The women on our list look up to a broad array of business stars on their business journeys — Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, even Walt Disney. But overwhelmingly, they find inspiration much closer to home. P.K. Scheerle of American Nursing Services still keeps in touch with her high-school principal, Sister Eloise, for advice. And more than half of our winners said mom was their hero.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.