It may be hard to believe in 2022, but before the women’s movement ignited in the late 60s, newspapers actually published ads for jobs for men and women on different pages. Employers blatantly and legally paid women less than men for exactly the same work. Banks regularly denied married women credit or loans without their husband present - this doozy of a practice didn’t change in the US until 1974. Heck, you couldn’t even get a drink in a bar if you were a woman on your own!
We’ve come a long way since then, but still have some work to do! To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve rounded up 10 of the most successful women in business from around the world, to prove exactly how far we’ve come.
Here are our picks for inspiring business women to watch, in no particular order….
Simmons is the youngest woman on our list. As a 22-year-old Rosenblatt Securities equity trader, she was the youngest only full-time female employee to hold this position at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Simmons grew up in Georgia but made a gutsy move to New York City in 2016 to pursue a career in medicine. Once she realised that healthcare wasn’t for her, she applied to positions in finance and landed a role with Rosenblatt Securities simply by applying to an ad on LinkedIn. She had to pass Series 19 – the exam rooted in financial principles and concepts that all brokers must pass to earn their place on the floor of the NYSE. No one thought she’d pass, but Simmons hit the books hard to prove them all wrong (80% of the people who do the exam fail). When she passed, she knew she was right for the role, and confidently proved to the men on the floor that she was just as good as them. Now, only 27, Simmons is a public speaker, podcast host and business owner! 😎
Lauren’s Instagram and LinkedIn 📱
Wood started her career as an assistant at Capital Group, but went on to work for Jennison Associates as their chief economist, analyst, portfolio manager, and finally, Director (it took her 18 years to move up to that position). In 2000, Wood co-founded the hedge fund Tupelo Capital Management and went on to set up ARK Investment Management LLC in 2014. At ARK, Wood really made a name for herself by capitalising on the rise of innovative stocks in 2020, securing a 152.52% return for investors. Since ARK’s inception in 2014, the fund has brought in average annual returns of 21.7%, delighting investors, both male and female, the world over. Her next challenge? Space of course. Wood listed a Space Exploration ETF - (ARKX) - in April of 2021, to add to her growing quiver of innovative and disruptive stocks. That’s one small step for a woman; one giant leap for womankind. 🌙
Cathie’s X (Twitter) 🐤
Xu is the founder and partner of Shanghai-based firm Capital Today. She started her stellar career as a bank clerk in China and worked her way up into investment positions at Hong Kong’s Peregrine and Baring Private Equity Asia before breaking out on her own and establishing Capital Today in 2005. Her make-it-or-break-it moment happened when she followed her gut and took a chance on investing in Chinese e-commerce company JD.com (JD). It all started with a late-night meeting with JD.com’s founder Richard Qiangdong in 2006, which led to Xu cutting a check for US$18 million. When JD.com went public in 2015, Xu’s investment paid off to the tune of US$2.5 billion. 🚀
Nooyi was only the fifth CEO in PepsiCo's (PEP) 46-year history. Indian born and bred, she is also one of the most high-profile execs in the US, thanks to her gender and being from a foreign country – two traits that are unfortunately still rare in US public companies. She once said, “Being a woman, being foreign-born, you've got to be smarter than anyone else." Known for her bold business ways, Nooyi has pushed Pepsi to be bold too by getting into the health food market since 2006. In 2014, she was ranked 13 on Forbes’ The World's 100 Most Powerful Women and received the title of the 2nd most powerful woman on the Fortune list in 2015. Nooyi left PepsiCo in 2017 and currently sits on the board of directors for Amazon (AMZN) and the International Cricket Council. 🏏
Indra’s Twitter 🐤
The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also happens to be the first woman to head it. Lagarde is also the first female to become the finance minister of a G8 economy (Vive la France!). How did she get here? Lagarde was a strong antitrust and labour lawyer and was the first female Chair of Baker & McKenzie between 1999 and 2004. It’s no wonder that in 2019, 2020 and 2021, Forbes placed her within the top 5 on its World's 100 Most Powerful Women list. As France's Minister of economic affairs, industry and employment, Lagarde was a top official in one of Europe's most powerful economies, but still she wanted a bigger challenge which she found at the IMF. Speaking of challenges, Lagarde has been a stalwart leader throughout her time at the IMF, not only dealing with Brexit, but Covid-19 as well, Bonne chance Christine! 🌍
Christine’ X (Twitter)🐤
Brewer cut her teeth as the COO of Starbucks (SBUX), but her current role as Walgreens (WBA) CEO means she’s making history. In her current role, she’s one of only two Black female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. There have been only 19 Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies since 1999 and until recently, only two have been women: Ursula Burns at Xerox (XRX) and Mary Winston at Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY).👸🏿 Coming to the role with serious experience under her belt from the likes of Walmart (WMT), Brewer knows exactly what she’s worth as one of corporate America's most prominent executives: she’ll get a signing bonus worth US$25 million on top of her US$1.5 million annual salary (and personal use of the company's private jet, of course). To round off 2021 in style, Brewer secured a cushy #17 on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list. 🎉
Burns became CEO of Xerox (XRX) in 2009 and was the first Black female ever to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Unlike many of the women who find themselves on lists of powerful women, Burns wasn’t raised with a silver spoon. Instead, she grew up with a single mother in a New York City housing project. Burns first worked for Xerox in 1980 as an intern and joined a year later after she completed her Master's degree – and then she never really left. In 2016, she stepped down as the CEO and took on the role of chair at Conduent Incorporated (CNDT), but eventually moved on to Veon (VEON) as CEO, Burns also chairs Change for Equation, an education-focussed nonprofit organisation. 💻
Ford has been CEO of Land O’Lakes since 2018, but her real claim to fame is that she is the first openly gay woman to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 company.🏳️🌈Ford joined Land O'Lakes in 2011, as chief supply chain and operations officer, and moved up to COO eventually. She was appointed as President/CEO by an all-male board and became one of the 25 women at the time, leading Fortune 500 companies. At home on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women lists, she’s come a long way from shucking corn on farms when she was 12. A trailblazer at heart, Ford was key to the Land O'Lakes company removal of the Native American woman as its logo on its butter and cheese products. Land O’Lakes isn’t just a butter company – it's also a multi-billion dollar agricultural conglomerate that works with farmers across America. As for being female and gay, Ford says that her sexuality and gender were never a part of the C-suite conversations. She’s known for her ability to lead, and that’s just fine with her. 🔥
A heroine of financial literacy in Kiwi kids, Flutey is the CEO and co-founder of New Zealand software company Banqer which helps teach children in primary and secondary schools finance and business smarts in classrooms across Aotearoa. After quitting her job as an accountant at KPMG, a role where she knew she would struggle to find her purpose, Flutey joined a 15-week coding boot camp and decided to go all in on tech and education. That was in 2015, and since then Flutey won the coveted 2019 Young New Zealander of the Year and Banqer is used by over 180,000 school students across Australasia. Ka pai Kendall! 🌞
Kendall’s X (Twitter) 🐤
The world’s youngest self-made female billionaire at the age of 31, Wolfe has transformed modern dating, friendships and networking for women around the world. The CEO and founder of Bumble (BMBL) also co-founded the (now rival) dating app Tinder (MTCH) before leaving in 2015 due to “atrocious sexual harassment and sex discrimination”. Wolfe’s legal battle with Tinder to make them accountable for their actions ended with an out of court settlement.💸 Mama Wolfe indeed! Empowered to help other women feel safer and supported, Wolfe launched Bumble which allows women to make the first move, believing that “when relationships are better for women, they’re better for everyone.” Oh, and did we mention she’s also a wife and mother?! 💓
Whitney’s Instagram 📷
Feeling inspired yet? Well, you should be – these women are phenomenal, to say the least. But Aotearoa still has a long way to go, the most recent stats show there is a 9.1% gender pay gap (although figures vary and some argue it’s much higher). A gender pay gap means there is also a retirement savings gap - women between 45 to 54 years old have almost a quarter less in their KiwiSaver scheme than men. Women on average also live longer than men and will need more money in retirement. During the Covid pandemic, some women have also re-assumed traditional housekeeping roles, subsequently putting their careers on hold, which has added to the already glaring gap of financial inequality.