s “50 most powerful women in business” list for seven years straight. A computer science and electrical engineering graduate from the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering, she is associated with IBM since 1981.
She championed the purchase of consulting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2002 for $3.5 billion. If that wasn’t enough she also spearheaded the company’s entry into the cloud computing and analytics business.
Irene B. Rosenfeld
(Chairman and CEO, Kraft Woods)
Having spent nearly 30 years with Kraft Woods, Rosenfeld’s passion towards work has not diminished a bit. She enjoys figuring out why people behave the way they do and then applies these insights to develop products that suit their requirements. She likes playing piano and enjoys rollerblading.
Indra K. Nooyi
(Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo)
Born and brought up in Chennai, India, Nooyi started her career in India with Johnson & Johnson in 1978. Before joining PepsiCo in 1994, she held strategy positions at Boston Consulting Group, Motorola, and Asea Brown Boveri. In 2001, Nooyi was named the President and CFO of PepsiCo. Since then, the company’s revenues have risen by 72%. At PepsiCo, she was the lady behind the purchase of Tropicana, the merger with Quaker Foods, and the spinoff of Tricon.
Nooyi is currently ranked at No. 4 on the Forbes magazine’s annual survey of the 100 most powerful women in the world.
(CEO, Anglo American PLC)
Being the CEO of the world’s largest platinum producing company along with being a board member of the American Aluminium Association and the International Aluminium Institute is no meagre achievement at all. Since her appointment as the CEO, Anglo American has acquired stakes in various mining and mineral ore producing projects and companies.
Though in her tenure as the chief executive of the company, she faced criticism from all the corners especially the environmental front regarding her management techniques, Carroll dealt with them as and when they were supposed to be dealt with.
Ellen J. Kullman
(President, Chairman and CEO, DuPont)
A mechanical engineer by qualification, Kullman started her career with DuPont in 1988 as marketing manager in the company’s medical imaging business. Before being elected the company’s President in October 2008 and CEO in January 1, 2009, she was instrumental in the company’s growth in the overseas markets. She was elected the chairman of the company on December 31, 2009.
Kullman is also on the board of trustees of Tufts University from where she attained her bachelor’s degree.
(Chairwoman and CEO, Avon Products)
A daughter of a Shanghai-born amateur pianist and engineer mother and an architect father, Andrea Jung was raised in Wellesley, Washington. Before joining Avon Products as the company’s president in its product marketing group in 1994, Jung held various top management positions in Neiman Marcus and I. Magnin. In 1997, she became the first female CEO of Avon Products and chairwoman in 2001. She is also on the board of directors of General Electric and Apple.
Jung admits being a lacklustre student in her childhood, who only got good grades because her parents fulfilled her “most desperate wants” only if she got good grades. Like her mother, she also plays piano and is fluent in Mandarin.
Ursula M. Burns
(Chairman and CEO, Xerox)
The first African-American CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She has a master of science in Mechanical Engineering degree from Columbia University. Her career with Xerox started from 1980, when she joined the company as an intern and then a year later as a fulltime employee.
Burns worked in various product development and planning roles in her entire 20s with Xerox. In June 1991, she became the executive assistant to then chairman and executive Paul Allaire. In 1999, she became the senior vice president of manufacturing for Xerox before becoming the CEO in July 1999 and chairwoman in June 2010.
Mary Callahan Erdoes
(CEO, J.P. Morgan Asset Management)
It seems that the MBA degree worked wonders for Erdoes. She quickly became one of the most popular figures in the banking sector, and currently runs the 5th largest asset management company in the world and overseas assets worth $ 1.3 trillion.
Erdoes is the CEO at J.P. Morgan since September 2009 and is often mentioned as the potential successor to JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s CEO Jamie Dimon. She also served in the capacity of a member of the board of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
(President and CEO, Care USA)
Helene D. Gayle has been named as one of the “Top 100 Thinkers” by Foreign Policy magazine. She is the President and CEO of Care USA, a leading international humanitarian organization. Care USA has a staff of approximately 10000 dedicated employees, who have collectively reached out to over 82 million people in 87 countries around the globe, with Dr. Gayle, a M.P.H. in her own right, at the helm of its hierarchy. Her career highlights also include 20 years of service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dr. Gayle serves as a member on several boards including that of the Rockefeller Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive Company and on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.
Images by World Economic Forum