Women of the Fortune 1000

Fortune Magazine
Photo: Stewf , Creative Commons, Flickr

 Last week, Fortune put out its 2007 rankings of America's largest companies. The good news?  More women are in charge this year than in 2006.  The bad news?  The number of women in charge of Fortune 1000 companies is pathetically low.  However, they are leading a more diverse mix of companies than ever before.  What does this all mean?

While there are more women running the top 1000 companies in the US than there were last year, the 30% increase seen in female leadership adds up to a whopping three women.  Yes, the number increased by three.  Last year, only ten of the Fortune 500 companies had a female CEO.  This year, a whopping 13 do.  (Profiles of all 13 female CEOS are online).  Only one of those women (Angela Blaley of WellPoint [WLP], a health insurance company) heads a Fortune  50 company.  Another 13 women lead companies that rank in the Fortune 1000, up from ten last year.

While that leaves a very sad 2.6% showing of female leadership in Fortune1000 companies, it is at least a very interesting mix of companies that they guide.  I divided the 26 companies into seven categories – Financial Services/Insurance, Food/Restaurants, "Stereotypically Female" (Clothing/Jewelry/Cosmetics), Media, Technology, "Good Old Boys Network," and Other.  I discuss my most thought-provoking findings below, but for the full list of companies, see Fortune 500 2007: Women CEOs.

Five companies each fell under the rubric of Food/Restaurants, "Stereotypically Female" (Clothing/Jewelry/Cosmetics) and Technology.

The five food companies led by women are: Archer Daniels Midland, Jack in the Box (JBX), PepsiCo (PEP), Sara Lee (SLE), and Wendy's International (WEN). 

Those in the "Stereotypically Female" industry are: Ann Taylor Stores (ANN), Avon Products (AVP), Charming Shoppes (CHRS), TJX (TJX), and Zale (ZLC). 

Incidentally, I think it is a sign of an attitude change of a younger generation that an equal number of women lead semi-stereotyically "male nerd" industries as they do the more traditionally female fields.  In the tech category, these companies are: Citizens Communications (CZN), eBay (EBAY), Lucent Technologies (ALU), PC Connection (PCCC), and Xerox (XRX).

More surprising is that four companies that I think of as "Good Old Boys Networks" are led by women.  These range from energy providers Hawaiian Electric Industries (HE) and Oil States International (OIS), to an auto parts supplier (Tower Automotive, TWRAQ.PK), to a tobacco company (Reynolds American, RAI).  Does an increase in female leadership signify winds of change blowing when it comes to recognizing women's competence?

Female leadership does not lead to better working environments for women and families, as so many people claim will happen if a "woman's touch" is in place. Only two companies, Avon (AVP) and Phoenix (PNX), landed on Working Mother's list of the 100 best companies for working mothers.  (Of course, I evaluated their highly flawed methodology in selecting the best companies for working families before, so just because the other companies did not make the list doesn't mean that they are not actually good places for working parents).

Ultimately, I'm not sure that we can make any real conclusions about the impact of female CEOs at this stage because there are just too few.  According to  the Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®), 40% of people who take the GMAT, the exam required for B-school admission, are women.  Perhaps this means that we'll be seeing more female CEOs in the next 20 years, and then we can begin to assess the impact of corporate female leadership effectively.