Women in Business – Recession Busters

Financial crisis – you hear the term all the time.  You own a TV, radio, computer, newspaper or magazine subscription? Then you have heard the forecasts.  But even in the midst of a “financial crisis” we are seeing select companies not just weathering this storm, but thriving within it.  If history has taught us anything it is that the economy moves in cycles.  The crisis of today can be the boom of tomorrow.

What is different about this financial crisis?  Now, more than in any other point in history, we have the benefit of a fresh outlook.  There are more women in positions of true power than ever before.  There is no doubt that some key women will emerge from this economic downtrend as financial heroes.

Here are three woman who are breaking all barriers by not just leading their companies, but by leading them through these tough times:

1. Indra Nooyi – Pepsico: Chairperson and CEO

Like many business sectors in this day and age, the soft drink industry was facing a steep downturn.  North American beverage sales in general were falling relatively rapidly.  Nooyi reacted quickly to reports of falling revenue.  She bolstered Pepsi’s international presence to offset the North American slowdown.  In fact, now 26% of Pepsi’s revenues are collected internationally.  Also, noticing the upward trends in consumer demand, she prompted Pepsi to start supporting it’s more healthier brands (like orange juice with omega-3 fatty acids).

The Result:  In a tough market with a current downtrend, Nooyi was able to keep Pepsi stocks flat versus one year ago.

2. Irene Rosenfeld – Kraft Foods: Chairperson and CEO

“The Big Cheese of All Turn Arounds” was Rosenfeld’s goal when she first took over the helm at Kraft Foods.  When she took over stock had been losing steam.  The food giant needed a fresh approach.  She was responsible for an upheaval that saw her plunge more money into brand building.  She then gave power back to local managers (especially in third world countries).  She also made sure Kraft began launching more quick microwaveable meals immediately.

The Result:  Last year Kraft stock stayed relatively flat in a downtrending marketplace.  It also replaced AIG on the Dow.  Multi-billionaire Warren Buffet also saw promise in Rosenfeld, upping his stake to a full 9%.

3. Andrea Jung – Avon Products: Chairperson and CEO

Similar to Rosenfeld, Jung was given the task for an “extreme company make over”.  Also similar to Jung she was not afraid to step right in and take control.  Not one to walk lightly, she quickly trimmed management, invested $100 million in research AND tripled their ad spending. In her off time, Jung is also the only female member (as of 2008) on Apple’s board.

The Result:  Avon doubled it’s Chinese reps to 700 000, and in 2008 the stock was actually up 15%.  Their second-quarter performance of that year was the best since the turnaround began.

These three women have looked disaster in the face and decided to take it head on.  Their aggressive tactics have kept companies afloat and thriving.  These are not small businesses either – huge corporations that employ thousands.

It is clear that the world will need some fresh minds to guide us through these economic times.  It is also clear that we will need to rely on the abilities of a wide range of people. We can no longer throw our noses in the air at the idea of equality.  We will need smart men AND smart women of all races to make sure this economic cycle returns to a boom.