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Safra Catz: Most Powerful Female in Business

Chi Omega member Safra Catz is one of only 61 self-made female billionaires in the world, and she is continuously solidifying her position as a pinnacle of influence in business.

Safra recently debuted on Forbes’ definitive ranking of the wealthiest people on earth with a net worth of $1 billion. Though she owns less than 1% of the Oracle Company, her option grants, which form the majority of her fortune, have pushed her to the top 1%. But, how did Safra set herself up to become such a strong pillar of success in the business world?

Quiet leadership has been part of Safra’s reputation in the corporate world, particularly during her time at Oracle. Despite her long service to the company, she remains a mystery in the business world, and she is something of a mystery even within the company. She rarely grants interviews, and when she does, they are typically business-related. Some theories as to why she avoids interviews hint that her training as an investment banker probably taught her to deflect attention to the client – in her case, Oracle’s popular former CEO.

However, according to former Chi Omega National President Melanie Maxwell Shain, who served as a chapter advisor while Safra was a collegian, quiet leadership was part of her disposition during her college years, as well.

“Safra was a very focused young woman unceasingly working towards her goals.”

-Maxwell Shain

“She approached her academic pursuits with tremendous intensity,” Maxwell Shain said. “While living in the Chi Omega chapter house, she didn’t hold a major leadership position in the chapter, but she was always there as a good, supportive member. Safra was driven to achieve the greatest benefit from her scholastic opportunities to prepare her for her future goals.”

After graduating from Brookline High, Catz studied business at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a member of the Beta Alpha chapter of Chi Omega, and also played on the school’s fencing team. (A former coach of hers once laughingly described her as having a “combative personality.”) After earning her undergraduate degree, Catz earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, as well.

Despite earning her law degree, in the early 1990s, Catz went to work on Wall Street as an investment banker – a decision that would change her life.

In an interview in 2005, Safra revealed, “My best decision was to choose to go to Wall Street over law. I learned a lot and focused on the expanding software industry at a time when the independent software industry was just beginning. That ultimately brought me to Oracle.”

Catz joined Oracle in 1999 as senior vice president, and within months of joining, she was named an executive vice president. A mere two years later, in 2001, Ellison placed her on Oracle’s board. In 2004, she became a co-president. From November 2005 to September 2008, Catz was appointed as interim CFO, only to return as full-time CFO in 2011.

However, according to those who know her well, her title never has been particularly meaningful. Her real job has been making sure the entire organization follows the policies Larry Ellison sets.

And, despite being named the twelfth most powerful female in business by Forbes in 2013, Safra remains humble… and frugal, occasionally being seen on a weekend shopping trip to Costco, her children in tow, like any other busy professional stocking up on her family’s needs.

Special thanks to Chi Omega for providing this article. Visit Chi Omega and learn more about their organization.
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