To celebrate one hundred years since women won the right to vote Millicent Fawcett has been commemorated with a bronze casting in Parliament Square. Millicent was leader of the Suffragist movement and a dedicated campaigner for women’s rights. This well-deserved celebration got us thinking about the most influential women in the history of business and what we can learn from them. This list is by no means exhaustive, so let us know who your own female influences are!
Use Your Business to do Good
Dame Anita Roddick was one of the UK’s first global entrepreneurs. She founded The Body Shop in 1976, a cosmetics, skin care and perfume company that has become well-known for its ethical consumerism. Anita was passionate about human and animal rights, prohibiting the use of animal testing in her products and promoting fair trade. She was also a strong believer that businesses should act responsibly, saying;
“There is no more powerful institution in society than business, which is why I believe it is now more important than ever before for business to assume a moral leadership. The business of business should not be about money, it should be about responsibility .”
Believe in Your Product
If you’ve ever received a free gift with a make-up purchase you have Estee Lauder to thank, who pioneered the tactic as a way to differentiate her product from others whilst overcoming a lack of advertising budget . She was a strong sales woman who believed in hard work and the power of persistence. She also stressed the importance of believing in what you’re selling, and felt that to make a sale you had “touch” the customer, demonstrating the results and explaining how the product works .
Follow your own Path
Well-known talk show host Oprah Winfrey is also a savvy businesswoman. She decided early in her career that she wanted complete control over her work and chose owning the rights to the Oprah Winfrey Show over being paid a steady salary. Her empire has grown significantly since making this decision – with her ownership of the successful multi-media company Harpo Productions. She is often credited as one of the most powerful business women in the media industry - her influence in America is so big that her support for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is thought to have won him 1 million votes .
On the importance of following your own path, she said:
“Often we don’t even realize who we’re meant to be because we’re so busy trying to live out someone else’s ideas. But other people and their opinions hold no power in defining our destiny. ”
It’s Never too Late for Success
French designer Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel has been credit with “liberating” women from the constraints of restrictive, corseted fashion . She disappeared from public view during World War 2 but reappeared in 1954, 71 years old, to announce she was making a comeback. Despite a wavy start, she managed to win over the fashion industry and regain the title of the “greatest designer of all time”. Today, Chanel remains one of the world’s most popular design houses, nearly 50 years since her death .
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