Crazy Important Lessons from Fortune 500 Female CEOs

August 28, 2015

There are generalized views about the Best and Worst Industries for Women to Work in based on the number of female leaders holding top positions. There’s no secret about the fact that IT is generally still viewed as a “Boys Club” but if you take a look at the top 3 women CEO’s of fortune 500 companies, 2 of them are IT. Though chivalry states that women are the “the delicate half of the human race”, you’ll see that these female CEOs have had their fair share of mind boggling situations and have handled them incredibly.

Mary Barra – General Motors (Fortune 500 Ranking: 7)

Mary BarraAs the first female CEO of a major global automaker, Barra came straight into the spotlight when she was appointed CEO at GM. She’s no stranger to success, working her way up from co-op student at the company, to Executive VP of Global Product Development and finally CEO. She’s also on the Board of Stanford University so I’d confidently say she’s one of the few women who’s broken the barrier of being accepted as a leader.

She’s no stranger to tough situations either. Some may say she was handed a tough deal and was forced to declare a 39 million car recall and even had to appear before the US Senate to testify about deaths and injuries due to a faulty ignition. However, after overcoming these challenges, she’s leading GM to becoming a financially smarter company by pulling out of certain countries and re branding key vehicles.

Lesson: Overcome your sh*t – find success. 

Meg Whitman – Hewlett-Packard (Fortune 500 Ranking: 17)

Meg WhitmanWhitman is no stranger at being in executive positions. She’s held them at Disney, Dreamworks, Proctor & Gamble, Hasbro, and eBay. She’s got her plate full this year with HP’s upcoming split into two companies – HP Enterprise which she will continue to lead and HP Inc. She was once voted as most likely to be America’s first female president. Her great fortune comes from self-made wealth and success at eBay.

I came across an interesting story about Whitman and a situation where she shoved a coworker right before an interview while at eBay. The case was settled after she payed $ 200,000. Here’s the lesson of this story: her success continues to highlight the fact that she took eBay from being a company of 30 employees and 4 million dollars in revenue to over 15,000 employees and 8 billion dollars of revenue.

Lesson: Everyone has a bad day – handle it, move on. #LeadershipLessons

Virginia Rometty – IBM (Fortune 500 Ranking: 23)

Ginni RomettyAs a long standing power leader, Rometty has been in Fortune’s list of “50 Most Powerful Women” for ten years! If that doesn’t spell leadership success, I don’t know what does. She moved up the leadership ladder at IBM by starting off as a Systems Engineer, eventually becoming Senior Vice President and Group Executive for Sales, Marketing and Strategy and currently the CEO.

Like her other female CEO peers, she hasn’t had smooth sailing either. She has faced 11 consecutive quarters of revenue declines and maintains the sole focus of the company as shifting business portfolios to boost profit margins and increasing growth. IBM’s sold businesses that made billions but still lost money or just broke even. Seems like she still has a struggle ahead of her.

Lesson #3: Tough situations are everywhere – keep finding solutions. 

Take these lessons from these awesome female CEOs and use them. If you do, let me know below.

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