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Female CEOs: Nine of the world’s most powerful women in business

It's no secret that there could be more women in executive positions but a handful of prominent female CEOs have proved how women can be great leaders for companies including eBay, easyJet, IBM and Royal Mail

“A woman’s place is in the boardroom” is an oft-used phrase in business – but sadly only a few put this into practice by appointing female CEOs.

As it currently stands, there are only 23 companies on the S&P’s 500 and Fortune 500 – two of the United States’ stock market indexes – led by women, according to a poll by inclusive workplaces advocacy Catalyst.

Across the world, men still take up the majority of executive and senior jobs in corporations.

But this is slowly improving as some of the biggest corporations such as Yahoo!, easyJet and Royal Mail all have women chief executives.

In Britain’s FTSE 100 stock market index, the number of board positions held by women increased from 12.5% in 2011 to 29% – or 309 positions – in March 2018, according to UK Government statistics.

In FTSE 350 companies, the number of chairwomen has risen from 17 to 20, while the number of women on boards has increased to 25.2%.

If progress matches the same gains made over the last three years then a third of board positions will be filled by women by 2020 – the target set by the Government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review.

Here’s a list of some of the world’s top female CEOs across the world.

Female CEOs: Indra Nooyi

Indra K. Nooyi


Indra Nooyi is the chairwoman and CEO of PepsiCo, the second largest food and beverage business in the world by net revenue – standing at $63.5bn (£48bn) last year.

Since she started as CEO in 2006, Indra has earned $17m (£13m), which included a base salary of $1.9m (£1.4m) and a cash bonus of $2.5m (£1.9m).

The company as a whole has made improvements with an annual net profit that rose from $2.7bn (£2bn) to $6.5bn (£5bn).

When she first began her career in India, she held product manager position at pharmaceuticals giant Johnson & Johnson and textiles firm Mettur Beardsell.

She worked at Boston Consulting Group, Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri, before joining PepsiCo.

In 2015, the 62-year-old ranked second in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list.

Female CEOs: Virginia Rometty

Ginni Rometty

Chicago-born Virginia Marie Nicosia – better known as “Ginny” – is chairwomen, president and CEO of multinational technology company IBM.

Her career has stayed on track with the discipline in which she trained, having attained a bachelor’s degree in computer science and electrical engineering.

Soon after graduating in 1979, she went to work for General Motors Institute in Detroit, before moving to IBM two years later.

She occupied positions including general manager of the global services division, where she helped negotiate the purchase of PricewaterhouseCoopers for $3.5bn (£2.7bn) in 2002.

Fast forward ten years later and Ginny became the company’s CEO, making her the first female chief executive in its history.

The 60-year-old has made it on to various rankings for the world’s most powerful and influential people by Forbes, TIME and Fortune.

Female CEOs: Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

At 43, Stanford University graduate Marissa Mayer is the CEO of American web services provider Yahoo!, a position she has held since July 2012.

She has been a long-time executive, usability leader and spokeswoman for Google.

After graduating from Stanford, Marissa received 14 job offers. She joined Google in 1999 as employee number 20 and started writing code.

She was soon overseeing small teams of engineers, developing and designing the company’s search offerings.

Marissa went on to become vice-president of Google Search Products and headed up the local, map and location services division.

But it wasn’t long before she was prised away by search engine rival Yahoo!, which appointed her as president and CEO in 2012.

She ranked sixth on Fortune’s 40 under 40 list in 2014 and was regarded as the 16th most powerful businesswoman in the world that year by the same publication.

It her career took a downturn when she resigned in June last year after complaints from shareholders about large advertising revenue losses during her time in the role.

Female CEOs: Safra Catz

Safra Catz

Israeli-born Safra Catz has been co-chief executive at cloud computing giant Oracle Corporation for the past four years.

Safra was initially a banker at investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, joining in 1986.

She served as managing director from 1997 to 1999, when she moved to Oracle.

Two years later, she was appointed a board member and has since served as co-president and chief financial officer before she was named as co-CEO with Mark Hurd in September 2014.

Alongside her role at Oracle, she has also worked as a director of HSBC Group from 2008 to 2015, while in her spare time she is a lecturer in accounting at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Her list of achievements just keeps on growing, as Safra was also elected to the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company in December 2017.

As of April 2017, the 56-year-old was the highest paid female CEO of any US company, earning $40.9m (£31m) after a 23% drop in her total pay from 2016.

Female CEOs: Kathryn Marinello

Kathryn Marinello

When it comes to being a female leader, Kathryn Marinello knows a thing or two.

The 62-year-old has previously held senior positions at companies including US Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Barclays bank and General Electric, before becoming CEO of The Hertz Corporation in 2017.

As well as being the American car rental giant’s CEO and president, Kathryn is also a board member.

She oversees 9,700 corporate and franchise rental car locations in 150 countries, while also leading subsidiaries that include brands like Thrifty Car Rental and Dollar Rent A Car.

Other board memberships on her CV include MasterCard US, General Motors and AB Volvo, while she was ranked 20th in Fortune 500’s list of women CEOs last year.

Female CEOs: Margaret Whitman

Margaret Whitman

Margaret Whitman is an American political activist, philanthropist and boss of many high-profile companies.

She has had a wide and varied career, working as an executive at film studio DreamWorks, The Walt Disney Studio, consumer goods corporation Procter and Gamble (P&G) and board game company Hasbro.

Margaret – better known as Meg – joined eBay as CEO in March 1998, when the company only had 30 employees and revenues of about $4m (£3m).

Staying in the role until 2008, she grew the company to 15,000 staff and $8bn (£6bn) turnover.

Most recently, the 61-year-old was chief executive of IT giant Hewlett Packard Enterprise from 2011 until February this year.

Outside of business, Meg was the Republican candidate for the Governor of California in the 2010 election, but was defeated by Democratic former governor Jerry Brown by 54% to 41%.

At the time, she was the fifth wealthiest woman in California with a net worth of $1.3bn (£980m).


Female CEOs: Carolyn McCall

Dame Carolyn McCall is the woman at the forefront of ITV.

She took charge of the British media company in January this year, after spending eight years as chief executive of budget airline easyJet.

After taking on the easyJet role, she decided to make customer service her priority by introducing customer-focused initiatives such as allocated seating – while she oversaw shares in the business almost quadruple.

She was voted one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK by BBC Radio 4 show Woman’s Hour in 2013, during which she time she was one of only five female CEOs in a FTSE 100 company.

Dame Carolyn, 56, was appointed a Dame in the 2016 New Year Honours list for her services to the aviation industry, and she served as a non-executive board member in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

But she recently took a change in direction by becoming the first female CEO of ITV – marking a return to the media after working in advertising sales for the Guardian Media Group and Trinity Mirror earlier in her career.

Female CEOs: Dame Moya Greene

Moya Greene

Canadian-born Moya Greene is the first female and non-British CEO at UK postal service Royal Mail.

Dame Moya, 64, took on her role in 2010, having previously served as CEO of Canada Post, the primary Canadian postal operator that is a crown corporation.

Part of her role at the Royal Mail involved overseeing its privatisation – which ended 499 years of public ownership in 2015.

In 2013, Dame Moya was assessed as the 12th most powerful woman in Britain by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.

She was also named the Financial Times’ Person of the Year in 2014 for managing the unions, politicians and media when initially floating part of the business the previous year.

In April, it was announced that Dame Moya will step down from her role later this year.


Female CEOs: Irene Blecker Rosenfeld

Irene Rosenfeld

Although recently retired, Irene Rosenfeld forged a stellar career at the helm of one of the world’s top food and drink companies.

Her working life began at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, a New York advertising agency.

She went on to join General Foods in consumer research, before leading Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, as CEO and chairwoman.

She got her most exciting position yet in June 2006 when she became part of Kraft Foods, which later became Mondelez International.

The American food processing company is the maker of Oreo cookies, Cadbury chocolate and Trident gums.

In 2008, she was named sixth on The Wall Street Journal’s “50 Women to Watch” list, and has several times made the 100 World’s Most Powerful Women in the World List by Forbes.

In 2010, she earned $19.3m , putting her 48th in the Forbes Executive Pay rankings of highest paid bosses.

Irene, 65, retired in November last year, replaced by Dirk Van de Put.