Championing Change: Spotlighting Remarkable Women CEOs

“Empowering women isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. When women succeed, nations are more safe, more secure, and more prosperous.” – Barack Obama

 

The Carson Women’s CEO Strategy is driven by a clear mission: to cast a spotlight on women occupying the highest echelon of corporate leadership. The aim is not just to showcase individual achievements, but to instigate a fundamental shift in perception. By normalizing the presence of women at the pinnacle of success, we pave the way for future generations to pursue their aspirations without constraints. It’s high time we shatter the glass ceiling, the invisible barrier thwarting women’s ascent to senior leadership positions. Instead of sugar-coating it as a glass ceiling, I opt for a more accurate term: systemic bias. With only 8% of S&P 500 companies boasting a female CEO and less than 3% having majority female boards, the stark reality of this egregious inequality cannot be ignored.

These systemic biases permeate our society, often attributing maternal instincts to successful women. There’s a tendency to assume that female CEOs achieve success through a team-oriented approach or by valuing input from others, traits typically associated with care and nurturing. While it’s true that women CEOs often exhibit traits like humility and a preference for organic growth over acquisitions, pigeonholing them with any set of characteristics only serves to perpetuate stereotypes and reinforce systemic biases.

Therefore, I find immense satisfaction in highlighting women who have risen to the top in some of the most male-dominated industries. These include industries such as defense, home building, oil drilling, and diesel truck engines – fields typically associated with the image of a rugged man with grease-stained hands. I’d also like to mention the fields of technology and biotechnology, where despite a growing number of women graduating with degrees in STEM fields, leadership in these fields remains perniciously dominated by men. Female representation in these fields has stagnated around 20%, with the gender gap widening as one ascends the corporate ladder.

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Here are just a few of the powerful women that standout in male-dominated industries:

Carol Tomé – Carol is undeniably one of the most remarkable corporate leaders of modern times. With nearly 20 years serving as the CFO the Home Depot, she was the key architect in the company’s expansion from 400 stores to more than 2,200 stores. During her tenure, Home Depot vastly outgrew competitors like Lowes and Ace Hardware, establishing an enduring competitive advantage. Shortly after retiring, Carol was tapped to lead UPS in 2020 which faced a daunting increase in demand for deliveries during the COVID pandemic. Carol’s decisive leadership was instrumental in navigating the crisis. By refocusing on small and medium-sized businesses and capitalizing on the most lucrative growth opportunities, Carol has positioned UPS for sustained success. She exemplifies extraordinary leadership and delivers enduring prosperity to the businesses she leads.

Kathy Warden – As the CEO of Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s premier defense contractors, Kathy Warden commands a position of immense influence. Northrop’s portfolio includes the iconic F-35 fighter jet and the groundbreaking B-21 Raider stealth bomber. Kathy’s extensive experience in cybersecurity, coupled with her visionary leadership in artificial intelligence, makes her the perfect fit to lead the company into the future. Under her guidance, Northrop Grumman made strategic moves like the acquisition of Orbital ATK, renowned for its missile systems and propulsion technology, positioning the company favorably as the US intensifies its focus on hypersonic missiles. Kathy’s expertise extends to space-based projects as well, earning accolades for Northrop’s contributions to the James Webb Space Telescope and the Mars Rover. In an era of evolving warfare, Northrop Grumman is well positioned for success under Kathy’s exceptional leadership.

Vicki Hollub – Breaking barriers as the CEO of Occidental Petroleum, Vicki Hollub is the first woman to lead a major American oil company. Her career began as an engineer, where she toiled on oil rigs in Mississippi. Twenty-five years, she orchestrated Occidental’s strategic expansion into the Permian Basin, a move that solidified the company’s position in the shale oil industry. Located in West Texas, the Permian Basin shale oil assets became the company’s crown jewels under her leadership. Despite her track record of growing the division profitably and efficiently, it took another decade for Vicki Hollub to reach the role of CEO. Her appointment came during a particularly severe downturn in the oil patch. However, despite facing great skepticism, she successfully navigated Oxy through the challenging times, to become one of the top ten oil producers in the country.

Fearless women like these have shattered barriers that never should have existed in the first place. Despite their remarkable achievements, the stark numbers reveal that our society still has a long road ahead to achieve workplace equality and equity for women. While Carson’s Women CEO Strategy is only a small initiative, it’s meant to serve as a catalyst for important conversations about progress and the steps needed to accelerate change. At the current pace, women are projected to account for less than 25% of CEOs by the time my daughter begins her corporate career—an unacceptable reality that we must work tirelessly to change.

 

For more content by Jake Bleicher, Portfolio Manager click here.

 

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