TRAILBLAZER THURSDAY: Beth Ford
Updated: Sep 20, 2018
by Melanie Roberts
Last month, Beth Ford shattered the glass ceiling when she became the first openly gay female president and CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Land O’ Lakes, Inc.). Though this promotion proves to be a victory for advocates of the LGBTQ community, Ford is a #trailblazer for her determination and hard work that earned her this coveted spot at the top.
Born in Iowa, Ford received her bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and continued her academic career by attending Columbia University for her masters. Over the years, she has remained involved with both schools, volunteering as a board member at each alma mater.
With more than 20 years of experience specifically in the areas of technology, and research & development, her business background extends from companies such as Scholastic, International Flavors and Fragrances and PepsiCo.
All of these experiences led to her position at Land O’ Lakes as Chief Supply Chain and Operations Officer in 2012. Land O’ Lakes, Inc. is a one of the nation’s largest food and agricultural cooperatives, seeking to build on their initiative of sustainable growth.
In just a few years, Ford worked her way up to Chief Operations Officer (COO) where she led the company's Purina Animal Nutrition, US Dairy Foods, and WinField United businesses.
Now as the ninth CEO and president of the 97-year-old company, Ford is welcomed as a worthy leader.
“Since joining our company in 2011, Beth has proven she’s not afraid of hard work, and she sees every challenge as an opportunity to deliver more value for our cooperative,” said Pete Kappelman, board chairman for Land O’Lakes, Inc. while announcing her new role. “She’s built a track record of success in a wide array of leadership roles across a decades-long career. In her seven years at Land O’Lakes, she has earned the trust and respect of our members, employees, and customers.”
There are currently less than 25 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, making this feat a major milestone. On the list, Ford sits among strong and powerful women such as Mary Barra of General Motors, Mary Dillon of Ulta Beauty and Ginny Rometty of IBM.
What makes her journey and success of becoming CEO so unique is that she was an out lesbian during the entire time she was climbing the ranks at Land O’ Lakes. Though this was not a factor brought up during her meetings leading to promotion, it’s championed as a victory for acceptance in our society.
According to a recent Human Rights Campaign survey, nearly half of American LGBTQ employees are in the closet, and Ford's successes are an inspiration to women and the LGBTQ members everywhere aim for the top and stay true to your authentic self.
“I made a decision long ago to live an authentic life,” Ford said. “If my being named CEO helps others do the same, that’s a wonderful moment.”