Geisha Williams is the first Latina to make the Fortune 500. Williams, who immigrated to American at age 5 from Cuba, became the CEO of PG&E in March.

By Stephanie Fairyington
September 25, 2017 07:03 PM
Business Wire

Geisha Williams, a 56-year-old Cuban immigrant who helms PG&E, became the first Latina CEO to make the Fortune 500, the magazine announced on Friday. In March, Williams took the reins of the 17.7 billion electric utility company after heading its electric operations for ten years.

As reported by Fortune, the business executive was born Geisha Jimenez in Cuba to political refugees and immigrated to the United States at five-years-old in 1962. To make ends meet, her hardworking father worked three jobs, including employment at a factory and at restaurant as a dishwasher. The family eventually saved up enough money to buy a small grocery story, where Williams learned a love of math working the cash register. She enrolled in an Engineering program at the University of Miami and randomly found a summer job at Florida Power & Light Company (FLP), where she ended up staying for more than 20 years, leaving in 2007 for PG&E.

Tony Avelar/AP

Under her stewardship, the firm modernized its electricity grid, phasing out the need for meter readers and connected more solar powers than any other company in the country.

Williams didn’t always envision herself running a multi-billion dollar company. A chat with a former manager at FLP helped her see herself in the role. As Fortune reported, he said: “Someday, somebody has to run this company. Why not you?”

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That conversation catalyzed a shift in her self-perception: “[It] was such a turning point,” she told Fortune. “I went from thinking I could be a manager to thinking I could do something much bigger than that.”

Fortune reported that 2017 was a record-breaking year for female CEOs with 32 on the list, a staggering 52 percent increase from 2016. Williams was one of only two minority women to make the cut: Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, was the other.