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Highest number of women CEO ever in Fortune Global 500 companies in 2021

  • Published at 01:24 pm August 3rd, 2021
From top-left clockwise: Catherine MacGregor, CEO of Engie; Tan Sin Yin, co-CEO of Ping An Insurance; Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup; Bianca EM Tetteroo, chair of the executive board of Achmea; Karen Lynch, CEO of CVS Health; Véronique Penchienati-Bosetta, interim co-CEO of Danone; Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of TIAA; Nicke Widyawati, CEO of Pertamina; and Roz Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance Collected

The Global 500 is a list of the 500 largest companies in the world, the combined sales of which equalled $31.7 trillion this year

Fortune Global 500 has seen the highest number of female CEOs make it to the list this year with the addition of nine new women-led companies, taking the total to 23. 

Since Fortune began tracking the inclusion of female CEOs on the Global 500 list in 2014, numbers have bounced between 12 and 17. Last year, only 14 women-led companies made the cut. 

But this year, a handful of leadership changes helped raise that number, according to Fortune. 

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The US alone saw four such leadership changes, with one of them being Karen Lynch, who took over as the CEO of CVS Health in 2021. 

With former Starbucks and Walmart executive Roz Brewer taking over as CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance in March this year, the company also made it onto the list. 

Meanwhile, Jane Fraser became the CEO of Citigroup, thus making the list and also becoming the first woman to run a major Wall Street bank. 

And former JPMorgan Chase Executive Thasunda Brown Duckett became CEO of the retirement manager TIAA this year.

Outside the US, Chinese company Ping An Insurance saw Tan Sin Yin become a co-CEO as leadership passed from cofounder Peter Ma to three executives in the role. 

France saw two important leadership changes: Véronique Penchienati-Bosetta became the interim co-CEO of French food business Danone and leadership at French energy giant Engie passed from interim chief Claire Waysand to Catherine MacGregor.

At the Dutch financial and insurance business Achmea, Bianca EM Tetteroo became chair of the executive board.

Pertamina made it back to the Global 500 list after a year, bringing with it CEO Nicke Widyawati back to the list. 

Flex also rejoined the Global 500 in 2021 as the global manufacturing business led by CEO Revathi Advaithi had dropped off the list because of a decrease in revenues in 2020.

General Motors chief Mary Barra, Anthem CEO Gail Boudreaux, UPS CEO Carol Tomé, and Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc returned to the list this year as well. 

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Other returnees include: Best Buy CEO Corie Barry; GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley; Accenture CEO Julie Sweet; Progressive CEO Tricia Griffith; Oracle CEO Safra Catz; ThyssenKrupp CEO Martina Merz; General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic; Gree Electric Appliances CEO Dong Mingzhu; and Northrup Grumman CEO Kathy Warden.

None of the female-led companies fell off the list between 2020 and 2021.

While these numbers represent a big recovery from 2020, the leadership of the Global 500 is still overwhelmingly male, as 23 female CEOs equals just 4.6% of the total.

The Global 500 is a list of the 500 largest companies in the world, the combined sales of which equalled $31.7 trillion this year, or one-third of the global GDP.

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