Women have come a long way in business, but there’s still a long way to go. Only 4.6% of CEOs worldwide are currently female and the pay gap in many countries has stayed static for the last decade. Even so, looking at the global statistics on women entrepreneurs it’s apparent that there’s been a huge leap towards equality when it comes to startups. In Australia, a recent survey reveals a jump from 19% of entrepreneurs being women in 2013 to a stunning 34% in 2015. That’s a rise from 1 in 6 being women to 1 in 4 in just two years. This growth is not just good for women, it’s good for business. There are some inspiring women leaders today who’ve revolutionised their companies, started new businesses and brought innovation to flagging industries. They’re all over the world and we can learn much from their experiences.
A recent survey in Australia reveals a jump from 19% of entrepreneurs being women in 2013 to a 34% in 2015.
Sibongile Sambo: Founder and MD of SRS Aviation, South Africa
Sibongile Sambo began her life in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, watching planes fly overhead and dreaming of one day flying them and discovering the world. In 2003 the South African Government introduced the Black Economic Empowerment Act, a framework which offers support for black South African entrepreneurs. Sibongiledecided to take advantage of the opportunity and raised capital through loans from her aunt and mother to start her own aviation business, SRS Aviation. After receiving her first contract from the South African government, SRS Aviation became the first completely black African run business to be given full rights for commercial flying activities and has set up across six different locations in South Africa. She now does motivational speaking tours around Africa to encourage girls to reach their goals.
Maria das Graças Silva Foster: CEO of Petrobras-Petróleo Brasil, Brazil
Maria das Graças Silva Foster began her life in a poor family, living in the slums outside of Rio da Janeiro. She credits her early success to her mother, who supported her in her decision to study a degree in chemical engineering. She was hired as an intern by Petrobras-Petróleo Brasil in 1978 and began a career that would see her become the world’s first woman to head a major oil-and-gas company. Foster sometimes discusses the difficulty of progress in this male dominated industry, but still, encourages women to take the risk. In a recent interview with the Brazilian newspaper Valor Econômico, Foster said, “[Women] have to be prepared to go to work in these companies, [we] have to enter into the market. The market is ready … for talent, competence and education.”
Chanda Kochhar: MD and CEO of ICIC Bank, India
Born in 1961, Chandra Kochar began working as a management trainee for ICIC Bank after graduating from her master’s degree. It took her 10 years to be promoted to AGM, but her talents for expansion, innovation and new technologies were soon recognised. She went through five more promotions to become MD and CEO in 2009. As well as her role at ICIC, Ms. Kochhar is a member of the US-India CEO Forum and the India – Japan Business Leaders Forum. She has also received a number of awards for the pioneering work she’s led within her bank, industry and country during a time of economic crisis. She’s a mother of two and strong advocate for working mothers. In 2011 she received the Padma Bhushan award, one of India’s highest civilian honours.
Chanda went through five more promotions to become MD and CEO in 2009. As well as her role at ICIC, Ms Kochhar is a member of the US-India CEO Forum and the India – Japan Business Leaders Forum.
Carolyn McCall: CEO of EasyJet, UK
Touted as the ‘CEO who saved EasyJet’, McCall began her career in publishing and took over a company under threat 2010. Under Carolyn McCall’s leadership, EasyJet was one of only a few which managed to not only survive but thrive during the financial crisis. Net income for EasyJet for the 2014 financial year came to 450 million pounds, on revenue of more than £4.5 billion. She’s managed to steer the company through the increasingly competitive European market, a strategy based on her recognition of the gains to be made from capturing more of the business and luxury class of traveller.
As well as her exemplary professional performance and enormous net worth, Sandberg’s great achievements include publishing several highly influential bestselling books about women in business.
Sheryl Sandberg: COO of Facebook, USA
Sheryl Sandberg is a rare combination of feminist activist and successful business woman. Appointed Facebook’s COO in 2007, she turned the company around within 3 years and created unprecedented profits by introducing a range of new approaches. As well as her exemplary professional performance and enormous net worth, Sandberg’s great achievements include publishing several highly influential bestselling books about women in business, the most famous being Lean In, published in 2013.
In Lean In, Sandberg points out that the world is still mostly male dominated, looks at barriers to women’s’ progress and presents a behavioural ‘toolbox’ to help women get ahead. In 2014 she started the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign as an attempt to counteract the stigma attached to assertive women and has donated more than $100,000,000 in Facebook stock to charities and projects devoted to women.
Güler Sabanci: Chair-Managing Director, Sabanci Holding, Turkey
Güler Sabanci is the first woman to run Sabanci Holding, Turkey’s second-largest conglomerate. This giant has a portfolio of more than 70 companies across 11 countries and a reported $16.5 billion in revenue for 2015. Started as a textile company by her grandfather in the 1930s, the company has flourished under her guidance. She’s known as an advocate of women’s equality and has received multiple awards for philanthropy including David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award, Clinton Global Citizen Award and the Raymond Georis Innovative Philanthropist Award. In a recent Harvard Business School interview, she offered the following insight on how she helped pull the company through hard times; “It was a difficult period for Turkey- the ‘60s, the ‘70s. If you look at that period, to be able to grow and do projects did require… analytical thinking, having a long-term vision, feeling the trends, and also taking risks in certain areas.”