Recognizing Women Pioneers of Business and Marketing

Posted by Tessa Wegert on March 08, 2016

There’s an unofficial holiday for just about everything these days, from Star Wars to Nutella. Today is different. Originally called International Working Women’s Day and dating back to 1909, International Women’s Day is a major global event. It’s an opportunity to praise not just the social, cultural, and political accomplishments of women everywhere, but their achievements in the workplace as well.

And there’s a lot to talk about. As recently as 1972, just 38 percent of American workers were women. By December of 2014, that number was up to 47 percent—51 percent in technical and professional occupations. There are now 73 million working women, and they’re revolutionizing every industry from marketing to engineering and transportation.

When we think of female business leaders, it’s often Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg or Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer who come to mind. Let’s take a look at a few other trailblazers, and the colossal impact that they—like Sandberg and Mayer—have had on business and marketing in America.

Frieda Caplan, founder of Frieda’s Inc.

Since starting her exotic produce company in 1962, Frieda Caplan has been building a trusted wholesale produce brand and establishing herself as an authority in a male-dominated industry. The “Queen of Kiwi” was the first to bring the kiwi and countless other unusual items to American grocery store shelves. Now in her 90s, she continues to grow her Orange County-based company, which employs three generations of Caplan women.

Laura Henderson, Global Head of Content & Media Monetization, Mondelez International

With women now generating 70 to 80 percent of all purchases, businesses are reassessing how they market to female consumers. “Marketing more effectively to women will improve the bottom line of our companies—and lead to greater equality in our society,” Sheryl Sandberg has said.

One way to approach this challenge is by putting the marketing duties in a woman’s hands. When Mondelez International hired Laura Henderson as its first ever head of content and media monetization, she embraced the role and worked to develop high-quality, sales-friendly content for the company’s snack brands. In addition to helping Oreo make history by running the first ever Super Bowl ads bought through software, Henderson has been”reimagining” communications to keep beloved consumer brands like Ritz, Triscuit, and Cadbury top of mind.

Mondelez is proving that it’s progressive in other ways as well. According to reports, its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Irene Rosenfeld is among the highest-paid female CEOs.

Rashmi Sinha, CEO and Co-founder, SlideShare

It may appear as though startups are a man’s game. Just 3 percent of tech startups in Silicon Valley have women founders, while only 6.5 percent boast a female CEO. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that tech companies with women at the helm generate a 35 percent higher return on investment, and that the past decade has seen the number of women-owned businesses with revenue upwards of $10 million increase by more than 56 percent.

Among those companies is SlideShare, co-founded by Rashmi Sinha in 2006. In the years since then, Sinha has made Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and Fast Company‘s World’s Top 10 Women Influencers in Web 2.0 lists. SlideShare, meanwhile, was acquired by LinkedIn, is now visited by 70 million people each month, and has changed the way professionals share business and marketing content.

Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar, Chairman of the Board of Veniam

Before transportation solutions like Uber there was Zipcar, co-founded by entrepreneur Robin Chase in 2000. Chase didn’t rest on her laurels after selling one of the world’s largest car-sharing networks to Avis for close to $500 million. Since then she has helped to launch both Buzzcar and connected vehicle network Veniam to further transform the way the world drives.

Debbie Sterling, CEO of GoldieBlox

Only about 14 percent of engineers in the U.S. are women. If Debbie Sterling has anything to say about it, that will soon change. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design, Sterling created GoldieBlox, a construction toy specifically designed for young girls. By giving girls the tools they need to develop their spatial skills and boosting their interest in math and science, Sterling hopes to encourage more women to pursue a career in the engineering field. Thanks to her award-winning product and promotional videos that are both inspiring and empowering, Sterling has secured a spot for GoldieBlox in more than 6,000 retailers nationwide.

These are but five business innovators among thousands who are breaking new ground in marketing and beyond—and paving the way for the next generation of women leaders in process.

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About the author

Tessa Wegert Tessa Wegert is a freelance writer covering business, marketing, technology, and more. Her work has appeared in such publications as Business Insider, Adweek, Mashable, and USA Today.

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