Her story may have started with a bad case of allergies.
Carpet dust really bothered Anna Bissell’s husband, Melville. And in the 1880s, keeping rugs clean was no small job. So, the Bissell sweeper was born.
The Bissells sold their first carpet sweeper in 1876, but when Melville died in 1889, leaving Anna with four small children, she decided not to give up on their company.
The end result?
Anna became America’s first female CEO and boosted the brand throughout the U.S. and beyond. She even managed to make the sweepers a fan favorite of Queen Victoria.
Before women even had the right to vote, Anna Bissell was busy blazing a trail where few landmarks existed. Her business choices did more than develop a company; they held the promise of change.
A walk through history shows other women business leaders who earned success in their varied fields — each story a mix of passion and hard work. Madame CJ Walker. Mrs. Fields. Katharine Graham.
But while celebrating the successes, it’s important to note that women in leadership still represent a far lower percentage than their male counterparts. Even in the last few years, the statistics have looked bleak.
But this trend might be shifting.
Stats from 2017 show a record-breaking year so far for women in management.
So what can companies do to keep this trend on the upswing?
- Stash stereotypes. Instead, focus on creating a work environment that develops strengths and encourages creative thinking.
- Share smarts. Create mentoring opportunities. Mentoring from women already in management makes a big difference, studies say.
- Support organizations like ShowMe50. ShowMe50 aims to develop a culture of gender equality through grassroots change. Their goal: have 50 percent of senior leadership jobs filled by women.
Still feeling like progress is less than possible? Think again. With women like Anna Bissell — and thousands like her — paving the way, the future is bright. And when we all work together toward change, it’s even brighter.
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