Women in Leadership Positions Gain Ground: 5 CEOs to Watch

Women in leadership positions are gaining ground. Case in point? In 2014, Fortune Magazine reported that five percent of Fortune 500 CEO were women. Seven years ago, the Fortune 500 included a total of 24 females at the helm.

But in 2021, 41 women have now made the list. “Women leaders hold just 8.1% of Fortune 500 CEO spots. A record number of 41 women are leading Fortune 500 companies today,” according to Fortune’s latest list.

And for the first time, there are two Black women (Roz Brewer from Walgreens Boots Alliance and Thasunda Brown Duckett from TIAA) serving as CEOs at the same time.

Some may argue this increase in women in leadership positions is progressing at a snail’s pace. But this headway is still growth. According to BizJournals.com 29% of senior management roles globally are filled by women.

The Women Business Collaborative (WBC) reported that in October of 2021, US public companies appointed 139 women and 208 men to their boards, with one-third of those identifying as women of color.

As today’s women in leadership positions pave the path for the next generation of young women to take the stage, we wondered about the secret to their success. Here’s our list of women to watch!


Thasunda Brown Duckett 

As the CEO of TIAA, a provider of outcome-focused investment solutions for millions working in mission-driven organizations, Thasunda Brown Duckett is passionate about financial inclusion and opportunity. She is especially devoted to helping people of color create wealth and find career success. Before joining TIAA, she served as CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, where she oversaw a banking network with more than $600 billion in deposits and 50,000 employees. Earlier in her career, she worked at Fannie Mae, where she led the implementation of national strategies designed to increase homeownership among Black and Hispanic Americans.

Currently, she serves on the boards of NIKE, Inc., Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Sesame Workshop, National Medal of Honor Museum, and Economic Club of New York, to name a few. She also founded the Rosie and Otis Brown Foundation in honor of her parents, which recognizes people who empower and uplift their community in extraordinary ways.


Mary Barra

Tenacity and tenure do pay off for many women in leadership positions. Mary Barra is no exception! A General Motors “lifer,” Mary Barra’s career has spanned several decades. In January, 2014 she was appointed as the first-ever female CEO of a major global automaker. As a woman with abundant determination to pursue great things, she’s enacted some significant changes at GM. In 2018, GM was one of only two global businesses that don’t have a gender pay gap. She has invested billions in electric vehicles and self-driving cars. And in the spring, 2020, she shifted production lines to assist in manufacturing desperately needed ventilators.


Rosalind Brewer

The path from chemist to CEO isn’t easy, but Rosalind Brewer knows a thing or two about hard work. Among the first generation in her family to go to college, Brewer embodies a persona of grit and fortitude that is unmatched. In March 2021, she became the CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance. Throughout her career, she’s led Sam’s Club as their CEO and became the first woman and first African-American to lead a Walmart division. Before joining Walgreens, she was Chief Operating Officer, Group President, and a member of the Board of Directors of Starbucks Corporation.


Meg Whitman

Meg Whitman has amassed a career worth touting. She’s known for taking eBay from $5.7 million to $8 billion in sales as CEO from 1999 to 2008. As CEO of Hewlett-Packard, she tirelessly worked to reinvent Hewlett-Packard. In February of 2018, she stepped down as HPE’s Chief Executive and now sits on Procter & Gamble and Dropbox boards. In 2018 she also took a seat on the board of an e-sports company in Los Angeles called Immortals LLC.


Sheryl Sandberg

When you have time to pour over the life and power of Sheryl Sandberg, you’ll clearly see why she deserves our attention when it comes to women in leadership positions. Under her leadership as Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sandberg showcased a gutsy business perspective. This was taking the company focus from a social media platform to a profitable and strategic technology leader. Since taking the reigns as COO in 2008, she has helped to dramatically increase the social media network’s revenue. In fact, she increased ad revenue by 21% last year to $84.2 billion by positioning Facebook as an ideal platform for small business advertising.

Sandberg encourages other women to join the C-Suite through her bestselling book, Lean In Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which has inspired thousands of Lean In Circles across the globe.


Lauren Herring

We want to add a personal favorite to our list of women in leadership positions who inspire us. IMPACT Group’s CEO, Lauren Herring. When she took over the company at the age of 30, she transformed it into a global leader in employee career development. Under Lauren’s leadership, IMPACT Group now operates in 68 countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

But the path doesn’t stop here. Under her leadership, IMPACT Group created a unique Women in Leadership program designed to leverage diversity within organizations and promote increased engagement, productivity, and retention among female leaders.

Are you ready to address gender diversity and empower your high-potential women?

Download our Women in Leadership – Gender Diversity Assessment Workbook to assess the current state of your company and determine which areas need attention. Get your copy here!