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The top female CEOs in America

Paul Morigi // Getty Images

Top female CEOs in America

Democracy dies in darkness. That’s the slogan for The Washington Post, the American newspaper that made in history in 1972 when it became the first Fortune 500 company to hold a female CEO: Katharine Graham. Daughter of The Washington Post publisher, Eugene Meyer, Graham was foisted into the unlikely leadership position after the former CEO - her husband passed away.

Graham was reportedly tongue-tied when taking over The Washington Post was first suggested to her. It must have been a momentary uncertainty, as she went on to lead The Post for over two decades; a tenure that included presiding over the Watergate Scandal - one of the most significant moments in journalistic history.

It would be naive to say there have been many great female CEOs who have followed in Graham’s tread. There have been few female CEOs. To ignore the relatively small number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies would be to slide past the unavoidable factors that prevent women from achieving all it is they are capable of. Undeniable, however, is the path of leadership, progress, and resolve each woman has shown.

This year, Stacker looked at all the women CEOs of 2017 Fortune 500 companies. Fortune 500 companies are ranked by their revenue: the ranking of CEOs is reflected as such, with women in ascending order according to the amount of revenue their company reported for 2017’s fiscal year. The list below is updated to reflect women who are CEOs to date (the original 2017 list featured more female CEOs).

Companies have a long way to go in representation among leadership for many different diversity efforts. That being said, it’s a victory that in 2017 the Fortune 500 list broke 5% for female representation among the largest companies in America. Here are the women that make the list.

ClevelandFoundation // Youtube

#24: Beth E. Mooney

Company: KeyBank
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #479

Not only does Mooney preside over one of the largest banks in the United States, when she was announced CEO and chairman of KeyCorp on May 11, 2011 she became the first female CEO of a top-20 U.S. bank in history. Educated at the University of Texas at Austin, Mooney got her start as a secretary, a role she held until she one day camped out in a training manager’s office for three hours - until he agreed to hire her.

AFP Contributor // Getty Images

#23: Margo Georgiadis

Company: Mattel
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #474

It speaks to Georgiadis’ success that she has only been CEO of manufacturing company Mattel for just over a year, and is already placed as one of the top CEOs in the United States. Educated at Harvard business School, Georgiadis’ past experience includes President, America’s, and Alphabet Inc.

Johnscl1 // Wikimedia Commons

#22: Kathleen Mazzarella

Company: Graybar
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #420

In Mazzarella’s words, “my career path has also allowed me to learn Graybar’s business from the bottom up” - that much is certainly true, as Mazzarella began her career at Graybar at just 19 years old as a customer service representative.

Lane Montgomery // Wikimedia Commons

#21: Patricia Poppe

Company: CMS Energy
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #419

The daughter of a school principal and nuclear engineer, Poppe has been CEO of CMS Energy since July 1, 2016, and she’s determined to make a change. In multiple interviews, she expresses a practical respect for the possible threat of global warming, and using low prices of energy to “attract[s] businesses to come do work in Michigan again.”

Lissandra Melo // Shutterstock

#20: Michele Buck

Company: The Hershey Company
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #369

As traditionally large food companies are inundated with competition from smaller food start-ups, appointing a CEO who is able to steer the company into trends that compete with niche markets is vital. Buck had experience spearheading some notable strategies (such as Krave beef jerky) before being appointed CEO of the Hershey Company.

Edward McMillan-Scott // Flickr

#19: Denise Morrison

Company: Campbell Soup
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #339

The first woman CEO in Campbell Soup’s history, Morrison believes “trust is the most important ingredient in [Campbell Soup’s] food.” She is also one CEO who did not feel the need to get an MBA: Morrison’s education instead rests on graduating magna cum laude from Boston College with a B.S. degree in economics and psychology.

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#18: Mary Laschinger

Company: Veritiv Corporation
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #331

Many Fortune 500 companies have been around for decades: Laschinger led Veritiv to the Fortune 500 list after only two years of existence in 2016, and did it again in 2017. Raised on a dairy farm, Laschinger’s desire to go to college was pivotal in her later success.

Whoisjohngalt // Wikimedia Commons

#17: Kathryn V. Marinello

Company: Hertz Global Holdings
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #296

In a world where ride-sharing apps gain popularity year over year, it’s no wonder, Hertz had a disappointing few quarters before appointing Marinello as CEO in 2016. Her tenure has earned Hertz Global Holdings a place on the 2017 Fortune 500 list, an honor that it was not bestowed in 2016.

U.S. Navy

#16: Debra L. Reed

Company: Sempra Energy
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #280

Reed earned her place as CEO of Sempra Energy after working with the company for 33 years. As of 2017, she’s been named on Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women in Business” list seven years running.

Coolcaesar // English Language Wikipedia

#15: Vicki Hollub

Company: Occidental Petroleum
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #278

As a woman who got her start working on oil rigs in Mississippi, it is no wonder Hollub feels at home as CEO of one of the largest petroleum producers in Texas. Another CEO who didn’t feel the need to get an MBA, Hollub holds a Bachelor of Science in mineral engineering from the University of Alabama.


#14: Anna Manning

Company: Reinsurance Group of America
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #246

Not on the 2016 list, Manning drove the Reinsurance Group of America to the 2017 Fortune 500 list after being taken on as CEO in January of 2017. Her appointment led to RGA’s most successful year ever, growing revenue almost 11% from 2016 to 2017.

Alexisrael // Wikimedia Commons

#13: Debra Crew

Company: Reynolds American
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #223

Army veteran Crew’s succession as CEO was significant for two reasons: firstly, because it was near unprecedented in that Crew succeeded another female CEO, and most importantly because she oversaw a rise of 87% in net income in 2017.

Miosotis Jade // Wikimedia Commons

#12: Barbara Rentler

Company: Ross Stores
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #219

The struggles retailers are facing across the U.S. are, by now, notorious. And yet, Ross Stores keeps reporting strong earnings. Rentler is undoubtedly to thank as CEO since 2014.

Beyond My Ken // Wikimedia Commons

#11: Deanna M. Mulligan

Company: The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #218

Unlike many CEOs on this list, Mulligan’s appearance is a definite comeback; she has not placed since the first year she was made CEO of insurance giant Guardian in 2013. A Stanford Graduate Business School graduate, Mulligan’s tenure has seen record revenue growth and expansion into India and Canada.

JPBA TV // Wikimedia Commons

#10: Margaret M. Keane

Company: Synchrony Financial
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #185

The daughter of an NYPD officer, Keane turned away from a life of law enforcement to get her MBA from St. John’s University in Queens, New York. Now, she is one of few women to be leading a multi-billion dollar U.S. bank.

Paul Morigi // Getty Images

#9: Geisha Williams

Company: Pacific Gas and Electric Company
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #157

Cuban-born Williams says her parents tell her they left Cuba for her - “for the promise of what [William’s] life could be.” They must be proud: in 2017, Williams became the first Latina CEO on the Fortune 500. Under her, PG&E has reached California’s 2020 renewable energy goal years ahead of schedule by sourcing 33% of the company’s electricity from renewable energy.

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#8: Lynn Good

Company: Duke Energy
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #121

Less than a year after Good became CEO of Duke Energy, she was dealing with a worst case scenario: thousands of tons of coal ash spilling into the Dan River in North Carolina. The controversy that swirled around Good for months following didn’t stop Fortune from writing an article titled “Is Lynn Good the smartest (new) CEO in the energy industry?” just nine months later.

ThisIsCLE // Flickr

#7: Tricia Griffith

Company: Progressive Corporation
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #120

The drop in profits Progressive saw in 2017 did not prevent it from placing on the Fortune 500 list. Griffith believes its success is, in part, due to its transparency - in her own words, “we are the only Fortune 500 company that releases earnings on a monthly basis so our stockholders don’t have to wait until the end of the quarter to know how our business is doing.” Griffith has led Progressive into outperforming industry averages.


#6: Phebe Novakovic

Company: General Dynamics
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #90

Some CEOs get their start on oil rigs; some, in their dorm rooms. In a dramatic twist of events, Novakovic’s prior experience includes something far more exotic: espionage. While it is unclear what exactly Novakovic did at the CIA, the success defense-contractor General Dynamics has seen under her is undeniable.

Justin Sullivan // Getty Images

#5: Safra A. Catz

Company: Oracle Corporation
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #81

Israeli-born CEO Safra Catz made $40.9 million dollars in 2017, making her the highest paid female CEO in the United States. Alongside co-CEO Mark Hurd, Catz is pushing for expansion in Oracle’s cloud business, a division which brought Oracle $4.6 billion in its last fiscal year.

Paul Morigi // Getty Images

#4: Marillyn Hewson

Company: Lockheed Martin
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #56

Born in Kansas, Hewson received her undergraduate education at the University of Alabama before attending executive programs at the Columbia Business School and the Harvard Business School. Under the Trump administration and Hewson’s leadership, Lockheed has benefited from the White House’s recent defense budget increase, seeing a 26% increasing in stock price from 2016 to 2017.

Paul Morigi // Getty Images

#3: Indra Nooyi

Company: PepsiCo
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #44

Born in India, Nooyi made her way over to the United States after being admitted in the Yale School of Management. She has been the CEO of PepsiCo for over a decade now, and has tenaciously fought to turn around branding of the snack-giant as consumers battle with what they regard as healthy and unhealthy.

Elisabetta Villa // Getty Images

#2: Ginni Rometty

Company: IBM
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #32

IBM has been a technology giant for over a century: in January 2012, Rometty became its first female CEO. Although IBM has seen significant, consecutive declines in its revenue, there is hope that the company will be a pioneer in AI.

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#1: Mary Barra

Company: General Motors
2017 Fortune 500 Rank: #8

The top woman on this list is the first to be named CEO of a major global automaker. Mary Barra started as a co-op student at the General Motors Institute when she was just 18, and rose to CEO 34 years later in 2014. As traditional automakers defend their business models against generational shifts in car ownership and unprecedented technological advancement, having a grounded CEO to lead the charge will be more important than ever.

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