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Updated Jan 03, 2024

10 Successful Businesses You Didn’t Know Were Run by Women

There are almost 13 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Firms run by female executives employ 9.4 million workers and generate $1.9 trillion annually.

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Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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You may be surprised to learn several Fortune 500 companies are run by women. No longer are female business leaders an anomaly. Although there are still more male-owned businesses, women entrepreneurs are catching up, owning 42 percent of businesses in the United States, according to American Express

Get some inspiration by learning about the successful businesswomen below.

FYIDid you know
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the states with the most women-owned businesses include California, Hawaii and Virginia.

10 successful businesses run by women

1. General Dynamics

Phebe Novakovic is the chairman and chief executive officer of this Fortune 500 company, which has business in aerospace, combat systems, information systems and technology, and marine systems.

2. Xerox

Not only was Ursula Burns the chairman and CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016 and chairman from 2010 to 2017, she was the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company. She stepped down when the company split. Since then, she has served as a board member for several companies, including Uber, and is currently the chairwoman of Teneo, a management consulting company. Xerox is more than office copy equipment; they offer document management and workplace optimization services as well as production equipment and software. [Read related article: The Best Document Management Software of 2024]

Ursula Burns

Image courtesy of Timothy Lee Photographers / Columbia Engineering

3. Foot Locker

Mary Dillon took over as president and CEO of Foot Locker, Inc. in 2022, and is responsible for overseeing all business operations and development for the chain of 2,700 retail sporting goods stores. Foot Locker owns and runs Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Champs Sports, atmos and WSS stores. The company has a presence in 29 countries.

Did You Know?Did you know
Of the 1,625 net new women-owned businesses created each day (as of 2019), 89 percent are owned by women of color, reported American Express.

4. In-N-Out Burger

At 33 years of age, Lynsi Snyder-Ellingson became one of the youngest American billionaires as well as the CEO of the popular burger chain founded by her grandparents in 1948. Snyder-Ellingson more than doubled the number of In-N-Out Burger locations, expanding to Tennessee, Idaho, Texas, Oregon and Colorado. Although In-N-Out Burger stock trades at nearly 100 times earnings, Snyder-Ellingson vows that she will never sell the company.

Lynsi Snyder Ellingson


5. YouTube

CEO Susan Wojcicki ran your favorite video sharing site until February 2023, and currently serves as an advisor to Google and its parent company, Alphabet. She was the 16th-ever Google employee and worked on AdSense, Google Analytics, Google Books and Google Images. In 2006, she advocated buying YouTube and subsequently went on to run it, growing its revenue by seven times, from $4 billion in 2014 to $29.2 billion in 2022. 

>> Learn More: Why Every Brand Should Have a YouTube Channel

6. Ralph Lauren

Jane Hamilton Neilsen is the chief operating officer and chief financial officer of fashion clothing and lifestyle brand Ralph Lauren Corp., overseeing its global finance, business development and real estate organizations. In addition, she is responsible for investor relations, procurement, IT and global logistics. Neilson joined Ralph Lauren in 2016 after working as the chief financial officer of Coach, Inc. and the chief financial officer and senior vice president of Pepsico Beverages & Foods. She is also a board member of Mondelēz International.

7. ADP

In 2023, Maria Black became the president and CEO of ADP, the market leader in outsourced human resource functions such as payroll, benefit administration and tax services. At the helm of this Fortune 500 company operating in more than 140 countries, Black endorses using data-driven insights to drive social good, creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace for ADP’s clients. 

Bottom LineBottom line
For the first time ever, more than 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies are run by women, said SHRM.

8. Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co.

Karla R. Lewis also ascended to the helm of a Fortune 500 company in 2023, becoming the CEO of Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. Lewis has been a member of Reliance’s executive team for 30 years, previously serving as the company’s corporate controller, chief financial officer, senior vice president and executive vice president. 

9. ActOne Group

In 1976, Janice Bryant Howroyd left her hometown with just $1,500 in her pocket. No more than two years later, she founded ActOne Group, a personnel, employment and workforce management company that currently operates in 33 countries and has more than 17,000 clients worldwide. Howroyd is the first African American woman to build a billion-dollar company. 

10. Rodan + Fields

Co-founded by Stanford-trained dermatologists Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, Rodan + Fields made it big with their flagship acne product, Proactiv, in 1995. After that early success, they started another skincare company; Rodan + Fields is a multilevel marketing company that sells directly to consumers. The company has an estimated annual revenue of more than $1 billion.

Resources for women in business

The following is a list of resources for women who are starting businesses or who are trying to take their businesses to the next level.

  • Office of Women’s Business Ownership: One of the top resources for women entrepreneurs is the Office of Women’s Business Ownership. This program provides women business owners with resources such as counseling, business training and federal contracts, as well as access to credit and capital. As of March 2023, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will be expanding the Women’s Business Centers network to 160 locations across the country.
  • International Association of Women (IAW): This organization helps businesswomen with professional development, including networking, mentorship and workshops. Members can also receive discounts from business service companies such as UPS and LegalZoom, among others.
  • Ladies Who Launch: This is an organization that hosts experiential events and helps to create business contacts between women on its digital platform. It also offers an online academy and a newsletter. 
  • National Women Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC): The first organization that certifies women business owners, it also provides certification to veteran-owned businesses and certifies Minority Business Enterprises, Women-Owned Small Businesses and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses. In addition, the organization supports business development through its Access Conference and offers mentorship programs, training and awards.
  • S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce: This group provides advocacy, certification and resources to women entrepreneurs.
  • Funding sources: If you are seeking ways to fund your business, the SBA also offers an array of resources. For instance, SBA loan programs, or loans that are brokered by the SBA to reduce risk and enable small business owners to have easier access to capital, are a great financing option. Additionally, the 8(a) Business Development Program provides funding and opportunities to small businesses. They also offer a Lender Match Tool that helps small businesses find capital. [Read related article: The Best Business Grants for Women]
  • Other resources: Another resource on the SBA site for women business owners is the National Women’s Business Council, the government’s only independent voice for women entrepreneurs. Other potential resources are the Association for Enterprise Opportunity and the National Association of Women Business Owners.
author image
Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Jennifer Dublino is an experienced entrepreneur and astute marketing strategist. With over three decades of industry experience, she has been a guiding force for many businesses, offering invaluable expertise in market research, strategic planning, budget allocation, lead generation and beyond. Earlier in her career, Dublino established, nurtured and successfully sold her own marketing firm. Dublino, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing and finance, also served as the chief operating officer of the Scent Marketing Institute, showcasing her ability to navigate diverse sectors within the marketing landscape. Over the years, Dublino has amassed a comprehensive understanding of business operations across a wide array of areas, ranging from credit card processing to compensation management. Her insights and expertise have earned her recognition, with her contributions quoted in reputable publications such as Reuters, Adweek, AdAge and others.
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