Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

How has the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies changed over the last 20 years?

A business woman laughing.

Jane Fraser, who took over at Citi in March of 2021, was the first female CEO of a major US bank. Image: Unsplash/ Mateus Campos Felipe

Katharina Buchholz
Data Journalist, Statista
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SDG 05: Gender Equality

  • Equitable hiring is on the rise in the higher echelons of the business world, as the number of female CEOs has risen for the fourth year in a row.
  • As of March, there were 74 female CEOs employed at America's 500 highest-grossing companies.
  • This is up from 41 in June 2021 and only 7 in 2002.

2022 is seeing a new record of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. As of March, there were 74 female CEOs employed at America's 500 highest-grossing companies, up from 41 in June of 2021 and only 7 in 2002. Yet, the new high still only translates to around 15 percent female representation at the top of the country's biggest public businesses. Calls for more equitable hiring seem to be slowly bearing fruit in the higher echelons of the business world, as the number of female CEOs has risen for the fourth year in a row.

Karen Lynch taking over the lead at CVS Health in February of 2021 made the company the biggest in Fortune 500 history to ever be led by a woman. 2021 revenues rank the pharmacy and healthcare chain as the fourth biggest public business in the U.S., bringing in $268.7 billion.

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In 2019, the highest-grossing company with a female CEO had been General Motors, then in rank 13. The carmaker with CEO Mary Barra at the helm is now the third-biggest Fortune 500 company led by a women and the 22nd biggest overall.

Jane Fraser, who took over at Citi in March of 2021, was the first female CEO of a major U.S. bank. Other notable Fortune 500 companies that were female-led in early 2022 are UPS, Best Buy, Progressive, Oracle and Northrop Grumman.

Only 15% of CEOs at fortune 500 companies are female.
Karen Lynch leads the largest female-led fortune 500 company. Image: Katharina Buchholz
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