TIME

firsts women who are changing the world

Beth Ford

First openly gay woman to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company

When Beth Ford was in her 30s, working in book publishing in New York City, she took a jog by the river with the woman who would become her wife. Ford knew that many face workplace discrimination for being gay, but when they bumped into her CEO on the street, she took a chance and introduced Jill Schurtz as her partner. She was confident that she could be a leader without hiding her identity.

Now, two decades later, Ford is a CEO herself. The 54-year-old mother of three from Iowa was named chief executive of Land O’Lakes on July 26, making her not only one of 25 women to lead Fortune 500 companies but also the first ever openly gay woman to hold that position.

Since taking the role, Ford has spent packed days meeting shareholders and board members, assembling her team and traveling the country to meet with farmers. After a career that has carried her from Columbia Business School to Mobil

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