Closing The Gap

A record number of women are now running Global 500 businesses

Jane Fraser speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Monday, April 29, 2019.
Kyle Grillot | Bloomberg via Getty Images

A record number of 23 women are now running Global 500 businesses, according to Fortune. This number, which is an increase from just 14 in 2020, is the highest number of women CEOs in the Global 500 since Fortune started tracking this data in 2014.

In addition to the overall number of women CEOs increasing, the number of women of color leaders on the list has also risen. Last year, just one woman of color was serving as a Global 500 CEO. This year, that number has increased to six due to executive leadership changes at companies inside and outside the United States.

In the U.S., former Walmart and Starbucks executive Roz Brewer took over as the CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance in March 2021 and former JPMorgan Chase executive Thasunda Brown Duckett took over as the CEO of TIAA in May 2021.

In addition to Duckett and Brewer, who are currently the only Black women running Fortune 500 companies in the U.S., Jane Fraser also became the CEO of Citigroup in February 2021, making her the first woman to run a major Wall Street bank.

Karen Lynch, who became the CEO of CVS Health in February 2021, also contributed to this increase in gender representation. CVS, which is ranked No. 7 among the Global 500 companies, is the highest-ranked business on America's Fortune 500 list and the Global 500 list to be led by a woman.

Starbucks Chief Operations Officer and Group President Rosalind "Roz" Brewer speaks at the Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Seattle, Washington on March 20, 2019.
Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

Outside of the U.S., leadership changes at Chinese company Ping An Insurance and French food business Danone have also led to more women leading Global 500 companies. Additionally, global manufacturing company Flex, led by Revathi Advaithi, rejoined the list after a dip in revenue put it below the Global 500 in 2020. And Indonesian oil and gas company Pertamina, led by Nicke Widyawati, also rejoined the list.

While the Global 500 CEOs this year are a lot more diverse than past years, leadership at today's top companies is still overwhelmingly male. Currently, the 23 women running Global 500 businesses equals just 4.6% of the total.

In the U.S., where the number of women running Fortune 500 firms has hit an all-time high, women hold just 8.2% of the CEO spots.

Lorraine Hariton, CEO of the global gender equality firm Catalyst, told CNBC Make It that even with this progress around gender diversity, "there's more work to do." She emphasizes that "clear targets and measurements to increase representation throughout the senior leadership and CEO pipelines" could be a solution to speeding up change.

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How I built Blavity, a media empire for Black millennials
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