Women are slowly but surely advancing into the top positions in male-dominated industries. At the end of January, for the first time in its long history, Levi Strauss & Company will have a female CEO, Michelle Gass, a defector from Kohl’s, the department store chain.
Similarly, the Boeing Company is opening its rarefied C-suite to a woman.
Stephanie Pope, a 30-year veteran of the aeronautics giant, was elevated to COO On January 1, a new role created for her, making her the likely successor to CEO David Calhoun when he retires.
For Gass, much like Pope’s experience, the handover lasted several months.
Gass, 52, was already an accomplished retail executive when she stepped into the president’s role at Levi Strauss last January. She had been Kohl’s CEO during the Covid-19 pandemic and before that had spent years at Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, and Ann Inc, the parent organization of Ann Taylor.
To be sure that she was suited to lead the company, however, Chip Bergh, departing CEO of Levi Strauss, took Gass under his wing for a year before giving her the keys to the blue jeans kingdom. She will now be able to accelerate the company’s international growth strategy and push further its business model as a DTC (direct to consumer) seller.
Pope, 51, is more of an insider; at Boeing, she has served in all three main units of the organization: the commercial branch, defense, and services sectors.
She took over the Services department last April, giving her an advantage over her male counterparts, Brian West, the finance chief, and Stan Deal, the commercial chief. Services generates one-fourth of Boeing’s total revenue and is its only unit earning a profit. As the new COO, Pope is responsible for driving supply chain, quality manufacturing, and engineering excellence. That’s the road map to finally ascend to CEO at Boeing. Only that one final mission remains for the co-pilot and CEO-in-waiting.