Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has given Tara Hart, founder and CEO of workplace safety firm The Compliance Alliance, an edge. Hart brings what she calls a "matriarchal approach" to establishing workplace safety standards for clients in the gas, oil and construction industries. "The patriarchal system of zero tolerance [for mistakes] doesn't work," says Hart, 51, whose clients include Fortune 50 companies. "Employees are afraid to report unsafe conditions for fear of being punished. My paradigm is all about collaboration and cooperation so safety concerns are brought to light and dealt with."
Hart started the Houston company 22 years ago when she was a single mother of three children. "The irony that I made my family safe by helping make others safe is not lost on me," she says. The company had seven-figure sales last year, and it projects 20 percent growth this year.