From the Classroom to the Boardroom: The Impact of 7 Female CEOs’ School Performance on Their Career Trajectories

by / ⠀Career Advice Entrepreneurship / July 12, 2023
female leader school performance

Education is a vital tool for entering the business world. Regardless of the industry, the impact of good school performance can transform your future, letting you become a CEO.

Becoming a Female CEO

As of 2023, only 10% of the top corporations in the U.S. have women chief executive officers (CEOs). For years, misogynistic practices kept women from rising in the ranks. While we are in a much better position in society, well-known discriminatory policies and stereotypes still discourage and prevent us from being where we belong.

A solid educational background makes becoming a female CEO easier. Additionally, we can learn from these seven women’s school performance shows how it helped them achieve their success.

1. Karen S. Lynch, CVS Health Corporation

Karen S. Lynch became the president and CEO of CVS in 2021. Before that, she worked in the healthcare industry for decades. Lynch went to Boston College’s Carroll School of Business, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and becoming a certified public accountant. She later got a master’s degree in business administration (MBA).

Accounting is an excellent degree for someone hoping to rise to the ranks of a company. Knowing how to keep a business financially stable is vital.

2. Michele Buck, The Hershey Company

Michele Buck joined The Hershey Company in 2005 after serving for 17 years in a senior position for the Frito-Lay Division of PepsiCo. She held many senior roles at Hershey before becoming Chief Operating Officer. She oversaw operations in Central and South America and served as the Chief Growth Officer in the U.S.

In 2017, she became the company’s first female president and CEO. Before her career, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

3. Corie Barry, Best Buy Co., Inc.

Corie Barry began her career with Best Buy in 1999, holding many operational and financial positions before becoming chief financial officer in 2016. In 2019, she became CEO. Before joining Best Buy, she had a career as an auditor. Before that, Barry got dual bachelor’s degrees in management and accounting from the College of St. Benedict.

Management and accounting are essential skills for anyone looking to improve their business skills and majoring in them allows you to gain the necessary leadership and financial skills.

4. Mary T. Barra, General Motors Company

Before becoming CEO of General Motors in 2014, Mary T. Barra was GM’s executive vice president for Global Development, Purchasing, and Supply Chain.

She began working with GM in college at the GM Institute of Kettering University. She went on to graduate with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University and continued to earn an MBA.

Electrical engineering is valuable for wanting to grow in the automotive industry. Meanwhile, business administration prepares someone for a leadership role.

5. Gina Boswell, Bath and Body Works, Inc.

Gina Boswell became CEO of Bath and Body Works Incorporated after joining the board of directors at the end of 2022. Before joining the company, she was a senior executive with Unilever. There, she led the company in the United Kingdom and North America, focusing on food and beverage, home goods, and beauty products.

She graduated summa cum laude in accounting from Boston University before receiving her MBA from Yale. Business administration is an important program for any future CEO since being one is the largest admin task.

6. Tricia Griffith, Progressive

Tricia Griffith rose through Progressive’s corporate office ranks to become CEO in 2016. While there, she launched the company’s first diversity and inclusion program. She established LGBT Plus and the Progressive African American Network in 2007.

She attended Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. To achieve a marketing degree, you must persuade an audience and satisfy customers — useful skills for any entrepreneur.

After achieving her bachelor’s, she eventually attended Stanford Law School’s Director’s College and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business Advanced Management Program. These programs can benefit a future CEO by teaching vital legal and company management skills.

7. Gail Boudreaux, Elevance Health 

Gail Boudreaux became CEO of Elevance Health in 2017 and grew the company’s stock by more than 70% in her first four years.

Before leading Elevance, Boudreaux was CEO of UnitedHealthcare. A powerhouse in the industry, Fortune names her 9th on their 2002 Most Powerful Women in the World list and 16th on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2022.

Before her professional career, Boudreaux’s leadership was well-known when she won Ivy League Player of the Year for Basketball. What about her school performance? She earned her bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth and an MBA from Columbia University with high honors.

For any executive position, an education in business is valuable. Gaining leadership skills in other areas of life can help you stand out among the rest.

Learning from Female CEOs

These successful CEOs know a thing or two about leading a company and how their school performance contributed to their success. Common threads between them are accounting, management, and business degrees.

There are plenty of differences between them. Some got their master’s while others went on to earn doctorates or remained with a bachelor’s degree. Others began in the industry they lead, while others changed paths. There is no one single way to become a CEO, but gaining the right financial and leadership skills can help you become successful in a male-dominated world.

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