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Fortune 500 Has More Female CEOs Than Ever Before

Fortune magazine Thursday, May. 16, 2019


In the latest Fortune 500 list, published Thursday, you’ll find a new record: As of June 1, 33 of the companies on the ranking of highest-grossing firms will be led by female CEOs for the first time ever. To be sure, that sum represents a disproportionately small share of the group as a whole; just 6.6%. But it also marks a considerable jump from last year’s total of 24, or 4.8%. The uptick in female CEOs this year is largely the result of women being named chief executive in the last 12 months, such as Best Buy’s Corie Barry, Northrop Grumman’s Kathy Warden, and Land O’Lakes’ Beth Ford. In fact, the 33rd CEO to make the list did so just this week, when home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond tapped Mary Winston as its interim CEO amid pressure from a trio of activist investors. ... The number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 is, of course, vulnerable to the whims of individual companies, but, as a whole, it can also be seen as a barometer of women’s standing in the business world. So what might be behind the net increase of nine in one year’s time? In a word: boards. ... Christy Glass, a professor at Utah State University who focuses on gender inequality and race and ethnicity in work and leadership, says her research with co-author Alison Cook “has shown that when boards are well-integrated with women, women are much more likely to be appointed CEOs.” The push for board diversity, she says, “may be paying off in terms of women appointed as CEOs.” What’s more, her research has found that having a gender-diverse board also increases the likelihood that women CEOs have lengthier tenures; women CEOs in the Fortune 500 overall have shorter stints than their male counterparts—42 months versus 60.


 

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