It is often said that the glass ceiling in corporate boardrooms is still intact. But there are a few cracks appearing here and there. Though the number of women chief executive officers (CEOs) at the helm of the largest companies is still lower than the number of those who are men by a large margin, their ranks continue to grow.
- Women represent a small fraction of chief executive officers (CEOs) at the largest corporations, although their ranks are growing.
- In 2021, 41 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were women.
- Women lead some of the largest corporations in a variety of industries, ranging from technology to finance.
1. Karen Lynch
CEO, CVS Health (CVS)
Lynch assumed the CEO role in February 2021. Previously, she was executive vice president of CVS Health and the president of Aetna, the corporation’s insurance arm.
Lynch is the highest-ranking female CEO in the Fortune 500. CVS is one of the largest health providers in the world. Lynch leads Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2021 list and is included on Fortune’s 2021 Most Powerful Women in Business list.
2. Rosalind Brewer
CEO, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA)
Most recently chief operating officer (COO) of Starbucks, Brewer was named CEO of Walgreens in 2021. Brewer, who is only the third Black woman and one of 41 women to run a Fortune 500 company, is a seasoned executive in corporate America. Prior to Starbucks, which she joined in 2017, Brewer served as president and CEO of Sam’s Club. She was the first Black CEO of Sam’s Club.
Brewer was also the first woman and Black COO of Starbucks and helped to spearhead its diversity initiatives, including racial bias training. The company now ties executive pay to diversity targets. Brewer is included on Fortune’s 2021 Most Powerful Women in Business and Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2021 lists.
3. Mary Barra
CEO, General Motors (GM)
Ranking third, Barra is the first female CEO of General Motors and pretty much the first for a major automobile company in the United States. She slid into the driver’s seat at GM in January 2014, taking over from Daniel Akerson, the man credited for turning the company profitable after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2011.
Barra is leading the charge for GM to transition to electric vehicles by 2035. She ranked fifth on Fortune’s 2021 Most Powerful Women list and fourth on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2021.
|Fortune 500 Rank|
|CEO||Company||Fortune 500 Rank in 2021|
|Karen Lynch||CVS Health||4|
|Rosalind Brewer||Walgreens Boots Alliance||16|
|Mary Barra||General Motors||22|
|Carol Tomé||United Parcel Service||34|
|Corie Barry||Best Buy||66|
|Thasunda Brown Duckett||TIAA||79|
4. Gail Boudreaux
CEO, Anthem (ANTM)
Boudreaux was named CEO of Anthem, one of the largest health insurers in the U.S., in 2017. In the first four years of her tenure, the company’s stock increased by more than 70%.
Previously, Boudreaux was CEO of UnitedHealthcare, the largest division within UnitedHealth Group. She ranks seventh on Fortune’s 2021 Most Powerful Women list and 16th on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2021.
5. Jane Fraser
CEO, Citigroup (C)
Fraser, the former head of consumer banking at Citigroup, was named CEO in February 2021. She is the first woman to head a major Wall Street bank.
Fraser, who joined Citi in 2004, has held several senior roles at the bank, including chief executive of Citigroup Latin America, chief executive of U.S. consumer and commercial banking and CitiMortgage, and chief executive of Citi’s global private bank. She ranks second among Fortune’s 2021 Most Powerful Women and 14th among Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2021.
6. Carol Tomé
CEO, United Parcel Service (UPS)
Tomé came out of retirement to take the helm of UPS in June 2020. She retired as chief financial officer (CFO) of Home Depot in 2019. Tomé is the first female CEO at UPS and the first UPS CEO who wasn’t promoted from within.
During the first 100 days as CEO, she prioritized planning the logistics for the 2020 holiday season and ultimately the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine. Throughout the pandemic, UPS has been an essential service. She is listed on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World 2021 and Fortune’s 2021 Most Powerful Women lists.
7 . Corie Barry
CEO, Best Buy (BBY)
Barry was named CEO of Best Buy in 2019 at the age of 44. She was the youngest CEO of a Fortune 100 company at the time. Previously, Barry held positions including chief financial and strategic transformation officer and CFO. Barry joined Best Buy in 1999.
In terms of career advice, Barry says, “Have those uncomfortable moments. Because my strong personal belief is it is those moments that cause you to grow the most yourself, but that also differentiate you the most in your career.” Barry ranked 13th among Fortune’s Most Powerful Women of 2021.
8 . Tricia Griffith
CEO, Progressive (PGR)
In 2016, Griffith was named CEO of Progressive, after prior roles as Personal Lines COO and chief human resources officer. Progressive, a property and casualty insurance firm, reported more than $47 billion in revenue in 2021.
Under Griffith’s leadership, Progressive is a top-rated company in diversity and inclusion. More than 20% of management are minorities, 45% of management roles are held by women, and there is no gender pay gap. Griffith ranks 51st among Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in 2021 and 21st among Fortune’s Most Powerful Women of 2021.
9. Thasunda Brown Duckett
Retirement and investment manager TIAA named Duckett its CEO in February 2021. TIAA has more than $1 trillion in assets under management. Like Brewer, she is among a handful of Black women CEOs to lead a Fortune 500 company.
Duckett succeeded Roger W. Ferguson Jr., who was one of only five Black CEOs in the Fortune 500 before retiring. Prior to TIAA, she was CEO of Chase Consumer Banking. Duckett is ranked 10th among Fortune’s 2021 Most Powerful Women and 45th among Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in 2021.
The percentage of Fortune 500 company CEOs who were women in 2021.
10. Safra Catz
CEO, Oracle (ORCL)
Former Oracle CFO Catz was appointed as one of two company CEOs in 2014 after Lawrence Ellison stepped down from the position. Following the death of co-CEO Mark Hurd, Catz became the sole CEO in 2019.
Under her leadership, the tech giant has pursued an aggressive acquisition strategy, completing more than 130 acquisitions. She is listed on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women 2021 list and two Forbes lists: 100 Most Powerful Women in 2021 and America’s Richest Self-Made Women.
Who is the most famous woman chief executive officer (CEO)?
Karen Lynch, chief executive officer (CEO) of CVS Health, runs the fourth-largest Fortune 500 company, with more than $285 billion in revenue in 2021. Along with Lynch, Rosalind Brewer is at the helm of Walgreen Boots Alliance, the 16th-largest Fortune 500 company, and Mary Barra, who is CEO of General Motors.
How many CEOs are women?
In 2021, 41 women were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, or roughly 8% of the total. Two CEOs are Black women, one CEO is transgender, and one CEO sits within the top five largest companies overall. It marked a record year for women in the highest-ranking corporate role.
Which companies have women CEOs?
The largest Fortune 500 companies in 2021 with women CEOs include CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, General Motors, Anthem, Citigroup, United Parcel Service, Best Buy, Progressive, TIAA, and Oracle.
How many Black women CEOs are there?
In 2021, there were two Black women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, runs the 16th-largest company by revenue. Thasunda Brown Duckett is CEO of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), the 79th-largest company on the list.
Forbes. “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”
Fortune. “Most Powerful Women.”
Fortune. “Most Powerful Women: Mary Barra.”
Best Buy, Corporate News and Information. “Corie Barry.”
Fortune. “Fortune 500: Progressive.”
Catalyst. “Historical List of Women CEOs of the Fortune Lists: 1972–2021,” Page 3.
Forbes. “Safra Catz.”
Forbes. “America’s Richest Self-Made Women.”
Fortune. “Fortune 500: CVS Health.”