Women in Business: Food, Retail and Tech Industries Dominate Fortune Top 50 Women in Business List

Number one on Fortune’s top 50 Women in Business list for 2012 is IBM President/CEO Ginni Rometty, who advanced from #7 on the 2011 list. Rometty oversaw the $3.6 billion acquisition of PwC international business consulting firm, which employs over 180,000 people in 158 countries. She has worked for IBM since 1981, and served as Senior VP and Group Executive for Sales, Marketing and Strategy, overseeing this division in 170 global markets. She became President and CEO on January 1, 2012, and was elected Chairman of IBM’s Board of Directors October 1. Ginny’s educational background is in math and science, with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwestern University. At age 55, this places her in a very small group of women who have technical degrees and who have also achieved significant business success. Directly after college, she worked at the General Motors Institute, where a number of highly-successful executives got their start. The GM Institute put recent graduates in a variety of jobs in different departments at the car company. Later, the GM Institute became independent Kettering University: that’s how good it was.

PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi was number two on Fortune’s list in 2011 and 2012, but has been selected as number one in five previous years. Indra was born in Chennai (also called Madras) and is also frequently mentioned as being among the world’s most powerful women in general. Her undergraduate degree is from Madras Christian College, and she also has an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. She came to the U.S. in 1978 to attend Yale University, where she received a Master’s in Public and Private Management. She was a business consultant with major firm Boston Consulting Group, and also worked for Motorola prior to joining PepsiCo in 1994. She has overseen a sustained increase in corporate revenue and profit growth since she entered corporate leadership at PepsiCo, first as CFO (2000), and then as President/CFO (2001) and Chairman/CEO (2006). She is also #3 on Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful Moms list. She has led PepsiCo toward increased revenues from healthy or healthier products, divesting the firm of ties to junky snack food and emphasizing low-cal drinks and high-fiber oatmeal. PepsiCo is also moving away from use of fossil fuels whenever possible, and is contributing toward campaigns against obesity. Indra sings Karaoke and is regarded as a deeply caring CEO and leader.

Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO and 2010 California gubernatorial candidate, is #3 on Fortune’s list. Whitman has been President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard since September, 2011. A Princeton and Harvard Business School graduate, Whitman is currently also serving as a board member for Zipcar, Teach for America, and Procter & Gamble. Whitman suffered difficulties adjusting to political campaigning from the boardroom and executive office during her 2010 candidacy for California Governor, but did put together a detailed plan for recovery of California’s economy, improved jobs, and improved funding and results from the K-12 education system. Meg achieved remarkable success while at eBay, growing the company from a few thousand customers to 50 million. Her husband, Griffith R. Harsh IV is a neurosurgeon. Meg experienced the hailstorm of criticism aimed at all political candidates, especially first-timers, including accusations from her former housekeeper (an undocumented worker) and criticism of her young adult sons Will and Griff.

Irene Rosenfeld, former Chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods (founded 1761), and Chairman/CEO of Mondelez Foods as of October, 2012, was #1 on the Forbes list in 2011, but fell to 4th place in 2012 because of the corporate split between Kraft and Mondelez that she planned and engineered. Rosenfeld had served as CEO and Chairman of Kraft since its split from Altria Group in 2006. Many people were unaware that the delicious Kraft food products they enjoyed were corporately tied to Philip Morris (tobacco) under the Altria banner. Mondelez Foods now operates the global snack and other foods manufactured by Kraft, manufacturing, distributing and selling foods in 170 countries, with an estimated first-year revenue of $36 billion. What do they sell? Biscuits (aka “cookies” in the US), cheese and grocery items, beverages, gum and candy, and . . . wait for it . . . 27% of their sales are chocolate. I personally chew Trident and Stride gum, which they make, and yes – I’ve tried “natural” substitutes that fall apart after a few chews. Which chocolate, might you ask? Milka, Toblerone and . . . Cadbury! As to “biscuits,” why they make . . . Oreos. Highly educated, Ms. Rosenfeld has a BA in Psychology, MS in Business, and Ph.D. in Marketing and Statistics from Cornell University. Her favorite Kraft product is of course macaroni and cheese, and when she was little, she wanted to grow up to be President of the U.S.

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