We've all heard of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and countless other men in business. They're household names for a reason; they're all successful, wealthy and have made a significant contribution to society. They also all have something else in common: they're all dudes.
I'm not trying to take away from what they've accomplished, because of the each of the men named and more has undoubtedly worked hard for what they've achieved. But it begs the question: why can't we immediately name off ten women CEOs or successful women in business? I know I certainly can't.
One obvious reason is that women CEOs are few and far between. According to an article by CNN, women account for 23 of the Fortune 500 CEOs, less than 5% of the total. Less than great. There are a number of complex factors and reasons behind this number, but we'll save that debate for another day.
Today, I want to highlight some women CEOs and strong business leaders that are doing amazing things. Ones that you've probably never heard of, but you definitely should. Despite the numbers, they are out there, and they're pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a woman in the workforce. I have a running list on my phone of "women who inspire me," and along with my mom, these women are at the top.
1. Sara Blakely: Founder and CEO of Spanx
Sara Blakely is a 47-year-old American Billionaire businesswoman who graduated from Florida State University. She created Spanx while working as a door-to-door salesperson for Danka because she hated the appearance of the seamed toe but liked the way it eliminated panty-lines. She invested $5000 into the first prototype and turned it into the multi-million dollar business it is today. In addition to Spanx, she started the Sara Blakely Foundation to help women with education and entrepreneurial skills, and became the first female Billionaire to commit to the "giving pledge" by donating half of her wealth to charity. She is the definition of #goals and I fangirl over her everytime I tell someone new about her.
"My dad encouraged us to fail growing up. He would ask us what we failed at that week. If we didn't have something, he would be disappointed. It changed my mindset at an early age that failure is not the outcome--failure is not trying. Don't be afraid to fail."
2. Sallie Krawcheck: Co-Founder and CEO of Ellevest
Sallie Krawcheck (53) was one of the first women in Wall Street. She started out her career as an equity research analyst for Wall Street and later went on to become CEO of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. In 2005, Forbes named her number seven in its list of World's 100 Most Powerful Women. Later, she became CEO of Citigroup's wealth management division, but ultimately ended up leaving in 2008 after a disagreement with the CEO. After that, she moved to Bank of America to head a new division. Despite her division increasing by 54 percent in 2011, she was very publicly fired. Today, Krawcheck is the co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women, designed to close the gender gap in investing. LinkedIn recently named Ellevest one of the top 10 Startup Companies of 2018. If you're a Business major like me, Krawcheck is your absolute dream.
"Seek out an advocate. They won't come to you"
3. Reshma Saujani: Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
You may have seen Saujani's Ted Talk, and if you haven't, I highly recommend it. I watch it everyone once in a while when I need my daily dose of inspiration. Saujani ran for New York House of Representatives in 2010 and lost by a large gap. She was the first Indian-American woman to run for Congress. In 2012, she founded Girls Who Code, a non-profit targeted at closing the gender-gap in technology. In September 2015, she was named Fortune Magazines "40 under 40." She has authored two books, "Women Who Don't Wait in Line: Break the Mold, Lead the Way" and "Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World."
"I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection."
4. Joanna Coles: former editor of Hearst Magazine and Cosmo Magazine
Joanna Coles has spent many years in the media world both in the UK and the U.S. She is the former editor-in-chief of Cosmo Magazine from 2012 to 2016. She moved to Hearst Magazine as editor-in-chief in 2016, and has recently announced her decision to take time off from the magazine. She is on the board of Woman Entrepreneurs New York City, to focus on women in entrepreneurship in underserved communities. Coles is an executive producer on "The Bold Type," a TV Series based on her life as an editor. I've seen the show, and I love it almost as much as I love Joanna Coles.
"It's more fun to be in charge. Life is so much more interesting when you work hard."
5. Jennifer Fleiss: Co-founder of Rent the Runway
Jennifer Fleiss started her career out at Morgan Stanley and later went on to go to Harvard Business School. There she met her co-founder Jennifer Hyman, and together they started Rent the Runway. Rent the Runway is an online service that allows women to rent dresses and clothes and return them, all for a reasonable price. As of 2018, Fleiss is running Code Eight, a startup within Wal-mart that is testing a personal shopping service, Jetblack. She has been named Forbe's Most Disruptive Names in Business.
"Worst Advice I've ever received: Someone told me not to do it because it'd be too hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would be doing it."
6. Hope Taitz: CEO of ELY Finances
Hope Taitz started out her career in investment banking at Drexel Burnham Lambert, first as an analyst and then as an associate. Taitz then went on to become Vice President of The Argosy Group (now part of CIBC) and a Managing Director at Crystal Asset Management before founding her own money management firm, Catalyst Partners. She now is the CEO of her own company ELY Finances. She is a board member of Girls Who Code, The New York City Foundation for Computer Science, and Pencils of Promise. Taitz is a big advocate of getting more women representation on boards, and clearly lives this out in her life.
"Women need to stay in their jobs longer and invest in themselves. Control your own purse strings."
7. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo: CEO of Celebrity Cruise Lines
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo spent 33 years at Royal Caribbean Cruiselines (RCL) in various positions before becoming President and CEO of Celebrity Cruiselines in 2014. Lutoff-Perlo asked for her position as CEO twice before receiving it on the third attempt in 2014. She proudly hired the 1st female American Captain, 1st female African bridge officer, and the 1st female Ecuadorian captain. In additon to Celebrity Cruiselines, she also heads up RCL's Global Marine Organization, a $25 billion fleet of 41 ships. Lutoff-Perlo is also an International Board Member of Best Buddies, a global non-profit dedicated to establishing friendships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"If you want something, ask for it. Because your competitors are."
8. Carly Zakin: Cofounder of TheSkimm
Carly Zakin worked for NBC News with her roommate Danielle Weisberg. In 2012, not making enough money, and frustrated with the serious tone of the news, both of them quit to start the online newsletter, TheSkimm. TheSkimm prides itself on being accessible, and conversational by delivering the highlights of the daily news directly to your email. As of November 2016, the Skimm now has over 4 million subscribers and has expanded into an app and a podcast. I especially love the podcast, which features women in business, and is the source of the inspiration for many of the women on this list.
"No matter who you are and how educated you are, you're going to have a group dinner at some point and people are going to be talking about something you never want to be the person with that look on their face of, like, I have no idea what you're saying."
9. Whitney Wolfe Herd: Founder and CEO of Bumble
At the age of 22, Whitney Wolfe Herd became a founder of Tinder, and later went on to become Vice President of Marketing. She is credited for coming up with the name of the app, and for it's popularity on college campuses. Following sexual harassment claims, Herd left Tinder in 2012. Andree Andreev quickly contacted Wolfe Herd, and together they started a new dating app, Bumble, which gives women more control than traditional dating apps. She has been named in Forbes 30 under 30 in 2017 and 2018.
"How does a queen bee behave? However she wants to. But please don't wait for someone to hold the door open for you when your own arms work perfectly fine - do it yourself."
10. Melanie Whelan: CEO of SoulCylce
Melanie Whelan started out her career in business development in Starwood Hotels and then moved to Virgin USA. She then became Vice President of Business Development for Equinox Fitness in 2007. In 2012, she joined the team of SoulCylce, when it only had 8 studios. Today she is CEO of SoulCycle, which now has over 85 U.S. locations, and continues to expand. She led the company's Intial Public Offering in 2015. Whelan holds monthly meetings with her "Millenial Mentor" in order to stay in touch with everything trending.
"Don't expect anything. Don't think about what you want- think about what you can contribute. Invest in others."