Women still only account for a small percentage of CEOs in America's largest corporations.Several women who have ascended to the top job, however, have been successful in running their respective companies.
Although some women CEOs have failed to improve their firm's bottom line, a significant number of them have boosted company profits and have positioned their companies for future expansion and increased revenues. Among them are the following:
Ursula M. Burns
The first African American woman to head a Fortune 500 company, Ursula Burns has been CEO of Xerox Corporation (XRX) since July 2009 and is now also chairman. She began her tenure at Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern. Under her leadership, Xerox made the largest acquisition in its history when the firm bought Affiliated Computer Services for $6.4 billion, thus establishing a profitable foothold in the $500 billion business services sector.
Ellen J. Kullman
As the former top executive and chairman of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DD), the world's third largest chemical company since 2009, Kullman transformed the firm's customer relations division to concentrate on customer needs, which subsequently drove innovation and decision making at the firm. Her focus on innovation was responsible for a record 40% of DuPont's revenue coming from new products during the recent recession.
Irene B. Rosenfeld
Rosenfeld is CEO and chairman of Mondelēz International (MDLZ), successor of the international packaged foods company Kraft Foods Inc. Mondelēz operates in 165 countries and among its well-known brands are Oreo cookies, Nabisco, Philadelphia cream cheese and Sour Patch Kids. Before Kraft split into Mondelēz and Kraft Foods, it appointed Rosenfeld as CEO in 2006 and profits in both the domestic and foreign markets increased under her leadership.
Indra K. Nooyi
Widely celebrated in the business world as one of the most successful current CEOs, Nooyi has run PepsiCo (PEP) since October 2006. A global food and beverage firm whose brands include Quaker Oats, Tropicana orange juice, Gatorade, Frito Lay and of course, Pepsi Cola, the company's net income has increased from $2.66 billion when Nooyi became president and CFO to $5.45 billion in 2015.
Nooyi substantially increased the firm's revenue from its "healthy" products line - fruit, grain and dairy products - and will continue to promote these company divisions. PepsiCo's net revenue has increased almost 80% during her tenure as of 2015.
Lynn L. Elsenhans
She was chairman, CEO and president of Sunoco (SUN), the only woman to run a major energy company. Demand for fuel was at a 27-year low when Elsenhans was appointed CEO in 2008. To offset the losses, she cut personnel, sold or closed the firm's refineries and sold off unprofitable or losing businesses. During her term as CEO, the company value increased by 52%. She left Sunoco early in 2012.
As former Chairman, president and CEO of agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), an international agricultural processing firm and purveyor of consumer and industrial foods and products, Woertz led the firm to a record high profitability. Under her watch the firm posted revenue of up to $89.8 billion and improved its operations and strategic investments and planning, which helped account for the company's increased bottom line.
One of her principle concerns is stopping the after-harvest waste of food - waste of wheat and rice that can be salvaged to feed hundreds of millions of people. Under Woertz, ADM founded the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss in 2011.
The Bottom Line
Although more women than ever before now run Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies, women still find it difficult in the corporate community to get mentors to help them advance, and to be paid equal to men holding positions of similar responsibility. The gender gap still exists and progress toward the top job for women executives remain slow.