We have a long way to go before we achieve gender equality. When we support women in leadership, especially women of color, we support workplaces that value the contributions of women, give girls role models to aspire to, and break the mold on what a CEO looks like.
These seven women are making strides as powerhouse CEOs, national politicians, and influential businesswomen who are changing the world with their contributions. Let’s learn more about these incredible women to inspire ourselves to achieve greatness as they have.
Women in Leadership You Should Know
The tech industry is dominated by male figures, but Lisa Su is here to change that. She is the CEO of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and she changed this semiconductor agency from an average business into one of the leading companies in the industry.
Su immigrated from Taiwan as a child, so not only is she an inspiration for women, she can inspire all people from immigrant families. Since assuming the position of CEO in 2014, AMD’s stock has skyrocketed twentyfold. For her incredible success in expanding the company’s market share and encouraging innovation in the company’s technological development, she became the first-ever woman at the top of the Associated Press’s survey of CEO compensation in 2019.
She brought home $58.5 million as a result of her role in growing the company so significantly.
Because of her influence, AMD is a household name for those interested in the computer industry. Her success inspires women to pursue a role in the technology sector.
Most know Vice President Kamala Harris as the first-ever woman to fulfill the role of Vice President of the United States. For a large portion of her career, before her entrance into national politics, she served as an attorney. She began as the San Francisco District Attorney, graduating to the role of California Attorney General, and then became the very first South Asian American and the second African American woman to secure a seat in the United States Senate in 2016.
She started to make a name for herself in the public eye when she asked sharp questions of Brett Kavanaugh during his trial in front of the Judiciary Committee. She fully entered into the spotlight as she ran for the presidential seat in 2020, and entered the White House alongside President Joe Biden as his Vice President.
Her heritage as a child to immigrant parents who met while attending Berkeley during the height of the civil rights movement shapes Harris’s politics. She grew up attending civil rights marches with her parents.
She inspires women and children of immigrants to pursue their dreams here in America.
Tyra Banks reshaped the fashion industry during her time as a supermodel. She shattered countless glass ceilings, such being the first black swimsuit model to make the cover of Sports Illustrated and the first black woman on the cover of GQ.
She wasn’t always an international success. She was rejected by modeling agencies because she was “too ethnic,” one agency saying they “already had a black woman and didn’t want another.”
She didn’t let racism defeat her, and she secured a contract with Elite Model Management, the largest modeling agency around the globe. She saw unprecedented success as a model just beginning her career. When she started to gain weight, she refused to starve herself just to stay in the high fashion industry. She chose to become a lingerie and swimwear model in the United States and was a knockout just by being herself.
On top of being an international supermodel, she is an author, the creator of America’s Next Top Model and The Tyra Banks Show, a Harvard Graduate, a television host, the head of a cosmetics line, a charitable philanthropist, and founder of TZONE, an organization that inspires young girls to grow their independence and self-esteem.
Melinda French Gates
Melinda French Gates is the Co-Chair and Trustee of the notable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has played an instrumental role in shaping the foundation of the incredible organization it is today.
Its initial mission was to make computers accessible to all by setting up Microsoft computers and products in libraries across the nation. After generous donations, such as Warren Buffett’s donation in 2006 of $30 billion, Gates saw the need to expand and categorize the organization’s missions.
Their mission now includes:
- Expanding global health
- Improving and expanding the accessibility of education in the U.S.
- Digital information access through public libraries
- Supporting at-risk families of Washington State and Oregon
Gates specializes in helping women in developing nations, which she demonstrated when she pledged $560 million in 2012 to increase access to contraceptives for women internationally.
She and her ex-husband believe that education is a great equalizer and aim to help those who struggle to access it. Across the world, they aim to make vaccines and treatments for conditions such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria accessible to those without the means to afford it.
Lauren Hobart accepted the position of Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO, changing the direction of the company to cater more towards female athletes in an effort to improve their inclusivity. She expanded the women’s athletic apparel and footwear lines by promoting the expansion of private labels.
She’s led Dick’s through the pandemic by pushing the company to compete with powerhouses like Amazon and Walmart, unlike similar athletic stores like Sports Authority which filed for bankruptcy. She introduced innovations such as in-store batting cages to make the retail experience more exciting: something you simply can’t get through online shopping.
She’s relayed these changes to the public through her inclusive, women empowerment-based ad campaigns. These powerful campaigns, like her emotional Mother’s Day commercial that centered on the female higher-ups in Dick’s helping their children overcome their fears, have helped reshape the public perception of the sporting store. She’s worked for companies like PepsiCo and has a 25-year portfolio of success in the finance, consumer, and retail experience industry.
Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China, overcame significantly more than most to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. At nine years old, you could find her working in a plastic flower factory in a small Chinese village: not a common start for an industry mogul.
She overcame her humble beginnings to become the CEO of the largest restaurant company in all of China. Her company manages over 10,000 restaurants!
Her upbringing has shaped every decision she makes as a leader. In 2007, she took on the role of Managing Director of a UK beauty chain, Savers, despite knowing it could tank her career. The business was failing, but she stepped into the role to save the brand because she knew if she didn’t, thousands of people would lose their jobs.
She continues that compassionate streak with Yum China. When profits dipped during the pandemic, she paid her workers to deliver over 1,450 free meals to hospitals and community centers so they could keep their jobs. She believes that putting her employees before profits will result in a profitable, healthy business. And she’s right; she still managed to lead the company to a $97 million profit in the March 2020 quarter.
Kathrin Jansen, Ph.D
Kathrin Jansen had a mission more important than profits in 2020; as Senior Vice President of Pfizer, she stepped into the role of the head of vaccine research and development r as they raced to find a vaccine solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting in March of 2020, the company tasked her with leading 650 industry experts, including a collaborating team from BioNTech, to find a vaccine against the deadly virus as quickly and as safely as possible.
She and her team found success when their vaccine was the first to receive the emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the course of her career, she’s worked with a variety of companies in the field of research and vaccine development and has authored and co-authored over 190 publications on her findings.
Get Inspired by Women in Leadership
When the gender equality gaps in business seem overwhelming and bleak, take inspiration from women in leadership positions across the country and around the world. They defied the odds stacks against them to assume leadership roles in extremely influential companies and industries.
Use them as role models to empower you as you fight the system and climb the corporate ladder, regardless of the men and women who only want to tear you down.
Next time someone questions your position in a company based on your gender, remind them that studies show that women outperform men when it comes to humility, self-awareness, self-control, moral sensitivity, social skills, emotional intelligence, and in educational settings.
Statistically speaking, you were born to lead.
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