10 Successful Business Women Who Overcame Challenges

Many women we see as powerhouses in business came from humble upbringings. Even Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who took over Carlson Enterprises from her own father had to prove herself and faced significant discrimination in the workplace before her rise to success.

Working their way up the corporate ladder to rise from personal hardships and tragedies - while fighting gender discrimination, is a common life thread often seen among some of the most successful and famous women in business.

I have also included several remarkable women who started their own businesses and who have established themselves as powerful businesswomen in their own rights.

Derschaun Sharpley, Founder and President of H.I.S. Organization

Derschaun Sharpley
Derschaun Sharpley

Woman entrepreneur, Derschaun Sharpley, is the president and founder of Helping Individuals Succeed (H.I.S.). Launched in August of 2004, H.I.S. is located in Detroit, Michigan and focuses on developing positive character, and building self-esteem in the lives of inner-city youth.  

Kay Meredith, One of Dressage's Greatest

Kay Meredith, Dressage Trainer
Kay Meredith

Kay Meredith, one of the greatest influences in classical dressage, is also an accomplished writer. From a humble upbringing in WV to becoming an international equestrian force to be reckoned with, Kay still enjoys life, her family, and, of course, horses.

Tanea Smith, Founder and Owner of She's Got Papers

Tanea Smith
Tanea Smith

She’s Got Papers produces a line of stationery bursting at the seams with inspiration. Founder and owner, Tanea, has designed three collections specifically for baby girls, teen girls, and women. The watercolor designs are beautifully hand-drawn and professionally packaged. Her stationery runs the gamut from whimsical to edgy, to chic and enlightening.

Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo!

Carol Bartz
Getty Images

Carol Bartz is not an Ivy League woman with an MBA. But she is a woman with an attitude and an aptitude for business and people. From humble beginnings, she overcame tremendous personal hardships and disadvantages to become one of the most valuable CEOs in the nation – male or female. She battled breast cancer, fought her way up the corporate ladder, and now, at age 60, Bartz plans to make “Yahoo kick ass again.”

Myra Bradwell, Founder of The Chicago Legal News

American publisher and lawyer Myra Bradwell (1831 - 1894)
Archive Photos / Getty Images

In 1869, Myra applied to the state bar, who rejected her. In 1870, she filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The justices ruled against her, upholding Illinois’ right to ban women from the state bar.

In 1868, she started the “Chicago Legal News.” In her weekly newspaper, she wrote about Illinois state court decisions, session laws, and legal reforms. Myra also reported on federal court decisions and legislative news. Her paper was a huge success and became the most widely-read legal newspaper in the country.

Lilly Ledbetter

Lilly McDaniel Ledbetter

A personal biography of Mrs. Lilly McDaniel Ledbetter. Her husband, children, grandchildren, and the amazing personal story of how she helped to change the law to make employers who discriminate against workers accountable for unfair wage practices.

Lilly Ledbetter was employed by Goodyear Tire and Rubber for nineteen years before she discovered that she was paid far less for the same work as her male peers were being paid. She filed a lawsuit against Goodyear, and after a long legal battle, her case was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court; she lost.

The battle continued with several bills being introduced to change the law. On January 29, 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Carolyn Everson

Carolyn Everson

While at MTVN, Carolyn Everson oversaw strategic planning, operations, and finance for MTVN’s multi-billion dollar U.S. Ad Sales department. Under her guidance, mtvU tripled its ad sales business to take its place among Viacom’s fastest growing businesses.  In June 2010, Everson was hired by Microsoft as the head of global sales.

MaryAnna Nardone, Owner of MaryAnna's MediSpa

MaryAnna Nardone, Owner, MaryAnna's MediSpa, Woodbury, NY
MaryAnna Nardone, MaryAnna's MediSpa, Woodbury, NY

Profile Of MaryAnna Nardone, Owner, MaryAnna's MediSpa, Woodbury, NY. For ten years MaryAnna has given away free luxury to the women who deserve it most -- the single moms, the resilient warriors of the everyday battles with bills, sick kids, team moms, gas prices, non-support, and sleepless nights.

Angela Jia Kim

Angela Jia Kim

Successful woman entrepreneur Angela Jia Kim is a young, multi-talented professional. In addition to being an accomplished pianist (she even has several CDs out), she owns two businesses: Om Aroma & Co., that sells luxury organic spa and skincare products; and Savor the Success, a boutique social network for female entrepreneurs and professionals.

Kate Gosselin, Author, Speaker, and Reality TV Show Co-Star

Kate GosselinKate Gosselin visits "Extra" at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square
D Dipasupil / Getty Images

Profile of Kate Gosselin, a successful businesswoman, author, and co-star of "Jon and Kate Plus 8." Find out where Gosselin was born, married, about her battle with PCOS, her education, and professional accomplishments, and how much she earns.

More than 4 million viewers tune in to TLC each week to follow the busy life of the Gosselin family. A full production crew is on location in the Gosselin home four days each week. To facilitate filming of the show, the couple has had to endure permanent studio light fixtures being installed in their home.