The 10 Most Successful Female CEOs of All-Time

by Staff Writer

Women have slowly but surely made their way into the corporate world over the last few decades. Still, only 18 women are running Fortune 500 companies. These female CEOs have broken the gender barriers in business, but not without many years of hard work, rejections, and slow promotions. Here are the 10 most successful female CEOs of all-time:

  1. Patricia Woertz

    Patricia Woertz is the CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, a Fortune 500 food production company that operates hundreds of plants used to process crops into food, agricultural, and industrial products. In addition to being the CEO, Woertz also holds the title of president and chairman of the board of directors. Although Woertz has described herself as an "outsider" at ADM, she has managed to help the company achieve record financial results and improve their sourcing, transportation, and processing networks with strategic investments and planning. Woertz's powerful visions and never-ending list of achievements have earned her a spot in Fortune magazine as the third most powerful woman in 2010.

  2. Laura Sen

    Laura Sen is the current CEO at BJ's Wholesale Club, a membership-only warehouse club chain located on the east coast and in the state of Ohio. Sen spent 14 years working for BJ's before she was promoted to executive vice president and was considered for the position of CEO. After an unexpected firing and reworking of the company, Sen was asked to come back to BJ's and was appointed to be executive vice president again. Within two years of her return, Sen was promoted to president and chief operating officer. The next year, she became CEO. Since then, Sen has taken the company to new levels of success and efficiency. Her unique management style and accessibility to all workers has made her a true success in the business world.

  3. Ellen J. Kullman

    Ellen J. Kullman is the CEO and chair of the board of DuPont, the third largest chemical company in the world. Kullman joined DuPont in 1988 and worked as the marketing manager in the medical imaging business before being promoted to executive vice president. During this time, she managed four of DuPont's business platforms and shifted the company's focus on international markets. As CEO, Kullman has revolutionized the company's customer relations and overall innovation by focusing on what customers need and letting that drive their decision-making. Kullman's innovative leadership and keen industry knowledge has made her one of the most successful female CEOs of all time.

  4. Gracia C. Martore

    Gracia C. Martore is the current CEO of Gannett, a media and marketing solutions company. Martore came to Gannett in 1985 and worked as the assistant treasurer before acquiring the position as vice president in the treasury group in the '90s. She went on to become the treasurer and vice president/investor relations and later the senior vice president of finance. Martore worked her way up the ladder to become the executive vice president and chief financial officer in 2006, and was later named president and chief operating officer. She was finally appointed to the position of CEO on Oct. 6, 2011. Martore's rise to success was a symbol of achievement for female CEOs everywhere. Her accomplishments and dedication to Gannett have made her a true success story.

  5. Margaret Whitman

    Margaret Whitman is the former CEO of eBay and the current chief executive of Hewlett-Packard. In September 2011, Whitman became CEO of the giant tech corporation after the two former leaders failed to meet the company's expectations. Whitman has brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to HP. While at eBay, Whitman helped the online retailer grow from a small start-up to a global giant. Whitman plans to focus on the internal development of HP and provide data management services to other corporations. She also hopes to improve HP's finances by limiting big acquisitions and scaling back on budget cuts. Whitman's innovative ideas, strong leadership, and past successes as CEO will certainly shake things up for HP and the technology market in general.

  6. Indra K. Nooyi

    Indra K. Nooyi is one of the most well-known and successful business women in the world. Nooyi has served as the CEO of PepsiCo for five years, where she has helped change the face of the giant food and beverage business. Nooyi's innovative ideas and modern advertising strategies have increased PepsiCo's exposure and global strengths. She is credited for helping PepsiCo expand its brand options by including healthy products like Tropicana and Quaker Oats. Nooyi's bold business moves and strong leadership skills make her a successful and idolized CEO.

  7. Irene B. Rosenfeld

    Irene B. Rosenfeld has spent many years working in the food and beverage industry, but her biggest career accomplishment to date would be working as the current CEO and chairman of Kraft Foods. Since 2006, Rosenfeld has managed Kraft Foods, bringing many innovative ideas and collaborative efforts to the company. Rosenfeld has also helped restructure the business and improve earnings in the U.S. and international markets. Rosenfeld's strong work ethic and collaborative attitude have made her a strong leader at Kraft and one of the most influential CEOs of all time.

  8. Carol Meyrowitz

    Carol Meyrowitz is the current CEO of TJX Companies Inc., a leading discount retailer of apparel and home goods, which includes T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Winners, HomeGoods, T.K. Maxx, and other stores. Meyrowitz has been with TJX Companies for 28 years, where she was able to pursue new job opportunities and become a stronger leader with every promotion. Meyrowitz's longtime experience with TJX and deep understanding of off-price retail has made her an expert in the industry. Her company loyalty and strong leadership skills have earned her a spot as one of the most successful female CEOs of all time.

  9. Beth Mooney

    Beth Mooney is the CEO and chairman of KeyCorp, a bank-based financial service company headquartered in Cleveland. Here, she oversees about 15,000 employees and nearly $90 billion in assets. KeyCorp has fought through one of the worst financial crises in U.S. history and has managed to return to profitability with Mooney's strong leadership. Mooney's dedication and personal rise to success have inspired many businesswomen and non-businesswomen alike to work hard for their dreams.

  10. Ursula M. Burns

    Ursula M. Burns is the current CEO and chairman of Xerox Corporation. Not only is Burns the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company, but she is also the first African-American woman CEO to run a Fortune 500 company. Burns got her start at Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering intern and later worked in product development and planning. Burns climbed the corporate ladder, assuming new roles as senior vice president and later president. More than 25 years later, Burns was finally promoted to CEO in 2009. Burns has already faced many challenges trying to improve sales and get customers buying again. Burns' industry knowledge and business smarts have helped Xerox tackle some of these issues and prepare for the future of printing.


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