President and CEO, Fidelity Investments

Abigail Johnson does not often speak publicly, but one of the topics she tends to bring up when she does is gender equality.

In an interview with the recruiting site Glassdoor in March, the president and chief executive of Fidelity Investments said that companies looking to develop more female leaders need to create training and mentoring programs specifically for women. She also encouraged women with ambition to seek out new opportunities, even those outside their comfort zone.

"As women, we need to remind ourselves to have an 'opt-in' attitude," said Johnson. "Career downturns happen to everyone and we must remember to treat them as opportunities to change how we work or try something new. That is what shows our true mettle."

Johnson has headed the Boston-based mutual fund giant, America's 20th-largest private company, since October 2014, when she replaced her father, Edward "Ned" Johnson 3rd. In her first full year on the job, Fidelity took in record revenue but reported lower profits as it spent more on technology and staffing. Revenue for 2015 climbed 6% to $15.9 billion, as operating income fell 6% to $3.2 billion. Companywide employment rose to 45,000 people, from 42,000 a year earlier, and overall expenses totaled $12.7 billion — 10% more than in 2014. Total assets under management grew 1%, to just over $2 trillion.

The technology upgrades and other changes come as Fidelity tries to meet the needs of increasingly cost-conscious investors. "At Fidelity, we are in the business of doing nonstop innovation," Johnson told an economic outlook luncheon in Providence, R.I., in June. "We've had to work to do new things, and we've had to work to do everything we already do in new ways."

In a letter to shareholders, Johnson said customers sought more help than ever, and the company handled it without disruption — "a testament to the investments we have made in systems and technology."

Another of Johnson's priorities is closing the wealth gap between men and women. Women are not only paid less than men, generally they also are less comfortable talking about money with a financial adviser than men are, according to Fidelity's research. To that end, the company has created an array of programs, seminars and online tools specifically for women to educate them about investing and saving for retirement.

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