Despite major advances by women in business in recent years, the glass ceiling remains largely intact at the top of major corporations. According to the research group, Catalyst, as of 2010, there were 27 women CEOs at the helm of companies on Fortune’s 1000 list (the list is compiled based on revenue). That means that women are running a mere 2.7%. That small percentage who have beaten the odds are running major multi-national corporations, are supervising thousands of employees and are responsible for generating billions in revenue.
So how did we choose workingmother.com’s Most Powerful Mom CEOs? The women CEO club is a small, but elite group, and the women at the helm of companies who are also moms is an even tighter group. The women we have chosen for this list have at least one child at home who is under 18 years old. They are all true groundbreakers, shattering myths about what it means to be a top executive and a mother. Not only are the women on this list powerful mom CEOs, they are also some of the most powerful women in the country. Many are in what have been long considered male-dominated industries like mining and chemicals. Only two lead women-centric companies like the CEOs of Avon and Ann Taylor.
The majority on this list are the first women to head her company, including PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, WellPoint’s Angela Braly, DuPont’s Ellen Kullman and Avon’s Andrea Jung—making them some of the most visible and scrutinized CEOs in America. “Being a woman,” says Nooyi, “you've got to be smarter than anyone else.” A few lead companies on the 2010 Working Mother 100 Best Companies list notably Pepsico and Wellpoint.
Interestingly enough, despite demanding careers the women on this list are shattering the concept that powerful working women can’t have big families on top of their challenging jobs. Cynthia Carroll, the CEO of Anglo American, is a mom of four. Others have broken the two-child norm. Ellen Alemany, CEO of Citizens Financial Group, Mary Callahan Erdoes, the CEO of JP Morgan Asset Management, DuPont’s Kullman and Wellpoint’s Braly each have three children each.
It’s easy to wonder how these women are balancing their work and family lives. Several have spoken out about the help their husbands provide by choosing to be stay-at-home dads. Braly’s husband quit his family’s trucking business to stay home with the couple’s three children. Anglo American Carroll’s husband quit his job as an accountant following the birth of the couple’s third child. They now have four children. Both women say their husbands’ willingness to be the primary caregiver has allowed them to rise through the ranks without feeling their children are suffering for it.
And while the women on the list seem to defy the odds of work-life balance, many say that letting go of the need to be perfect is the secret to their success. Avon’s Jung advises women to put “mom guilt” aside. “Don’t feel guilty on either side of it. I used to feel guilty. If I was with my kids I felt guilty about work, and if I was at work, I felt guilty about my kids. That was the early years. I’ve learned that as a working mother you can’t have it all and certainly not in one day anyway. You can find the balance.” Good advice for moms no matter how much your job pays.