In 2009, 13 out of 500 of America’s largest companies were headed by women. A study by Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business revealed that only 2% of the top executive positions (CEOs and Presidents) and only 6% of the lower level executive positions (CFOs and Vice Presidents) in American companies are held by women.


Even though this percentage has increased from just 12% in 1999 to 15.7% in 2008, at least there has been some improvement. According to Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of Pepsi Co., “The glass ceiling will go away when women help other women break through that ceiling.” A report by Investopedia, studied the rise of some of the most accomplished women in USA-

  • Angela Braly, Director, President, CEO, WellPoint
  • Carly Fiorina, CEO, HP
  • Andrea Jung, Chairperson,  CEO, AVON
  • Sallie Krawcheck, CEO, Citygroup Global Wealth Management Division
  • Ann Mulcahy Chairperson,  CEO, Xerox
  • Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of Pepsi Co.
  • Irene Rosenfeld, CEO, Kraft Foods
  • Martha Stewart, Chairman, President, CEO, Martha Stewart Omnimedia
  • Margaret Whitman, President, CEO, eBayPresident, CEO,Hewlett-Packard
  • Oprah Winfrey, CEO, HARPO Productions, Inc.


[Picture Courtesy: Fortune]

The first thing all these women had in common is that all of them received college education, with six of the mentioned executives going on to complete post-undergraduate education. Apart from this, all these women reinforced their education with varied experience. Before reaching to the top, all these women served at different positions in the companies.


Ann Mulcahy, for example, joined Xerox in 1976. After working for the company for 16 years, she was made the Vice-President of the HR department. She later served as the corporate senior Vice-President and was chosen to be the CEO in 2001.


Another important trait all these women have in common is the knowledge about business and finance. From Indra Nooyi, who led many restructuring efforts before becoming CEO to Martha Steward, who was a stockbroker for six years before she turned entrepreneur, women at top positions need to have a good sense of business and finance.