Women lead just 2.8% of the world's biggest companies

Women lead just 2.8% of the world’s biggest companies

Fortune 500
Overnight, some new global business figures have been released and they’re not pretty.

Of the Fortune 500 companies in the US, 33 have female CEOs which is an all-time record at 6.6%. Last year, the percentage was 4.8% or 24 women.

On a global scale, however, the numbers are far worse. 

The Fortune Global 500 broadens the reach to rank the biggest companies right across the world and this year includes companies from 34 countries.

Of those 500 organisations the largest number come from China, the first time it has trumped America with 129 companies. The US has 121. Despite the soar in the number of Chinese companies included in the Global 500, none are lead by a woman.

In the Fortune Global 500 there are just 14 women holding CEO positions. Expressed another way women lead just 2.8% of the biggest companies in the world. It’s a slight improvement on 2018 when it was 2.4%. 

Alarmingly, almost all of the female CEOs in the Global 500 list are from the US.  There are only four women leading the largest companies outside America, and they each come from a different country . 

Isabelle Kocher, heads the French energy company Engie (no. 126), Nicke Widyawati heads Jakarta-based energy company Pertamina (no. 175), Emma N. Walmsley leads the U.K based pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline (no. 296) and Revathi Advaiti, heads Singapore based tech company Flex (no. 474). 

Seven Australian companies made the cut: Wesfarmers, Woolworths Group, BHP Group, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking, ANZ Bank and NAB). None are lead by women.

The newest company on the list is Beijing-based electronics company Xiaomi which started in April 2010.

The top performing female lead company went to motor vehicles company GM: (no. 32) headed by Mary T. Barra, based in Detroit, Michigan.

                                                      Mary T. Barra

Companies that are wholly owned by government (such as the U.S Postal Service) are not eligible for the Fortune 500 which is exclusively American, but can be included in the Global 500.

So why are the number of women CEO still so low?

“Women are not promoted at equal rates,” Fortune Associate Editor Emma Hinchliffe said. “Few women are considered for the top CEO job. Sexism, unconscious biases, hostile work environments, unequal pay, lack of paid leave policies. Women are just not in a position to make it to the top level.”  

Many companies have internal hiring processes and the company’s C suites are underpopulated by women.  

These figures reflect what’s happening in corporate America: it tells us about the state of diversity and gender equality in companies across all industries.

The Fortune 500 companies control more than $32 trillion in market value. That’s one third of the world’s GDP. Apple has come out as the top technology company, sitting 11th place overall.  The no. 1 place on the list went to America retail giant Walmart. 

“For women’s priorities to be considered by American business, women need to have a seat at the table making those decisions,” Emma Hinchliffe said.

Given women make up less than three percent of the leaders of the companies that currently control our world, this is an understatement. 

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