5 Women Who are Running Retail

Silhouette of a woman facing the sun.

Now, more than ever before, women executives are leading major American companies. Fortune reported in June that the number of women CEOs on its Fortune 500 has increased by more than 50%—from 21 to 32, establishing a new record over a 63-year history. From manufacturing to energy to defense contractors, companies led by women span a wide range.

  1. TJX
    CEO Carol Meyrowitz, one of America’s best paid female CEOs, leads more than 3,300 discount retail stores including T.J. Maxx, Homegoods, and Marshalls, in six countries. According to Forbes, TJX revenue has grown from $17.4 billion to $29.1 billion while $777 million in profits has nearly tripled to $2.2 billion, since Meyrowitz took charge in 2007.
  2. REI
    Climbing enthusiast Mary Anderson helped start the outdoor retailer REI along with her husband Lloyd, and 21 other mountaineering friends in 1938. By March of this year when Mary Anderson passed away at the age of 107, REI had grown to about 6.3 million active members, more than 140 retail stores and about 12,000 employees. As USA Today reports, her legacy of providing high-quality, affordable climbing gear in the United States, contributing to the outdoor community at large, and building a company from the ground up cannot be overstated. “They never started this buying cooperative to create a store,” said Thomas Vogl, CEO of the Mountaineers and a former senior vice president of marketing at REI. “All they really wanted to do was make it easier and more accessible for people to get into the outdoors.”   
  3. The Body Shop
    Started by Anita Roddick in 1976 in England, this bath-and-body retailer went from a home-based business to a franchise with stores across the globe.  Business News Daily recounts how the company went public in 1984 and in 2006, 30 years after its founding, Roddick sold The Body Shop to L'Oréal for a reported $1.4 billion. Today, there are more than 2,500 stores in 61 countries.  
  4. Build-A-Bear Workshop
    Inspired by a 10-year-old girl who wanted to make her own stuffed toy when she couldn't find one she liked, Maxine Clark birthed the idea of Build-A-Bear Workshop. The first store opened in in St. Louis in 1997, and has since helped people create 100-million plush toys in more than 400 stores worldwide, according to Business News Daily. Over the years, Clark has been inducted to the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame (2006) and named one of the 25 Most Influential People in Retailing by Chain Store Age in 2008.  
  5. Staples (ranked 140 in Fortune 500)
    Shira Goodman joined Staples in 1992 serving several leadership roles prior to her current role as Staples’ Chief Executive Officer, President, and a member of the company’s board of directors. Following her graduation from MIT Sloan, Goodman worked in consulting at Bain & Company, where she first became acquainted with Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg, as Staples was her client at Bain. As the previous President of the North American Commercial (NAC), Shira was responsible for Staples Advantage, which serves medium-sized to Fortune 1000 businesses, and Quill.com. In addition, she was head of the company's supply chain and customer service operations in North America.
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