"10 percent makes it more and more normal—and less risky, subconsciously, to put a woman in the top spot," says Korn Ferry's leader of CEO succession.
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For years, the share of Fortune 500 companies led by female CEOs has been stuck around 8 percent. For every appointment, there's a resignation. In such a small universe, every corporate move counts.
Now, for the first time in the Fortune 500 list's 68-year history, more than 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. The Jan. 1, 2023 start dates of five new Fortune 500 chief executives brought the number of female CEOs up to 53, pushing the tally over the long-awaited threshold.
"Women as CEOs isn't an oddity anymore," says Jane Stevenson, global leader for the CEO succession practice at consulting firm Korn Ferry. "It's not the majority, but it's not an oddity. So 10 percent makes it more and more normal—and less risky, subconsciously, to put a woman in the top spot."
Several of the new CEOs who made this 10.6 percent milestone possible come from the materials and manufacturing industries. Karla R. Lewis is the leader of the $17-billion Reliance Steel & Aluminum. Julia A. Sloat runs Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power. Jennifer A. Parmentier took over the motion and control technologies business Parker-Hannifin.
Alongside those three, Stephanie L. Ferris is the CEO of Fidelity National Information Services. Maria Black is the new CEO of the payroll and HR company Automatic Data Processing, better known as ADP. All five new CEOs were promoted from within their organizations.
Other management shuffles helped the Fortune 500 reach this point. In December, Gina R. Boswell became the CEO of Bath and Body Works, taking over from interim CEO Sarah Nash. Carrie Wheeler was promoted to become the CEO of Opendoor Technologies that month. Soon after, Priscilla Almodovar took over Fannie Mae.
The appointments were enough to counteract some recent departures of female Fortune 500 chiefs, like the November exit of Michelle Gass from Kohl's. (She went to Levi's, a brand outside the Fortune 500.) Just this week, Rite Aid announced the departure of CEO Heyward Donigan; her interim successor is board member Elizabeth Burr, keeping these stats consistent.
There are still just a handful of women of color who run Fortune 500 businesses, including TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett, Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Roz Brewer, and Advanced Micro Devices CEO Lisa Su.
The Fortune 500, which ranks the largest businesses in the United States by revenue, can serve as a microcosm for business at large. So when more women run this group of companies, it reflects the status of gender diversity in corporate leadership beyond this top cohort.
"Women are here, and they're showing results," Stevenson says. "That just makes it smart to have women in every CEO pipeline."
This article was written by Emma Hinchliffe from Fortune and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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