2022 is seeing a new record of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. As of March, there were 74 female CEOs employed at America’s 500 highest-grossing companies, up from 41 in June of 2021 and only 7 in 2002. Yet, the new high still only translates to around 15 per cent female representation at the top of the country’s biggest public businesses. According to McKinsey, the pandemic had a near-immediate effect on women’s employment. In many markets, 25% of women considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers. This impact was particularly sharp for women in management positions, and even more pronounced for women with children under ten years old. To put it bluntly, women were expected to give up their careers for the sake of their children; men were not. Thus, the pandemic undid decades of progress. Thus, we still have a long way to go to bridge this newly widened gap, but there are many women out there who are doing their part. In this recurring column, we highlight some inspirational women that are leading the way toward gender equality in business.
Entrepreneur: Suzy Batiz
Title: Founder and CEO
Value: 400 million USD
Suzy Batiz has failed at many things throughout her life. The entrepreneur filed for bankruptcy twice before becoming the success story she is today. First, in 1986, Batiz acquired a bridal salon that did not last long. Then, in 2002, the entrepreneur had to file for bankruptcy a second time after the dot com crash. Her recruiting website, Greener Grass, which matched companies and recruits based on culture fit, failed to get off the ground. More specifically, the investors she had found to back her withdrew due to the crash, and with that loss of funding, the company failed. Batiz promised herself to never let that happen again, which is why in 2007, when she started her smash hit Poo-Pourri, she did it with her own 25,000 USD in savings. That decision to avoid outside investors allowed her to retain control, and with that control, she has navigated Poo-Pourri through a competitive and crowded market.
Poo-Pourri is a company that devises and sells fragrant sprays for toilets. Their products are made of essential oils and other natural compounds, which coat the water’s surface and, the manufacturer claims, hold in foul odours. The name of the company is a pun on “potpourri”. Much of the company’s success has been attributed to its attractive packaging; despite the toilet humour with the name, the bottles themselves bear elegant, whimsical designs that do not draw negative attention in anyone’s bathroom. Additionally, success stems from the company’s choice to avoid synthetic fragrances and instead opt for essential oils, which premium consumers prefer. This premium niche means the company can charge a premium for its products, which consumers seem happy to pay.
Batiz herself is doing her best to improve the lives of women in business. At her company, 78% of the leadership is comprised of women. Moreover, the women who are not executives enjoy a work environment replete with massage rooms, healthy snacks from Whole Foods, and live plants. Although bigger brands like Air Wick (by Reckitt Benckiser), SC Johnson, and Procter & Gamble dominate the air freshener market, Poo-Pourri has drastically overperformed. Given the post-COVID performance of premium products, Poo-Pourri seems primed to continue making splashes.