From the auto industry to the retail industry, there are plenty of badass female CEOs out there who prove that hard work can get you anywhere. Here are five of our favorite female CEOs crushing it in business right now.
Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap Inc
Despite getting her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University and a master’s in manufacturing systems engineering from Stanford University, Sonia Syngal has always been interested in fashion. After working in the auto and tech industries for several years, she started working at Gap Inc in 2004. She worked her way up in several roles from VP of Sourcing Strategy to Managing Direction to becoming the CEO of Old Navy in 2016.
In 2020, she became CEO of Gap Inc. Gap Inc is home to iconic fashion brands like Gap, Gap Kids, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta. Despite the pandemic, Gap Inc's stock has risen since Syngal became CEO.
Erika Nardini, CEO of Barstool Sports
When you think of Barstool Sports, you probably think of controversial founder Dave Portnoy, but Erika Nardini is the CEO behind the media empire. According to her LinkedIn, Nardini’s background is mainly in sales, business development, marketing, and media.
She became CEO of Barstool Sports in 2016 and attributes her success to her strong work ethic and leadership skills. She credits her parents for her work ethic, as she told Forbes, “My parents instilled a very strong work ethic in me. They worked in education as teachers and professors, so we didn't have a lot. They let me know that anything that I wanted, I had to work for. If I liked certain brands and clothes, if I wanted to have new clothes to go back to school, then I had to go bus tables at a restaurant. It may sound hard, but I always felt most comfortable at work. I quickly figured out there was a causal relationship. If I worked hard, I would make money. If I had money, I could do what I want. And I liked that, and I still do.”
Nardini is also the host of the Barstool Sports podcast, Token CEO, where she shares her experience as the CEO of Barstool Sports and interviews guests ranging from athletes like Lindsey Vonn to media figures like Maria Menounos.
Lynsi Snyder, CEO of In-N-Out Burger
Lynsi Snyder is the granddaughter of In-N-Out founders Harry and Esther Snyder and wants to carry on their legacy of keeping the company both private and family-owned. In 2012, she was named the youngest female billionaire and remains a billionaire today.
Despite being an heiress to a multi-billion dollar company, Snyder’s childhood was less than ideal. She never graduated college, and she suffered from drug abuse before her father died of an overdose. The tragedy was a wake-up call for Snyder to get clean and honor her family by keeping the business in the family. She told Forbes, “I felt a deep call to make sure that I preserve those things that [my family] would want. That we didn’t ever look to the left and the right to see what everyone else is doing, cut corners, or change things drastically or compromise. I really wanted to make sure that we stayed true to what we started with. That required me to become a protector. A guardian.”
She’s also the head of the In-N-Out Foundation, which helps victims of child abuse and human trafficking.
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
Mary Barra is the epitome of an American success story. According to her LinkedIn, she graduated from Kettering University with a BSSE in electrical engineering in 1985 and her MBA from Stanford University in 1990. She started working at General Motors in 1980 as an 18-year-old and worked her way up to become the CEO in 2014. She’s the first female CEO in the auto industry and an inspiration for women in STEM and business everywhere.
In an interview with Jenna Bush Hager of the Today Show, Barra cited her mother as her inspiration. After being asked about entering the engineering field when very few women were in it, she said, “There weren’t that many women studying it, but my mom always said, ‘You can be or do whatever you want to but, but you have to work hard.’ I think when I looked around, it wasn’t something where I said, ‘I can’t do this because I don’t see other women.’”
Lauren Hobart, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods
Though Lauren Hobart has only been the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods since February 2021, her resume speaks for itself. Hobart got her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1990 and her MBA from Stanford in 1997. Since then, she has worked at various corporations like JP Morgan Chase & Co, Wells Fargo, and Pepsi. She became President of Dick’s Sporting Goods in 2012 and has held various leadership positions there since, but was ultimately promoted to CEO last year.
One thing Hobart is passionate about is making Dick’s Sporting Goods a more inclusive environment for female athletes. Many sports brands view products for women with a "we pink it and we shrink it" attitude, but Hobart has made it her priority to make sure brands are designing shoes and athletic apparel specifically for the female body. Her strategy seems to be working, as apparel sales have increased since Hobart took over.
From fast food to sports media, there are plenty of inspiring female CEOs killing it out there to look up to, these are just some of our favorites. Which female CEO are you feeling inspired by lately?
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