This Labor Day, while we're sitting by the beach, enjoying the long weekend by the barbecue, let's not forget why we got this work-free day in the first place. It's not just the last weekend of summer; Labor Day has a long history in America and is still a time to celebrate workers changing the labor force, including powerful women stepping into more executive roles every day.
Labor Day is More Than Just a Day Off
Do you know what Labor Day actually stand for and why you have this day off every day? We have working men and women to thank for this National Holiday. Labor Day is the annual celebration of workers and their achievements. During one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters, the late 1800s, and at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in the pursuit of basic living.
People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.
On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history. Since then, Labor Day has been celebrated in cities and towns across the US with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.
Gender and the Work Force
With more women in the labor force than ever before, you'd think the gender wage gap would be something of the past, but it's still going strong today. The average woman makes 79 cents to the dollar every man makes, but the numbers are even worse for women of color. African American women earn just 60 cents to the dollar while Latino women earn just 55 cents. Despite women earning more college degrees, the discrepancies in pay remain the same. In fact, the wage gap increases the farther into the career women go. Estimates show the wage gap will not close until 2058.
On this Labor Day, we'd like to celebrate some of the powerful women etching a new path and stepping up into executive roles. Here are six of the CEO's and COO's leading the way and inspiring us on this Labor Day.
Powerful Women Making Changes
Even today, with all the changes we've seen in the labor force. Women hold just 16% of all board seats and 14% of executive officer positions on the Fortune 500 list. And that number becomes even smaller for top positions; women hold only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO roles. In fact, there are currently only 26 women CEO's running Fortune 500 companies. These amazing trailblazers are helping change the face of the largest companies and organizations.
Stacey Cunningham, President, New York Stock Exchange. Cunningham began her career with NYSE as an intern more than 24 years ago. Since become President this May, Cunningham has spoken openly about the difficulties for the 226-year-old financial market to grow from its old boys club culture. In fact, Cunningham last years recalled when she first began at NYSE, the women’s restroom was on the seventh floor, inside an old phone booth, while the men had a “palatial” bathroom right next door with couches and even a full-time attendant. Cunningham knows it will take work to completely change the environment at NYSE, but she says they're up for the challenge.
Rosalind Brewer, COO, Starbucks. As chief operating officer and group president for Starbucks, 'Roz' Brewer leads the company’s operating businesses across the Americas. Brewer was appointed to the Starbucks board of directors in March 2017 where she continues to serve. Last year, Fortune ranked her #19 on its list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. And it's no wonder. Starbucks is one of a few companies in the news charging the way for a more renewable options including plastic cups with cold-cup lids. We're excited to see what new things are coming from the company and Brewer.
Michele Buck, CEO, Hershey's. In March 2017, Michele Buck became the first female CEO in the company’s 123-year history. Fortune included her in the 2017 list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business for the first time that year. Buck has spent 12 years with Hershey and worked 17 years before that at Kraft. She knows how to run a large corporation, and she's planning big changes for Hershey. Speaking to Fortune, Buck discussed turning Hershey into an "innovation snacking powerhouse."
We can't wait to see how those changes unfold under Buck's direction.
Mary Dillon, CEO, Ulta Beauty. Dillon has more than doubled the shares of Ulta Beauty since stepping into the role of CEO in 2013. No wonder she's currently one of the most powerful CEO's. In fact, Dillon is #5 after Jeff Bezos for Fortune 2017 Businessperson of the year. Ulta is currently having a facelift, having recently opened up locations in NYC and attained more higher-end products for its locations. And those aren't the only new changes Ulta is sure to have up its sleeve under Dillon's direction. Investing in new mobile technologies, Dillon is hoping to change the way consumers shop and interact with the company.
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo. Nooyi has been CEO of PepsiCo since 2008, making her one the longest CEO's on the list. Even before that, Nooyi was CFO of PepsiCo for seven years. In fact, she has consistently ranked among the world's 100 most powerful women. Last year, she was named #2 for Fortune's Most Powerful Women. In Nooyi's time as CFO and then CEO, she has overseen many changes to the company. From managing the bad publicity of the Pepsi commercial last year to its new emphasis on health, the company is changing itself under the direction of Nooyi. PepsiCo acquired kombucha maker KeVita in 2016 and launched a premium water line the same year. And that is just the beginning of the changes PepsiCo has up its sleeves.
Lisa Davis, CEO, Siemens. Davis became Chair and CEO of Siemens in January 2017 and also oversees the company's energy operations. In 2017, she was named as the 56th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. Prior to working with Siemens, she spent 27 years with Lockheed Martin and its predecessor companies. (Worth noting Lockheed Martin also has a woman CEO, Marillyn Hewson). Siemens is at the forefront of wind power and renewable energy among other technological developments under Davis. Here's to newer environmental technologies coming from the company under Davis.
This Labor Day, let's highlight and celebrate the executive women changing the way large corporations are developing and all the amazing workers that make these dreams a possibility. Happy Labor Day!