Updated: Mar 8
Don’t underestimate the power of women! Female leaders are on the move and breaking glass ceilings. Discover why these female leaders have everybody talking.
Women have come a long way in the last century. But there’s still more to do before they reach parity in business leadership positions.
Does that take away from what women do today?
The women of today have made massive strides for the women of tomorrow. And today, there are more women in leadership roles than ever before.
In 2019, women held approximately 29% of senior management roles globally. And 87% of businesses around the world have at least one woman in a senior management role.
But there’s still a lot more to do.
There’s still a disproportionate number of women in leadership roles compared to men across departments. For example, 43% of human resources directors are women, as opposed to only 16% of chief information officers.
However, today’s leaders are making strides every day. They’ve opened doors for the female leaders of the future to walk through for these women to make their own mark.
So, let’s learn how females in leadership roles are making a name for themselves and how they inspire other women to take up the banner of leadership.
The Inspiring Female Leaders of Today
There are many women in leadership roles today. Some are featured in the media regularly, while others are unsung heroes that fly beneath the radar. But all females in leadership roles are breaking ground for the leaders of tomorrow.
Here are a handful of women who’ve made great strides in their respective leadership roles:
#1 - Jessica Alba
You may recognise Jessica Alba’s name from her acting career. This award-winning American actress started her acting career in the early 1990s at the tender age of 13. Since then, she’s expanded her career beyond acting and delved right into the realm of business.
So, what could a prolific Hollywood actress offer to the world?
To answer this, you need to know the backstory behind everything.
In 2008, she had her first child. Being a first-time mother, this inspired her to search for household products that used only natural ingredients. Alba remembered her own history of childhood illnesses, so she wanted to provide better for her daughter.
Then, she turned this desire into a business - one that started off with baby products free of harmful chemicals.
It took her a few years to find her business partners. But Alba powered through the three years it took until she found the right partners.
She also received advice that she should start small. But nothing about Jessica Alba screams “small” though, and her dive into the business world was no different.
Unsurprisingly, she launched The Honest Company in 2012 with an impressive 17 products in the line-up. And by 2013, The Honest Company’s sales had reached $50 million.
Alba didn’t stop at her product line either.
She also launched an offshoot of her initial product line called Honest Beauty. This brand has around 83 products under the banner of skincare and makeup, with each of them devoid of potentially harmful chemicals.
#2 - Sheryl Sandberg
Who is Sheryl Sandberg?
If you’re familiar with the leadership of the popular social media platform, Facebook, you may be very familiar with the name. She’s the Chief Operating Officer there and has been since 2008.
Her claim to fame isn’t just her association with Facebook, though. It’s what she did for the company.
When Sandberg came on, the company had an annual loss of US$56 million, which is not unusual for tech startups. She turned that loss into profit by positioning Facebook as an advertising platform for small businesses. Doing so helped to increase Facebook’s revenue by 38% the following year.
And by 2018, the company’s profits reached US$22.1 billion on revenue of US$55.8 billion.
So, who is this woman who helped propel this popular social media company to a money-making machine?
If you look at her early life, you can see that she was on the road to great things.
Sandberg graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University. She also won the John H. Williams Prize awarded to the top economic students. Sandberg went on to earn her MBA at Harvard Business School and a fellowship in her first year there.
It wasn’t all studies for this Harvard alumnus, though. Because while in college, she also co-founded an organisation called Women in Economics and Government.
After graduation, she began her impressive career, which even included assisting the United States Secretary of Treasury during the Asian financial crisis. Sandberg later joined Google where she was responsible for online sales and sales operations. And during her time there, she grew the ad and sales teams to 4,000 people.
It was while at Google that Sandberg got on Mark Zuckerberg’s radar. He wasn’t formally searching for a Chief Operating Officer, but he thought she was perfect for the role.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
#3 - Indra Nooyi
India-born Indra Nooyi made a splash in the business world when she became PepsiCo’s CEO in 2006. During her decade-long career at the helm, this soft drink giant expanded into other food markets.
Nooyi worked on increasing the company’s profits in a variety of ways. One of the most notable was the buyout of Tricon subsidiaries, which included brands like KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut.
She played a major role in the 1998 acquisition of Tropicana, as well as the merger with Quaker Oats Company. And the last merger brought the Gatorade brand into the PepsiCo family.
Initially, everyone around her opposed the $3.3 billion acquisition of Tropicana. From PepsiCo executives to Wall Street critics, everyone had something to say. But she proved everyone wrong because Tropicana gave the company the competitive edge it needed to corner the market.
Is it any wonder that she was on Time’s Most Influential People list for two years running? She was also featured on the Wall Street Journal’s list of Women to Watch for two consecutive years.
In 2018, Nooyi stepped down as PepsiCo’s CEO. But it’s important to note that during her tenure at the company, sales grew by 80%.
#4 - Angela Merkel
Female leaders don’t just affect the business world. Given a chance, they can influence the world.
In Germany’s predominantly male-dominated political arena, Angela Merkel made the world sit up and take notice.
This de facto leader of the European Union didn’t start out in politics, though.
Her early life included a doctorate in quantum chemistry and the role of a research scientist until 1989. That’s also the year that everything changed for Merkel.
It’s when she decided to enter the world of politics.
Since her rise to the leader of the Christian Democratic Union and the first female Chancellor of Germany, Merkel’s served four terms. Throughout those terms, her impressive list of accomplishments have earned the respect of world leaders everywhere.
When Germany went through a financial crisis, like the rest of the world, she saw the country through and into an economic boom. She tirelessly worked for the welfare of the people, like implementing maternity leave and introducing a minimum wage.
Don’t mistake her gender for being soft, though.
Her steely reserve sees her through bullying tactics from other world leaders. It also enables her to maintain diplomatic relations across the globe.
She’s also not one to shy away from what she believes is right. For example, despite the anti-immigration sentiments that raged across Europe, she took a stand. Syrian refugees needed help, so she welcomed over a million of them into her country.
Unfortunately, she announced that she would not seek another term as chancellor when it ends in 2021. But only time will tell where this brilliant woman makes an impact next.
#5 - Mary Barra
Is the automotive industry a man’s world? If so, it seems that Mary Barra didn’t get the memo.
Because in 2014, she became the CEO of General Motors Company.
She was the first woman named in a leadership role of that magnitude at any major global automaker. And she earned the position the old-fashioned way: by working her way up.
Barra started her career at General Motors at 18 years old where she worked as an electrical engineering co-op student. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her passion for STEM studies, and that’s exactly what she did.
From there, she attended Stanford Business School at the behest of the company. They saw her potential early on and wanted to invest in it.
After she graduated, she worked her way up the ranks at GM and held various positions.
She worked as an Executive Assistant to the CEO, as well as the Global Manager of the HR department. Her rise in leadership also included the title of Senior Vice President of global production development.
Since taking the helm of this automotive giant, Barra has helped steer it into the future. She shared various ideas to move GM into the tech space, including automated driverless technologies.
Women no longer have to stay in the shadows to change the world. Nowadays, female leadership is front and centre. And they don’t apologise for their gender.
So, do you want to start your own company?
Work your way up to CEO?
Shake up the world in the political arena?
These aren’t impossible dreams, like these women proved. Remember that you can be anything you set your sights on and change the world in the process.
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