Rising to the top is never an easy feat, especially for women in large corporations. This can be exemplified by the fact that there are only 21 female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list. In spite of their small numbers, these women are forces to be reckoned with. Take the opportunity to get to know four of the most powerful female executives:
1. Mary Barra
In 1980, Mary Barra joined the General Motors team as a co-op student. Over the past 37 years, Barra rose through the ranks of the company, becoming the VP of Global Manufacturing Engineering, VP of Global Human Resources, Executive VP of Global Product Development, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, and finally CEO in 2014. In addition, she was named the chairperson of GM in January 2016. Barra is also known for being a major investor in the ride-sharing company Lyft.
2. Indra K. Nooyi
With an extensive background in consulting and executive experience, Indra K. Nooyi began her career with Pepsi Co. in 1994 as their Senior VP of Strategic Planning. Nooyi quickly rose through the ranks, accepting the position of President and CFO in 2001. In October 2006, Nooyi was named the President and CEO of Pepsi Co., and the chairperson of the board just seven months later. Under her leadership, Pepsi Co. began the Performance with Purpose initiative, a promise to do what is right for the business by doing what is right for the people and the planet. Additionally, Pepsi Co. has gone on to acquire several healthier brands, including Quaker Oats and Gatorade.
3. Irene Rosenfeld
Upon completing her education at Cornell University, Irene Rosenfeld began her career in advertising, eventually moving into a consumer research role with General Foods. Soon after, she found herself advancing to leadership roles within the company. From 1981 to 2003, Rosenfeld served as President of North American Businesses at Kraft Foods North America. Rosenfeld then served as Chairperson and CEO of Frito-Lay and CEO of Kraft Foods. When Kraft split from its principal company, Mondelez International, in 2011, Rosenfeld remained with Mondelez and was named CEO.
4. Sheryl Sandberg
After receiving her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, Sheryl Sandberg began her career as the Chief of Staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton, a position in which she served from 1995 to 2001. Leaving her government job behind, Sandberg set her sights on the Silicon Valley and becoming a part of the tech boom that was occurring at that time. Sandberg then served as VP of Global Online Sales & Operations at Google Inc., from 2001 to 2008. Upon leaving Google, Sandberg joined the Facebook team as their Chief Operating Officer and has remained in that role ever since.