Women have made major contributions to the business world — although they don't always get the level of recognition they deserve. Here are some of the outstanding women who’ve blazed trails, built hugely successful enterprises and made a significant contribution to our society.
These five female entrepreneurs, from our past and present, are worth talking about:
The first female to win the Nobel Prize (as well as the first person to ever win it twice), Marie Curie was a Polish-born physicist and chemist in the early 1900s. Building upon the then-recent discovery of radioactivity — who's name she coined — Curie and fellow scientists discovered two new radioactive elements — polonium and radium — that became highly important to future scientific research. Curie went on to do groundbreaking research on how it could be used to medically treat tumors in the human body. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, which remain internationally renowned medical research institutes today.
A renaissance woman by all measures, Oprah Winfrey came to garner widespread fame hosting her decades-long daytime talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. She propelled that prominence into an “O” brand that has included magazines, a TV network, a popular book club, and a production company and film roles, including her performance as Sofia in The Color Purple. The award winner has invested philanthropically beyond the world of entertainment, forging the Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa with a commitment to world-class education for grades 8-12.
Clara Barton, a former schoolteacher and one of the first female patent clerks, became a nurse who helped wounded soldiers during the American Civil War. On a postwar trip to Switzerland — where she met the founder of the Red Cross — she successfully petitioned the U.S. government to allow her to start the American branch of the Red Cross, which would both provide relief to soldiers during wartime as well as respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Today, the American Red Cross responds to an estimated 70,000 disasters each year and collects nearly 40 percent of all U.S.-donated blood — among many other services and accomplishments.
Mary Kay Ash
After becoming frustrated with career advancement opportunities for women in the early 1960s, Mary Kay Ash decided to start her own business selling cosmetics to other women at a small store in Dallas. The business grew rapidly by creating a network of independent sales consultants for Mary Kay products around the world. By 2015, the company had a reported 3.5 million consultants globally and $3.7 billion in wholesale volume. And in 2016, the company had broken ground on a new state-of-the-art global manufacturing and R&D facility in Lewisville, Texas.
Though she didn’t invent Facebook or Google, Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, and has become a role model for women in the corporate world. Her book Lean In and the corresponding movement it inspired has encouraged working women to build a support network and advocate for themselves.
These are just a few women entrepreneurs whose impact was significant. Who are the women that you’ve found to be inspirational?
About the Author
Kelly Spors is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis. She previously worked as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering small business and entrepreneurship.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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