5 Business Women Changing the World

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Businesswomen have been giving their male counterparts a run for their money for decades, and everyone knows the likes of Oprah Winfrey, who has changed the world through her philanthropic efforts as well as through her keen business sense. However, there are also some lesser-known businesswomen who are changing the world through their successful companies. 

Whether it is striving to provide health care to all, investing in a healthier future for customers, or donating to victims of natural disasters, below are five powerful businesswomen who are shaping the world today through their savvy business decisions and talents.

1. The Global Thinker: Indra Nooyi - Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo

A self-proclaimed “global thinker,” Indra Nooyi has not only delivered strong profits of $43 billion in sales for PepsiCo; her global vision and business philosophy have helped change the world. Nooyi has positioned PepsiCo in China, the Middle East, Mexico, and India, and she has spearheaded healthy living through its products. She has pushed the multi-billion-dollar company to target health-conscious, female consumers through such products as the Smartfood line and lower-calorie Tropicana drinks and Starbucks Frappuccino products.

Born in India and later becoming a US citizen, Nooyi was the chief dealmaker for PepsiCo’s acquisition of both Tropicana and Quaker Oats, and helped beat PepsiCo’s chief competitor, Coca-Cola, in acquiring the edgy beverage maker, SoBe. She is probably most well-known for her vision of delivering sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future of both consumers and the planet. She has committed PepsiCo’s to providing wholesome foods and beverages, as well as finding innovative ways to reduce the use of energy, water, and packaging. 

A graduate of Madras Christian College, Nooyi also holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta and a Master of Public and Private Management from Yale University.

2. The Global Innovator: Irene Rosenfeld - Chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods 

A former PepsiCo executive who once headed Frito-Lay, Irene Rosenfeld has been the Chief Executive Officer of Kraft Foods, Inc., and its division, Kraft Foods Ingredients Corp., since 2006 and Chairman since 2007. The 29-year veteran of the food and beverage industry brought Kraft Foods her recipe for success—a three-year turnaround plan designed to drive the company’s lucrative growth, which has included the acquisition of Cadbury—and has brought Kraft Foods to the level of $48 billion. This has made the company a global powerhouse in snacks, confectionery, and quick meals.

Rosenfeld’s global vision has led to the restructuring and turnaround of central businesses in Canada, Mexico, and the US, and Rosenfeld served on the team that successfully integrated the Nabisco acquisition. In addition, her community involvement is stellar, including her activity in The Economic Club of Chicago, the Grocery Manufacturers Association Board of Directors, and the Cornell University Board of Trustees. This avid inline skater and pianist holds a PhD in Marketing and Statistics, a Master of Science in Business, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Cornell University.

3. The Global Protector: Patricia A. Woertz - Chairman, CEO, and president, Archer Daniels Midland

As Chairman, CEO, and president of the food-processing titan Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), Patricia A. Woertz is known as one of the most powerful female executives in the United States. The $36 billion agribusiness giant has seen its stock rise under Woertz’s reign and she is integral in its alternative energy processes, taking her experience working at Gulf Oil and Chevron to help turn crops into fuel alternatives like ethanol and biodiesel.   

 Woertz has been a vital player in the global marketplace and has boosted ADM to the largest producer of ethanol in the United States. As oil costs continue to rise, ADM’s bet on the alternative fuel ethanol is seen as a world-changer for both the environment and the consumer, and Woertz has been at the helm of this environmentally conscious commodity. The Pennsylvania State University graduate used her expertise to help secure ADM’s future in energy products. Even though the ethanol craze is off to a slow start, the vision continues to make her an internationally recognized business leader who has frequently worked with government officials, heads of state, business partners, and community stakeholders across the globe.

4. The Global Healthmaker: Angela Braly - President and CEO, WellPoint

As head of the nation’s largest health benefits company, WellPoint, Angela Braly has seen the stock of the $61 billion health insurer rise substantially. Health insurance has been problematic in the United States, so much so that the White House has entered into the fray. However, WellPoint continues to grow, providing health insurance for 35 million Americans nationwide, and Braly has been noted as the key strategist. 

Known as the most powerful woman in health care, Braly has overcome critics of the health care industry, including government officials, and has insisted that health care reform be managed by the private sector. She has been vocal about health care reform and supports guaranteed coverage for everyone. The president and CEO of the 42,000-employee company received her Juris Doctor from Southern Methodist University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Texas Tech University.

5. The Global Entrepreneur: Andrea Jung - Chairman and CEO, Avon Products

Since 1886, Avon has allowed millions of women the opportunity to work for themselves.  Today, the company is run by Chairman and CEO Andrea Jung, and under Jung’s leadership, Avon reported over $10 billion in revenues in 2009. A Princeton graduate who speaks fluent Chinese, Jung literally worked her way up the corporate ladder at Avon. She began as a consultant, whose energy and marketing flair enabled her to move up to president of product marketing, and Jung was able to help re-brand the company to a younger, hipper crowd before becoming Avon’s first female CEO. 

Jung has also made Avon a global leader in philanthropy; the company donated more than $5 million for earthquake victims in the Sichuan Province in China and $1.5 million to establish the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School to help combat violence against women.