It was a year of major milestones -- and disappointments -- for female business power players. A look at some of the biggest leadership moves in 2012.
In July, Marissa Mayer ended her 13-year stint at Google GOOG to take the reins at Yahoo , all while pregnant with her first child. The new mom and CEO multi-tasked her way through the challenges; she claims working at the struggling tech company is “fun” and that her son Macallister is “easy.” Mayer admits a turnaround at Yahoo will take several years, but hopes to address the company’s identity crisis by making its suite of desktop assets — email, news, weather, stock quotes — easily accessible on mobile devices; she also says she’s focusing on employee performance rather than potential.
Initially slated to become the defense company’s COO next month, Marillyn Hewson received an unexpected promotion in November when president and incoming CEO Chris Kubasik resigned after the discovery that he had had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. Hewson, who takes over in January, has spent almost three decades at Lockheed Martin LMT and currently runs its largest division, electronic systems.
General Dynamics GD exec Phebe Novakovic enjoyed quite the career bump in May, when the former head of marine systems was named president and COO at the defense contractor. Just one month later, current CEO Jay Johnson announced his retirement and succession plan: Novakovic will replace him on January 1.
As she nears her one-year anniversary as president and CEO at Big Blue, IBM’s IBM Ginni Rometty has another title to cheer about: she was made chairman in October. Her future plans for the tech giant? The 31-year company veteran favors what she refers to as strategic beliefs over strategic planning. “Clients say, ‘What’s your strategy?’ And I say, ‘Ask me what I believe first.’ That’s a far more enduring answer.”
Andrea Jung passed the baton at Avon AVP to former Johnson & Johnson JNJ exec Sheri McCoy in April, becoming the second ever woman-to-woman CEO handoff in the Fortune 500. McCoy inherited fallout from strategic missteps and a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation; she acknowledges the cosmetics icon’s problems. “The challenges Avon is facing developed over time, not overnight, and the solutions will take time as well,” McCoy told investors last month.
Laura Lang’s professional background may not be in magazines, but the former CEO of ad agency Digitas has become fully immersed in the publishing world since her first day as Time Inc. (Fortune’s parent company) chief last January. Lang’s pushing to boost digital efforts at the company while staying true to the company’s journalistic traditions.
Marianne Lake will join Asset Management CEO Mary Erdoes as the second woman on JP Morgan’s JPM 14-person operating committee when she becomes CFO in early 2013. Lake, who will report directly to CEO Jamie Dimon, was previously CFO of the bank’s retail business and also assisted with due diligence before JP Morgan purchased Bear Stearns in 2008.
The daughter of Fidelity Investments 82-year-old CEO Edward Johnson, Abigail Johnson’s summer promotion to president at Fidelity quieted succession questions. Johnson, who’s been at the firm for 24 years but flew under the public’s radar, is reportedly very focused on customer needs. Her ascension has some hopeful she’ll revive the company’s image and attract new clients.
After 30 years in the industry, Ina Drew took the fall for JP Morgan JPM in the wake of its infamous ‘London Whale’ trading fiasco, which resulted in at least $6.2 billion in losses for the bank. Though she helped chief Dimon weather the financial crisis in 2008, the stress of the failed trade led Drew to draft her resignation letter on Mother’s Day, leaving the offices for good the following Monday afternoon.
After 35 years at McDonald’s MCD , Jan Fields said her goodbyes in mid-November. The North American president, who began her tenure at the Golden Arches cooking fries, was ousted when sales took a hit for the first time since 2003. Already a director at Monsanto MON , Fields is hoping to add one more board seat to her resume — and spend her free time focusing on women’s empowerment, health, and nutrition.
Since taking the reins at the healthcare giant in 2007, Angela Braly saw her fair share of challenges. Industry instability mixed with managerial errors — as well as consumer outrage at a proposal to raise premium rates in California in 2010 — led Wellpoint WLP investors to call for Braly’s resignation. She stepped down in August; the company continues to search for a permanent successor.
During her nearly four years leading Sunoco SXL , Lynn Elsenhans aggressively steered the company away from refining and toward building pipelines before resigning in March. Sunoco lost $660 million during its fourth quarter last year, compared to a $119 million profit in 2010. Elsenhans, who also relinquished her chairman role in May, was the first woman to lead a major oil company.
Gina Drosos stepped down from her role as head of Procter & Gamble’s PG beauty division in September. Drosos’ unit had moved from Cincinnati to Singapore and the mother of teenagers cited her reluctance to relocate her children as a key factor in her decision. Deb Henretta, then-group president of P&G’s beauty business in Asia, replaced Drosos, who says she has no plans to retire from business altogether.
In June, Blackrock BLK co-founder Susan Wagner stepped down from her role as vice chairman at the investment firm. Wagner oversaw the company’s profitable acquisitions, like the 2009 purchase of Barclays Global Investors. Her departure came as a surprise to many. Ralph Schlosstein, another Blackrock co-founder who left in 2008, is now president and CEO of Evercore Partners. Could a similar leadership move be in Wagner’s future?