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The 25 Most Innovative Women Leaders

The 25 Most Innovative Women Leaders

Earlier this month, a magazine published what they called the list of America’s 100 Most Innovative Leaders. The list included household names such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Elon Musk of Tesla tied for first place, in addition to CEOs of companies such as Apple, Netflix, Home Depot, and McDonald’s. Noticed by almost all media outlets and social media, though, was the lack of women represented on the list—only one female CEO was represented. The singular female CEO, Barbara Rentler of Ross Stores Inc., placed at the No. 75 spot.

Like many of our colleagues, we are frustrated by the lack of representation on recent lists recognizing impactful names in the world of business, so we are taking matters into our own hands. As equality, opportunity, and representation are key to what we work for every day here at Ellevate, we are recognizing powerful women in business through this list of The 25 Most Innovative Women Leaders.

Staying true the methodologies used in the past lists of similar nature, this list was created through the examination of CEOs of U.S. firms with greater than $10 billion market value, the 50 largest private U.S. firms to go public over the past five years and other U.S. firms within the top 100 companies on our most recent Forbes Most Innovative Growth Companies list; along with CEOs of S&P 500 companies.

It is our hope that women on this list, and thousands of other past and present trailblazing female CEOs and executives alike, can receive the recognition they deserve among their male counterparts.

Laura J. Alber, Williams-Sonoma

Alber became the CEO of the consumer retail company in 2010. Under her leadership, Williams-Sonoma, known for an impressive portfolio of brands including Pottery Barn and West Elm, became one of the largest e-tailer companies in the U.S. Alber was also included on Fortune’s“Business Person of the Year” lists in 2014 and 2015.

Mary Barra, General Motors Company

Joining General Motors at the early age of 18, Barra became the automotive giant’s CEO in 2014, making her the first female CEO of an automobile manufacturer. Barra is consistently listed on the annual Forbes Most Powerful Women list, with holding second place in 2018.

Corie Barry, Best Buy Co.

Previously serving as both the Chief Strategic Growth Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the multinational consumer electronics retailer, Barry was named as Best Buy’s fifth CEO(and the first woman to serve) in June, 2019. Barry has been moving upward in Best Buy for almost two decades.

Gail Boudreaux, Anthem

Boudreaux became the CEO of health insurance provider Anthemin 2017, making it the second largest U.S. company with a female CEO. Boudreaux is consistently ranked on lists such as Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business, Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in The World, and is known as a key innovator in her industry.

Heather Bresch, Mylan

Making her the first woman to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, Bresch officially took over the position in 2012. In addition to making Fortune’s list of 50 Most Powerful Women, Bersch was also named the recipient of the EY Global Impact of the Year Award, both in 2014.

Michele Buck, The Hershey Company

After serving as the Chief Operating Officer of the chocolate and food manufacturing giant, Buck became the first woman CEO of The Hershey Company in 2017. Under Buck, Hershey announced the acquisition of Amplify Snack Brands, still the largest deal to date in the history of The Hershey Company.

Ursula Burns, VEON

Burns became the CEO of the telecommunication giant VEON in 2018. Prior to her position at VEON, Burns became the CEO of Xerox in 2009, becoming the first Black woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In addition to her success as CEO, Burns was a leader of the White House STEM program from 2009 to 2016.

Debra Cafaro, Ventas

Cafaro joined Ventas, a healthcare real estate investment trust, in 1999. Under her leadership, Ventas became the most successful financial publicly traded company for the first decade of the 21st century and in 2018.

Safra Catz, Oracle Corporation

Catz became Co-CEO of the multinational computer technology company in 2014, along with Mark Hurd, after serving as the Co-President and Chief Financial Officer. As of 2017, Catz is also the highest paid female CEO of any U.S. company. Born in Holon, Israel, Safra Catz moved to Massachusetts at the age of six.

Mary Dillon, Ulta Beauty

Dillon has been the CEO of the cosmetics giant since 2013, overseeing the operations of over 1,100 retail stores across the United States. In addition to being named one of Fortune’s most powerful women and Barron’s best CEOs, Dillon was also awarded the Sandra Taub Humanitarian Award for philanthropic leadership,

Beth Ford, Land O’Lakes

Ford was appointed the CEO of Land O’Lakes, one of the nation’s largest cooperatives, in 2018. Ford is not only one of the limited number of women on the Fortune 500 list, she is also the first openly gay woman to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Michelle Gass, Kohl’s Corporation

Gass has been the CEO of Kohl’s, a department store retail chain, since 2018. Throughout her time, Gass continues to oversee a number of initiatives including customer loyalty and speed to market efforts.

Lynn Good, Duke Energy

Good became the CEO of Duke Energy, an electric power holding company, in 2013. In addition to being one of the highest-compensated women executives in the United States, Good is also known for her efforts to bring Duke Energy to a net-zero carbon emission by 2050.

Tricia Griffith, Progressive Corporation

Serving as the CEO of the insurance company since 2016, Griffith is the first female to hold this position at Progressive. In addition to consistently being featured on the lists of most powerful women in business, Griffith is also known for establishing the first diversity and inclusion programs at Progressive as the CHRO.

Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin

Since Hewson became the CEO in 2013, the global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies company’s market cap has doubled. Recently in 2018, Hewson was named CEO of the Year by Chief Executive magazine and has been awarded the Edison Achievement Award for her leadership and achievements in making a lasting contribution to the world of innovation.

Vicki Hollub, Occidental Petroleum

Hollub became the CEO of Occidental Petroleum in 2016, making her the first woman to assume the role of CEO at a major American oil company. Previously, Hollub served as the Chief Operating Officer of the oil giant, as well as overseeing the Latin America region.

Abigail Johnson, Fidelity Investments

Johnson was named the CEO of Fidelity Investments and its international sister company Fidelity International in 2014. Johnson has also consistently been on Forbes’ most powerful women in the world list, holding the 5th spot in 2018.

Margaret Keane, Synchrony Financial

Keane has been the CEO of the consumer financial services company since 2005, making her one of the two woman to lead an independently traded US bank with a value over $10 billion. Margaret Keane was also a speaker at Ellevate Network’s annual Mobilize Women Summit in 2018.

Beth Mooney, KeyCorp

After serving as the Chief Operating Officer, Mooney became the CEO of KeyCorp in 2011, making her the first woman in history to hold this position at a top-20 U.S. Bank. After years of service, Mooney is said to retire in May of 2020.

Ginni Rometty, IBM

Joining IBM in 1981, Rometty has been serving as the CEO of the multinational information technology giant since 2012. Rometty has also received numerous awards, including the 50 Most Influential People in the World by Bloomberg and 20 Most Important People in Tech by Time.

Lisa Su, Advanced Micro Devices(AMD)

The Taiwanese American business executive became the CEO of AMD, a multinational semiconductor company, in 2014. Among numerous awards, Su was featured as one of the Top 100 Young Innovators by MIT Technology Review, Businessperson of the Year by Fortune, and 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology by the National Diversity Council.

Julie Sweet, Accenture

Sweet became the CEO of the multinational professional services company recently in September of 2019, after her prior role as the CEO of Accenture North America. Called“one of the most powerful women in corporate America” by The New York Times, Sweet is consistently featured on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list. Ellevate Network is a proud partner of Accenture.

Jayshree Ullal, Arista Networks

Raised in New Delhi, India, Ullal was named the CEO of Arista Networks, a California-based cloud networking company, in 2008. In addition to leading Arista Networks to an IPO in 2014, Ullal holds many awards and honors, including being"one of the top five most influential people in the networking industry today" by Forbes magazine.

Joey Wat, Yum China

Wat has served as the CEO of Yum China since 2018 and is consistently named as one of the most influential business leaders in China. Incorporated in the United States and headquartered in Shanghai, Yum China is best known for its famous fast food divisions KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.

Mary Winston, Bed Bath & Beyond

After the stepping-down of Steven Tamares, Winston was appointed as the interim CEO of the domestic merchandise retail chain in early 2019. Winston thus became the first Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company since Ursula Burns’ resignition as Xerox’s CEO in 2016. 

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