The business world has been dominated by men for decades. However, in recent years, the gender gap between men and women in Fortune 500 companies has very, very slowly begun to decrease. In 2014, six women broke the glass ceiling when they were nominated as the Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 company, bringing the total number of female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company to 24.
These women have excelled in their careers through hard work and constant dedication to the vision and dream they have for themselves and the companies they work for. Through their exemplary work ethic, the 24 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have begun to pave the way for more women to excel within the executive levels of large companies. These are 15 women who are CEOs of a Fortune 500 company.
15. Debra L. Reed
Debra Reed’s advancement in the Fortune 500 company Sempra Energy began with her graduation from the University of Southern California, with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. She became SoCalGas’ first female officer in 1988 before she moved to Sempra Energy, a Fortune 500 company which provides electricity and natural services to over 31 million consumers worldwide. She oversees 17,000 employees and has been named by Fortune as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business.”
14. Kimberly Bowers
With over 15 years of service as Executive Vice President of Valero, Kimberly Bowers was well prepared to step into her role as CEO of CST in 2013. The company, which is one of the largest independent retailers of transportation fuel and convenience goods in North America, has done well under Bowers’ leadership. In her first year as CEO, Bowers kept her company’s revenue at $12.8 billion dollars.
13. Deanna Mulligan
Ranked at number 27 on the “50 Most Powerful Women in New York in 2013”, Deanna Mulligan found her success as CEO of Guardian Life Insurance after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. In 2012, Mulligan didn’t let the storm slow her company’s growth. Instead, she moved offices that had been ravaged by storm waters and kept employees working through flexible hours and work-from-home options. As a result of her innovation and determination, Guardian Life Insurance saw its largest dividend payout to whole-life policyholders in its history. Its capital rose to $5.8 billion that year and continues to grow.
12. Ursula Burns
Once a resident of the public housing projects on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Ursula M. Burns has worked her way to the position of CEO at Xerox. From her hard work at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in the area of mechanical engineering to her first internship with Xerox, Burns continued to work tirelessly once she was appointed CEO of Xerox. She kept the company moving forward with the times by heading up major acquisitions and reinventing the company from printing to technology services.
11. Lynn Good
Becoming CEO of a major energy company like Duke Energy is difficult. But becoming CEO of a major energy company in the midst of an environmental crisis, a divided company, and a grand jury investigation seems nearly impossible. However, Lynn Good, who became CEO of Duke Energy in July of 2013, is doing much more than wading through her first year as CEO.
She’s quickly becoming thought of as the visionary that will turn around Duke Energy’s situation. Good was recently called “the smartest (new) CEO in the energy industry” by Fortune magazine.
10. Carol M. Meyrowitz
With over 30 years of experience within TJX Companies, Carol Meyrowitz’s leadership over the past seven years has led the company to its rank as No. 108 in the 2014 Fortune 500 listing. TJX Companies, which umbrellas T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, Home Goods, and Sierra Trading Post in the United States, Canada, and Europe is the world’s leading off-price retail company. Meyrowitz, who is a graduate of Rider University, has managed to raise $16 billion in revenue to over $27 billion.
She has tripled the companies’ profits in the past few years, but she doesn’t have plans to slow down any time soon: Meyrowitz has plans to increase the number of discount retail stores from 3,000 to 5,000 in six countries and reportedly intends to push the company forward in online sales.
9. Phebe Novakovic
Ranked as number 11 on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women of 2014, Phebe Novakovic is making a name for herself as the woman who brought General Dynamics back from financial disaster. A former employee of the U.S. Department of Defense and the CIA, Novakovic took over in January of 2013 just after General Dynamics, one of the world’s top defense contractors, lost $332 million.
Novakovic’s first year as CEO of General Dynamics, saw a cut in defense budgets, which obligated the new CEO to steer the company in new directions. And her changes to General Dynamics are working; the company posted $2.4 billion in profits in 2013.
8. Irene Rosenfeld
Irene Rosenfeld graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology before receiving her Master’s Degree and PhD in Marketing and Statistics. Since then she has created a name as one of the most powerful women in the world by leading Mondelez International to financial success.
Rosenfeld joined the company in 2006 and has built the company with brands such as Cadbury, Nabisco, Oreo, and Trident. She has been named on several Most Powerful Women lists by Forbes, Fortune, and Financial Times.
7. Ellen Kullman
Leading a company that’s over 200 years old through a financial crisis is not easy. But Ellen Kullman doesn’t mind the tough work. When she signed on as CEO of DuPont, Kullman needed to fix the sinking company fast – that meant leading the company into new areas of production.
Kullman has focused the company around the concept of sustainable products that will help to feed people around the world. The company, which specializes in the production of agricultural and nutritional products, has rebounded financially under Kullman’s leadership.
6. Marillyn Hewson
There is no doubt that Marillyn Hewson is a powerful woman. She has been named the 34th most powerful women in the world by Forbes in 2013 and has been named one of Fortune magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business for the past four years. Her reputation as a powerful woman comes from her leadership position within Lockheed Martin.
As one of the largest providers of IT services and systems integration to the U.S. federal government, Lockheed Martin deals mainly in security and aerospace. Hewson has successfully lead the company through defense spending cuts as well as difficult economic times. She manages 113,000 people worldwide and in 2013 was selected by President Obama to join the President’s Export Council.
5. Indra Nooyi
After being named President and CEO of PepsiCo. in 2006, Indra Nooyi has made it her first priority to move the food and beverage company forward. She has done this by making big deals and acquisitions. She led PepsiCo. through the acquisition of Tropicana, a merger with Quaker Oats, and the recent pledge to the Clinton Global Initiative to reduce by 20% the number of calories Americans consume in soft drinks by 2025.
4. Patricia Woertz
Patricia Woertz is no stranger to the tough and often male-dominated world of business. With a degree in accounting from Penn State University, Woertz was recruited among a select number of graduates to join the accounting firm Ernst & Young. Shortly after, she joined Gulf Oil Corporation and became an integral part of their audit team.
Woertz joined Archer Daniel Midland, a food-commodities processor, in 2006 as CEO. Her pragmatic attitude has driven her to success and she remains firm in her belief that, “You take reasonable risks. You calibrate, decide, and go forward with commitment.”
3. Virginia M. Rometty
After earning a Bachelor of Science in computer science and electrical engineering, Virginia M. Rometty began a career that would be filled with success. From the moment she began working with IBM in 1981, Rometty was making positive changes for the technology and consulting corporation. She has had leadership roles such as, Senior Vice President of Global Business Services and Senior Vice President and Group Executive of IBM Sales, Marketing and Strategy.
In both of her leadership positions, Rometty was responsible for the company’s expansion on an international level. Since her promotion to CEO of IBM in 2012, Rometty has been working to keep the company moving forward with technology. She is investing in cloud computing and even partnering with Apple. And she’s not afraid of her company’s need to change with the times. According to Rometty, “Growth and comfort don’t co-exist. That’s true for people, companies, nations.”
2. Margaret Whitman
With a Bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a Master’s degree from Harvard Business School, Margaret Whitman was clearly searching for an executive career. But her place as CEO of Hewlett-Packard didn’t come immediately. In fact, Whitman worked first at Procter & Gamble, Bain and Company, Disney, and Stride Rite. She excelled in all of her positions within each company but felt compelled to take a risk and join a brand new auction site; Ebay.
As CEO of Ebay, Whitman used her consumer driven business approach to grow the company and its revenue into the billion dollar international company it is today. In 2011 she join the Hewlett-Packard team as CEO and is still taking risks: She recently announced that the billion dollar technology company will be splitting and venturing into new technology-driven investments.
1. Mary Barra
In January of 2014, Mary Barra was named the first female CEO of General Motors. But only months after taking her role, she found herself before Congress, testifying about deaths related to a faulty ignition switch in several GM models.
With over 30 million cars recalled, Barra is leading the company through the devastating time. Her mission for the future of GM is to bring about a “new GM”. She intends to let technology lead the way and to make the trust of GM customers her top priority.