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The number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 hits an all-time record

The number of women running America's largest corporations has hit a new high: 37 of the companies on this year's Fortune 500 are led by female CEOs. Read the full article published on Fortune by clicking here.

The Fortune 500, which ranks America's largest companies, has long been seen as a microcosm of U.S. business at large. For that reason, the number of female chief executives on the list is closely watched statistic among those who track gender diversity in board rooms and C-suites across the country.

This year's tally soundly beats last year's 33, which was itself a new record. Yet the big picture is less encouraging: even with a record 37 female CEOs, women run just 7.4% of the 500 businesses on the ranking. (For perspective: Twenty years ago, women ran two.) Only in the past four years has the growth of women in these roles accelerated past 30—a general upwards trend, though there have been dips along the way.

The number of women running Fortune 500 companies is influenced by several factors, including executive leadership changes and companies either growing to make the list for the first time, or shrinking to fall off of it. So while the ever-vacillating number is not a scientific assessment of the state of women in American business, it does provide a useful snapshot.

But there's still work to do

Within the ranks of the 37 women who make up this list, a longstanding problem persists: there is starkly little racial diversity. Only three of the 37 are women of color: Gap Inc.'s Syngal, Advanced Micro Devices CEO Lisa Su, and Yum China CEO Joey Wat.

Not one of the 500 companies on the list has a black woman at the helm. That's a drop-off from last year, when Mary Winston, interim CEO of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, was the only black woman among these chief executives; she has since been replaced with a permanent CEO. No Latinas are in these roles either. (Past black and Latina Fortune 500 female chiefs include former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and former PG&E CEO Geisha Williams.)

While the overall picture—that women run 7.4% of the businesses on the Fortune 500—is significant, there are some more micro trends worth noting. Many of these women leaders are concentrated at the bottom of the Fortune 500, where the companies are smaller. Only seven women run Fortune 100 companies; Mary Barra, CEO of the $137 billion auto giant General Motors, runs the largest. Several female CEOs are concentrated in retail, from Corie Barry's Best Buy to Barbara Rentler's Ross Stores to Laura Alber's Williams-Sonoma, while female leadership among the Fortune 500's tech companies remains rare.

To read the full article by Emma Hinchliffe for Fortune including the full list of Female CEOs, click here.

Image credit: Fortune

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