Let’s be honest: It’s not exactly ideal that we have to make a special effort to highlight successful companies helmed by women. In a different world, women holding top jobs would be as ordinary as saying there are 24 hours in a day.
But, this is current state of the world right now: Last year, we celebrated a record-breaking 33 companies in the Fortune 500 with female CEOs — a 6.6% proportion. There are currently no Black women on that list. The single woman of color is Yum China CEO Joey Wat. In 2018, an NYT investigation found that, in the Fortune 500, there are fewer chief executives who are women than there are men named James. The numbers are better for executive and senior-level management positions in general, with 26.5% of senior management in the S&P 500 being women.
So what can we do to help change the future of gender equity in the C-suite? Well, for one, greater awareness of companies that are being led by forward-thinking women can help us decide which to support. Ahead, we’ve rounded up nine businesses — whether they’re big national chains or just starting to take the world by storm — that you can support right this minute.
Led by: Alexis Ander Kashar, founder and CEO
Founder Alexis Ander Kashar creates beautiful 14k-gold jewelry that depicts “I love you” in American Sign Language. Formerly a civil rights lawyer, Kashar began RoseBYANDER when she realized that wearing a unique piece of jewelry could open the door to many conversations about accessibility and the deaf community. Coming from a family with three generations of people who are deaf, and being deaf herself, Kashar is a passionate advocate for more dialog around how our society can be more inclusive.
Led by: Eliza Blank, founder and CEO
In the past few years, tending to houseplants has gone from a hobby we associated with the post-retirement demographic to an undeniably millennial trend. Eliza Blank got the jump on this new era of greenery when she founded online plant store, The Sill back in 2012. Now it’s not so much a company as it is a lifestyle, delivering a wide range of faux and live plants, as well as pots, gardening tools, and even apparel.
Led by: Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi
Shine is an app that sends a motivational message every day to its users. It also connects you to an online community full of other women who may be struggling with self-care, anxiety, or other concerns. The first year it launched, Shine gained over 500,000 users. As women of color, Lidey and Hirabayashi knew firsthand the feeling that other people couldn’t quite understand their experiences, and the challenge of finding people with whom you could form a support network.
Led by: Shan-Lyn Ma, co-founder and CEO
The wedding industry is absolutely enormous — part of that means there are a lot of options. But often, that can be overwhelming, especially given just how many things are on a wedding to-do-list. Zola helps streamline your wedding planning by allowing you to design a wedding website, build a wedding registry (with free shipping and returns), and send out invitations all in one place. Shan-Lyn Ma and Nobu Nakaguchi founded the platform in 2013, and as of last year, Zola had a valuation of around $650 million.
Led by: Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO
TaskRabbit is definitely one of those ideas that makes so much sense now that we have it — have no time to complete a chore or a task you’re very bad at? Hire someone to do it for you! Current CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot joined TaskRabbit as COO in 2013, a time when the company was deliberating major decisions about its structure. She became CEO in 2016, and in 2017 Ikea acquired TaskRabbit. Today, Ikea offers assembly fulfilled by TaskRabbit. Brown-Philpot isn’t just credited with driving the company’s current success — she’s known for rolling up her sleeves and completing tasks on the site herself from time to time.
Led by: Michele Buck, CEO
That’s right, one of the largest candy empires in the world is ruled by a woman. Previous Hershey’s leaders have all been men, and since becoming CEO in 2017, Michele Buck has been steering the company to place a greater focus on corporate social responsibility. While she was the chief growth officer at Hershey’s, she drove an initiative to source sustainable cocoa, an effort that the company continues to pursue today. Last year, Hershey’s promised to pledge $500 million by 2030 to its Cocoa for Good program.
Led by: Desiree Perez, CEO
Jay-Z may be the founder of entertainment company Roc Nation — which includes not only a record label but sports, film, and TV divisions — but this past December, Desiree Perez was named CEO of it all. Roc Nation works with some of the biggest stars in music across several genres, including Rihanna, J. Cole, Meek Mill, Shakira, Solange, and Grimes. Last year, Perez was named Executive Of The Year by Billboard.
Led by: Sara Clemens, COO
Streaming platform Twitch first gained popularity as a place to watch eSports and game streamers. The male-centric community has long been accused of being unwelcoming if not downright toxic to women, and it’s this background that makes Sara Clemens’ role as COO of Twitch all the more meaningful. Acquired by Amazon in 2014 for almost $1 billion, today the site is a huge social network that boasts around 27.5 million active viewers a month. Since she became COO in 2018, Clemens has helped Twitch expand to arenas outside of gaming, including helping create a program called Playing Games With Politicians, where Senator Cory Booker was once a guest.
Led by: Mary Dillon, CEO
Since Mary Dillon took over as CEO in 2013, Ulta has become one of the fastest-growing retailers in the U.S. In January 2010, there were 346 Ulta stores in the country. Today, there are over 1,200. Part of this rapid growth is thanks to Ulta offering a wider range of non-luxury beauty products compared to competitors like Sephora, while also securing exclusive retail rights to sell popular brands like Kylie Cosmetics.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?