What Were CEOs' First Jobs? 59 Female Leaders Share Their Path To Success


For the third year in a row, Bustle's Upstart Awards are honoring young women who are doing incredible things in the realms of business, STEM, fashion and beauty, the arts, philanthropy, and beyond. Want to be an Upstarts honoree one day? Read on for career tips, insights, and inspiration to help get you there.

There's a Bumble ad that reads: "Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry. (Then find someone you actually like)." The first time I saw it I was instantly excited by the strong message of female empowerment being projected. It signified that women no longer have to choose between being in a relationship and being successful. Today, more and more women are rising in the ranks or starting their own companies and finding themselves in charge. In 2016, Chicago-based consultancy Challenger, reported 1,043 CEO replacements at U.S. based companies. Of the new CEOs, 18.5 percent were women, up from 15 percent of new placements in 2015. Not only is this amazing for these women, but also for those around them. They are helping change society's way of thinking. When girls are asked what they want to be when they grow up, they can point to one of these inspiring women and say, "just like her."

The fight for gender equality at the top is long from over, though, with only 32 women CEOs on the 2017 Fortune 500 list. That's actually an improvement from the 21 female CEOs listed last year. It's a reminder of how important it is to encourage the next generation of women to reach as high as they want and throw gender norms out the window.

The decisions you make to create the career you want are undeniably important. “Making smart career choices is important because it will propel your career," Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster tells Bustle. “Making moves, even a lateral move that better positions you for upward advancement, are incredibly wise. Your priorities are unique to you. But your choices can change as you get older so it’s important to pursue opportunities and employers that fit into your life and goals."

But don't allow yourself to get too bogged down on choosing the right move all the time — sometimes the strangest paths lead us to exactly what we're looking for.

If you're searching for inspiration, look no further than these amazing female CEOs, presidents, and editors-in-chief listed below. Each shared their first job and how it, directly or not, led them to where they are now. Their amazing first job experiences that show that the path to success may vary, but the important thing is to keep moving.

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Mercedes Fittipaldi/Fotolia
Hannah Burton/Bustle
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Hannah Burton/Bustle

Inspired yet? Each of these women used every opportunity and skill they had to rise to the top. They are the true embodiment of the phrase "girl power." Let their stories remind you that with some guts and determination there's no reason you can't become exactly who you want to be.