Compelo - latest news, features and insight on influencers and innovators within business is using cookies

We use them to give you the best experience. If you continue using our website, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on this website.

ContinueLearn More

Women in business: Are these the most fearless?

Take a look at these women in business who certainly weren’t intimidated by gender discrimination.

Women are well and truly making their mark on the business world - have a glance at some of the most powerful women in business and their inspiring journeys.

Indra Nooyi

Born in Chennai to a Tamil-speaking family, Indra Nooyi’s journey through the business world has been extraordinary.

Widespread recognition of Nooyi’s exceptional business accruement emerged subsequent to her joining PepsiCo in 1994 and making CEO by 2006.

Famed for pushing PepsiCo toward healthier food and drinks, investors have learnt to trust Nooyi’s exceptional business intuition.Nooyi International Women's DayDespite her acclaim, Nooyi is the first to admit that maintaining a work-life balance isn’t easy. She regularly talks of ‘heartaches’ throughout her career, where time with her daughters and husband has been sacrificed.

Further to acknowledging personal difficulties faced by female CEOs, Nooyi feels passionately that women in business must support each other rather than tearing one another down.

‘I don’t believe women help women enough in the workplace. What’s wrong with us women? We ought to be helping each other out.’

Sheryl Sandberg

Born in Washington but raised in Miami, Sandberg is one of the most well-known women in business of modern times. Sandberg’s academic record is nothing short of exceptional, eventually achieving a prize as the top graduating student in economics from Harvard.

After a stint working for Larry Summers during the presidency of Bill Clinton, Sandberg ditched politics and headed for Silicon Valley, working for Google from 2001 onwards.

Mark Zuckerberg encountered Sandberg by chance at a Christmas party and subsequently poached her from Google in March 2008, as COO of Facebook.Sandberg is also an avid writer and released her first book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, in 2013. Subsequent to publishing Lean In, she sponsored the Ban Bossy campaign, condemning the use of the term ‘bossy’ when referring to women and girls.

Sandberg comments frequently on gender disparity in the workplace, emphasising the devastating impact of social perceptions about women in business.

‘For men, likeability and success is correlated. As they get more successful, more powerful, they’re better liked. For women, success and likability are negatively correlated. As a woman gets more successful, more powerful - she is less liked.’

Ursula Burns

Raised by a single mother in a New York city housing project, Burns has defied odds by becoming the first black-American female CEO to head a Fortune 500 company.

Initially working for Xerox as a summer intern, Burns subsequently secured a permanent job and remained at the company throughout her twenties. After being promoted to executive assistant for a number of senior figures and then VP, Burns was named CEO in 2009.Burns international women's dayBurns’ exceptional journey through a white-male dominated business world is nothing short of inspiring. In interviews and statements on the subject of discrimination, her courage is admirable.

‘Women are different than men, and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for the world, it’s a good thing for men, it’s a damn good thing for women. I think women should have their distinct place in the world that they define, that nobody else defines… That they define.’

Elizabeth Holmes

As the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, Elizabeth Holmes is a force to be reckoned with. Having started her first company in high school, it’s unsurprising that her business, Theranos, is now valued at $9 billion.

Aspiring to make healthcare accessible to all people at any time, Theranos was founded by Holmes during her sophomore year at Stanford. The company is famed for its fingerstick and small sample volume blood test technology.Holmes international women's dayOutside of work, Holmes launched the Iron Sisters Campaign, aimed at bringing together women from around the world who are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Of all the fearless women in business, Holmes is certainly up there with the best.

‘I want every girl and every young woman out there to get the support they need. I want them to get the message that they can be the best. And I want them to get it especially from other women and girls on whom they can rely.’

Steve Shirley

Born to a Jewish father who lost his post during the Nazi regime, Shirley arrived to Britain in 1939 as a vulnerable child refugee. After an extraordinary career, she was promoted Dame Commander for her services to the fiercely male industry of Information Technology.

During the 1950s Shirley built computers from scratch and wrote code in machine language, and by 1962 she founded Freelance Programmers and focussed on creating job opportunities for women; only three of her first 300 employees were male.Shirley international women's dayAdopting a masculine name in order to help her succeed as a woman, Shirley’s company grew and their projects eventually included programming Concorde’s black box flight recorder.

Shirley talks openly on the plight of women in business, fusing her wicked sense of humour with motivational sentiment.

‘You can always tell ambitious women by the shape of our heads: they’re flat on top for being patted patronisingly, and we have larger feet to stand away from the sink.’