The gender disparity in boardrooms across the world has historically been so prevalent that a number of terms have been found to describe the situation from glass ceilings to sticky floors to career labyrinths. However, the situation is changing and as more women rise through the ranks to lead both businesses and governments, more young women will have examples to look to as they progress through their career.

Here are five women who are changing the game in business today:

1 – Oprah Winfrey

Today, Winfrey is a household name and billionaire, but the 65-year-old was born into poverty in rural Mississippi and worked her way to success, breaking a wealth of barriers along the way.

At 19-years-old, Winfrey had become the first African American woman to anchor the news at WTFV-TV, but soon found her skills of empathy better suited to the talk-show format and found a national stage. The Opera Winfrey Show ran for 25-years and remains the highest-rated talk show in TV history, reaching 30 million viewers and scoring a number of Emmy awards during its run.

However, Winfrey was not content with being one of the most recognisable faces on TV, she wanted a fairer platform for her staff and launched her own production studio in 1988 called Harpo Studios (that’s Oprah spelled backwards). And in 2011 she took the leap from broadcast TV into cable with the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), making her evolution from media personality to business leader complete.

2 – Julia Hartz

Launched in 2006, Eventbrite was an early pioneer in payment processing for live events, but whilst many digital firms have faltered the company Hartz co-founded and now leads continues to go from strength to strength driving revenues of nearly $300m per year. It has found this success by investing in its employees and developing its own unique company culture where employees have unlimited holidays and wide-ranging flexibility on when, where, and how they work to the extent that the firm is regularly rated as one of the best places to work on Glassdoor.

Under Hartz’s stewardship, Eventbrite has seen its earning’s soar, an initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange, and a valuation of over a $2bn.

3 – Lady Barbara Judge

Once described as the most connected woman in the UK, Lady Barbara Judge has made a number of firsts throughout her career and continues to do so today. Previously an executive director at News International, Judge was the first woman on the board of overseers of the Wharton School of Management, first chairwoman of the IoD, and first board executive director of the London merchant bank Samuel Montagu & Co.

After decades of personal success in the business world, Judge now focuses on leveraging her influence to open and pave the way for other women who want to start a career in business and is a member of the advisory board of women’s development firm AccelerateHer.

4 & 5 – Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin

Weisberg and Zakin are the two young founder behind TheSkimm, the wildly popular subscription news service that reaches more than seven million people every day, including Oprah Winfrey.

Before launching TheSkimm, the pair both worked as producers for NBC News. They were newshounds that religiously watched and read the news every day, but they found that their peers were not so receptive to traditional news delivery and so the duo launched their own newsletter that distilled the news down into more approachable and conversational nuggets of information designed to appeal to their millennial audience. And the idea was a huge success. The company has recently expanded its offering to include a podcast and new newsletters in more focused vertical such as health, business, and money, but continue to remain focused on what they do differently – making news and information accessible to their younger audience that traditional media has failed to engage.


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