A record 33 women CEOs will be heading companies in the Fortune 500 at the start of next month, according to Fortune. The figure narrowly breaks the prior record of 32 women in 2017, and marks a significant improvement compared to last year, when there were just 24 women CEOs at the world’s top companies.
Nonetheless, advocates for greater gender equality in the workplace — and particularly in leadership — are hard-pressed to hail the new influx of women leaders as particularly game changing, given that women still make up just 6.6 percent of all CEOs in the Fortune 500.
Over the past few months, retailer Best Buy, global security company Northrop Grumman, and butter producer Land O’Lakes have all named women — Corie Barry, Kathy Warden, and Beth Ford, respectively — to serve as their new CEOs. Two other leading companies already helmed by women, Williams Sonoma and Advanced Micro Devices, have also recently made their debut on the Fortune 500 list. And last week, Bed Bath & Beyond announced that former Family Dollar executive Vice President and CFO Mary Winston would serve as the company’s interim CEO. According to Fortune, Winston is the first black woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company since former Xerox executive Ursula Burns resigned in 2016.
Last year, a number of top women executives — including Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Meg Whitman, Mondelez’s Irene Rosenfeld, Campbell Soup’s Denise Morrison — all resigned. But according to Lorraine Hariton, CEO of Catalyst, a nonprofit research firm focused on women in the workplace, rising numbers of women on boards should help a continued push for women in top positions of leadership. Progress, however, remains slow. Women made up just 15.7 of board seats in the Fortune 500 15 years ago. Today, that ratio is up to 25.5 percent — a noticeable increase, but nonetheless a rather disappointing figure given the 15-year timeframe.