Leading Great Teams: 15 Women Business Leaders You Should Know

Posted by Trakstar • March 6, 2023 (Last modified March 24, 2023) • 10 min read

At Trakstar, we are celebrating Women’s History Month by highlighting 15 women business leaders you should know – and sharing some of the lessons they’ve taught us. As part of our year-long initiative to help people build and lead great teams, we’re focusing on women who put teams at the center of everything.

Here are some of our favorites:

Sara Blakely 

Sara Blakely is the creator of a product many women (and men!) know well: Spanx. Blakely became interested in shapewear after struggling to find a suitable undergarment for under white pants. She cut the feet off her control top pantyhose and eventually created a prototype for Spanx.

Blakely launched Spanx in 2000 with just $5,000 in savings and no previous experience in fashion or business. She used her door-to-door sales skills to pitch the product to Neiman Marcus and other retailers and eventually secured a deal with QVC.

Spanx became a massive success, with sales reaching $1 billion in 2012. Blakely has been recognized as one of the most influential women in business and has received numerous awards and honors for her entrepreneurship, including being named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Blakely is also known for her philanthropic work, including creating the Sara Blakely Foundation, which supports organizations that empower women and girls. She is a great business leader because of her innovative thinking, perseverance, and commitment to positively impacting the world. She has also been praised for her leadership style, emphasizing empowerment, positivity, and creativity.

Sharon White

Sharon White is a British businesswoman who is known for her leadership and strategic management skills. She has held various senior roles in both the public and private sectors, including the role of Chief Executive of Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, and Chief Executive of the John Lewis Partnership.

White is considered a great business leader because she navigates complex challenges and makes tough decisions. During her tenure at Ofcom, she oversaw significant changes in the telecommunications industry, including the rollout of 4G and the regulation of broadband services. She also introduced measures to improve the quality and reliability of mobile and broadband networks, ensuring that consumers received better value for money.

In her role at John Lewis Partnership, White led the company through a period of significant transformation, which included the expansion of the company’s online presence and the launch of a new loyalty program. She also implemented measures to improve staff engagement and well-being, which led to increased productivity and customer satisfaction.

Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel was a French fashion designer and businesswoman who revolutionized the fashion industry in the early 20th century. She is considered a great businesswoman for several reasons:

  1. Innovative Designs: Coco Chanel’s designs were a radical departure from the traditional women’s fashion of the time. She introduced simple, elegant, and comfortable clothing that was stylish and functional, such as the little black dress, the Chanel suit, and the jersey knitwear. Her designs were timeless and remain popular today.
  2. Strong Brand Identity: Chanel created a strong brand identity by using her name and initials in her products and logo. She also introduced the iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume, which is still one of the most recognizable fragrances in the world. This branding strategy helped her create a powerful, enduring brand synonymous with luxury and sophistication.
  3. Business Acumen: Coco Chanel had a keen sense of business and was an astute businesswoman. She knew how to market her products effectively, and she created a distribution network that ensured her designs were available in exclusive boutiques worldwide. She also negotiated lucrative licensing deals that allowed her to expand her product range.

Overall, Coco Chanel changed the fashion world and how many perceived women business leaders.

Vera Wang

Another great fashion icon, Vera Wang, is the creator and leader of the eponymous line. Her designs can be found in high fashion houses as well as in stores like Kohls. Above and beyond her fashion, Vera Wang is known as one of the best businesswomen in the world. Why?

  1. Innovation: Vera Wang is known for her innovative approach to fashion. She has brought a fresh perspective to the wedding dress industry, introducing unconventional styles and designs that have become her brand’s signature. This innovation has helped her stand out in a crowded market and attract a loyal following.
  2. Customer Focus: Vera Wang deeply understands her customers’ needs and desires. She listens carefully to their feedback and uses it to improve her products and services. This customer-centric approach has helped her build strong relationships with her clients and establish a reputation as a brand that truly cares about its customers.
  3. Strong Work Ethic: Vera Wang is known to be extremely hardworking and dedicated. She is known for her attention to detail and willingness to work long hours to ensure that her products meet her high standards. This work ethic has helped her build a successful business and maintain her position as a leader in the fashion industry.
  4. Business Acumen: Vera Wang has a keen business sense and a deep understanding of the fashion industry. She has been able to navigate the complex world of fashion and build a successful business that has withstood the test of time. She has also been able to expand her brand into new markets and product lines, demonstrating her ability to adapt to changing market conditions and capitalize on new opportunities.

Overall, Vera Wang’s success as a business leader can be attributed to her innovative approach, customer focus, strong work ethic, and business acumen. These qualities have helped her build a successful brand and establish herself as a leader in the fashion industry.

Sadaf Monajemi

Sadaj Monajemi is the founder and CEO of See-Mode Technologies. She is a new business leader, but her achievements and advancements in medicine are hard to ignore. In a time when medical access is more important than ever, Monajemi started a company that focuses on helping medical professionals predict and, in some cases, even prevent strokes.

The techniques learned by this company are likely to be replicated and used to usher in a new era of medicine. Sadaf Monajemi has a Ph.D. in machine learning and AI for medical applications, so it’s likely that she will be one of the brightest lights for years to come.

Madam C.J. Walker

Madam CJ Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) was an American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political activist. She was the first self-made female millionaire in the United States and is known for founding a successful line of hair care products for black women in the early 20th century.

Madam CJ Walker was great at business for several reasons. She was innovative and found a niche and developed it, knowing that black women couldn’t access commercial hair products, so she made one. She was also a master at marketing those products, using her story to connect with buyers. 

Madam CJ Walker was also committed to giving back to her community. She donated generously to charity and established a number of organizations to support black entrepreneurs and civil rights activism. Her philanthropy helped her build a positive reputation and inspire others to support her business.

Meghan Stabler

Meghan Stabler is the Senior VP of Marketing at BigCommerce. She’s one to follow for a lot of reasons, including her advocacy work for LGBTQ+ rights – something she takes into the workplace with her. If you want to model a DEI program, look at her approach first.

Meghan Stabler is a strategic thinker who is able to anticipate trends and make informed business decisions. She has a deep understanding of the market and uses data to guide her decision-making. This has helped her identify new opportunities for growth and position her organizations for long-term success. 

Jenn Harper, Founder, Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics INC

Jenn Harper is the Founder of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics INC, the first Indigenous-owners and founded cosmetics company. Her work focuses on finding ingredients that are sustainable and ethical. She is also known for her innovative marketing strategies, including using social media to build her brand and partnering with influencers to reach new audiences.

She works hard to ensure that Indigenous youth have access to products and understand their culture and how make-up and beauty have impacted them.

Overall, Jenn Harper’s success as a businesswoman can be attributed to her social consciousness, innovation, persistence, and leadership. She has built a successful enterprise known for its commitment to sustainability and ethical business practices. She continues to be a thought leader and advocate for positive change within the beauty industry.

Lanaya Irvin

Lanaya Irvin is a business leader with a track record of success in multiple industries. She has served in executive positions at several Fortune 500 companies, including Pfizer, Dell, and GE. Here are some reasons why she is considered a strong businesswoman: She is currently the CEO at Coqual, a global think tank that shapes how we look at DEI in the workplace. 

She’s a frequent contributor to the places HR leaders go for information, including the Human Rights Campaign’s National Business Advisory Council, Newsweek, and more.

Cindy Mi 

Cindy Mi is the CEO & Co-Founder of VIPKID. This resource is based in Beijing, but it connects teachers in North America to children in China to help them learn English in real-time. Some of its investors include Sequoia Capital China, Tencent Holdings, YF Capital, Northern Light Venture Capital, Matrix Partners China, Coatue Management, and more. 

This program has changed the lives of over 500,000 students and 60,000 teachers – giving teachers some extra money and helping Chinese children get huge opportunities.

Ruth Handler

Ruth Handler may be one of the most successful American businesswomen of all time. The product she is most known for is probably in the home of families: the Barbie Doll. Handler invented and created the doll after selling dollhouse furniture and toys. 

Handler grew Mattel and Barbie quickly, becoming a Fortune 500 company in five years and, to this day, Barbie still earns over $1 billion per year.

Ruth Handler had a clear vision of what she wanted to achieve with Barbie. She saw the potential for a doll that would inspire young girls to dream big and pursue careers, which was not common in the 1950s.

Overall, Ruth Handler was a great businesswoman because she was innovative, had the vision, was a risk-taker, was a marketer, and was a leader. Her legacy lives on through the continued success of the Barbie brand, which has become an icon of American culture.

Dame Anita Roddick

Ethics in business is a huge reason why Dame Anita Roddick is an inspirational women leader. She built her company, The Body Shop, around this mission, and it became a pioneer in ethical and sustainable business practices. Her passion and vision connected with customers and built a following that used her creams, soaps, lotions, and more.

At the time, this was a risk. Her company paid more for materials and testing to ensure that animal rights, human rights, and the environment were all protected. Today, people are still trying to live up to the ideals she set a long time ago.

Shan-Lyn Ma

Shan-Lyn Ma is the CEO & Co-Founder of Zola, a wedding planning website. This website is used globally by millions of brides and grooms. With a particular focus on the United States, she listened to what people cared about, then built a website to help.

Over $19 billion has been spent on Zola on wedding gifts. Shan-Lyn’s leadership style includes changing with the times and listening to what people actually want – and then delivering on it.

Beth Ford

Beth Ford has well-known strategic thinking skills, which have helped her to steer her company, Land O’Lakes, through a period of transformation. She has led the company to diversify its product offerings and expand into new markets. Her work is customer-focused, and she listens to complaints, concerns, and struggles. 

Beth Ford commits to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. She has implemented initiatives to increase the representation of women and people of color in leadership positions at Land O’Lakes.

Overall, Beth Ford is a good businesswoman because she is a strategic thinker, a good communicator, customer-focused, a collaborator, and committed to diversity and inclusion. Her leadership has helped Land O’Lakes to grow and succeed in a rapidly changing business landscape.

Today, and every day, we are celebrating women business leaders and the hard work they do.

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