At a not-so-distant point in history, the idea of a woman holding a prominent role in a multi-national or Fortune 500 company was considered a foolish notion. But the tides have turned in the last century - and even more so in the last few years.
The number of women heading companies in prominent roles such as president or chief executive officer (CEO) are growing, as are the number of women sitting on corporate boards. In a 10-year span from 1995, the percentage of female corporate officers increased from 8.7 percent to 16.4 percent, say reports from Catalyst, a not-for-profit, women-based organization. Although that's a significant jump, it would still take 40 years or more at that rate for women to catch up to the numbers of men serving as corporate officers.
However, progress is progress. And an additional sign of progress is that fewer corporate officers are judged on their gender these days, but rather on the accomplishments they bring to the business table. Still, despite female CEOs' reluctance to zero-in on their position/gender, it is important to recognize the accomplishments of remarkable women to inspire young women who have aspirations of following in their footsteps.
Every year Forbes magazine compiles a list of the 50 most influential and powerful women in business. For 2007, the list includes some familiar faces and some to-watch-for newcomers. Here are those women ranked one to 10 from Forbes' list.
1. Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.
2. Ann Mulcahy, Chairman and CEO of Xerox.
3. Meg Whitman, President and CEO of eBay.
4. Angela Braly, President and CEO of Wellpoint.
5. Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods.
6. Pat Woertz, Chairman, CEO, and President of Archer Daniels Midland.
7. Susan Arnold, President, Global Business Units of Procter & Gamble.
8. Oprah Winfrey, Chairman of Harpo.
9. Andrea Jung, Chairman and CEO of Avon Products.
10. Brenda Barnes, Chairman and CEO of Sara Lee.