Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Empowering Women Roles Models in Business

More women are having success with breaking through the infamous glass ceiling that has existed in business. The glass ceiling is a metaphor describing the transparent barrier that has prevented women from moving up into executive positions in the corporate world. While many women push these boundaries every day, explore a few of the most important women in U.S. business.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is a fierce proponent for women succeeding in business. Sandberg's early career includes time spent on President Clinton's staff as Secretary of the Treasury's Chief of Staff. Sandberg eventually changed coasts and worked for Google as Vice President of Global Sales and Operations. In 2008, Sandberg moved over to Facebook, assuming the role of chief operating officer. Sandberg's book Lean In was published in March, 2013. Lean In focuses on empowering women professionally, with Sandberg sharing details of her own rise to the top. Reading Lean In provides women with tips and encouragement to reach professional goals.

Mary Barra

? Mary Barra shattered barriers with her ascension to the top of General Motors as the chief executive officer. Barra assumed this title early in 2014 after holding various positions of vice president and executive vice president within the company. Less than 60 days after her appointment as CEO of GM, Barra faced a monumental recall involving faulty ignition switches in some car models. Barra responded by ordering an internal investigation, and she led a complete overhaul of the recall and communication procedures utilized within GM. Barra also testified twice before United States House and Senate subcommittees regarding the recall. Barra's theme has been one of moving forward with a "new GM."

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey's rise to the top of the media world did not come without struggle and pain. Born in rural Mississippi to unwed parents, Winfrey's childhood was not ideal. She attended Tennessee State University, but eventually left school to pursue a career in broadcasting. Winfrey was fired from a co-anchor position in Baltimore, but she picked up the pieces and soon began hosting a morning show in Chicago. The Oprah Winfrey Show ran between the years of 1986 and 2011. Winfrey has also co-founded a cable broadcasting company, published a magazine, launched a successful book club, and maintains her own media network with Discovery Communications. Winfrey also stays active in a variety of charitable campaigns.

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer's trajectory involved a 10-year stint with Google in product development before she made the move over to Yahoo. In 2012 at age 37, Mayer was appointed chief executive officer of Yahoo, joining an elite group of only 20 female CEOs at the helms of Fortune 500 companies. In 2013, Mayer also enjoyed the distinction of being the first woman to top Fortune magazine's annual "40 under 40" list. Under Mayer's direction, Yahoo has focused on growth and an image overhaul. Mayer has a reputation for directing zealous energy into her work, but her leadership approach can present challenges. Yahoo seems to be responding positively under Mayer's control, but the future of this company is not guaranteed.

Ursula Burns

Ursula Burns personifies the stereotypical "rags to riches" experience. From a humble beginning in New York City, Burns attended New York University and then Columbia University, eventually graduating with both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Burns began her career with Xerox as a summer intern in 1980. Slowly during the 1980s and 1990s, Burns worked her way up in the company, eventually attaining a vice president position. In 2009, Burns was named CEO of Xerox, replacing exiting CEO Anne Mulcahy. Under the leadership of Burns, Xerox has remained a viable organization, even with the current shift toward a paperless society. Burns led Xerox to its largest acquisition in the company history with the purchase of Affiliated Computer Services soon after she took over.