Pioneers And Icons: Women Who Blazed A Trail In Business

Pioneers And Icons:
Women Who Blazed A Trail In Business

The business world is starting to move with the times and is finding more space for women at senior levels. While the fight for true gender equality in the boardroom is not over, the tireless efforts of female rights activists has changed things for the better. A great example is the Fortune 500 companies in the US who now have a record 33 female CEO’s among their ranks.

One thing that has made a big difference has been the iconic female business leaders who blazed a trail for others to follow. These legendary women refused to take ‘No’ for an answer and used all their acumen and business skills to succeed. Along the way, they not only showed exactly what women can do in business when treated fairly but also served as inspiration for many more to follow. But exactly who are some of the most well-known and important to know about?

Lady Barbara Judge

One of the most legendary pioneers of women in the business world is Lady Barbara Judge. Over a long and successful career, she has shown exactly how effective women in the boardroom can be and has also campaigned tirelessly for gender equality in this area. In her illustrious business career, Lady Judge has worked as commercial lawyer along with holding senior executive, chair and non-executive director roles in both public and private business. Much of this was during times when being a woman in these roles was even less accepted than it is today! As such, she proved an inspiration for any women following in her wake and showed that it was possible to rise to the top of the business world.

Oprah Winfrey

You may not automatically think of this amazing person when considering female business pioneers who led the way in social change. However, the entertainment sector is as much a business as any other – Winfrey has certainly pioneered exactly what can be achieved as a woman in the media. As such, she has given other women in this industry the blueprint for how to achieve their goals. She first came to prominence in the 1980’s with her smash hit chat show and has used her ensuing fame to great effect. Along with her women’s lifestyle magazine and news channel, she also uses her Angel Network to raise money to be given to non-profit charities.

Debbi Fields

Another pioneering female entrepreneur is Debbi Fields. If anyone can show what can be achieved with a dream and some hard work, it is this iconic lady. Originally setting up her first cookie shop in 1977, she soon went on to get a bank loan to set up the ‘Mrs Fields Chocolate Chippery’ company. This turned out to be a real success and saw Fields gain wealth and worldwide acceptance as a business leader. On the back of this, she was able to host a weekly TV show, author numerous cookbooks and sit on the boards of various businesses. At a time when the fight for gender equality in business was starting to be discussed, she paved the way for many to follow.

Dame Anita Roddick

The Body Shop was one of the biggest business success stories of its time and single-handedly got people using ethical, organic cosmetics. At its peak, the chain had over 2,100 stores and more than 70 million customers. The first shop opened in 1976 in Brighton, England, and at the helm for the whole journey until 2002 was Dame Anita Roddick. Roddick was everything that a pioneering businesswoman should be – bright, passionate, compassionate and smart. Her business acumen allowed the Body Shop to grow to a point in 2006 when the L’Oréal Group brought it. Sadly, she has now passed away but will always be remembered as a true icon for women in business globally.

Gina Rinehart

This may not be a name you are familiar with, but she is a key figure for the tough sector she operates within. In 1992, Rinehart’s father passed away and left the family business in her charge. When you learn that the business was a mining company which operates in traditionally macho Australia, her importance in the changing business world becomes clear. Rinehart showed to all that women can operate just as well in environments like this and do as good a job as any man. With a personal fortune of over $11 billion, it is fair to say she has done very well and proved an inspiration to any woman wanting to break into traditionally male-dominated sectors.

Future looks bright for women in business

Although there is still a lot of work to be done for women to get a fair deal in business, the above have certainly made it a lot easier. They have shown other women what can be achieved with hard work and also changed attitudes to women in business along the way. For this, they should be applauded.