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Female CEOs run just 4.8% of the world’s largest businesses on the Global 500

August 3, 2022, 8:00 AM UTC
Global 500 CEOs (from left) Emma Walmsley of GSK, Amanda Blanc of Aviva, and Tan Sin Yin of Ping An.
Courtesy of GSK, Aviva, and Ping An

Women run just 4.8% of the companies on this year’s Fortune Global 500 list—a minuscule share that reflects barely any progress for female CEOs around the world over the past year.

Women currently lead 24 of the 500 companies that appear on the Fortune list, which ranks the largest companies by revenue worldwide. That’s just one more female CEO than at this time last year, when women ran 23 such businesses, or 4.6%.

The slow progress is in line with the Fortune 500, which ranks the largest companies by revenue in American business. As of the Fortune 500’s publication in May, women ran 44 companies on the list, up slightly from 41 a year earlier. The Fortune 500 traditionally has had a higher representation for female CEOs than its global counterpart. The failure of both cohorts to add a greater number of women to their ranks was also influenced by low CEO turnover overall during the pandemic.

Some of the companies on the Global 500—122, to be exact—also appear on this year’s Fortune 500. Thirteen of the 24 female leaders of Global 500 businesses are also CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

While 4.8% represents an astoundingly low share of the CEO posts at global businesses, the statistic at the same time represents an all-time high for women’s leadership. Fortune’s data on the matter goes back to 2014, when 17 Global 500 businesses were run by female CEOs. Over the eight years since, the count has hit a low of 12, in 2016 and 2018, before reaching this year’s high of 24.

There are some new female leaders of Global 500 companies this year. Christel Heydemann became CEO of the French telecommunications business Orange in April. Alka Mittal took over India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. on an interim basis in January. Estelle Brachlianoff was promoted to CEO of French utility business Veolia Environnement in July.

The highest-ranking Global 500 company to be led by a female CEO is CVS Health, which also holds that honor for the Fortune 500. The company, led by CEO Karen Lynch, is ranked No. 10 on the Global 500 and No. 4 on the Fortune 500. Other women-led American businesses to appear on the list include Best Buy (led by CEO Corie Barry); Citigroup (led by CEO Jane Fraser); and TIAA (led by CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett).

Only a handful of female CEOs of Global 500 companies are women of color. They include Tan Sin Yin, co-CEO for China's Ping An Insurance; Roz Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance; Mittal of Oil & Natural Gas; and Duckett of TIAA.

Other female CEOs whose companies are on the Global 500 include Martina Merz, leader of German materials business ThyssenKrupp; Amanda Blanc, who leads British insurer Aviva; and Dong Mingzhu, CEO of China-based Gree Electric Appliances.

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