Even with all the progress in the modern world, it’s still more difficult to make it in business as a woman than as a man. Gender discrimination should not exist, but it unfortunately does. The wage gap and problems in maternity leave are just two examples of how women automatically have it harder even if they’re more skilled or capable than their male counterparts.
However, there have been some amazing women who stood out and were determined to succeed in the business world. They’ve shown their passion through their work and have blazed a trail for other females as well as several minority groups. It’s worthwhile knowing who these women are and how they worked. This is why we’ve discussed some of the best examples below:
Eliza Lucas Pinckney
Eliza Lucas Pinckney was a well-educated woman, having gone to a London finishing school. There, she found botany a fascinating subject and was quite skilled at it. Her family had moved to the United States when she was still quite young, where her father acquired a few plantations.
When she was 16, Pinckney became the manager for the South Carline plantations after her father went back to the West Indies. This was also the time when her mother passed away. Soon, Pinckney realized that the textile industry was badly in need of new shades of dyes. She hence started on a quality dye that was indigo blue in color. This was in 1739, and her invention was a great success.
Soon, the indigo dye was second only to rice among the exports of South Carolina. The same inventor was also involved in producing fogs, hemp, silk, and flax. Her efforts made her the first woman to earn a place in the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame. This was in 1989, while she herself died in 1793.
Madam C.J. Walker
Walker had faced her share of hardship in life, including being a widowed mother at the age of 20. She was also orphaned when she was 7, her parents being former slaves. Hence, she had almost nothing but managed to build a business empire.
In the year 1905, Walker successfully worked on a Hair Grower formula, which worked for healing and conditioning the scalp. Her interest in this area stemmed from her own scalp ailment due to which she became almost bald. Eventually, her business expanded to the Caribbean and Central America. From working odd jobs herself, she led a team of saleswomen who were known as “Walker Agents”.
The success of Walker’s venture was a surprise to everyone, especially white businessmen. A wealthy self-made millionaire, she blazed a trail for female entrepreneurs everywhere. At the time of her death in 1919, she was worth around $7 million by today’s standards.
The name of Estee Lauder is spread throughout the globe, thanks to her brand and billion-dollar empire. She gained knowledge and experience in the merchandising business while working in her family hardware store. However, her career in beauty products was likely more influenced through the guidance of her uncle, who was a chemist.
She founded The Estee Lauder Company in 1946. This sold the skincare products that her uncle developed. Her main customers were hotel and beauty salons. Lauder’s secret to success was perhaps her talent at making sales, which enabled her to get a counter at Saks Fifth Avenue. This was just two years after her company launched. There were many more brands added to the company portfolio, including MAC, Harrods, Clinique, etc. Now, Estee Lauder is a legendary enterprise which is worth more than $7 billion overall.
Chanel bags and other offering are considered a status symbol in the fashion world today. Coco Chanel herself was a fashionista who started out selling just hats for women. It wasn’t until 11 years later that her brand’s iconic perfume, Chanel No.5 came out and became a worldwide hit.
From that point, the name of Chanel was destined for success. The designer came up with several more well-received ideas such as the little black dress, suits, jewelry, purse, etc. She’s now known as someone who revolutionized fashion. When she died (1971), her empire was earning above $160 million every year. Now, Chanel items are among the most coveted ones by fashionable people everywhere.
Everyone in America with access to a television would know the name of Oprah Winfrey. However, she also had her share of hardship before finally achieving success. She was raped as a child and lost her own baby at a very young age. She also grew up in poverty and never really had a stable childhood. Still, she was always very bright and was able to skip a couple of grades in school. She also got a full scholarship at Tennessee State University, studying communications there along with working alongside.
Winfrey was rejected from several auditions and was even fired from her job at one point. She finally got a break in 1983, at which point she got her own morning talk show. From there on, The Oprah Winfrey Show far outperformed its competitors and had the highest ratings. Her career has only skyrocketed from that point, leading to her lifestyle website, magazine, and even a whole TV channel. What’s more, she’s also founded an Angle Network that helps out nonprofit institutes all over the world.
This is another household name that’s appeared twice on the “50 Most Powerful Women” in Fortune Magazine and once on the “Forbes 400” list. Stewart made her interest in cooking and zest for stylish living a career, eventually amalgamating a multimillion empire.
She launched a magazine named Martha Stewart Living, several books, a television show, a newspaper column, a radio show, and several products. No matter where she was in the media, she controlled many aspects to a certain extent. In fact, she even managed to shut down a few TV shows that were apparently poking fun at her personality. She was connected with insider trading at one point, leading to a legal struggle of five years. However, she’s managed to bounce back with even more success.
Dame Anita Roddick
In 1976, Dame Anita Roddick founded and launched The Body Shop. This is now a store that one can find in almost any part of the world, with its USP being that it doesn’t use animals for testing. Roddick became engaged in activism related to the environment from a very young age due to her extensive traveling.
Her way of living hence translated into a huge business that comprises thousands of stores and almost 100 million customers. The company was also connected with other organizations in order to raise social and environmental awareness on several counts. This included a campaign alongside MTV to increase awareness about AIDS and HIV.
Graham is certainly a woman pioneer, having entered a male-dominated business and becoming the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company. This was The Washington Post, which is definitely a household name today. She had worked as a publisher for the company as well, but had very little experience in business or journalism.
Still, Graham forged ahead and built a reputation for toughness, hands-on leadership, and empathy as well. Her employee support and self-awareness also led her towards making the company what it is today. In her 1997 autobiography, she detailed how being female added to her struggles of holding the high-profile company together.
There are many more women pioneers in the business world, but the above entries should be enough for one to get an idea of the female mark. While all the women here have different stories, they’ve triumphed in times of adversity and hence inspired many people. Now, more than 7.7 million companies are owned by females with at least a 51% majority. This is certainly a long way from the times when women weren’t even allowed to own property!