New Land O'Lakes CEO Beth Ford just became the first openly gay woman to lead a Fortune 500 company — take a look at her career so far

Land O’LakesBeth Ford took over as the CEO of Land O’Lakes on Wednesday.
  • Beth Ford, the newly-appointed CEO of Land O’Lakes, became the first openly gay woman to lead a Fortune 500 company on Wednesday.
  • She’s also one of just 25 women on the list overall.
  • Her promotion to chief executive officer is being hailed as a victory for advocates of LGBT rights.

Land O’Lakes made history on Wednesday when Beth Ford officially took over as the company’s new president and CEO.

The move makes Ford the first openly gay woman to lead a Fortune 500 company, and one of just 25 women overall.

Land O’Lakes, the Minnesota-based food and agriculture company most famous for its line of butter products, revealed that Ford would take over in an statement last week, a month after longtime CEO Chris Policinski announced his retirement.

“The Board chose the person they felt best met the criteria to drive success in the business,” Ford said in a statement to CNN. “I realise this is an important milestone for many people and I am pleased to share it.”

Read on to learn more about the newest name leading a Fortune 500 company.

Land O’Lakes named Beth Ford its newest CEO last week.

Land O’Lakes

Source: Land O’Lakes

Ford, formerly the company’s chief operating officer, is taking over for longtime CEO Chris Policinski, who retired in June.

YouTube/Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest

Ford was born in Iowa and got her undergraduate business degree from Iowa State University. She went to Columbia for her master’s degree, and she remains involved with both schools.

YouTube/Ivy College of Business, Iowa State University

Source: Land O’Lakes

Ford joined Land O’Lakes, which is most famous for its line of butter products, and also controls Purina Animal Nutrition along with agriculture technology company Winfield United, in 2011.

She was head of the company’s dairy foods and Purina Animal Nutrition businesses before becoming executive vice president and COO. As COO, Ford led the company’s Purina Animal Nutrition, US Dairy Foods, and WinField United businesses.

Source: Land O’Lakes

Ford is married to Jill Schurtz, the executive director and CEO of the St. Paul Teachers’ Retirement Fund Association. The couple lives in in Minneapolis with their three teenage daughters.

Flickr/Greater Twin Cities United Way

Source: Fortune

Ford’s promotion makes her just one of 25 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, joining leaders such as Marry Barra of General Motors and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo.

Bill Pugliano/Getty ImagesGM CEO Mary Barra.

Source: Fortune

She is also just the second openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, after Apple’s Tim Cook. A third, James Fitterling, is set to take over Dow Chemical in 2019. Ford is the first openly gay woman on the list.

Source: CNN

The Human Rights Campaign hailed Ford’s promotion as a victory for champions of LGBT rights. “The fact that she is assuming this role as an out lesbian sends an especially powerful message,” Deena Fidas, director of workplace equality at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.

Facebook/Human Rights Campaign

Source: CNN

Nearly half of American LGBT employees are in the closet, according to a recent Human Rights Campaign survey. Ford was openly gay when she began rising the ranks at Land O’Lakes, and she could help pave the way for future LGBT leaders.

Twitter/Shannon Hauf

Source: CNN

“I made a decision long ago to live an authentic life, and if my being named CEO helps others do the same, that’s a wonderful moment,” Ford told CNN.

YouTube/Purdue Krannert

Source: CNN

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