How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Fortune 500 women CEOs hit a milestone

November 12, 2012: 7:57 AM ET

With Friday's news that Marillyn Hewson will take the helm at Lockheed Martin (LMT), women in corporate America are about to hit a milestone. On January 1, there will be 21 female Fortune 500 CEOs.

That's a record, and one more than the U.S. Senate, which increased its female representation by two, to a record 20 female Senators, in last week's elections.

Granted, it's not quite time to pop the champagne. After all, 21 female CEOs represent a paltry 4.2% of Fortune 500 chiefs. Nonetheless, it is significant as well as surprising that the women rising to the top these days are different from women leaders of the past, who tended to make it in industries like retail, beauty and consumer packaged-goods.

At the end of this year, Phebe Novakovic is due to take charge of another giant defense contractor, General Dynamics (GD).  Meanwhile, America's two largest tech companies appointed female chief executives in the past year or so: Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Ginni Rometty at IBM (IBM). Another of this year's high-profile CEO placements: Marissa Mayer at Yahoo (YHOO).

And leading Fortune 500 wannabes—that is, companies ranked 501 to 1000 on Fortune's annual list of America's largest companies—are 21 more women. These female chiefs are leading multibillion businesses in oil, energy, and steel—fields that are obviously not just for the boys anymore.

Posted in:
Join the Conversation
Fortune's Most Powerful Women
Fortune's Most Powerful Women For the latest on the most influential women in business, philanthropy, government, and the arts, like us on Facebook.
Guest Posts
Fortune Most Powerful Women Fortune Most Powerful Women The rolodex that redefined power
Profile in The Washington Post
Sheryl Sandberg: Sheryl Sandberg: Don't leave before you leave
COO of Facebook
Wendy Clark Wendy Clark Exec learns firsthand how the homeless live
SVP of the Global Sparkling Brand Center at Coca-Cola
Marissa Mayer's 3 biggest decisions as Yahoo CEO With company stock up over 100% since she began running the company 16 months ago, Mayer reflects on her choices to date. Watch
Chelsea Clinton on running for office: 'I don't know' The vice chairman of the Clinton Foundation talks about her diverse career path and growing up in the spotlight. Watch
About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

Email Pattie Sellers | Welcome to Postcards.
Follow Pattie | email newsletter
MPWomen go Global

The Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership brings rising-star women from countries around the world to the U.S. for three-week mentorships with participants of the annual Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit - among them Ursula Burns of Xerox, Laura Lang of Time Inc., Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, and Tory Burch.

Read more

Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by VIP.