In every successful career there is a moment: You could quit. But you resist, wisely.
For Andrea Jung, the chairman and CEO of Avon Products (AVP), this moment happened right after college, when she was in the management training program at Bloomingdale's. All day everyday, there she was in the stockroom, switching vendor hangers for store hangers on thousands of pieces of clothes. "I remember calling my parents around Thanksgiving and saying, 'You paid for me to have a great education and this is really not that meaningful…Maybe I will quit.'"
Jung, who grew up in a traditional Chinese-American family with a tremendous amount of discipline, had made her way to Princeton and wanted to go into the Peace Corps. But her parents didn't have a lot of money, so they insisted she take a more conventional path. When Jung called them about quitting that first job at Bloomingdale's, "the reaction was fast and furious," she recalls. Her parents told her: "You are not quitting. You start at the bottom and you work your way to the top."
"So, I didn't quit," Jung says. "I persevered, and it ended up being a really terrific run in retail."
She traded retail--Bloomingdale's (M) and then Neiman Marcus--for the beauty industry, moving to Avon in 1994. Jung was assigned to create a global Avon brand and did that so impressively that she was considered for the top job three years later. But she got passed over. And though she felt tempted to quit, she stayed. Two years later, she got the CEO job and became the youngest female chief executive in the Fortune 500.
"Bloom where you're planted," says Jung. "And follow your compass, not your clock," she adds, preaching patience in any career. She has certainly demonstrated that. Now at the helm for 12 years, Jung is No. 5 on the 2010 Fortune Most Powerful Women list and the longest-serving among the female Fortune 500 CEOs. "I feel like the wise old woman CEO, trying to pave the path for a lot more after me," she says.
Jung is on the boards of Apple Computer (APLL) and General Electric (GE), as well as Avon. And as a single mother of a daughter, 21, and a 12-year-old son, she has learned plenty about juggling work and family. "You can't, in my experience, necessarily have it all in one day," she says. "But you've got to make those choices." Now 52, she could well go and run another big global company after Avon, which had revenue of $10.9 billion last year. But she says, "I don't spend a lot of time thinking about that yet."
Right now, she is focused on Avon's longevity. As part of the company's 125th anniversary celebration this year, she has traveled to 15 cities around the globe and met with some 5,000 Avon representatives at each stop. The greatest satisfaction of leading Avon, she says, is helping 6.5 million representatives—entrepreneurs in 105 countries—build businesses from the ground up. By providing the money and products for reps to get started, "we're one of the largest micro-lenders in the world today," Jung notes. "Yes, we are a beauty company, but we do more than just sell beauty."
This is a great summer for powerful women.
There are the obvious victories, like Christine Lagarde grabbing the reigns of the International Monetary Fund after Dominque Strauss-Kahn's tumultuous fall from grace.
And then there are the successes that you won't read about in the tabloids. Two Fortune 500 companies, Sempra Energy (SRE) and Guardian Life, promoted women to CEO this past month--Debra Reed and Deanna Mulligan, respectively. Campbell Soup (CPB), named Denise MOREColleen Leahey, Reporter - Jul 12, 2011 2:30 PM ET
Amany Eid found her voice last week in Cairo's Tahrir Square and here on Postcards as well. Eid, 34, wrote a Guest Post about how she, after never before feeling politically inclined (because, under a repressive regime, what's the point?) joined the protests that toppled the Egyptian government. Eid, a telecom-industry manager in Cairo and also an alum of the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring program, returned MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 14, 2011 12:54 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
I constantly remind myself how lucky I am, as an editor at large at Fortune, to meet amazing people pretty much every day.
Yesterday I arrived in South Africa. It's my first visit here, and it's beautiful. Later this week, I'll be in Cape Town with Bill Clinton, Katie Couric , Charlie Rose, former Viacom (VIAB), CEO Tom Freston, former Coca-Cola (KO) CEO Neville Isdell and such stars of MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 22, 2010 3:11 PM ET
by Jessica Shambora
Global issues took center stage at last night's Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner in New York, thanks to the voices of CNN's legendary foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour and Xerox's (XRX) Anne Mulcahy, who retired as chairman yesterday.
Amanpour, who spent 27 years at CNN championing international coverage, heads to ABC in August to take over from George Stephanopoulos as host of Sunday morning's This Week. She told Fortune's Pattie MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - May 21, 2010 3:29 PM ET
Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein was one of the few men in attendance Monday night for the opening of the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. He had a special role to play: Presenting $25,000 to each of the two recipients of this year's Goldman Sachs-Fortune Global Women Leaders Award.
The award recognizes women from developing countries for making a difference in their own communities, using the skills, knowledge and experience MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Sep 18, 2009 4:08 PM ET
Leadership, essentially, is about inspiring others to carry on a mission. The leadership opportunity compounds in a connected, viral, global community.
Here's how leadership can spread: In 2006, Fortune and the U.S. State Department launched the Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Every year since then, we've selected two dozen or more of the best and brightest young women leaders in developing countries and invited them to the U.S. to shadow women MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 10, 2009 12:43 PM ET
Hillary Clinton, who has been under the radar lately, spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in D.C. this afternoon. I listened in by phone.
She talked tough about Iran. She announced a fall trip to Pakistan. She highlighted "smart power," defining it as "the intelligent use of all means at our disposal, including our ability to convene and connect." And she spoke passionately about women: "Until women around the world MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 15, 2009 3:44 PM ET
Last week, Rica Rwigamba attended a meeting with Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz at the U.S. embassy in Rwanda. Rica lives in Kigali, Rwanda's capital, where she is co-owner and director of New Dawn Associates, a "responsible tourism" and event management company. Rica is also a participant in the 2009 Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership, an extension of the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. Through this mentoring MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Jul 8, 2009 1:57 PM ET
Gerri Elliott, one of Microsoft's (MSFT) star execs, left the company early this year to spend more time with her family. Yes, seriously to spend time with her family. As I wrote in January, her departure was a major loss for Microsoft, according to senior executives there, and it was also a case of a powerful woman asking, "Why kill myself and miss my kids growing up?"
Now Elliott, who spent 22 years MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 23, 2009 3:38 PM ET
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