Today, a great deal of focus is being placed on the gender pay gap, with calls to narrow the discrepancies and generate greater financial equality within the workplace. And it’s working, albeit slowly. However, less focus is being placed on the gender say gap – the lack of female voices, ideas and insights at every level of business and society.
While some women have successfully and dazzlingly solidified their place in the international business arena (think Oprah or Ariana Grande), many others are quietly fighting inequality and tackling global challenges. Here, we shine a light on eight female game changers from around the world who are breaking through the glass ceiling, changing the world for the better, and paving the way for other women in the process.
Brigitte Boehm is the former EMEA Vice President of MAC Cosmetics. The EU Business School alumnus, who now runs her own startup enterprise, worked her way up the Estée Lauder organization from Marketing Manager to Brand Manager to Western Europe Regional Director before taking over as VP for the EMEA and India. During her eight years in the role, Boehm was responsible for directing both brand strategy and business development across 37 markets and managed a team of global MAC leaders.
Boehm makes our female game changer list for her dedication to facilitating a future of social development in business, striving to improve the well-being of colleagues and employees so they can reach their full potential. At a time when we are on the verge of a major recruitment shift, moving from an exclusively qualifications-based hiring process to considering cultural fit and passion, Boehm has made no secret of her belief in taking a humane and humanitarian approach to business. “I always love to hear someone’s story”, she says when asked about her interview strategy.
Christine Spiten is the Senior Corporate Advisor for Plastic & Circular Economy at WWF and Co-Founder at Blueye Robotics. The innovative robotics and technology firm has been highlighted as one of 10 successful startup companies to watch, having developed a powerful Wi-Fi-enabled underwater drone. Spiten met the Blueye team during her MSc in Industrial Economics and Technology Management at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, when she was writing her thesis on underwater drones.
Spiten is changing the way we think about the ocean, making her a true game changer. She is proud to have been the very first user of the Blueye Pioneer, using the device to map marine litter and microplastics during a sailing trip between Africa and Brazil. Through greater awareness of underwater environments and the impact of single-use plastics, Spiten hopes to facilitate a cleaner future. She believes technologies like the Blueye Pioneer can, and should, be used to protect the diverse marine life that’s found in our oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes. Through her vocal approach, Spiten is paving the way for others to do the same.
Audrey Gelman is Co-Founder at The Wing; a network of women-only work and community spaces with locations in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and London. A new Toronto space is set to open, amongst others, in 2020. Gelman, a Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ and one of NY Daily News’ 50 most powerful women, comes from a strong communications background, having started her career as a press aide for ‘Hilary for America’, before signing on as press secretary for the Manhattan Borough’s president’s office, and later as Senior Vice President of SKDKnickerbocker.
Gelman’s game changer status comes from her unwavering efforts to empower women in business. Believing that pregnant women are sidelined in the workforce, Gelman has worked to create supportive spaces where women can combine motherhood with their careers. “It’s not unusual to see an executive at our company pumping breast milk while we’re having a senior staff meeting”, says Gelman who, in 2019, became the first visibly pregnant CEO to appear on the cover of a business magazine.
Shelly Bell is Founder and CEO at Black Girl Ventures, a platform that makes it easier for women of color to achieve their dreams of entrepreneurship. Listed as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s ‘Top 100 Powerful Women in Business’, and an Adweek ‘Rising Star’, Bell is dedicated to supporting black/brown women to start their own businesses. Bell is also Founder and Creative Director at Made by a Black Woman, a retail channel offering clothing and accessories made by women of color.
Bell is a true game changer in every sense of the word, working to break down racial barriers and creating diversity in entrepreneurship. Bell believes that while the treatment of brown and black women is improving, they are still very much overlooked in the international business arena. “Black women are currently starting businesses at six times the national average…yet we receive less than 1% of venture capital”, says Bell in her article titled Bumble Fumble: Swipe Supremacy, published on Medium.
Sarah Leary is co-founder of Nextdoor; a neighborhood hub for trusted connections and the exchange of helpful information, goods, and services. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Leary has launched several businesses across the United Kingdom, Germany, France, as well as helped to grow and develop organizations in Russia and Australia, making her a truly international businesswoman. Leary studied economics at Harvard University before enrolling at Harvard Business School to complete her MBA.
Leary is a game changer for her focus on community cohesion, and the change she’s made is already evident. In an interview with Mercury News, Leary reported that Sacramento saw a 14.9% decrease in citywide crime following the rollout of Nextdoor. “We knew that there was a technology to connect you to your friends (Facebook), business contacts (LinkedIn) and interests (Twitter), but before Nextdoor there was no technology to connect you to the most important community: your neighborhood”, she says.
Falon Fatemi is the CEO and Founder of Node; the world’s first AI-as-a-service platform that helps businesses generate new leads through predictive analysis. One of the Fast Company’s ‘Most Creative People in Business’, this commerce, finance, computer science and entrepreneurship graduate built her career with Google, YouTube, and Firespotter Labs before founding her own company. Fatemi hit the headlines in 2005 when she became Google’s youngest ever employee at just 19 years old.
Fatemi makes our list of female game changers for challenging the status quo. She sets out to do it all despite, as she says, “not looking the part”. Working in a male-dominated landscape, Fatemi wants to highlight just how different it is for men and women in business. Speaking to Marie Claire, Fatemi said, “If my name was Jack instead of Falon, I would have raised double the amount of money and probably have double the valuation”. Fatemi shows women that, despite the obstacles, anything is possible.
Reyhan Jamalova is the CEO of Rainergy, an organization that strives to generate electricity from rainwater rather than wind. Jamalova received an Honorable Mention at the Model UN Conference in Azerbaijan and made it through to the final stages of one of the biggest green business competitions in Europe, ClimateLaunchPad. She attended high school in her native Azerbaijan before becoming a global CEO and ASAN Service Idea Generator, and the first person from her country to be included on Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ list.
Why is Jamalova a game changer? Because she is just 17 years old. In fact, she was 15 when she launched Rainergy and was the youngest attendee at India’s 8th Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2017. Jamalova proves that age is not a factor when it comes to making change happen. The young businesswoman has set her sights on improving utilities around the world; “We designed Rainergy to produce electricity from the rain, to solve the problem of energy deficiency in low-income countries”.
Anna Assassa is Founder and CEO at Tisski, a technology company specializing in Microsoft Dynamics. Assassa has been proudly building tech companies since the 1990s after studying at Leeds University in the UK and becoming Commercial Vice President of HD Sports North America, a role which saw her implement a significant change in distribution across the continent. In 2012, Assassa launched her own company. Today, she oversees a team of more than 100 and serves clients including the NHS and Ministry of Defence in Great Britain.
Assassa is a game changer in the STEM industry, showing that women can become leaders and role models within this heavily male-dominated sector. While the average percentage of female employees in the technology sector is 26%, 38% of Tissiki employees are women, and Assassa is keen to create equality within the workplace. When asked what it is like running a business as a woman, Assassa’s response is simple yet inspirational; “Very similar to running it as a man, I would assume”.
Women in Business
This list of eight inspiring women is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to female entrepreneurs making the world a better place, bringing others with them on their ascent to success, and gaining well-deserved recognition. Though they have not all become household names like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer, these women are paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps, breaking the glass ceiling and disrupting expectations. What these very different examples show is that with tenacity and ambition, every woman has the potential to become a leader in business.
Do you feel inspired to pursue a career in business, or to become an entrepreneur?
At EU Business School we can help you to build the foundation you need to follow in the footsteps of these impressive women. EU’s multicultural student body includes students of more than 100 nationalities and is 54% female, so you’re sure to encounter diverse perspectives during your time studying with us. Our intercampus and international exchange programs further enhance our students’ global experience; studying at EU will prepare you to thrive in the dynamic international world of business. Find out about how our diverse range of programs will support your career; together we can create a future of equality, fairness and tolerance.