Planning & Strategy  |  9 min read

9 Women Breaking Glass Ceilings at Innovative Companies

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Meredith Wood

Did you know the youngest female billionaire started her business out of her apartment? Or that the entrepreneur revolutionizing personal genetic testing is a woman?

From tech to retail, women executives and founders are accomplishing groundbreaking things across a host of industries. However, only 17 percent of startups have a female founder and women still have a tendency to hold back—especially when it comes to asking for money to build new businesses. And the percentage of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list? A meager 6.4 percent (though that is up from the previous year).

That being said, women have made some incredible contributions to the business world in the last few years alone. Here, we’ll celebrate just a few amazing stories, and hopefully, inspire more women to follow their business dreams to celebrate for International Women's Day.

1. Katia Beauchamp, CEO and co-founder, Birchbox

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The Birchbox story began when Beauchamp met Hayley Barna at Harvard Business School. Beauchamp was a beauty product “connoisseur”; Barna a total rookie. The two joined forces with beauty editor Mollie Chen and set out to help shoppers navigate the wide world of beauty retail—and, in the process, became pioneers of the subscription box industry.

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Beauchamp’s favorite thing she’s discovered through Birchbox? A hyaluronic eye primer from By Terry that “makes you look like you’ve slept eight hours.”

2. Julia Hartz, CEO and co-founder, Eventbrite 

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Since Hartz became CEO in 2016, Eventbrite has continued to dominate online payment processing for live events. Eventbrite is also lauded for its groundbreaking company culture—it’s one of Fortune’s 100 Best Workplaces and frequently makes “Best Places to Work” lists in Glassdoor and The San Francisco Business Times. “Britelings,” as Eventbrite’s employees call each other, enjoy unlimited vacation days and uncommon flexibility in when, where, and how they work.

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Hartz tells Forbes, “We pride ourselves on having built a culture based off of transparency and real-time communication.”

3. Mathilde Collin, CEO and co-founder, Front

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Mathilde Collin is the CEO and co-founder of Front App, the inbox sharing software that helps collaborative teams streamline their communication. Before bringing her business stateside, Collin was leading distributed teams in both France (Collin is a Paris native) and the U.S., all while Front continued to flourish and grow.

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Since its founding in 2013, Front has been selected for Silicon Valley’s prestigious seed accelerator program Y Combinator and has raised $13 million in venture funding.

4. Tracy Sun, co-founder and VP of merchandising and strategic initiatives, Poshmark

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As more and more clothing resale platforms enter the market, Poshmark continues to stand head and shoulders above the rest, combining the utility of eBay with the social addictiveness of Instagram.


Sun attributes this to her company’s commitment to providing users flawless software along with beautiful clothes. “Under the covers of the brand is some of the most sophisticated technology,” she said in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle.

5. Sara Blakely, founder and owner, SPANX

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Sara Blakely was still working in sales when she began prototyping and pitching her idea for a revolutionary style of shapewear—an idea, as the story goes, born of a fateful experiment with scissors and a pair of pantyhose.

More than a decade later, SPANX has long outgrown its headquarters in Blakely’s apartment, expanded its line, and boasts hundreds of millions in sales. Blakely became the youngest self-made female billionaire in 2012.

6. Rose Marcario, CEO, Patagonia


Since Rose Marcario first joined Patagonia as its CFO, the popular outdoor apparel company’s profits have tripled. Now, Marcario serves as CEO and continues to be a passionate believer in both the Patagonia brand and her company’s responsibility to its employees and the environment.

Patagonia has provided on-site childcare since the 1980s, and during Marcario’s time as CEO, all of Patagonia’s working moms have returned to work after having children. Marcario has also driven Patagonia to reduce its waste and adopt more environmentally conscious practices.

7. Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, founders, TheSkimm

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Before starting their groundbreaking email newsletter, TheSkimm, Weisberg (right) and Zakin (left) worked together as producers for NBC news. They were passionate newshounds—but their peers, they noticed, were less so. Weisberg and Zakin launched TheSkimm in 2012 to deliver their millennial audience an approachable, conversational run-down of the day’s most important headlines.

After five successful years in business, TheSkimm now reaches five million subscribers (including Oprah) every day.

8. Anne Wojcicki, CEO and co-founder, 23andMe


Thanks to the perseverance of Anne Wojcicki and her co-founders, 23andMe is making history as a radically accessible service for personal genetic testing.


23andMe’s road to success has endured its share of ups and downs, and Wojcicki could have shuttered the project after receiving a hold from the FDA. Instead, she and her fellow founders forged ahead. 23andMe has tested over one million users to date.

The world needs as many new, innovative business ideas as possible. Hopefully, this list of inspiring women will encourage you to pursue your own dreams and start a business—you never know what could happen. 

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Meredith Wood is the editor-in-chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. She is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more. 

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