By Liz Kudwa
March is Women’s History Month so instead of the typical “Ask the Business Reference Librarian!” column this week, I’m paying tribute to some of the great business-women in the United States. It wasn’t hard to find women to write about for this article. There are literally thousands of accomplished and entrepreneurial women, both from history as well as present-day, from which to choose. All have greatly influenced business in the United States. This article highlights just a few of the women which I found most interesting.
(1963 – ) – Group President of Liz Claiborne
Born in Detroit, MI she was the first person from her high school to attend Harvard University. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1989 she joined global consulting company McKinsey & Company. In 1995 she became the first African American woman partner. In September of 1999, she was appointed president of CNBC.com and became NBC’s highest ranking African American executive. She has won numerous awards and says she has three guiding principles: “aim high, find mentors, and maintain balance.”
Andrea Jung (1958 – ) – Chairman and CEO of Avon Products
Jung started her career working in retail and merchandising and then, as a single mother, decided to change her focus so she could spend more time with her daughter. She began consulting with Avon on their line of intimate apparel and in 1993 she joined Avon as president of U.S. marketing. In November of 1999, Andrea Jung joined the three other female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. After being passed over fifteen months before, she was asked to take the top position at Avon Products. This placed her as the highest ranking Asian American woman, the highest ranking woman of color in corporate America, and the first woman to lead Avon. She has been on Fortune Magazine’s list of the most powerful corporate women since 1998 and is number 7 this year.
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley
(1818 – 1907) – Dressmaker, Entrepreneur
Was born to slaves in Dinwiddie Courthouse, VA and her master was Colonel A. Burwell. After Burwell loaned her to Anne Garland, one of his daughters, Elizabeth started dressmaking and invented a system for cutting and fitting dresses. Eventually she developed a clientele among St. Louis society women and supported the 17 member Garland family with her earnings. She persuaded her master to grant freedom to her and her son for $1,200. At her peak she was one of the most popular dressmakers in the city and employed 20 young women, teaching them sewing, elegance and charm. She was recommended to Mary Todd Lincoln and ended up designing her inaugural ball gown, which is now in the Smithsonian.
Indra Nooyi (1955 – ) – President & CFO of PepsiCo
She first appeared on Fortune Magazine’s list of most powerful women in American business in 2000, in the number 43 spot. This year she is number 1 on their list and as of 2005 is the highest-ranking Indian-born woman in the U.S. corporate world. Nooyi was born and educated in India, receiving an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta. Her first job was for Johnson & Johnson in India and she began her U.S. career directing international group strategy for a Boston consulting group. In February 2000 she became President and CFO of PepsiCo. She believes strongly in expanding her skills and one of her goals is to read a book every day.
Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887 – 1973) – “First woman tycoon” & Director of General Foods Corporation
Marjorie’s father was a farm equipment salesman and frequent traveler prone to depression and digestive problems. In 1893 he moved from Illinois to Battle Creek, MI (where Marjorie was born) where he could be treated at John Harvey Kellogg’s Sanitarium. Marjorie’s father disliked coffee so he invented Postum and eventually Grape Nuts and Post Toasties. After her father died in 1914 she inherited the company. Marjorie’s first two husbands sat on the board of directors in her place which was customary at that time, and she took over as president and owner in 1935 until her death. In 1929 the company was renamed General Foods Corporation and was the largest food company in the U.S. at that time.
Source – Encyclopedia of American Women in Business from Colonial Times to the Present