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7 Inspiring Women Who Broke Through Gender Barriers in 2019

The good ‘ol ‘boys club’ doesn’t hold the same power over corporations as it once did. While 65.2% of all respondents in our recent report, The States of the Sales Industry ‘Boys Club’ in 2020, believe there’s a ‘boys club’ mentality in the sales industry, it’s not stopping female sales reps from rising to the top. 

In fact, 51.2% of female sales reps say gender positively impacts their careers. Remarkably, that’s just slightly less than male sales reps (55.5%). 

Women in sales aren’t the only ones overcoming and even surpassing gender barriers, though. You’ve probably noticed an inspiring rise in female professionals making headlines as newly-named executives in the business world as a whole. 

We’ve compiled a few women who have risen to a well-deserved position of power within their company in 2019. They’ve earned their way to the top through ongoing education, seizing opportunities to gain diverse experience, and, of course, an incredible amount of determination.  And will continue to strive for success and empower women in their industry and beyond 

With the right company backing you up and an “I can do it all” mindset, you too have the power to surpass gender barriers like these trailblazers:

1. Christine Leahy

Christine Leahy

Company: CDW

Age: 54

Net worth: $32.9 million

Christine Leahy became CDW’s first female chief executive in January 2019. She joined the company in 2002 as general counsel and a member of the executive committee. Then she became chief revenue officer after overseeing the company’s international business. After taking over in January, Leahy became one of the only two female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in Illinois.  

2. Penny Pennington

Penny Pennington

Company: Jones Financial

Age: 55

Net worth: $15.7 million

After working for Edward Jones for 20 years, Penny Pennington has proven her worth and capabilities. That’s why in January 2019 she earned the role of new managing partner and CEO, receiving a 10% pay hike to a whopping $11.67 million. Pennington started in 2000 as a broker and has worked her way up to becoming the second-highest paid executive at Jones. 

3. Kathy Warden

Kathy Warden

Company: Northrop Grumman

Age: 47

Net worth: $51.5 million

Kathy Warden has been tacking titles on to her name for years at Northrop Grumman. As of August 2019, she became the chairman, CEO, and president of the company. Warden hasn’t stopped pushing to the top of her game. Since taking over as CEO, Northrop Grumman’s stock price shot up about 50% and she landed nearly $26 billion in new contracts, just in the first two quarters of 2019. 

4. Lori Ryerkerk

Lori Ryerkerk

Company: Celanese Corporation

Age: 56

Net worth: Unknown

In May 2019, Celanese Corporation announced Lori Ryerkerk would take over as CEO and join the board. Ryerkerk began her 35-year career journey at ExxonMobil where she spent 24 years climbing the ladder. She then moved on to Royal Dutch Shell where she became the executive vice president of global manufacturing. 

5. Mary Winston

Mary Winston

Company: Bed Bath and Beyond

Age: 57

Net worth: $2.3 million

Mary Winston isn’t just surpassing gender barriers; she’s knocking down racial walls along her path as well. In May 2019, Winston became the first black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company since Ursala Burns resigned as Xerox CEO three years prior. Her business acumen and prior successes, such as the president of WinsCo Enterprises Inc., give her the ability to step up as Bed Bath and Beyond interim CEO without a hitch. 

6. Mary T. Barra

Mary T. Barra

Company: General Motors Company (GM)

Age: 57

Net worth: $59.7 million

Gender stereotypes would presume males must reign as executives at car companies. Mary Barra, however, proved them all wrong when she became chairman and CEO of GM since 2014. Barra started at GM in 1980 as a GM co-op student at the company’s Pontiac Motor Division. She went on to graduate with a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1985 and a Master of Business Administration in 1990. 

7. Reshma Kewalramani

Reshma Kewalramani

Company: Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Age: 46

Net worth: $3.69 million

Reshma Kewalramani joined Vertex Pharmaceuticals in 2017 as the company’s chief medical officer. Now, after three years, she’s being promoted to president and CEO in April 2020. This monumental promotion will make her the first female CEO of a large biotech company. 


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