Top 10 Inspiring Female CEOs of 2021

John F. Martin / General Motors

John F. Martin / General Motors

There are currently 30 female CEOs of S&P 500 companies — a mere 6% of the top spots, according to Catalyst. And while women are continuing to break glass ceilings, it’s clear they have a long way to go for full equity at the executive level.

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In the meantime, it’s worth celebrating some of the women who have made it to these coveted chief executive positions. Here are 10 women who are making big moves at top companies.

Steve Fecht / General Motors

Mary Barra

The CEO of General Motors since 2014, Mary Barra is the first woman to lead one of the big three American automakers, Forbes reported. Barra started her career with GM in 1980 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student and worked her way up the corporate ladder. Her current focus is on advancing personal mobility technologies like connectivity, electrification and autonomous driving.

In January, Barra and GM announced that the company plans to be carbon neutral by 2040.

“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” Barra said in a news release. “We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole.”

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©Best Buy

Corie Barry

Corie Barry joined Best Buy in 1999, became CFO in 2016 and rose to CEO in 2019. The company boasts nearly $47 billion in annual revenue, and Barry is on a mission to grow annual revenue to $50 billion by fiscal 2025, according to her official bio. Best Buy has about 100,000 employees in North America. Another goal? Making the company one of the best places to work in the United States.

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Gail Boudreaux

A healthcare industry veteran of more than three decades, Gail Boudreaux is the CEO of Anthem, Inc., and the former CEO of United Healthcare. During her first two years as chief executive of Anthem, the company’s stock rose 20%, Forbes reported. The publication ranked Boudreaux as No. 10 on its Power Women 2020 ranking. Anthem has more than 43 million insured members.

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Michele Buck

Michele Buck is the first woman to hold the CEO spot at Hershey, and in November, Forbes named the company the most female-friendly for employees in the world. Buck has been with Hershey since 2005 after holding positions at Kraft/Nabisco and at the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo.

According to industry publication Food Dive, “Buck set out to create a ‘snacking powerhouse’ by accelerating growth in the company’s hugely profitable confectionery business and expanding its portfolio into new snack offerings.”Under her leadership, Hershey’s has acquired Amplify, the parent company of popcorn brand SkinnyPop, Pirate’s Booty cheese puffs, protein bar maker One Brands, natural foods manufacturer Quinn and Dot’s Pretzels LLC, the owner of Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels. The $1.6 billion Amplify acquisition was the largest in the company’s history, Food Dive reported.

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Safra Catz

Safra Catz joined Oracle in 1999 and became CEO in 2014. She is credited with leading the company’s aggressive acquisition strategy, helping close more than 130 acquisitions, Forbes reported.

Catz holds a law degree from Penn, but she earned her stripes in the software industry while working on Wall Street, where she represented software clients.

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Jane Fraser

Jane Fraser became the first woman to lead a major U.S. bank when she was named CEO of Citi in February 2021. Taking over with the country still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, she has reimagined the workplace for the company’s 210,000 global employees, many of whom had seen their new work-from-home lifestyle infringe on work-life balance. In a memo she sent to staff, she told the workers that the company would be hitting the reset button.

“The blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our well-being,” she wrote. “It’s simply not sustainable.”

CNN reported that she has created “Zoom-free Fridays” and will implement hybrid work schedules when the workforce fully returns. Analysts told CNN she’ll need to rest other parts of the company, too, to improve stock performance and creep up on its competitors as she approaches her first anniversary on the job.

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Lynn Good

Lynn Good has served as CEO of Duke Energy, one of America’s largest energy holding companies, since 2013. Under her leadership, the company has made a commitment to “build a smarter, more resilient energy grid, generate cleaner energy and expand the company’s natural gas infrastructure,” according to her official company bio.

In November 2021, she told analysts that Duke Energy was exploring adding wind farms along the Atlantic Coast. “We are evaluating offshore wind,” she said. “I think you may have noticed there was a proposed sale notice issued for a lease off the coast of North Carolina. The Kitty Hawk lease area is also there, so I would just say there’s more to come here.”

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Tricia Griffith

Tricia Griffith joined Progressive as a claims representative in 1988 before working her way up to the top spot in 2016. Under her leadership, Progressive was ranked by The Wall Street Journal as the top-rated corporation for diversity and inclusion. And she told Time in 2020 that she is committed to ensuring that diversity exists at the top as well.

“I’ve had the opportunity to hire several members from my board of directors in the last several years. And I think having a board that is diverse is as important because they’re guiding me,” she told the publication. “And I think we’re the only Fortune 500 company that has a female CEO and a female chairwoman. And I have 12 board members: half men, half women — and one of the women is a person of color.”

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Lisa Su

Lisa Su joined the semiconductor firm Advanced Micro Devices in 2012 and became CEO two years later. According to Forbes, she has led one the greatest recent turnarounds in the technology sector — AMD’s stock has increased in value more than 20-fold since Su took the top spot at the company.

In 2020, Fortune rated Su the No. 2 Businessperson of the Year for her “strategic vision to lift Advanced Micro Devices from near-bankruptcy to the pinnacle of PC processors.”

In January, Su will be among the honorees at the 2022 International Peace Honors. She is being recognized as one of “the most outstanding global leaders and change-agents of our time who make philanthropy and humanitarian service a hallmark of their lives,” according to organizer PeaceTech Lab.

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Whitney Wolfe Herd

Although Whitney Wolfe Herd is not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company — yet — she is definitely one to watch. The 32-year-old founder and chief executive of the dating app Bumble became the youngest female CEO to take her company public in February, Business Insider reported. She launched Bumble in 2014, and it now has 75 million users in 150 countries.

Recently, she joined Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon as new investors in the women’s shapewear company Spanx.

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Jami Farkas contributed to the reporting for this article.

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