Talk about coming a long way. The eldest daughter of the late Carlson Cos. founder Curtis L. Carlson, Nelson, 66, was told to use the abbreviation "M.C. Nelson" at her first job as a Paine Webber security analyst to disguise her gender. How times have changed: She took over as chief executive of the family's leisure and business services empire in 1998 and now oversees one of the largest private companies in the country, whose well-known brands include Radisson Hotels & Resorts and TGIFriday restaurants. The company's systemwide sales were up 25% in the last year. Carlson's personal net worth is estimated at .4 billion. In 2002, President Bush appointed her chair of the National Women's Business Council; her term expired in May. She was also co-chair of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year and sits on several boards, including ExxonMobil and the Mayo Foundation. In April, she was named Businesswoman of the Year by the U.S. Commerce Department's Small Business Administration.
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