Though women only hold 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions, two of every three new businesses are founded by women (Catalyst, 2014). Spreading out across all industries, female business owners are driving economic growth. By owning and running their own companies, women are highlighting new leadership styles, have more influence, and can allocate equal pay. Below, we highlight nine exceptional businesswomen changing the pace:
1) Judith R. Faulkner, founder and CEO of Epic Systems.
Epic Systems, a privately held company, sells electronic health records. Worth more than $1.5B, it was established in the early 1980s. Faulker created the software and built an empire with no outside capital…and no marketing. Today, nearly 40 percent of all U.S. hospitals store medical information on Epic software, with Kaiser Permanente reigning as the brand’s biggest customer. A self-proclaimed introvert, Faulker has a tendency to stay under the radar and refuse interview requests: “If I talk to everyone, we can’t do our job with our customers and work on our software.” How’s that for amazing customer service?
2) Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox.
Growing up in a Lower East Side Manhattan housing project, Burns discovered her talent and passion for math and engineering quite young. Interning and working for Xerox for over 30 years, Ursula Burns is the first Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. A driving force in efforts to derail the company from falling into bankruptcy, she steered the business through plummeting stock and the loss of more than half their employees. Though she still has quite a bit of work on her hands, Burns initiated the company’s shift from manufacturing to business process services, proving that insiders can elevate a company from the trenches.
3) Katia Beauchamp and
4) Hayley Barna, Co-founders and Co-CEOs of Birchbox.
Run entirely online, Birchbox was created to help men and women discover new beauty and lifestyle products. Since its founding in 2009, the two Harvard Business grads have built a $485M empire. Competing against and analyzing the failures of hundreds of copycat companies across the U.S. and Europe, the company secured partnerships with a number of exclusive, reputable brands. Birchbox helps companies track which freebies translate into sales while personalizing and tailoring samples to individual customers. These women are viewed as revolutionaries for their ability to expand a traditionally in-store service into the digital sphere.
5) Maria Das Gracas Silva Foster, CEO and CIO of Petroleo Brasileiro, SA
Engineer and MBA, Silva Foster is the only female CEO of any large oil company in the world. Petrobras is a Brazilian energy company that boasts millions of shareholders across 27 countries. Silva Foster grew up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, and like Xerox’s Burns, began as a company intern. Mentored by now-president Dilma Rousseff, Silva Foster was appointed to CEO 32 years after her start. Respected for her straightforwardness, transparency, and demanding demeanor, Silva Foster stands out in a global-reaching, largely male-dominated industry.
She needs no introduction. Her role as a pop star is a small fraction of Beyoncé’s influence. Juggling a charity organization that focuses on women and girls’ empowerment, a production company, a clothing line, an entertainment company, and a plethora of additional projects and obligations, Beyoncé’s marketing techniques are minimalistic. Master of her own image, her massive following helps spread and execute her brand and vision. While we all sat on the edge of our seats after a massive PR mishap, Beyoncé came back and teasingly addressed the situation with a single featuring controversial femcee Nicki Minaj. Beyoncé’s strategic creation of self, net worth of over $500M, breadth of influence, and tendency to keep things unpredictable solidly places her on our list.
7) Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX.
When she was a teen, Shotwell’s mother coordinated a meeting with a female mechanical engineer who owned her own business. From that moment on, Shotwell knew what she wanted to do. SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX was founded in 2002 with the goal of popularizing space transport and colonizing Mars. As an employee, Shotwell is literally a rocket scientist and is responsible for managing customer relations and company growth. In June 2013, SpaceX had nearly 3,000 employees and $5B in contracts. If you are interested in this line of business, it may be a good idea to head to Brownsville, TX, the newly designated location of upcoming SpaceX rocket launches.
8) Anna Wintour, Artistic Director of Condé Nast Publications, Inc.
Anna Wintour became interested in fashion at a young age. Her father was the editor of London’s evening standard and helped pave her path to journalism. After much hard work, it wasn’t until she moved to New York that Wintour earned her returns. Since 1988, Wintour has been editor-in-chief at Vogue, ‘the fashion Bible.’ In a field that changes faster than any other industry, Wintour has steadily been a recognized figure in fashion for almost 30 years. She directly extends her work and influence beyond Vogue to eight other fashion and lifestyle publications. The first person to ever meld the worlds of celebrity and fashion, Wintour is an incredible risk-taker and exceptional brand-builder.
9) Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen.
Jacqueline Novogratz began her career as a commercial banker. Inspired to use capitalism for the human good, she founded Acumen, a global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve problems. By investing in emerging leaders and breakthrough ideas, Acumen skips the aid and governmental sectors. All returns are re-invested into Acumen. Every effort is meticulously documented, proving that altruistic capitalism really does solve problems.