The most successful women in business

Kettlemag, Women, Womens History Month, March 2016, Business
Written by SarahGoodyer

20% of small-to-medium business enterprises in the UK are managed by women, research undertaken by parliament found last year. In honour of Women’s History Month, here’s a look at the women who are thriving in the world of business. 

Liliane Bettencourt

Image: Wikimedia Commons

As the world’s largest cosmetics company, L’Oreal are a huge brand in the make-up industry, and are the parent company of well-known brands such as the Body Shop, Maybelline, and Urban Decay. As the daughter of the founder of L’Oreal, Eugene Schueller, Liliane Bettencourt inherited her father’s substantial business in the 1950s, and now owns 30.5 % of the shares.

Bettencourt is said to be the richest woman in the world, as well as the 10th richest person in the world, and L’Oreal has a current net worth of $36.4 billion.

Jessica Alba

Image: Wikimedia Commons

After a flourishing acting career, Alba moved over into the business world in 2011 to create The Honest Company – an eco-friendly brand for baby products. The idea initially came about when Alba was pregnant with her first child. She was left with rashes after using a washing detergent, and when she later looked at the ingredients she found it contained numerous toxins and chemicals. The Honest Company was set up as a toxic free cleaning brand to rival those who use harsh chemicals.

In its first year of business in 2012 it had sales of $10 million, and in 2015 its sales surpassed $150 million. The Honest Company’s current value is estimated at $1.7 billion and is classed as a ‘start-up unicorn’ – a term applied to companies that reach a worth of $1 billion in less than 5 years.

Arianna Huffington

Image: Wikimedia Commons 

It shouldn’t be difficult to guess that Arianna Huffington’s business is none other than the Huffington Post. As co-founder, and now Editor-in-Chief after AOL’s purchase in 2011, Huffington has developed the site’s presence to become an influencing member of the media.

Prior to the Huffington Post’s arrival in 2005, Huffington was a prominent figure in American politics, as well as a few acting appearances on shows such as How I Met Your Mother.

With over 6,000,000 likes on Facebook and 6.88 million followers on Twitter, the Huffington Post’s popularity is massive. It has become the web’s most popular source for finding political news and has an estimated 110,000,000 unique visitors each month – higher than CNN, New York Times and Fox News.

Sara Blakely

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Dissatisfied with the way undergarments fitted underneath clothes, Blakely realised women (and later, men) needed shaping underwear which would not only fit smoothly underneath clothes, but could also give the wearer a slimmer and shapely appearance.

Spanx was officially born in 2000, and had sales of $4 million in its first year, and $10 million in the following year.

Blakely is said to be the youngest self-made female billionaire in America, and has a current net worth of $1.22 billion.

Oprah Winfrey

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With a talk show that was one of the highest rated, and longest running daytime television talk shows in history, Winfrey is arguably one of the most well known women in the world. She initially found fame through an acting role in the film, The Colour Purple, which led to Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. After the instant success of her show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, she set up Harpo Productions Inc. in 1986.

On top of Winfrey’s production company, she now owns television network OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network). She has a net worth of $3 billion, and according to Forbes, the first African-American woman billionaire. 

Jessica Simpson

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Her name may have disappeared from films, but Simpson’s fashion line, the Jessica Simpson Collection, has been excelling in America. Aimed at women and juniors, the collection is made up of handbags, shoes, jewellery and fragrances.  

Founded in 2005, it has risen in popularity and is now sold in a number of department stores in America, including the world’s largest store, Macy’s. Generating $1 billion each year, the business is also said to be the top selling celebrity clothing empire.

Indra Nooyi

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With a salary of $18.6 million in 2014, which is sure to have increased with unexpected revenue growth of the company last year, Nooyi is thought to be one of the highest paid women in business as the CEO and chair of PepsiCo. She initially joined the company in 1994, but was president and CFO in 2001 before becoming the CEO in 2006.

PepsiCo is the parent company of subsidiary companies such as Walkers and Lays, Quaker Oats, Tropicana, and obviously Pepsi. Its brand value is worth $19 billion as of May 2015.


Irene Rosenfeld

Image: Wikimedia Commons 

As CEO for one of the world’s largest food companies, Mondelez International, Rosenfeld’s portfolio of brands include Toblerone, Oreo and Terry’s. Rosenfeld has operated in the food and beverage industry for over 30 years, and previously worked as Chairperson and CEO of Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo.

Mondelez International, formerly Kraft Foods, is probably best known for being the parent company of Cadbury after they bought the company in 2009 for $10 billion. In 2011 however, Kraft Foods was split in two, forming Mondelez International, which Rosenfeld became the CEO of, and Kraft Foods (which recently became Kraft Heinz after a merger between Kraft Foods and Heinz).

Mondelez International had a net revenue of $29.6 billion last year, whilst Rosenfeld’s salary is said to be in the region of $20 million.

Sheri McCoy

Image: Wikimedia Commons

With a 30 year career under Johnson and Johnson, a pharmaceutical company, McCoy was already successful in business. She joined Avon in 2012 as CEO entering a business known for its unique business model of consumer-entrepreneurs.

Despite Avon’s struggle citing losses in the last few years, they still made revenue of $8.46 billion last year. The most recent salary data for McCoy suggests she earned $9, 890,190 compensation in 2014, which includes her salary, plus bonuses and other extras.


Mary Barra

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Starting at General Motors in 1980 aged 18 years old, Barra became the first woman CEO for a major global automaker in 2014. Car brands such as Vauxhall, Chevrolet and Cadillac are all division companies of General Motors.

Barra’s first year as CEO was not without trouble however, as the company was fined $35 million over a faulty ignition switch in their cars. The company had failed to recall the cars which they knew had the defect, and the fault had led to a number of deaths. The amount of cars recalled worldwide was about 2.6 million.

Despite the set back in 2014, General Motors still had revenue of $152.4 billion and produced nearly a billion vehicles in 2015, and Mary Barra was named as Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in 2015. 

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