Geisha Williams – The First Latina CEO of a Fortune 200 Company
Geisha Williams is a woman who defies all odds. Ascending through the ranks while shattering multiple glass ceilings, Mrs. Williams has become a source of inspiration for women—especially Latinas—who seek leadership positions in business.
The truth is, it’s not easy for women to reach top positions in “a man’s world” of business professionals. Nevertheless, Geisha Williams proves that this dream is attainable by becoming the first Latina CEO of a Fortune 200 company. For International Women’s Day, it’s only appropriate that today we celebrate Geisha Williams!
Rise to 1%
Business professionals who rise to the top of their respective industries face cut-throat competition and varying challenges. This hurdle poses even more of a challenge for women and minorities. Within today’s male-dominated corporations, women comprise a mere 14.2% of top management positions. What’s more, Latina executives hold a dismal 1% of these positions.
So, what made Geisha Williams stand out and rise above all the rest? As you will see, her story serves as a testament to the power of hard work, dedication, and self-confidence for women who wish to succeed in business.
From Cuba to College
Geisha Williams (born Geisha Jimenez) embodies the classic immigrant success story. Born in Cuba, the daughter of a political prisoner, she and her family wished for a more promising life outside of poverty. Thankfully, the United States granted them entry in 1967 as political refugees after her father’s release from prison.
She grew up in Miami, Florida where her parents opened a grocery store. Her passion for success led her from being a cashier in her parents’ store as a child to finishing a master’s degree in engineering from Miami University in the 80s.
Soon after graduation, she began working for Florida Power & Light (FPL), where she started in an entry-level position as a residential energy auditor. It was during these formative years of her career that she connected with a mentor who encouraged her to believe that she could be CEO one day. Eventually, Geisha Williams joined the company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and within a 10 year period, she rose to the top of the ranks. In her own words, Mrs. Williams says:
I’m the first person in my family to go to college and the first to be in any sort of position in corporate America. I’m the first in a lot of ways. I am an immigrant who came to this country without being able to speak English and somehow—only in America, right?—I became the CEO of a Fortune 200 company.
“Why Not Me?”
Despite all of her colleagues being men, Geisha Williams felt secure in her abilities as a female leader. She grew comfortable with the fact that some men saw her as an unacceptable outsider. “I didn’t let them bully me,” she explains, “I just took it in and decided to respond very professionally and respectfully.”
With a tact for leadership and a strong desire to overcome adversity, Mrs. Williams convinced the board of PG&E to select her as the CEO. At first, she was shocked that they had nominated her. She realized soon afterward that “a lot of them had engineering degrees. Well, I had an engineering degree. I thought to myself, ‘Then why not me?’”
Success Is Your Best
While powerful women like Geisha Williams teach us the potential of hard work, they also inspire us to find our own goals we wish to accomplish. By sharpening our focus onto the target we have in mind, we are more likely to understand the steps we need to take in order to achieve greatness. Take your first step today, identify your goal, and reach for the stars! Sign up for a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy if speaking fluent Spanish is a goal you’re ready to aim for!
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