The set went on sale at the beginning of November and promptly shot straight to the top of Amazon’s best-seller charts, dispelling any myth that the public’s interest in women’s achievements doesn’t translate into commercial value. Which got us thinking – which Women of Business should be immortalised forevermore in yellow brick?
Quick experiment – without scrolling down the page, name four powerful, successful and influential women from the world of business. If you managed more than two, we’re impressed.
Alarmingly, they do not spring to mind with anything like the speed of their male counterparts. We can reel off names like Branson, Dyson, Jobs, Murdoch, Musk, Sugar and, of course, the flailing, distemperate god-emperor of failing upwards: Trump, with practically zero mental exertion. Coming up with names and faces from the fairer sex though – that takes some effort.
This has nothing to do with women’s levels of success. Rather, it speaks to the wide-ranging problem of the level of attention paid to women’s achievements across every field and their representation within the media – despite being every bit as successful as men, and often succeeding against significantly steeper obstacles. So, inspired by Lego’s Women of NASA, we respectfully submit the following candidates for our purely hypothetical and up-for-debate ‘Women in Business’ Lego set:
CEO, Washington Post Company
Katherine Graham became the first ever female CEO of a Fortune 500 company when she took over as both publisher and CEO of the Washington Post in 1972. During her lifetime, Graham was described as one of ‘the most powerful women in America’ – a phrase she personally hated because it made her sound like a weightlifter.
Despite feeling ‘abysmally ignorant’ in her knowledge of business, Graham became a living legend when, over the course of two decades, she led the transformation of the Washington Post from a middling newspaper into a powerhouse of relevant and powerful journalism. Graham also played an integral role in The Post’s investigation and coverage of the Watergate conspiracy (and is played by Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s drama about it in The Post).
President and CEO, PepsiCo
Indra Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994, become CFO in 2001, and was named President and CEO in 2006. She has led the global strategic restructuring of PepsiCo to diversify and enrich the company’s portfolio, and overseen a rise in annual net profit from $2.7 billion 2001 to $6.5 billion today.
Nooyi has twice been listed on Time’s 100 Most Influential People and has appeared 18 times on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business list in the 20 years the list has been running, taking the #1 spot two years in a row between 2009 and 2010.
CEO and Chairperson, GM Motors
Mary Barra is the first ever female CEO of a major global automaker, which is staggering when you take into account she joined General Motors in 1980 at the age of 18 as a co-op student.
Barra has accomplished more in her three years as CEO than most do in 30, beating Tesla with the successful delivery of the first electric car to market with GM’s Chevrolet Bolt EV – ahead of Tesla’s much-hyped Model 3 – which is now the top-selling non-luxury pure electric car. Barra’s vision and leadership has produced three years of record earnings and GM’s biggest sales growth in years – 25% over the past 12 months.
Sheryl Sandberg has appeared in the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world and has a personal net worth of $1.58 B. Before taking over as Chief Operating Officer of Facebook in 2008, Sheryl spent 6 years at Google as VP of global online sales and operations. She now also sits on the board of The Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, the Center for Global Development and V-Day.
In 2013, Sandberg published her first book Lean In that encourages professional women to ‘lean in’ to positions of leadership and offers guidance on how to overcome sexism and discrimination as well as the internal barriers that women can create for themselves. In the same year, Sheryl launched the Lean In Foundation to empower women to achieve their ambitions.
Former CEO, Xerox
Raised in the public housing projects on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Ursula Banks felt she had only three viable career options: nun, teacher, or nurse. But everything changed when she secured an internship with Xerox.
In 2009, when Burns succeeded Anne M. Mulcahy to become CEO of Xerox, she achieved two firsts – the first black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the first woman to follow another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company. As CEO, Burns spearheaded the transformation of Xerox from a copier company into a technology and services enterprise, making innovation and diversification intrinsic to their business portfolio.
So these are our suggestions for a Women of Business Lego set. Have we nailed it or do you want to make substitutions? Let us know in the comments below or give us a prod on Twitter.