The 10 iconic women in business on this list became famous (and infamous) for being impressive business women. To all of these strong women, breaking the glass ceiling comes naturally. Their names and products are recognized as symbols of quality and greatness which gives them the status of iconic women in business.
- Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart began her business education fresh out of college, working as a stock broker on Wall Street. Her resume now includes magazine publisher, TV host and bestselling author. She is founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, a billion dollar organization. A short prison sentence in 2004 for insider trading did not stop this creative business woman’s stride. Leaving prison in a gray crochet poncho, a gift from a fellow inmate, she picked up where she left off, making millions more.
- Liona Helmsley. Liona Helmsley was a successful real estate business woman when she met and married billionaire Harry Helmsley. Together they managed New York cities most iconic hotels and real estate, including the Empire State Building. Nicknamed the “Queen of Mean” for her tyrannical style, Helmsley’s greed and temper kept her in legal trouble with employees and associates. When she was sentence to prison for federal income tax evasion among other charges, the public approved.
- Estee Lauder. Ms. Lauder is co-founder of Estee Lauder Companies. Lauder began her career selling creams for her uncle, a chemist. She was a sales person extraordinaire, working tireless to get counter space at Saks 5th Ave department stores. Today Estee Lauder controls 45% of the U.S. department store cosmetic market.
- Gloria Vanderbilt. Daughter of railroad heir Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, her early creative endeavors include fine art and stemware. She ventured into the fashion industry in the 1970’s. By the 1980’s, Vanderbilt’s tight fitting jeans were the best selling jeans of the opulent hungry era.
- Debbie Fields. Mrs. Fields Cookies is the brainchild of entrepreneur Debbie Fields. Having no business experience did not stop Mrs. Fields from opening a small cookie store in Palo Alto CA in 1977. Slowly she grew her cookie business into a $450 million enterprise. She is also a best selling author.
- Anna Wintour. As editor of Vogue, Ms. Wintour has been credited with defining the fashion world. Vogue remains a top fashion magazine because of her innovation and attention to detail. But like iconic business woman Liona Helmsley, Wintour attracted a less than flattering nickname, “Nuclear Wintour.” But her reputation as difficult boss and her demanding personality did not stop her from entry into the American Society of Magazine Editor Hall of Fame 2010.
- Barbara Walters. Icon Barbara Walters broke an important glass ceiling when she became the first woman to co-anchor a network evening news desk. She went on to report for several successful T.V. shows including "20/20" and "The View." Walters continued to impress audiences by securing interviews with world leaders like Fidel Castro, the Shah of Iran and Hugo Chavez. She continues to appear on and produce "The View."
- Mary Kay Ash. Being passed over for a promotion was a motivating experience for Mary Kay Ash. She began Mary Kay Cosmetics, a direct sales cosmetic company in 1963. The business grew rapidly and was famous for rewarding top sales people with a pink Cadillac. Mary Kay Ash authored three best selling books. The annual wholesales for Mary Kay Cosmetics are over 2.2 billion worldwide.
- Melinda Gates. Business woman and philanthropist Melinda Gates is co founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 1987, Melinda began working for Microsoft and quickly moved up the corporate ladder. She married Bill Gates in 1994. Together they run the $33.4 billion foundation which focuses on humanitarian efforts around the world.
- Oprah. Named by "Forbes" magazine, one of the most powerful women in the world. She is an actress, producer, magazine owner and arguably, the most beloved talk show host in T.V. history. Her net worth is valued over 2.2 billion, making her one of the richest woman in the world. Oprah has parlayed her career to incredible heights, and is one of the most iconic business women of our times.
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