Each year, Fortune magazine rates the top 500 corporations in the United States according to gross revenues and publishes a list that is considered by many as the definitive measure of a CEO’s success. Just 4.2 percent of the people listed on this year’s Fortune 500 list of CEOs are women. The top five female CEOs on the list are powerful women who serve as role models for those seeking to climb the corporate ladder in the nation’s most successful companies.
1. Margaret Cushing “Meg” Whitman
Ranked 15 of the Fortune 500 list, Meg Whitman has held the position of president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard since 2011. Born in 1956 in Long Island, New York, Whitman holds degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Business School. She has served in executive positions at several companies, including The Walt Disney Company and Procter & Gamble. As CEO of eBay, Whitman was largely responsible for growing the company’s annual revenue from $4 million to $8 billion. Whitman made an unsuccessful run for governor of California in 2009.
2. Virginia Marie “Ginny” Rometty
Number 20 on the CEO list, Ginny Rometty assumed the job of CEO for IBM in January 2012 after serving in various executive positions for the company since 1981. A graduate Northwestern University, Rometty holds a Bachelor of Science degree. The first woman to head IBM, Rometty is considered responsible for the company’s acquisition of Pricewaterhouse Coopers and for successfully integrating the consulting firm into IBM’s fold.
3. Patricia Ann Woertz
Coming in at 27 on the Fortune 500 list, Patricia Woertz has served as CEO for Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) since 2007. A native of Pennsylvania, Woertz graduated from Penn State University in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. Woertz came to ADM from the Chevron Corporation where she served for 29 years as an executive vice president. Her understanding of the global marketplace is considered key to her continuing success.
4. Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi
At number 43 on the top CEO list, Indra Nooyi was born in 1955 in Tami Nadu, India. After receiving degrees from Madras Christian College and the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, she went on to earn a Master’s degree at Yale. After a stint as a vice president for Motorola from 1986 to 1990, Nooyi began working for PepsiCo in 1994. In 2006, she was named the company’s CEO. Committed to advancing the arts and sciences, Nooyi is on the board of directors for a number of educational, governmental and non-profit organizations. She is considered one of the most influential women in the world.
5. Marillyn A. Hewson
Ranked 59 on the CEO list, Marillyn Hewson assumed the CEO job at Lockheed Martin in 2013 after working in various positions for the company since 1982. Born in 1953 in Junction City, Kansas, Hewson earned a Masters of Arts degree at the University of Alabama before participating in executive development programs at the Columbia and Harvard business schools. The company’s first woman CEO, Hewson has spent the first months of her new leadership role in Washington, D.C., lobbying against cuts by the Department of Defense due to sequestration.
Although the percentage of female CEOs of the nation’s most powerful corporations remains low, these five women demonstrate that with a good education, steadfast determination and a strong degree of drive, women can break through the glass ceiling and enjoy a panoramic view from the top.