by Alyssa Oursler | May 10, 2013 7:00 am
With all the chatter about how far women still have to go in the corporate world — whether framed in terms of still-unequal pay, the need to “lean in” or the tiny fraction of high-ranking women out there — we sometimes forget to take the time to applaud the women who already have made it.
Especially those who have without sacrificing what many assume women must to be successful: having a family.
Usually, women like Yahoo‘s (NASDAQ:YHOO) Marissa Mayer, Hewlett-Packard‘s (NYSE:HPQ) Meg Whitman, PepsiCo‘s (NYSE:PEP) Indra Nooyi and Facebook‘s (NASDAQ:FB) Sheryl Sandberg are poster moms for this elite group.
With this Sunday being Mother’s Day, though, there seems to be no better time to tip our hats to other lesser-known female execs who have also found the balance needed to have a home and a corner office.
Take a look at these five impressive “power moms”:
Position: President and CEO
Family: Married with two daughters
Denise Morrison has one heckuva resume. She joined Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) in 2003, working her way up to become CEO in 2011, after serving as an executive at Kraft Foods (NASDAQ:KRFT), Nestle (PINK:NSRGY), PepsiCo, Nabisco and more.
It’s almost no wonder she’s been named the 21st most powerful woman in business by Fortune and the 80th most powerful by Forbes.
It seems to run in the family, too, as her three sisters include the regional vice president of sales at Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE), the past senior vice president of sales at AT&T (NYSE:T) and the chairman and CEO of Frontier Communications (NASDAQ:FTR).
She also has two daughters, both around 30 at this point, and wasn’t afraid to make that a priority when it came to her career. As a Bloomberg profile recaps, she cold-called the president of Nabisco Foods to ask for a job when her employer at the time — Nestle — was planning to relocate some operations from California to Cleveland.
Because her daughter was in high school, she didn’t want to make the move. Soon enough, she was working at Nabisco.
Position: Chairman and CEO
Family: Married with a daughter and stepson
Ursula Burns is used to being the first. She was not just the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company — Xerox (NYSE:XRX), that is — but also was the first black female CEO of Fortune 500 company.
And she worked all the way up from being an intern.
Her secret to success? Well, not being fearless, for one. “I’m a black lady from the Lower East Side of New York,” she once said. “Not a lot intimidates me.”
Another helpful factor for Burns on the family side of things: marrying an older man. Her husband is almost 20 years her senior — something that, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “proved advantageous when Burns’ job later required her to travel frequently and leave their two young children at home.”
She also recommends, for women trying to follow in her footsteps, not being afraid to take some time to yourself and to avoid feeling guilty when it comes to missing time with your kids. They’ll be fine.
Tough love is the best love.
Position: President and CEO
Family: Married with four kids
If you thought running a company with two kids sounds like a lot on one’s plate … well, how does having four kids sound?
For Mary Dillon, it sounds like the last three years of her life.
Dillon was appointed CEO of U.S. Cellular in 2010 after an impressive string of executive positions at McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) and PepsiCo’s Quaker Foods Division.
U.S. Cellular is the fifth largest wireless telecom network in the U.S., behind Verizon (NYSE:VZ), AT&T, Sprint (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS).
Since taking over, Dillon has been living in a Chicago suburb with her family. There, she is working to improve U.S. Cellular’s focus on the customer while expanding its 4G LTE footprint.
Dillon was named one of FierceWireless’ Most Influential Women in Wireless in 2011 and 2012 and was named a Top Woman in Wireless by RCR Wireless News in 2012.
Position: CEO of Asset Management
Family: Married with three daughters
There’s something about Marys. Next on our power mom list, we have Mary Callahan Erdoes — the current CEO of JPMorgan Chase‘s (NYSE:JPM) Asset Management division.
Forget about family budgeting; Erdoes supervises more than $1.3 trillion of assets. Oh, and she is often mentioned as a potential successor to JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon.
No wonder she is currently listed by Forbes as the world’s 24th most powerful woman.
It didn’t come easy, though. As Erdoes wrote in a New York Times column: “I was the only female math major at Georgetown University at the time. It was incredibly difficult. I barely made it.”
Two large influences for her focus on math and determination to succeed: her grandmothers. I would guess her grandkids will one day say the same thing about her.
Position: President, Chair and CEO
Family: Married with a daughter and twin sons
Last but not least, we have a person who Forbes named the fourth most powerful woman in the world in 2011: Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont (NYSE:DD).
She starter her career at General Electric (NYSE:GE) and was later a director at General Motors (NYSE:GM). Then 20 years after becoming a marketing manager at DuPont, she became the first female CEO at its helm.
In her mind, though, being a mom and CEO actually go hand-in-hand. As she said in an interview, “Parenting is good training to be CEO because we can’t control our children’s actions. I think it helped me become more patient. It helped me understand that just because I said so wasn’t a reason for them to do anything.”
She also added that it helped her narrow her focus.
“When you manage a household, three kids, all the stuff, you’ve got to focus on the important stuff. And not the little stuff,” she said. “And I think that’s very, very true in business.”
As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler was long MCD.
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