The 10 Most Powerful Women in Business

women in business

The most powerful women in business are a true representation of success in the corporate world. The female leaders of today have grown to become the most inspiring role models and the epitome of gender equality. These women not only achieved success for themselves but have also created a pathway to success for others.

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Their accomplishments range from leading Fortune 500 companies to starting their own businesses. They are leading innovators in multiple industries and trailblazers in the fight for gender parity in the workplace. Their inspiring stories are proof that a woman can reach her goals no matter the environment or circumstance.

These powerful women have made the world a better place, and through their achievements, they are inspiring a new generation of powerful businesswomen.

The presence of women in leadership highlights an environment that has no room for gender discrimination. Such a dynamic is associated with excellent work performance, which, ultimately, would result in productivity and profitability.

What does it take to be a powerful woman in business? Where does she start?

For decades, women held second-class positions in the workplace, and executive positions—including directors, junior officers, and general managers—were reserved for their male colleagues. Statistics reveal that even in the 21st century, women fall behind men in the management and executive game. In the business and financial services sector, women account for 61% of accountants, 53% of financial managers, and 37% of financial analysts. Only 12.5% of them are CEOs and CFOs in Fortune 500 companies.

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But times are changing, and the trends are making significant shifts. Today, women are hailed as equals and prove themselves capable of being on the frontline. Reaching the top corporate ranks may be a challenge for a woman, but many females today show it is NOT an impossible feat!

What personal qualities do I need to be a strong, successful woman in the business world?

  • Confidence: Having the confidence to speak up for yourself, to make decisions, and to take risks when needed.
  • Leadership: Being able to take on challenges, delegate tasks, and inspire teams when needed.
  • Determination: Never give up until you have achieved your desired outcomes.
  • Communication: Being able to effectively communicate with colleagues, customers, and potential business partners.
  • Flexibility: Being open to change and new ideas when needed.
  • Organization: Being able to stay organized and manage your workload.
  • Networking: Continue to build relationships with people in your field and reach out to potential contacts.
  • Creative Problem-Solving: Finding creative solutions to challenging problems.
  • Professional Development: Taking the initiative to learn new skills and continuously improve.
  • Self-Care: Taking time to recharge and prioritize your own mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

We celebrate the trailblazing women in business! Listed in no particular order, these powerful females are gaining global recognition for their leadership and expertise in what many in the past would call a man’s world:

Emma Walmsley
Abigail Johnson
Ruth Porat
Raja Easa Al Gurg
Virginia Rometty
Mary Barra
Marillyn Hewson
Gail Boudreaux
Judith McKenna
Safra Catz

Emma Walmsley

CEO – GlaxoSmithKline PLC
Net Worth: $2.5 Million

Emma Walmsley was born in 1969 to Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Walmsley and Lady Christina Walmsley in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. She earned a Classics and Modern Languages (MA) degree from Oxford University. Today, she is known as the first and the only female CEO of one of the major pharmaceutical firms in the world, GlaxoSmithKline. She took over the position from Sir Andrew Witty in April 2017.

Before this, Emma Walmsley was the marketing head of the French Cosmetics company L’Oreal and ran its Chinese consumer products for 17 years. She joined GlaxoSmithKline in 2010.

Despite her limited experience in the field, not to mention the faint welcome from investors, Walmsley became a member of the Board and became the CEO of GSK Consumer Healthcare. Her international consumer product background and previous general management roles gave her the advantage.

Walmsley’s remarkable achievements include a restructuring that aimed to save GlaxoSmithKline £400 million. She is listed as the highest-paid female in the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index with a £6 million paycheck.

Abigail Johnson

President and CEO – Fidelity Investments
Net Worth: $16.3 Billion

Abigail “Abby” Johnson is best known for her role as President and CEO of Fidelity Investments in 2014. She is among the few female financial leaders who have triumphantly made the trillion-dollar mutual funds company that it is today

Johnson began her career in the company’s customer relations department right after high school. Now 59, she transitioned to become an analyst and portfolio manager after earning her MBA from Harvard Business School.

The bear market and the emergence of the company’s toughest competitor had Johnson defying the norms, working harder, and aiming higher. She encouraged aggressive trading in the open market and changed the company policy including a series of acquisitions and mergers. She also launched new products to encourage more investments. Under her leadership, Fidelity Investments welcomed cryptocurrency to their fold.

Ruth Porat

CFO and Senior Vice President – Alphabet Inc., and subsidiary Google
Net Worth: Roughly $70 Million

Ruth Porat’s excellent work principles and keen eye for strategy helped develop a financial discipline in the business world. The 63-year-old has come a long way from her battle with breast cancer in 2001. At present, Porat is one of the most influential women in Google and its parent company, Alphabet Inc.

Straight out of Stanford University with an Economics degree, Porat first worked at Morgan Stanley Mergers & Acquisitions, where she stayed for decades and went on to gain the moniker, “the most powerful woman of Wall Street.” In the 90s, she gave financial advice to big companies like Amazon and eBay. She was also an adviser to the US Treasury during the financial crisis. The same distinction is given to her now that she leads the tech world.

Under her watch, Google’s non-advertising earnings increased. The firm also carried out better data protection, chopped off unfeasible projects, and expanded its mobile search and programming advertising acquisitions.

Raja Easa Al Gurg

Vice-Chairperson & Managing Director – Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group

Raja Easa Al Gurg is the Vice-Chairperson and Managing Director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group (ESAG), a United Arab Emirates conglomerate that invests in real estate, building and construction, retail, lifestyle, and manufacturing industries.

Al Gurg was born in 1955 to an Emirati father and a Kuwaiti mother and grew up in Bur Dubai when it was still a place of small settlements and low-rising buildings. An English Literature major, she was the first among her siblings to attend a university. She worked as a headmistress in a secondary school before taking over for her father in running their business.

Al Gurg holds different titles and positions in other companies and organizations like the Dubai Businesswomen Council, Dubai Healthcare City Authority, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI), and Dubai Women’s Association. Today, there is evidence of an increase in the number of Emirati women running their businesses, thanks to Al Gurg’s persistence in motivating the younger generation of females in Dubai. She is known for her work in advancing women’s rights.

Virginia Rometty

Chairperson, President & CEO – IBM
Net Worth: $27.2 Million

Virginia Rometty is one of the most influential female leaders in tech. IBM, under her leadership, created the Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) education model to help students excel in their tech-related careers.

A top boss and an influential business figure in America, Rometty was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1957 to an Italian-American family. She earned her Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degrees from Northwestern University and honorary doctoral degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and North Carolina State University. In 1979, Rometty joined General Motors Institute and later became part of IBM as a systems analyst and systems engineer. She held several technical positions before becoming CEO in 2012.

Rometty was instrumental in changing the workplace policy of refusing non-bachelor degree holder applicants. She also helped the company focus on AI, cloud computing, cognitive computing systems, blockchain, cybersecurity, and quantum technologies. Under Rometty’s watch, IBM had blockchain collaboration with food companies from across the globe, enabling them to detect contaminated products in just a short amount of time. Rometty’s efforts helped push IBM into becoming a data-driven company.

Rometty also serves her alma mater, Northwestern University, as one of the Board of Trustees, Board of Managers for the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and a council member at the Latin America Conservation Council. She also supports sustained efforts in keeping women in the workforce through programs like extended parental leave, a breastmilk delivery program, and returnships.

Mary Barra

Chairman & CEO – General Motors
Net Worth: $59 Million

Mary Barra joined General Motors (GM) at the tender age of 18. She started her career at GM checking fender panels and inspecting hoods. It was in 2008 when Barra began to climb the ladder and became the vice president of the company’s Global Manufacturing Engineering division. In 2014, she became the first female chief executive of a significant motor-vehicle company.

Barra was born in Michigan in 1961 to parents of Finnish descent. She is an Electrical Engineering who earned her degree from the General Motors Institute and became a Master of Business Administration through a GM fellowship.

Barra pushed GM toward making bold investments. Under her direction, the company launched the ride-sharing service called Maven, established a partnership with Lyft by investing $500 million, produced the electric Chevrolet Bolt, and acquired the startup company Cruise Automation.

One of her most significant achievements is successfully overcoming an ignition-switch defect crisis that had millions of GM cars recalled. She then created a team for an independent investigation. Barra led the company out of a situation that would have negatively impacted GM corporate-wide. To this day, she continues to emphasize the importance of clear and honest communication between GM employees and customers, making her one of the most well-liked leaders in business.

Marillyn Hewson

CEO – Lockheed Martin Corporation
Net Worth: $86.9 Million

Trustworthiness, compassion, decisiveness, and innovation are the four traits one must possess to be a great leader, Marillyn Hewson, is the first female President and CEO of the global security and aerospace manufacturing company, Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Originally from Junction City, Kansas, Hewson credits her parents Warren Adams and Mary Adams for her leadership skills. A Business Administration major and a Master of Economics from the University of Alabama, she also attended Harvard Business School and Columbia Business School’s executive development programs.

Hewson joined Lockheed Martin Corporation in 1983 and worked her way up to become the CEO. Under her watch, the largest defense corporation in America saw its stock surge to its highest price yet at over 300%. She uses an “opportunistic” strategy that sustains steady profits and consistent shareholder returns.

To this day, Hewson demonstrates exceptional leadership evident in the overall financial and operational performance of the company. She prioritizes international expansion which will lead to a massive rise in overseas revenue. Ultimately, she exemplifies integrity and carries a great vision as a leader.

Gail Boudreaux

President and CEO – Anthem, Inc.
Net Worth: $41.3 Million

Gail Boudreaux is the President and CEO of Anthem, Inc., the largest for-profit health insurance provider in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Under her leadership, the company acquired Beacon Health Options which resulted in the company’s expanded and diversified health services. 

She now focuses on the modernization of the healthcare industry through Anthem’s app, which lets users access their data and see their claims history. She also accelerated the company’s pharmacy benefits, which allowed for more savings for customers.

An outstanding women’s basketball athlete, Boudreaux graduated cum laude at Dartmouth College. She also earned her MBA from Columbia Business School.

For several years now, Boudreaux has been dedicating her service to the healthcare industry. Early on in her career, the 60-year-old business leader held executive roles in top health insurance companies AETNA, External Operations Health Care Service Corporation, UnitedHealthcare at UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois, and GKB Global Health, LLC. She led one of these companies to reach the $120-billion revenue mark.

Judith McKenna

President & CEO – Walmart, Inc.
Net Worth: $41.1 Million

Judith McKenna is the woman running the international division of Walmart Inc. In 2018, she was the President and CEO of the mega-retail corporation of more than 700,000 employees in over 6,000 retail stores worldwide. It was also in 2018 that she led the $16 billion acquisition of Indian e-commerce company Flipkart. Walmart’s international dealings raked in $116 billion in revenue.

McKenna graduated with a law degree from Hull University in England. With her Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales accounting qualification, she spent years working with different companies before earning the highest rank in business.

McKenna started with KPMG, Carlsberg Tetley, and Allied Domecq. She joined ASDA, a subsidiary of Walmart, in 1996. Before being Walmart’s international chief, McKenna’s notable accomplishments as the CFO included a $2 billion investment in technology, training, and higher wages. She also implemented the use of an online ordering system and in-store pick-up to increase consumer choice and decrease shipping time.

Safra Catz

CEO – Oracle Corp.
Net Worth: $1Billion

One of the most powerful businesswomen in Silicon Valley, Safra Catz is the Chief Executive Officer of Oracle Corporation, the software giant she has served and helped grow for 20 years. Since joining the global computer technology corporation, Oracle, in 1999, Catz has held various executive positions. She is credited for leading the $10.3-billion acquisition of rival company PeopleSoft, Inc., in 2005.

Catz was born in Holon, Israel, in 1961 to Jewish parents. Her family moved to Massachusetts when she was six. Catz holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She started as a banker at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and climbed to the top as an investment banking executive for years.

Before taking the CEO spot at Oracle, Catz served the company as a co-CEO to Mark Hurd. Today, she solely leads the multibillion tech company, overseeing the finance, manufacturing, and legal operations. She is also leading the company’s expansion of its cloud computing products and technologies to collaborate with tech behemoths such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

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Rowan Jones
Chief Editor