This week, we celebrated Business Women’s Day. Established in 1986 through a resolution in Congress, this annual “holiday”–recognized in the United States on September 22–is meant to recognize women in the work force and celebrate their contributions to the American economy. While women are still lacking in certain sectors of the corporate world and the wage gap persists, women have made great strides in the right direction year by year since the holiday’s inception.
In honor of Business Women’s Day, here is a highlight of five women who capture the spirit of this special day:
1. Rosalind Brewer – President and CEO, Sam‘s Club
You may be surprised to hear that Brewer began her career with Sam’s Club as a scientist, having majored in Chemistry at Spelman College. Since becoming CEO, Brewer has implemented a growth strategy focused on technology innovation and club expansion for the $56.4 billion revenue arm of Walmart. As the first woman and African-American to hold the position of President for a Walmart division, Brewer is an example that taking the road less traveled is not a deterrent, but rather a means of paving your own way for success.
2. Kathy Hannan – National Managing Partner of Diversity and Corporate Responsibility, KPMG
Appointed to her position at KPMG in 2009, Hannan has championed for diversity in the male dominated field of accounting since day one. Among her responsibilities is ensuring that all of the firm’s managers participate in cross-cultural mentoring programs. Hannan believes mentorship “creates a framework that encourages and facilitates relationship-building and trust,” and has used such programs to further diversify the company.
3. Judy Dlugacz – Founder and CEO, Olivia.com
Founded in 1973, Dlugacz’s company Olivia has evolved into one of the largest lesbian-specific travel companies around. Dlugacz founded Olivia as a record company focused on featuring local female artists. By 1990, she expanded her company into the travel business, catering specifically to lesbian women. With revenue topping $20 million in 2012, Olivia is not only successful, but also fosters a welcoming travel community for women across the world, which Dlugacz achieved by keeping the female market in mind when developing her business.
4. Marissa Mayer – President and CEO, Yahoo!
Mayer is making waves for both Yahoo! and women in business. On the same day Yahoo announced Mayer as CEO, she revealed that she was expecting and fully intended to work soon after giving birth. (She later implemented more flexible maternity leave policies for employees.) During her first year at Yahoo, the company introduced a modern, redesigned logo and released a number of new mobile applications, and site visits went up 20% from last year. Not bad for Yahoo’s youngest CEO.
5. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw – Chairman and Managing Director, Biocon
While this holiday technically celebrates American Business Women, there are some inspiring individuals working on the international front. Take Mazumdar-Shaw, for example, who has been called the first “biotech entrepreneur” in her native India. She certainly captures the entrepreneurial spirit: she founded her biotechnology company Biocon when she was just 25, and has since become India’s wealthiest self-made businesswoman. Now, Mazumdar-Shaw’s company is focused on making pharmaceutical drugs more affordable for the world, alongside philanthropic efforts to provide health clinics in areas of India most in need.