The Five Most Powerful Women in Business


With International Women’s Day fast approaching, I thought we’d take a look back at some of the most influential women in the male-dominated business arena. Considering the theme of this year’s celebration is building a gender-equal world, I think it’s topical and timely to have a look at some of the females out there giving the boys a run for their money, and showing just how impactful their leadership can be. Let’s have a look at the top five female powerbrokers in the world of business, and how they’ve helped shape the industry they work in.

5- Virginia Rometty

Just over a month ago, Virginia Rometty stepped down as the CEO of IBM after presiding over the company’s first female-run chapter as President, Chair and CEO. Typically in the technology industry in particular, there’s a high prevalence of male domination sitting in the important seats, however, Virginia Rometty’s strategic decision making saw the company diversify its portfolio and set itself up for a more profitable 2020 and beyond. Rometty is said to be responsible for much of IBM’s growth in the early 2000’s, and oversaw the integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers into IBM. In 2007, Rometty mapped-out IBM’s five-year strategic plan, which saw her head of the company’s sales team, and became the company’s first ever female chief in 2012. Her tenure as CEO saw Rometty ensure IBM remained agile and adaptive to new technological advancements, and secured partnerships with giants like Apple, SAP and Twitter. Somewhat ironically, Rometty saw the importance for the company to move away from computers and operating systems, and ensured the company remained an early adopter of research into artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum computing, which has positioned IBM in an extremely enviable position in the marketplace today.

4- Abigail Johnson

Abigail Johnson has served as CEO of Fidelity Investments since 2014, when she took over control of the investment firm from her father who founded the mutual fund giant in 1946; she has been chairman since 2016. The company has a reported $2.7-trillion under management, with Johnson controlling a 24% stake. In 2018, Fidelity posted a record $20.4 billion in revenue and $6.3 billion in profits, with the most telling sign of the company’s success represented by the $309 billion of new client investment that made its way into Fidelity’s accounts; a 20% increase from the previous year. It is said that “Johnson has wooed new customers by ruthlessly besting Fidelity’s rivals on everything from fees to yields on cash accounts,’ which has ensured the company has remained atop its competitors. Johnson is also a renowned innovator and early adopter of new technologies, most prominently cryptocurrencies. In 2018, Fidelity launched a platform that allowed investors to trade in a few different types of cryptocurrencies which exemplifies Johnson’s eagerness for Fidelity to remain agile and ahead of the curve in terms of new financial technology.

3- Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is arguably the most recognisable name on the list, considering her position at one of the world’s largest technology companies, Facebook. Sandberg has been Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer since 2008, and is famed for leading the company from a $56 million loss to $22.1 billion in profits in 2018. While taking her position, Sanberg wrote that Facebook was “primarily interested in building a really cool site; profits, they assumed, would follow,” which wasn’t necessarily coming to fruition. That was, until Sandberg began to throw her weight around at Facebook. She’s widely credited as the force behind Facebook’s pivot to being a platform for small business advertising, and by connecting these small businesses with consumers, is said to have increased ad revenue in the company by 38% in 2018 alone. She also sit son the board of the Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, the Center for Global Development and V-Day. Previously, she sat on the boards of Starbucks, the Brookings Institution and Ad Council.

2- Marry Barra

Marry Barra is the Chairman and CEO of General Motors, a company that in recent years has shown sluggish signs of growth despite it being America’s largest automotive manufacturer. She’s sat in the driver’s seat of the Detroit-based brand since 2014, the first female executive ever at General Motors and has had to make some tough calls to ensure GM remains viable in the face of changing customer demand and the electrification of consumer vehicles. Barra has spearheaded a plan for General Motors to release 20 all-new electric-vehicles to the market by 2023; a huge feat considering the investment into the research and development of new powertrains, transmissions and even chassis design. As CEO, Barra has said that GM’s focus is to be an automotive company that transitions into the tech space, and has since spearheaded the acquisition of a number of autonomous driving companies, as well as launched the further development of electric vehicles to compete with the likes of Tesla. Notably, General Motors took out the top spot in a 2018 Global Report on Gender Equality, where it was one of only two businesses that had no gender pay gap in its ranks.

1- Marillyn Hewson

While she might not have the name recognition of some of the women on this list, Marillyn Hewson is perhaps one of the most towering female figures in the business world. She’s the CEO of a little-known company called Lockheed Martin, that specialises in security and defense technologies, with contracts valued in the tens of billions of dollars of contracts with governments worldwide. Hewson has been CEO of Lockheed Martin since 2013, and is widely credited as the driving force behind Lockheed’s rise to dominance in the aerospace and defense technology sector. In 2017, Lockheed posted $53 billion in sales through a number of highly lucrative government contracts, with the F-35 fighter jet program - as well as other developments targeting shortfalls in modern military capabilities - contributing to a market value of more than $107 billion. With Hewson in the driver’s seat, Lockheed Martin’s stock has risen more than 300%, making her one of the most influential figures in modern business today, and top spot on our list.

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