Career Advice from Fortune's Most Powerful Women in Business
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Fortune's 19th annual list of the Most Powerful Women in Business profiles 50 women who help run companies collectively worth more than $1 trillion. It includes heiresses and self-starters, CEOs and SVPs, auto leaders, and tech tycoons.
As Fortune notes, the list tallies active corporate executives, not powerful women writ large. So you may notice that one Hillary Clinton is not on the list. "Let’s state the obvious: Whether she is elected President in November or not, her candidacy is already having more impact on the nation than any woman in recent memory," Fortune's Jennifer Reingold writes.
Many of those at the top of the list are the first women to hold their posts. Some, like GM CEO Mary Barra, have been tasked with resurrecting a struggling company (and, for the most part, are succeeding). Others, like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, helped make some of the most successful companies in the world what they are today.
And all, of course, have found ways to thrive in a global business environment that still isn't as welcoming to women as it should be. So we looked into the archives for career advice to which some of the Most Powerful Women attribute their success. Here's what we found.
Mary Barra, General Motors CEO/Chairman
In just three short years, Mary Barra has made quite a name for herself: After becoming the first female to head the nation's largest auto company amid scandal and floundering sales, Barra has overseen something of a resurgence for GM: Earnings for the car company doubled from 2014 to 2015, and 2016 is looking to be even better. You can call her Detroit's comeback queen. The most powerful woman in business has worked at GM since she graduated from college in 1985.
In an interview with Refinery29 last year, Barra said,
Read Next: Mary Barra is Changing GM’s Culture—Now Can She Move Its Stock?
Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo. Chairman/CEO
Indra Nooyi has been Pepsi's CEO for a decade, and has been at the company for over 20 years in total. In that time, she's helped the company acquire major brands like Tropicana, Gatorade, and Quaker Oats. PepsiCo's market cap is up 18% in the past 12 months, according to Fortune, and investors are optimistic.
How'd she become the top executive at one of the world's largest companies? Nooyi told Fortune in 2014 that her best career advice was to "never stop learning," continuing,
Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin Chairman, CEO, and President
As the top-ranking official at the world's largest defense contractor, Marillyn Hewson has overseen record profits and doubled the company's stock price. She's been at the company for over 30 years, and worked her way up from engineer to CEO.
In a LinkedIn post, Hewson detailed five strategies for advancing your career. The main takeaway? The more opportunities and risks you take, the better.
Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO
The first female CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty has worked at the tech company for more than three decades, first as a systems engineer and later as a Senior Vice President before taking over as CEO in 2011.
At Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit in 2015, she said her best career advice for women is to "be comfortable with the fact that growth and comfort don't co-exist." While women tend to be risk averse, Rometty encourages risk-taking throughout your career. It was something she first elaborated on at the 2011 MPW Summit, just after being named CEO.
Abigail Johnson, Fidelity Investments CEO
With a net worth estimated at $13.1 billion by Forbes, Abigail Johnson is not only one of the wealthiest people in the world, she's also one of the most powerful in the financial sector. Johnson became the head of Fidelity Investments in 2014. The company is currently the nation's second-largest mutual fund company, managing over $2 trillion in assets.
In an interview with Moira Forbes, Johnson says the best advice she got from her father, former Fidelity CEO Edward "Ned" Johnson III, was to adopt "a relentless focus on continuing to try to improve everything you do" no matter how high up you get in an organization. She also advocated for a creative approach to business, saying the answer to a problem may be something that no one's ever tried before.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO
One of the most famous women on the list, Facebook COO and billionaire Sheryl Sandberg has made a name for herself as an advocate for working women. With stints at McKinsey & Company, Google, and now the world's top social media channel, she surely has the experience.
In a post on Quora, Sandberg advised workers to have a long-term dream and a short-term plan. And, of course, believe you can do anything.
Meg Whitman, Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO
Meg Whitman has been the head of HP since 2011. Whitman has long been an advocate for working women: Early in her career at Procter & Gamble, Whitman shook up the company culture by questioning why women weren't allowed to travel alone for business (or get a corporate credit card), according to Business Insider.
In 2005, Whitman advised women to get over their imposter syndrome.
As she told Forbes, it's something she learned firsthand at her job at Disney in the 1980s.
Phebe Novakovic, General Dynamics Chairman/CEO
Phebe Novakovic, a former CIA operative, is "thriving" as the head of General Dynamics, according to Fortune. The Washington Business Journal reports the company's stock has risen about 100% under her stewardship. In fact, 2015's record $3 billion profit was a 17% increase from 2014, according to Fortune.
Those who know her say she takes an "unemotional" approach to her work. It's something that came across during a rare interview with Carlyle Group CEO David Rubenstein at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. earlier this year, when she said:
Irene Rosenfield, Mondelez Chairman/CEO
Irene Rosenfield so impressed Warren Buffett when she was CEO of Kraft back in 2007 that he bought 8.6% of its stock, according to ABC News, and she turned the underperforming company around. "I used the phrase 'Let’s Get Growing' from the day I returned, and it became a rallying cry for our transformation," she told the Public Relations Society of America of her time at Kraft. Now, as CEO of the smaller Mondelez International, Rosenfield is under pressure to grow again.
Rosenfield has said she was lucky that companies didn't focus on the fact that she was a female, rather just that she was a good worker. Still, she acknowledges companies have a long way to go when it comes to diversifying their ranks. She encourages her workers to know what they want and what's important to them in their career.
Safra Catz, Oracle Co-CEO
Oracle's Safra Catz is the highest-paid female exec in the country, having received a $56.9 million pay package in 2015, according to Bloomberg. She started at the tech company in 1999 as a senior vice president, later becoming co-president and CFO and, in 2014, co-CEO. She's responsible for the manufacturing, finance, and legal divisions.
In a post for Fortune, Catz said leaders should learn to listen, think, and not be afraid to change their position.