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Innovative, educated and persistent; the world’s most powerful women stand as inspirational role models, encouraging females from all backgrounds to believe that they can achieve anything with the right attitude. From glass ceilings to gender pay gaps and juggled roles to societal pressures and expectations, there are many issues unique to the working female. These potential concerns only add to the veritable avalanche of challenges any ambitious businessperson faces throughout their career. Seeking motivation? Look no further. Below are five profiles of some of the world’s most successful female figures.
Marissa Mayer – President and CEO of Yahoo!
Mayer, a former long-time Google exec, made headlines around the world when she banned telecommuting at Yahoo! in 2013. If anything, the backlash strengthened her ranking as no. 8 on Fortune magazine’s list of America’s most powerful businesswomen for that year. In 1999 she joined Google as its 20th employee. Being on the ground floor for this company’s meteoric rise was an extraordinary opportunity, but she also had brains and bravado. After becoming president of Yahoo!, she wasn’t scared to rein in the popular work-from-home practice, which she determined was detracting from business.
Arianna Huffington – The Huffington Post Founder and Namesake
Launched in 2005 as an alternative news commentary outlet, the Huffington Post struck a popular nerve without compromising quality; it was the first commercial digital media entity to win a Pulitzer Prize. Born in Athens, Greece, Huffington followed an early childhood dream of studying at Cambridge in the UK. Aged 16, she started Economics at Cambridge, and became the first foreign – and third female – president of the Cambridge Union. Marrying an American in 1986, she rose to national US prominence in the mid-1990s through her then husband’s political campaign.
Dame Anita Roddick – The Body Shop
Although Roddick died in 2007, she lives on through a chain of ethical beauty-product stores found in malls throughout the Western world. Born in Britain in 1942, she was a savvy businesswoman, environmental campaigner and human rights activist. Roddick opened the first Body Shop store in Brighton in 1976 to support her husband and two daughters while her husband travelled in South America. The store’s success was immediate and continued. By 2004 there were 1980 stores throughout the world; in 2006 L’Oreal bought The Body Shop.
Gail Kelly – CEO of Westpac Australia
Born in South Africa in 1956, Gail Kelly is the highest paid woman in an Australian corporation. She studied History, Latin, and received a Diploma in Education at the University of Cape Town. She started as a bank teller with the South African Nedcor Bank in 1980 before being fast-tracked and completing an MBA. Disillusioned with South Africa, the family relocated to Sydney in 1997 after Kelly was interviewed by Australia’s four major banks and took a senior position with the Commonwealth Bank. In 2002 she moved to St George Bank as CEO and in 2008, Westpac poached her as CEO.
Sheryl Sandberg – Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
Born into a Jewish-American family in 1969, Sandberg is an activist, businesswoman and writer. In 2013 she became Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. Sandberg’s maternal grandmother profoundly affected her life – she grew up in a poor Jewish family in New York City, and completed high school despite being pulled out during the Great Depression. Sheryl Sandberg graduated from North Miami Beach High School near the top of her class – during which time she taught aerobics – and graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Business School. In 2012 TIME magazine named her as one of the most 100 influential people in the world; in 2014 she was reported to be worth more than $US1 billion in stock.
Are you feeling inspired? Do you have a favourite profile? Which other women would you vote as inspirational career models? If you are seeking high-powered or international roles, consult a global human resources corporation such as Chandler Macleod .