Celebrating Strong Women: 6 Influential Women in Business

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While gender equality in the workplace has not yet reached its full potential, there are now some evident cracks on the glass ceiling of corporate boards, with female executives beginning to receive the recognition they deserve in the workplace.

Although the scales are nowhere near balanced, with female chief executive officers (CEOs) often valued as less than their male counterparts, their ranks continue to grow, slowly but surely making their way up to senior leadership and C-suite positions in corporations big and small. 

In this blog we explore the 6 most influential women in business today, to celebrate and acknowledge their efforts, influence and commitment to their respective industries. 

1) Amanda Blanc, CEO of Aviva

Perhaps one of the most influential women in corporate business, Amanda Blanc is the current Group CEO of multinational insurance company Aviva, while previously having served as the Professional Rugby Board chair for the Welsh Rugby Union. 

Blanc’s impressive resume doesn’t stop there, however, having formerly served as Group CEO of AXA, and chair for the Association of British Insurance, the Insurance Fraud Bureau and President of Chartered Insurance Institute. It goes without saying that Blanc is a powerful and influential business leader, with her many accomplishments earning her a spot on the Financial Times’ ‘25 Most Influential Women of 2022’, as well as the Sunday Times’ ‘Business Person of the Year’ for 2023.

Moreover, Amanda Blanc has been a proud advocate against sexism and misconduct in the workplace, putting her at the forefront of a cultural shift that many believe will have a lasting impact on corporate Britain. In fact, in her resignation letter to the board of the Welsh Rugby Union in 2021, she didn’t hold back, describing to the remaining leadership the entrenched sexism of the industry as a “ticking time bomb”. 

Blanc is also credited for Aviva being the first FTSE 100 firm to publicly cancel its Confederation of British Industry membership following allegations of rape and sexual harassment, as well as being the influencing voice of the BP board members, multinational gas and oil company, to dismiss its chief executive, Bernard Looney, for “serious misconduct”.

If all this weren’t enough to showcase her far-reaching influence, Blanc is also credited for transforming Aviva into a “highly investable company” and helping its share price surge 65% since her appointment. It’s truly no surprise why she’s been awarded a Damehood for her services in business and gender equality. 

2) Mary Barra, CEO General Motors 

There’s something truly empowering about a female CEO in a male-dominated industry. That’s the case for Mary Barra, the first female Chief Executive Officer for automotive giant General Motors (GM), who’s the first-ever female CEO of a major automobile company in the USA.

Barra joined General Motors back in January of 2014 and has since been piloting the transition of the 116-year-old automobile manufacturer into an all-electric automaker by 2035. This, in turn, has undoubtedly put pressure on automakers around the world to do the same, in order to remain aligned with today’s global concerns. As stated by GM, they’re “joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world”. 

Alongside her contributions to an environmentally conscious future, through her work, Barra is also praised for her leadership style and approach, which places people at the centre of GM operations. As she explains, “At the end of the day, the success of every company is about its people. “We want a culture where everybody comes to work and feels they can be their best selves and therefore they can do their best work, and an environment that recognises and accepts differences, that celebrates differences”.

Following this, in 2018 GM was just one of two global organisations that did not have a gender pay gap, earning Barra a well-deserved spot on Fortune’s ‘2022 Most Powerful Women’ and Forbes’ ‘100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2022’ lists, securing the 4th position in both. 

3) Paula Santilli, CEO PepsiCo Latin America 

Appointed CEO of PepsiCo in Latin America in 2009, Paula Sanilli has overseen $11.7 billion in annual net revenue in the region in 2023 and supported 80,000 direct jobs across 34 markets. 

Having previously served as the President of PepsiCo Mexico Foods, the second largest market for PepsiCo globally, as well as having worked for Campbell Soups and Kellogg's in Argentina, the name Paula Santilli holds strong influence in the food and beverage industry in Latin America. 

However, putting that aside, Santilli’s greatest influence continues to be her commitment to championing diversity, inclusion and women’s representation, having also co-authored three books about women’s empowerment and the importance of increasing female leadership positions. 

Additionally, Santilli has paved the way for PepsiCo’s initiatives to generate inclusive growth in Latin America, while being a sponsor of Inspira Program, which seeks to propel female executive development in the region. 

These accolades have earned her a place on Fortune’s ‘50 Most Powerful Women International’ 2019 list and Forbes’ list of the ‘100 Most Powerful Women in 2020’. 

Along with that, Santilli has also received the ‘Exceptional Women of Excellence' award granted by the Women Economic Forum. The award recognises her achievement in promoting diversity and inclusion, as it celebrates outstanding women in different areas of human endeavour.  

4) Emma Walmsley, CEO GSK

A prominent figure in the pharmaceutical industry, Emma Walmsley made history by becoming the first female CEO of a major pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), in 2017. 

Walmsley is best known for her direct and candid approach to leadership, especially following a bold move by GSK, led by herself, to purchase 36% of Novartis’s stake, worth £13 billion in GSK Consumer Health. 

Through this acquisition, GSK was further positioned as a leader in the consumer health industry, giving it complete control over products such as Sensodyne, Panadol, Voltaren and Nicotine. As Walmsley expressed, the “transaction addresses one of our key capital allocation priorities and will allow GSK shareholders to capture the full value of one of the world’s leading consumer healthcare businesses”. 

Along with that, Walmsley reorganised and restructured the entire leadership and top executives of GSK, by replacing 40% of them with new, fresh talent from companies such as Walmart and AstraZeneca, which aimed to save the company £400 million. 

In 2020, Walmsley was also appointed as Dame Commander of the British Empire for her outstanding work in the pharmaceutical industry and the work of business as a whole, which surely earns her a mention in this list.  

5) Raja Easa Al Gurg, Group Managing Director & Vice Chairperson Easa Al Gurg Group

A leading Middle Eastern woman in her own right, Raja Easa Al Gurg is the Managing Director and Vice Chairperson of one of the biggest conglomerates in the Middle East, which consists of 27 companies, ranging from retail to construction.

Being the first among her siblings to attend university, Al Gurg first worked as a secondary school headmistress, before taking over the reins of her family business when her father stepped down. 

Aside from that, Al Gurg holds many different roles and positions, one of which is the Founder and President of the Dubai Business Women Council, which aims to improve female entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates. In fact, many credit Raja’s persistence in motivating the younger female generation in Dubai, and having influenced the increase of Emirati women running businesses. 

Raja Easa Al Gurg has since been ranked as the Most Powerful Emirate Business Woman in the Middle East and the third Most Influential Women in the Arab World in Forbes Middle East ‘100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen’ in 2017. Arguably, she is one of the most impressive and inspiring figures representing Middle Eastern women.

6) Virginia Rometty, CEO of IBM

This list couldn’t be complete without any mention of Virginia Rometty, who served as tech company IBM’s CEO from 2012 to 2020. 

A 36-year veteran in the tech industry, Rometty guided IBM through its transition to a data company with immense success, optimising its portfolio and repositioning it for the future. IBM’s transition included building out key capabilities in hybrid cloud, security, quantum computing, industry expertise, and data and AI, either organically or through various acquisitions.

An industry leader in her own right, through this transition, Rometty helped IBM build a $21 billion hybrid cloud business, while also establishing its leadership in AI and quantum computing. She was, therefore, rightfully described as the “industry’s leading voice on technology ethics and data stewardship”

However, her influence doesn’t stop where technological advancements are concerned. During her impressive tenure at IBM, Rometty was able to achieve record results in diversity and inclusion within the company. This involved standing parental leave, which enabled an easier transition for women returning to work, through the introduction of the “returnship programme”. It also gave them hands-on experience in emerging technologies, to align their skills and knowledge with the rest of the industry. 

Her efforts through this pioneering work of course didn’t go by unrecognised, with Rometty receiving the prestigious Catalyst Award in 2018 for advancing diversity and women’s initiatives through her career. This was especially significant as IBM was the only tech company to earn this recognition in the past 20 years, as well as being the only company to ever receive the award four times. 


This list stands as proof of female business professionals’ resilience and influence in the business world, showcasing their equally powerful abilities to succeed just as much as their male peers. Although great strides have been made to balance the scale between female and male leadership executives, there’s still much work needed to once and for all shatter the glass ceiling and create a working world where women are considered not only equal but essential. . 

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