6 Women Who Smashed the Glass Ceiling
Last week, The New York Times, considered by many the nation's best newspaper, announced that long-time managing editor Jill Abramson would take over as executive editor when Bill Keller steps down in September to return to writing.
Times -- and The Times -- have changed since a group of women reporters on staff sued the newspaper for sex discrimination in 1974. One of them was Eileen Shanahan, a reporter who had worked there since the 1960s. Shanahan has described how in her job interview with The Times' No. 2 editor, Clifton Daniel, she purposely didn't mention her ambition to be an editor. Daniel told her that was a good thing because, "I can assure you that no woman will ever be an editor at The New York Times," according to news accounts of that conversation.
While pundits praised the appointment of Abramson as a red-letter day for women in media, it's only one of many instances in recent years where women have assumed top roles in business, media, politics and other institutions for the first time.
Here are snapshots of Abramson and five women over 40 who have dramatically smashed through the glass ceiling in recent years:
Occupation: Executive editor, The New York Times, starting in September
Breakthrough moment: After eight years as news managing editor, Abramson was considered Keller's heir apparent. The former investigative reporter and Washington bureau chief has been called "truck tough," blunt-spoken and capable. While Keller has been viewed as old school for publicly feuding with online rival Huffington Post in recent months, Abramson's stint running the Times' digital newsroom last year persuaded many that she's capable of captaining its course into the electronic news era.
Quote: "I certainly feel a sense of history, and I'm acutely conscious that I stand on the shoulders of a lot of other women," she told The Daily Beast.
Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz
Occupation: Superintendent, U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Breakthrough moment: On June 3, the same day The Times announced Abramson's promotion, Stosz became the first woman to command a U.S. military service academy. A career Coast Guard officer and among the academy's first female graduates, Stosz oversaw recruit training, directed the reserve program and commanded two cutters before being called back to lead the four-year program. She'll oversee the incoming class of 2015, the most culturally diverse in Coast Guard history, with women totaling close to a third of the 290-person class.
Quote: "I'm proud to be a role model,'' Stosz told the Boston Globe. "But this really is part of a natural progression."
Occupation: Chairman and chief executive officer, PepsiCo Inc.
Breakthrough moment: Nooyi became the first woman to run the $57.8 billion beverage and packaged food giant in 2006. Since then, the Indian-born executive has consistently ranked as one of the top women in business, leading Fortune's 2010 list of "50 Most Powerful Women" and coming in No. 6 on Forbes' 2010 list of "World's 100 Most Powerful Women."
Quote: "You may not just see the first woman president of the United States -- one of you might be the first woman president of the United States. But in truth, I think it's going to happen before you're old enough to run," Nooyi said in a commencement address at her daughter's high school graduation last week.
Breakthrough moment: Bigelow surprised the movie industry and millions watching the 2010 Academy Awards by beating out Avatar director and ex-husband James Cameron to win the Oscar for best picture for The Hurt Locker, her gritty portrayal of the war in Iraq.
Quote: "I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about what my aptitude is, and I really think it's to explore and push the medium," Bigelow told Newsweek. "It's not about breaking gender roles or genre traditions."
Drew Gilpin Faust
Occupation: President, Harvard University
Breakthrough moment: A history professor and noted Civil War expert, Faust was dean of what was once Radcliffe College in 2007 when she was tapped to lead the country's oldest and most distinguished university. Not only is she Harvard's first female president, she also is the first in 335 years without an undergraduate or graduate degree from the university.
Quote: "The response to my appointment from young girls and women all over the world, from the parents of young girls, was so moving," Faust said in a 2010 interview with Voice of America. "They found in my appointment an indication of hope and aspiration that they or their children could embrace."
Occupation: Chancellor of Germany
Breakthrough moment: Merkel became head of the world's fourth largest economy after her Christian Democratic Union party took power in 2005 and won re-election in 2009. Forbes ranked her No. 1 on its list of "The World's Most Powerful Women" from 2006 to 2009. Merkel made headlines in the wake of Japan's post-earthquake nuclear catastrophe by announcing her intention to replace all of Germany's atomic power with sustainable energy by 2022. In recent months she's also called on German business and government leaders to do away with gender bias in the workplace.
Quote: She has urged German companies to make room for more women in top corporate leadership roles. "Be creative, or we will be creative," Merkel told SpiegelOnline.
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