Top 25 Women in Leadership Roles: Secrets of Their Unstoppable Success!

Laura Adams

Career Development

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Top 25 Women in Leadership Roles: Secrets of Their Unstoppable Success!

Laura Adams

Career Development

Top 25 Women in Leadership Roles: Secrets of Their Unstoppable Success!

The Surprising Secrets of the World’s Most Powerful Female Executives!

Welcome to a space where understanding meets ambition – a place dedicated to women in leadership roles. If you’ve ever felt the stirrings of aspiration to lead or have grappled with the challenges of climbing the corporate or political ladder as a woman, you’re not alone.

Here, we acknowledge the unique hurdles and triumphs of being a woman in a leadership role.

Our insights and guidance stem from deep experience and a genuine commitment to empowering women like you. We’re not just observers but participants and advocates in this evolving journey of female leadership.

So, stay with us, and let’s explore together how women are reshaping the world of leadership.

Your journey to discovering more about women in leadership roles starts here, and we’re thrilled to guide you every step of the way.

Let’s get started!

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Key Takeaways

Women in Leadership Roles

Rising Influence: Women increasingly occupy pivotal leadership roles across sectors, yet there’s more ground to cover for equal representation, especially in executive and political positions.

Inspiring Leaders: From CEOs to heads of state, women leaders break barriers and set new standards, demonstrating how diverse leadership contributes to innovation and effective governance.

Barriers Persist: Gender bias, unequal pay, and the glass ceiling remain significant challenges for women, highlighting the need for ongoing efforts to achieve true gender parity in leadership.

Strategies for Success: Empowering women in leadership involves continuous skill development, building supportive networks and organizations actively fostering inclusive and equitable environments.

women in leadership roles

What Does Leadership Look Like Today?

Leadership in the 21st century has transcended traditional boundaries and definitions. Gone are the days when a leader was just a figurehead at the top of a corporate or political hierarchy.

Today’s leadership landscape is dynamic, encompassing diverse styles, backgrounds, and perspectives. Modern leaders are expected to be visionaries, innovators, and catalysts for change. They guide their organizations through an ever-changing global landscape marked by technological advancements and shifting societal expectations.

A greater emphasis on soft skills such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and effective communication underpins this transformation in leadership. Harvard Business Review highlights the growing importance of these skills in leaders, noting that they foster a positive organizational culture and drive successful business outcomes.

Additionally, the role of leaders in promoting diversity and inclusivity within their organizations has become paramount. A McKinsey report on diversity found that companies with diverse executive teams are likelier to experience above-average profitability.

The Evolving Role of Women in Leadership Positions

Women’s leadership role has gained significant attention and importance in this evolving landscape. Historically underrepresented in leadership roles, women are gradually breaking barriers and making their presence felt in boardrooms and government offices worldwide.

This change is not merely about achieving numerical parity; it’s about bringing diverse perspectives and approaches to leadership, which can lead to more innovative and effective decision-making.

For instance, a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found a positive correlation between the presence of women in corporate leadership and organizational performance.

Women leaders tend to bring different life experiences and viewpoints, which can contribute to a more holistic and balanced leadership approach.

Furthermore, women leaders are often credited with fostering a collaborative and inclusive work environment, which drives employee engagement and satisfaction.

How Many Women Hold Executive Positions in Corporations Today?

The presence of women in executive roles within corporations has been a topic of increasing focus in recent years. While there is undeniable progress, the numbers reveal a story of gradual change rather than a revolution.

According to a report by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing women in leadership, as of 2020, women hold only about 29% of senior management roles globally. This figure, though an improvement from past years, underscores the lingering disparity in corporate leadership.

Global Senior Leadership infographic

The scenario is more pronounced in certain industries. For instance, in the technology sector, women executives are still significantly underrepresented. A study by PwC reported that only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women. The contrast becomes starker at the highest levels of corporate leadership. In Fortune 500 companies, only 10% of CEOs were women as of June 2023.

Fortune 500 CEOs infographic

These statistics highlight not just a gender gap but also an opportunity gap. The underrepresentation of women in leadership roles is not due to a lack of talent or ambition among women but often due to systemic barriers and biases that limit their advancement. The numbers also hint at the untapped potential that women leaders represent for corporate performance and innovation.

Women Leaders in Government

A Global Perspective

The landscape of women in government leadership positions mirrors that of the corporate world, characterized by slow but positive change. Globally, the representation of women in national parliaments has been increasing, but they are still far from achieving parity with men. As per data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, as of 2021, only about 25% of all national parliamentarians were women. This is a significant improvement from previous decades, yet it shows that women’s voices are still underrepresented in political decision-making.

At the top echelons of government, the number of women leaders, such as presidents and prime ministers, remains low but is growing. As of 2021, only about 10% of countries globally were led by women. These women leaders have often been praised for their effective leadership, especially in times of crisis, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The variation in representation across different countries and regions is notable. In some nations, women’s participation in politics is encouraged and supported through policies such as quotas, while in others, cultural and societal barriers continue to hinder their involvement. The global perspective on women in government leadership is one of gradual progress amid continued challenges.

Understanding the gender gap in leadership roles involves examining both the progress and persisting challenges. Despite the advancements, the gap remains significant across various sectors. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 highlights that at the current rate of progress, it will take another 99.5 years to achieve gender parity globally.

This gap is not just in numbers but also in the quality of leadership opportunities available to women. Women are often clustered in roles that are traditionally seen as ‘feminine’ or in sectors with lower remuneration and fewer advancement opportunities. Additionally, women in leadership positions often face challenges such as gender bias, unequal pay, and work-life balance issues, which can further hinder their career progression.

The trends, however, also show a positive side. There is growing awareness and advocacy for gender diversity in leadership. More companies and governments are recognizing women’s value in leadership roles and are implementing policies and initiatives to support women’s advancement.

This shift towards a more inclusive leadership landscape is not just a matter of fairness but also a strategic imperative for organizational success and societal development.

Who Are the Women Reshaping Corporate Leadership?

In the corporate realm, several women have emerged as influential leaders, breaking stereotypes and setting new standards. These trailblazers lead successful companies and reshape how leadership is perceived and enacted. For instance, Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, stands out as the first female CEO of a major global automaker. Under her leadership, GM has seen a significant shift towards electric vehicles and sustainable practices.

Similarly, Rosalind Brewer, the CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, is known for emphasizing innovation and diversity in the workplace.

These women leaders are not only achieving outstanding business results; they are also advocates for change in the corporate world, championing gender equality, diversity, and inclusive workplace cultures. Their leadership styles often emphasize collaboration, empathy, and ethical practices, which are increasingly recognized as vital components of effective leadership.

Inspirational Stories from Female Government Leaders

In the political arena, women leaders have also been making waves, bringing fresh perspectives and leadership styles to governance. Leaders like former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have gained international acclaim for their empathetic and decisive leadership. Ardern’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and her response to the Christchurch mosque shootings are often cited as examples of her effective and compassionate leadership approach.

Another notable example is Sanna Marin, the Former Prime Minister of Finland, who became the world’s youngest-serving state leader in 2019. Her government, consisting of a coalition led predominantly by women, has pioneered its approach to social welfare and equality.

These stories of female government leaders are not just about their individual achievements; they represent a broader shift in the political landscape towards more diverse and inclusive leadership, which can address the needs and perspectives of a wider range of constituents.

Top 25 Women in Leadership Roles

Trailblazers in Corporations and Government

This list of 25 influential women in various industries and government positions showcases the breadth and diversity of female leadership in the contemporary world. Each of these women has made significant contributions in their respective fields, breaking barriers and setting new standards for leadership.

1. Mary Barra

Chairman and CEO of General Motors. Barra has made significant strides in steering GM towards electric vehicles and sustainable practices.

2. Christine Lagarde

President of the European Central Bank. A trailblazer in finance, Lagarde has been a key figure in global economic policy.

3. Ursula von der Leyen

President of the European Commission. She is the first woman to hold this position, playing a crucial role in shaping European Union policies.

4. Safra Catz

CEO of Oracle Corporation. Catz has been instrumental in Oracle’s growth and strategic acquisitions.

5. Abigail Johnson

CEO of Fidelity Investments. Johnson has led Fidelity to become one of the largest asset managers globally.

6. Gail Boudreaux

President and CEO of Anthem, Inc. Now known as Elevance, it has grown into one of the leading health benefits companies under her leadership.

7. Emma Walmsley

CEO of GlaxoSmithKline. Walmsley is the first woman to lead a major pharmaceutical company.

8. Ginni Rometty

Former Chairman, President, and CEO of IBM. Rometty has been a prominent figure in the tech industry, known for her focus on cognitive computing and AI.

9. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Director-General of the World Trade Organization. She is the first woman and the first African to hold this position.

10. Ana Patricia Botín

Executive Chairman of Santander Group. Botín is a leading figure in international banking.

11. Susan Wojcicki

CEO of YouTube. Under Wojcicki’s leadership, YouTube has seen significant growth and expansion.

12. Ho Ching

CEO of Temasek Holdings. As the head of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Ho Ching has been influential in global finance and investment.

13. Sheryl Sandberg

Former COO of Facebook (Meta Platforms, Inc.). Sandberg has been influential in shaping Facebook’s business strategy.

14. Marillyn Hewson

Executive Chairman of Lockheed Martin. Hewson has been a key player in the aerospace and defense industry.

15. Indra Nooyi

Former CEO of PepsiCo. Nooyi is known for reorienting PepsiCo towards healthier products.

16. Rosalind Brewer

CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance. Brewer is known for her focus on diversity and corporate social responsibility.

17. Kathleen Kennedy

President of Lucasfilm. Kennedy has been influential in the film industry, particularly in the Star Wars franchise.

18. Stacey Cunningham

Former President of the New York Stock Exchange. Cunningham is the first woman to hold this position in the NYSE’s history.

19. Sanna Marin

Former Prime Minister of Finland. Marin is known for her progressive policies and is the world’s youngest serving state leader.

20. Angela Merkel

Former Chancellor of Germany. Merkel was one of the world’s most powerful women during her tenure.

21. Janet Yellen

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Yellen has a long history of involvement in U.S. economic policy.

22. Jane Fraser

CEO of Citigroup. Fraser is the first woman to lead a major Wall Street bank.

23. Julie Sweet

CEO of Accenture. Sweet has played a crucial role in Accenture’s growth and focus on digital transformation.

24. Phebe Novakovic

Chairman and CEO of General Dynamics. Novakovic has been leading the company’s expansion in the defense and aerospace sectors.

25. Meg Whitman

Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and eBay. Whitman is known for her leadership in technology and e-commerce.

What’s the Secret to Their Success?

The secret to the success of these top 25 women in leadership roles lies in a powerful blend of resilience, innovation, and empathetic leadership. These trailblazing women have demonstrated exceptional skill and determination in their respective fields and embraced a leadership style that values collaboration, inclusivity, and ethical decision-making.

Their journeys reveal a common thread: the ability to navigate complex challenges gracefully and turn obstacles into opportunities for growth and change.

By combining their unique perspectives with a steadfast commitment to their goals, these women have redefined what it means to be a leader in today’s world, inspiring a new generation of women to follow in their formidable footsteps.

Balancing Act: Women Excelling in Dual Roles

Women in leadership often juggle multiple roles – as executives or politicians and often as caregivers or family members. This balancing act is a remarkable aspect of many women leaders’ journeys. Despite the challenges, they manage to excel in their professional roles while also fulfilling personal responsibilities.

The ability to balance these roles effectively is a testament to their leadership skills and resilience. It also highlights the need for supportive policies and workplace cultures recognizing and accommodating women’s multifaceted roles. The success stories of these women serve as an inspiration and a call to action for organizations and societies to create environments where women can thrive in all aspects of their lives.

What Obstacles Do Women Face in Climbing the Corporate Ladder?

Despite the progress and success stories, women in leadership continue to face many challenges. One of the most significant obstacles is the persistent gender bias in the corporate world. This bias can manifest in various forms, from preconceived notions about women’s capabilities to more subtle forms of discrimination, such as being overlooked for high-profile projects or promotions.

A study by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, “Women in the Workplace,” highlights that women, especially women of color, are less likely to be promoted to manager-level roles, and this gap continues at every subsequent level.

Another challenge is the wage gap. Despite performing similar roles as their male counterparts, women often receive lower compensation. According to a report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women in the United States earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, and this gap is wider for women of color.

Women face unique political challenges stemming from societal expectations and structural barriers within political systems. Women in politics often confront gender stereotypes that question their leadership abilities. They are sometimes held to higher standards than their male counterparts and may face greater scrutiny over their appearance, personal life, and leadership style.

The challenges are not just external. Women often have less access to funding and resources, which are crucial for political campaigns. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, women candidates often struggle more than men to raise campaign funds, a critical factor for political success.

The Glass Ceiling and Gender Bias: Are They Still Prevalent?

The term “glass ceiling” refers to the invisible barrier that prevents women from ascending to the highest positions in their respective fields. Despite progress, the glass ceiling remains a reality for many women. Gender bias, both conscious and unconscious, continues to limit women’s opportunities for advancement. This bias is often intertwined with other forms of discrimination, including racial, ethnic, and age discrimination, creating multiple layers of barriers for women.

Additionally, women often face the challenge of “prove-it-again” bias, where they must demonstrate their competence repeatedly, more so than their male colleagues. This phenomenon, highlighted in research by the Center for WorkLife Law, indicates that women’s achievements are often discounted or attributed to external factors.

What Can Women Do to Enhance Their Leadership Skills?

To navigate the complex leadership landscape, women can adopt several strategies to enhance their leadership skills. One key approach is continuous learning and skill development. Engaging in professional development courses, attending leadership workshops, and seeking feedback can help women refine their leadership abilities. Harvard Business Review suggests that developing a personal leadership style that reflects individual strengths and values is crucial for effective leadership.

Networking is another powerful tool. Building a strong professional network provides support, opens up opportunities, and facilitates mentorship relationships. Platforms like Lean In Networks and professional associations specific to industries can be excellent resources for connecting with other professionals and leaders.

Building a Supportive Network: Tips and Tricks

A supportive network is invaluable for any leader but can be particularly crucial for women. This network can include mentors, sponsors, peers, and even family members. Mentors provide guidance and advice, helping navigate career challenges and decisions. Sponsors can be critical in advocating for women’s advancement within an organization. According to a study by Catalyst, women with sponsors are more likely to be satisfied with their career progression.

Networking can be enhanced through various means, such as attending industry events, joining professional organizations, and being active on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn. Building a network requires proactive effort, but the benefits in terms of career growth and support are substantial.

Achieving Work-Life Balance

Practical Advice for Women Leaders

Work-life balance is a significant challenge for many women in leadership roles. To manage this, setting boundaries is essential. This might mean defining clear work hours, delegating tasks, and making time for personal and family life. Technology can also aid in maintaining balance, with tools that help streamline tasks and manage time more effectively.

Another important aspect is self-care. Leaders need to prioritize their well-being to remain effective and avoid burnout. This can include regular exercise, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones. Organizations like the International Women’s Leadership Association provide resources and support for women leaders seeking a healthy work-life balance.

How Can Organizations Foster Female Leadership?

Corporations and governments are pivotal in creating an environment conducive to female leadership. This starts with implementing policies that ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender. For example, organizations can establish transparent criteria for promotions and pay raises to prevent gender bias. Gender diversity targets can also be effective but should be implemented thoughtfully to avoid tokenism.

A report by Deloitte highlights the importance of inclusive cultures where diversity is valued and actively promoted. This includes training programs to raise awareness about unconscious biases and creating a culture where diverse perspectives are respected and encouraged.

Policies and Programs that Support Women in Leadership

In addition to creating an inclusive culture, specific policies and programs can support women in their leadership journey. These may include flexible work arrangements, equitable parental leave policies for all genders, and support for child care. Companies like Ernst & Young have successfully implemented such policies, leading to higher employee satisfaction and retention rates.

Mentorship and sponsorship programs are also crucial. By connecting emerging female leaders with experienced mentors and sponsors, organizations can provide the guidance and advocacy necessary for career advancement. Programs like these benefit individual women and contribute to a more diverse leadership pipeline within the organization.

The Importance of Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs

Mentorship and sponsorship are critical for the development of women leaders. Mentors offer advice, share experiences, and help navigate career challenges. Sponsors go a step further by advocating for their mentees in decision-making settings, helping them gain visibility and opportunities for advancement.

A Center for Talent Innovation study found that women with sponsors are likelier to aim for and achieve higher positions. These programs can be formalized within organizations or sought out individually by women seeking to advance their careers.

The Future of Women in Leadership

What’s Next for Women in Executive and Managerial Roles?

The future of women in leadership roles is a blend of challenges and opportunities. As society progresses towards greater equality, we can expect to see more women ascending to top positions in corporations and government. Technology and globalization are opening new avenues for leadership, and women are increasingly taking on roles in emerging fields.

However, this progress is not without its challenges. Women leaders will continue to face issues like gender bias and work-life balance, necessitating ongoing efforts to create supportive environments.

Emerging trends such as remote work and flexible schedules are also likely to impact women in leadership significantly. These changes can offer more opportunities for balancing professional and personal responsibilities, potentially leading to a more diverse and inclusive leadership landscape.

Empowering the Next Generation of Female Leaders

A key aspect of shaping the future is empowering the next generation of female leaders. This involves providing opportunities, resources, role models, and mentors. Initiatives in education and professional development specifically targeted at young women can play a pivotal role in this empowerment.

Programs like Girls Who Code and Lean In’s Circle for University Students aim to nurture leadership skills from a young age. These programs and similar initiatives are crucial in building a pipeline of skilled and confident women ready to take on leadership roles.

The Long-Term Impact of Increased Women Leadership

The long-term impact of more women in leadership positions is profound. Diverse leadership teams lead to better decision-making and more innovative solutions. A study by Boston Consulting Group found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation.

Moreover, increased women’s leadership can have a ripple effect throughout society. It can challenge stereotypes, change perceptions, and inspire future generations. As more women take on leadership roles, it paves the way for a more equitable and inclusive world.

How Can We Support Women in Leadership Roles?

Supporting women in leadership roles requires concerted efforts from individuals, organizations, and governments. It’s about creating environments where women can thrive, breaking down systemic barriers, and promoting policies that support gender equality. Every one of us has a role in this journey – from advocating for fair policies to mentoring and supporting women in our networks.

Fostering a Culture of Support and Unity Among Women in Leadership

We encourage sharing and solidarity among women leaders. Share your experiences, support each other, and build networks of collaboration and mentorship. The path to leadership can be challenging, but it’s a richer and more rewarding journey through shared efforts and mutual support.

Together, we can build a future where women in leadership roles are not an exception but a norm, where their voices and perspectives are integral to the fabric of our society and organizations.


What is the role of a woman leader?

The role of a woman leader, akin to any leader, involves guiding and inspiring a team or organization towards achieving goals while bringing unique perspectives and skills that enhance decision-making, foster inclusivity, and drive innovative solutions in an increasingly diverse global landscape.

What is the female leadership style?

Although diverse and not uniform across all women, the female leadership style is often characterized by collaborative, empathetic, and inclusive approaches. Women leaders tend to emphasize effective communication, emotional intelligence, and a focus on building relationships and team cohesion.

They often balance assertiveness with compassion, demonstrating a strong ability to navigate complex situations with a blend of strategic thinking and nurturing leadership. This leads to high levels of employee engagement and innovative problem-solving.

What is the average of women in leadership roles?

The average percentage of women in leadership roles varies by industry, region, and level of seniority. However, as a general global trend, women are still underrepresented in top leadership positions. For example, as of 2020, women held about 29% of senior management roles globally.

What is empowering women in leadership roles?

Empowering women in leadership roles involves creating an environment where women have equal opportunities to rise to leadership positions and succeed in them. This includes addressing systemic barriers, promoting policies for gender equality, providing access to mentorship and sponsorship programs, and ensuring fair representation in decision-making roles.

It also involves fostering a culture that values and leverages the unique perspectives and skills that women bring to leadership, encouraging diversity and inclusivity at all levels of an organization. It’s about providing women with the tools, resources, and support they need to thrive as leaders.

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