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Top 30 Female CEOs on Fortune 500 list, 2020 and their Alma Maters

Top 30 Female CEOs on Fortune 500 list, 2020 and their alma maters

by Peter Guzik
Special to College Values Online

Since Mississippi College opened its doors to women in 1813, allowing them to pursue college degrees in the US for the first time, women have been shattering glass ceilings and preconceived notions with tremendous force. It hasn’t been an easy journey, navigating first the halls of academia and then on to the corporate ladder; women have been striving to reach the very top. And they have succeeded! It has been a long, and sometimes bitter, fight.

In 1909, 15,000 women marched the streets of New York City. What did they want? Shorter hours,
better pay, the right to vote, and the end to the oppression of women and the vast inequality between
them and men. A decade later, they were finally given the right for their voices to be heard at the ballot
box, but the fight for true and complete equality is ongoing, even a century later.

March 8th is the date known as International Women’s Day thanks to a strike by Russia’s women,
demanding “Bread and Peace” as millions of Russian men died during World War I. They continued to
strike for four days before Vladimir Lenin relented and declared February 23 (according to the Russian
used Julian calendar while the West marked the day March 8th according to the Gregorian calendar).
Over the next 60 years, the day was mostly celebrated in socialist and communist countries. But in
1975, the United Nations declared the day International Women’s Day and made it a U.N. holiday two
years later. For the next 25 years, the day began to lose steam in terms of popularity and recognition.
However, in 2001, a new website was launched. This site has been given much of the credit for the interest in reviving the celebration of this important day.

Today, while the struggle for equality continues, there are positives to see in their fight. Sadly, the
E.R.A, the Equal Rights Amendment has never passed here in the United States, their position in the
boardroom has never been stronger. A 2009 study showed that of the 2,000 top-performing companies,
only 29, or about 1.5%, had a woman as their CEO. Today, approximately 8% of all companies have a
woman at the top of the corporate ladder. It’s not enough, but at least it’s a trend in the right direction.

Methodology

This list of the 30 Top Female CEOs used a simple source to determine its order. Every year, Fortune
magazine publishes the Fortune 500, a list of the top 500 corporations worldwide as measured by
revenue. The first version was published in 1955. Originally, the list only included companies that got
their revenues from manufacturing, mining, and energy exploration. It wasn’t until 1972 when the first
company led by a female CEO appeared on the list. The Washington Post Co., led by Katharine Graham,
made the list at number 478 in 1972. Between 1972 and 1994, the list included female-led companies
50 times on its lists. Graham, and the Post, appeared on every list until 1991, when she was succeeded
as CEO by her son, Donald.

In 1995, the Fortune Magazine list changed. Previously, the magazine had separate lists for industrial
companies and non-industrial/service companies, but the new list combined the two. With this new
format, there were no companies led by a woman on their new list, though there were companies in the
bottom 500 with a female CEO. Women returned to the top half of the list the following year with Marion
O. Sandler, CEO of Golden West Financial Corp, making the chart at 491. She and the company had
appeared on various lists between 1974 and 1994.

In its history, more than 1,800 different companies have made the Fortune 500 list. While the number
of companies led by females has varied over the last 25 years, the past few years have seen an increase
of 54%, going from 4.8% in 2018 to 7.4% in 2020 (the most recent released list).

Below are the Top 30 companies and the female leaders who made last year’s list, and the universities they attended. The rankings that appear are where the company placed in the Fortune 500 list. Since the list was published, several of the women have left their positions. Each time, this is notated.

Mary Barra – General Motors

Ranked: 18th

Undergraduate: Kettering University
MBA: Stanford Graduate School of Business
Stanford Graduate School of Business - Top Female CEOs

Mary Barra has been the CEO of General Motors since January of 2014. Her promotion to the role made it the first time a woman led a U.S. major automaker. Ms. Barra’s association with GM began in 1980 when she began to attend the General Motors Institute of Technology, currently named Kettering University. She graduated in 1985 with her Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. She continued her education a few years later when she received her MBA at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She has held various roles in different areas of the company over her career at GM, including VP of Global Manufacturing Engineering, Senior VP of Global Product Development, and, currently, CEO and Chairman of the entire company. Additionally, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Walt Disney Company, the Duke University Board of Trustees, and the Detroit Economic Club.

Gail Koziara Boudreaux – Anthem Inc.

Ranked: 29th

Undergraduate: Dartmouth College
MBA: Columbia Business School

Gail Koziara Boudreaux has been the CEO of Anthem Inc., a leading health benefits company, after previously holding the same position at United Healthcare. Ms. Boudreaux is no stranger to success, both in business and sports. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 1982. There, she was a leader of the women’s basketball team. She still holds many individual records, including most points, rebounds, and points per game. She went on to get her MBA from Columbia Business School in 1989. Her professional career has been in the healthcare industry, with additional experience working for Aetna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield. In addition to her role at Anthem, Ms. Boudreaux currently serves on the board of directors for Zimmer Biomet Holdings, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Carol Tome – UPS

Ranked: 43rd

Undergraduate: University of Wyoming
MBA: University of Denver Daniels College of Business

Carol Tome was named the CEO of UPS in March of 2020, replacing retiring David Abney. She grew up in Wyoming and attended the University of Wyoming. After completing her MBA at the University of Denver, she followed her father’s footsteps into the banking industry. In 1995, she moved on to join Home Depot, where she was promoted to CFO in 2001. She continued her successful tenure with Home Depot until she retired in 2019. However, she decided to come out of retirement a few months later with her appointment to UPS. Her hiring as CEO is one of many firsts. She is the first female CEO of the company and in the industry. Additionally, she is the first CEO hired from outside the company, although she has been on the Board of Directors since 2006. Upon the announcement of her hiring, she was quoted as saying, “So, lots of glass was broken today.”

Corie Barry – Best Buy

Ranked: 75th

Undergraduate: College of Saint Benedict

If you have ever been to Best Buy, they are famous for their employees wearing the customary blue shirts. You can even find a picture of their officers, including CEO Corie Barry, wearing the famous tops. Ms. Barry had spent more than 20 years with the company before being installed as the fifth and first female CEO in 2019. She began her adult life by attending the College of Saint Benedict. While initially interested in studying chemical engineering, she got her degree in Accounting and Business Management. After graduating, she worked for Deloitte & Touche and received her CPA. She moved on to Best Buy in 1999, where she held many positions, as she quickly moved up the ranks, including the positions of CFO and Chief Strategic Growth Officer, and referred to her rise within Best Buy as “anything but linear.” In addition to her duties with Best Buy, she is a trustee with her alma mater and a Board Member with Domino’s Pizza.

Safra A. Catz – Oracle Corp

Ranked: 82nd

Undergraduate: University of Pennsylvania
Law: University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

University of Pennsylvania - Top Female CEOs

Safra A. Catz, born in Israel, moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, when she was 6 years old. In 1983, she graduated with her B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, she stayed in Philadelphia and got her law degree at the Carey Law school at UPenn. Even with her J.D., she went into a successful career in banking. She remained in the field until 1999 when she joined Oracle. She became a member of Oracle’s board of directors 2 years later and, in 2004, was named President of the company. In addition to being CEO since 2014, she has held the position of CFO two different times and remains with that title today. She remains connected to education, serving as Lecturer at the Stanford School of Business and gave the commencement address at UPenn’s graduation ceremony a few years ago.

Phebe Novakovic – General Dynamics

Ranked: 83rd

Undergraduate: Smith College
MBA: University of Pennsylvania The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania - Top Female CEOs

Phebe Novakovic has a varied career. She is currently the CEO of General Dynamics, a position she has held since 2013. She attended Smith College and graduated in 1979. A few years later, she served as an operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency and worked for the Office of Management and Budget. Afterward, she got her MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. At the end of the ’90s, she worked as the special assistant to the secretary and deputy secretary of defense. In 2001, she joined General Dynamics, where her positions for the company have included VP of strategic planning, senior VP for planning and development, executive VP for marine systems, COO, and President. Additionally, she has also been Chairman of the Board since 2013.

Tricia Griffith – Progressive Corp

Ranked: 86th

Undergraduate: Illinois State University
MBA: U of Penn The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania - Top 50 Forensic Accounting Degree Programs 2021

Insurance is in the blood for Tricia Griffith, the current CEO for Progressive insurance. She grew up in Decatur, Ill., the youngest of 6 children with a father who sold life insurance door to door. She has held the title of CEO and the position of President since July of 2016. After graduating from Illinois State with a BA in Marketing, she joined Progressive in 1988 as a Claims Representative. Since then, she has held many key leadership positions, including President of Claims, President of Customer Operations, Personal Lines Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Human Resources Officer. This final title that she believes has helped her be better at her job and build a more diverse company, including a board consisting of 6 men and 6 women. Fun fact: Her dream alternative career choice is to be a talk-show host. Tricia, you still have time!

Kathy Warden- Northrop Grumman

Ranked: 96th

Undergraduate: James Madison University
MBA: George Washington University

George Washington University - Top Female CEOs

2019 was an outstanding year for Kathy Warden. She began her tenure as CEO and President of the Northrop Grumman and was elected chairman of its Board of Directors in August of that year. Her study of business began at the College of Business at James Madison University. A few years later, she received her MBA from George Washington University. She worked for General Electric before working at General Dynamics and Veridian Corporation. Since coming to work at Northrop, she has served as VP of Cyber Intelligence Division, Corporate VP, and President of the Information Systems Sector and Mission System Sector. She is currently serving as the chair of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and is a member of the Catalyst Board of Directors and the JMU Board of Visitors.

Lynn Good – Duke Energy

Ranked: 123rd

Undergraduate: Miami University of Ohio
Miami University of Ohio - Top Female CEOs

Born and raised in Ohio, Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy, has stayed local with her choice of college. Good graduated from Miami University of Ohio in 1981, with degrees in accounting and systems analysis. After graduating, she stayed in Ohio and went to work for Arthur Anderson in Cincinnati. She became a vital employee of the company, breaking barriers for women and becoming a supervising auditor. In 1992, she became a partner. She later worked for Conergy Corp, and when they merged with Duke Energy, she was named VP and treasurer. In 2013, she rose to CEO and was elected to the board as well. Three years later, she became Chairman of the Board. Under her leadership, the company has continued to flourish.

Vicki Hollub – Occidental Petroleum

Ranked: 148th

Undergraduate: University of Alabama
University of Alabama - Top Female CEOs

Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental Petroleum, is a native of the state of Alabama. She was born in Birmingham and attended the University of Alabama. She graduated in 1981 with a BA in mineral engineering. With this kind of background, it was impossible for her not to be a fan of football, and, specifically, Bear Bryant. “My first memory in life, just about, is listening to Alabama football on the radio.” Soon after graduating, Hollub went to work for Cities Service, which Occidental Petroleum acquired in 1982. Over the next thirty years, she held many leadership positions before being named Exec VP of Occidental’s operations in 2012. In 2015, she was named to succeed Stephen Chazen as CEO. She took over the position in April of 2016 and President and was elected to the board. Additionally, she is the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Chair and is a member of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative.
.

Heyward Donigan – Rite Aid

Ranked: 150th

Undergraduate: University of Virginia
MPA: New York University – Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

NYU Wagner - Top Women CEOs

Heyward Donigan, CEO, President, and member of the board of Rite Aid, the third-largest pharmacy chain in the United States, was born in Port Chester, N.Y. Her father was an executive with IBM, forcing the family to move around a lot when she was a child. She attended the University of Virginia and graduated with a B.A. in English. She continued her education at NYU, attaining an MPA in Health Finance. She has had many leadership roles with various companies, including Senior VP with Cigna Healthcare, Exec VP at Premera Blue Cross, President and CEO with ValueOptions, the nation’s largest independent behavioral health improvement company, and President and CEO with Sapphire Digital. She joined Rite Aid in August of 2019.

Cheryl Miller – AutoNation

Ranked: 154th

Undergraduate: James Madison University
James Madison University - Top Female CEOs

Cheryl Miller was born in Puerto Rico but grew up in Baltimore. Her father worked for the Postal Service, and her mother was a government worker. She ended up at James Madison University, where she studied business and finance, graduating in 1994. She started working for CarMax and later entered Circuit City’s financial management-training program. In 1998, she came to work at AutoNation (then called Republic Industries). She also worked for ION Media Networks and JM Family Enterprises before returning to AutoNation in 2009 as treasurer and Vice President of Investor Relations. Five years later, she became CFO of the company. In 2019, she was named CEO and President, following Carl Liebert’s short time as the company leader. In the spring of 2020, Miller took a leave of absence from AutoNation for health reasons. In July of 2020, she decided not to return to the company. Six months later, she returned to JM Family as their CFO.

Michelle Gass – Kohl’s

Ranked: 165th

Undergraduate: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
MBA: University of Washington Foster School of Business

Three years ago, when Michelle Gass became CEO of Kohl’s, the Covid 19 pandemic was not on anyone’s radar. But she, and every leader of brick-and-mortar stores, has had to change the way of doing business. With a degree in Chemical Engineering from WPI and an MBA from the University of Washington, she has found her way to be the head of the largest department store in the United States. She spent many years at Starbucks, including two years as President of Starbucks Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. She came to Kohls in 2013 as Chief Merchandising and Customer Officer. In 2017, it was announced that she would become the CEO of the company, the first woman to hold the position in Kohl’s 50+ year history.

Margaret M Keane – Synchrony Financial

Ranked: 170th

Undergraduate: Saint Johns University
MBA: Saint Johns University Peter J. Tobin College of Business
Saint Johns University - Top Female CEOs

You might wonder how a woman who got her undergrad degree at Saint Johns University in Government and Politics (and her MBA from there in 1987) ended up the CEO of a bank. She started working at the age of 10, working for someone in her neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., affixing earrings to display cards. She only received half a cent per pair, but she took her hard work ethic to the top of the line as the CEO of Synchrony Financial, a role she is retiring from on April 1, 2021. She will transition to the role of executive chair of the company’s board of directors. Before Synchrony Financial, she worked for Citibank for 16 years. Afterward, she spent many years working for GE Capital. She was the CEO of their retail finance company when it splintered off to be an independent bank. She will keep her calendar full during her retirement. She is still connected to her alma mater, serving as a member of its Board of Trustees. Additionally, she serves on the Board of Directors for Allstate, buildOn, National Multiple Sclerosis Society Connecticut Chapter Board of Trustees. She is a member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centers Patient Care Committee.

Christine Leahy – CDW

Ranked: 178th

Undergraduate: Brown University
Law Degree: Boston College
Boston College - Top Female CEOs

Just 30 miles outside Chicago, you will find CDW, a provider of technology products and services. Their leader is Christine Leahy. Her first job was as a waitress in Princeton, N.J., but she was destined for bigger and better things. An English major at Brown University, she went on to get her J.D. from Boston College. She was a partner at the Chicago office of Sidley Austin, an international business law firm. But she left and went on to join CDW as their first general counsel in 2002. She held many positions in the company, including the Chief Legal Officer, Chief Revenue Officer, and senior VP, international. In 2019, she became the President and CEO of CDW. Today, she serves on the board of directors for Target Corp, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Junior Achievement of Chicago.

Sonia Syngal – The Gap

Ranked: 199th

Undergraduate: Kettering University
MBA: Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford Graduate School of Business - Top Female CEOs

Born in India and raised in Canada and the United States, Sonia Syngal had clothes on her mind at an early age. At age 12, while living in Montreal, she learned how to sew, and making clothes became her obsession. She created clothing for her family and dresses for her friends. Nevertheless, when she made it to Kettering University, she ended up with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from Stanford two years later. After spending time working for Ford Motor Co and Sun Microsystems, she made her way to Gap Inc. in 2004. This move led to many leadership positions within Gap and Old Navy (part of the Gap Corporation). She became CEO of Old Navy in 2016, the 4th largest apparel site in the United States. Four years later, she was chosen to be the CEO of Gap Inc, at a time when the company was struggling and needed a new voice. She is also on the Board of Governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Barbara Rentler- Ross Stores

Ranked: 202nd

Barbara Rentler, the CEO of Ross Stores since June 2014, is a very private person. Not much is known about her life. She has never responded to requests for information about her educational background, so no one knows if she attended college. Instead of being picked out early for leadership training, she started the old-fashioned way. She began working a variety of merchandising jobs for the company. She was so impressive that she was eventually brought in to work as a Senior VP and General Merchandise Manager in 2002. She was quickly moved around and given many promotions until she was named CEO of Ross Stores in 2014. The company has flourished under her leadership.

Anna Manning – Reinsurance Group of America

Ranked: 225th

Undergraduate: University of Toronto
University of Toronto - Top Female CEOs

It is as if Anna Manning knew where her professional life would lead her. Not too many people go to college and study Actuarial Science, but that is exactly what she majored in at the University of Toronto. After school, she spent 19 years with Tillinghast insurance consulting service’s Toronto office. She focused on consulting about mergers and acquisitions, product development, and financial reporting. In 2007, she joined Reinsurance Group of America. She held many leadership positions until being named President in 2015. A little more than a year later, the title of CEO was added to her list of responsibilities. The company has never performed better, having its most successful year in 2016. Additionally, she is involved in many companies and charities in the St. Louis area, where she currently lives and works.

Beth Ford – Land O’Lakes

Ranked: 232nd

Undergraduate: Iowa State University
MBA: Columbia Business School
Columbia Business School - Top Female CEOs

Beth Ford, CEO of Land O’Lakes, grew up in Iowa, the state famous for their cow made of butter and known for having the third most farms of any state in the U.S. She stayed in the state for her undergraduate degree in business from Iowa State University. She continued her education by getting an MBA at Columbia Business School. Her early professional career included stints working for Mobil Oil, ExxonMobil, Pepsi, and Scholastic. She began working for Land O’Lakes in 2011 as their chief supply chain and operations officer. She was promoted to COO, and, in 2018, was named President and CEO. She is the first female CEO in the company’s history. She has also made history by being the first openly gay female to lead a Fortune 500 company. She sits on the Board of Directors of many places, including the US Global Leadership Coalition, Paccar, and the ISU College of Business.

Deanna M Mulligan – Guardian Life Insurance Company of America

Ranked: 238th

Undergraduate: University of Nebraska
MBA: Stanford Graduate School of Business
Stanford Graduate School of Business - Top Female CEOs

Deanna Mulligan, the former CEO of Guardian Life Insurance, attended the University of Nebraska, majoring in business, and obtained her MBA at Stanford School of Business. She is an entrepreneur, businesswoman, and accomplished author. Her professional background is in operational management and strategy consulting. She founded her own life insurance consultancy, was a Principal at McKinsey & Company, AXA Financial, New York Life Insurance, and ChannelPoint. She came to Guardian in 2008 and was named CEO in July of 2011. In 2014, she was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. She left Guardian in October of 2020 to become CEO of Purposeful, an advisory firm for CEOs and C-level executives focusing on corporate governance, career development, and reskilling.

Jill Soltau – JCPenney

Ranked: 286th

Undergraduate: University of Wisconsin-Stout
University of Wisconsin Stout

Born in Viroqua, Wisconsin, Jill Soltau attended the University of Wisconsin, Stout, where she studied retail merchandising and management and graduated in 1989. Upon graduation, she began working for Carson Pirie Scott. Eventually, she moved on to senior-level positions at Sears and Kohl’s before joining Shopko in 2007. Six years later, she became President of the company. Two years later, she was named CEO and President of Jo-Ann Fabrics. In 2018, she was brought on by JCPenney to be CEO and a member of the board. The company was struggling when she came on and has continued to have difficulties. JCPenney filed for bankruptcy in May of 2020. In December of 2020, she and other top executives resigned, effective the next day.

Kathryn V Marinello – Hertz Global Holdings

Ranked: 326th

Undergraduate: University of Albany
MBA: Hofstra University
hofstra-university-top-female-ceos

Kathryn Marinello, the former CEO of Hertz Global Holdings, studied Liberal Arts at the University of Albany. Additionally, she spent time studying abroad at Lund University in Lund, Sweden, located in the southern part of the country. Five years later, she completed her MBA, focused in marketing, at Hofstra University. She has held many senior positions among various industries, including automotive, banking, technology, and others. In 1995, she became CEO and President of the Electronic Payments Group at First Data Corp. She also served in senior leadership positions with US Bank, Chemical Bank, Citibank, and Barclays Bank. She joined GE in 1997 as president of GE Capital Consumer Financial Services. She moved several times within the company before leaving to become chairman and CEO of Stream Global Services from 2010 to 2014. Eventually, she became President and CEO of Hertz in early 2017, where she oversaw ten consecutive quarters of revenue growth and nine consecutive quarters of profitability growth. She left in May of 2020 with no explanation as to why she was leaving the company. Nine months later, she was announced as the CEO of PODS, a moving and storage company.

Penny Pennington – Edward Jones

Ranked: 336th

Undergraduate: University of Virginia
MBA: Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
northwestern-university-kellogg-school-of-management-top-female-ceos

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Penny Pennington has been the managing partner of Edward Jones Investments since January 1, 2019. She studied at the University of Virginia with a degree in commerce and a concentration in finance. Later, she received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She started her career in investment banking but soon realized it wasn’t for her. She began to find her calling when she started to work for Edward Jones in 2000 as a financial advisor. In 2006, she began to take on senior leadership roles, including serving as a board member. In 2015, she became the head of the client strategies group. In 2019, she became the first woman to head a major brokerage firm with her appointment as the 6th managing partner with Edward Jones. The company has been successful under her leadership, as the firm’s net revenue has increased by almost 11% since she took over.

Joey Wat – Yum China

Ranked: 361st

Undergraduate: Hong Kong University
MBA: Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
northwestern-university-kellogg-school-of-management-top-female-ceos

Yum China is a fast-food restaurant company incorporated in the United States with its operational headquarters in Shanghai, China. Among its brands are Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC. Its CEO, Joey Wat, has been the CEO since March of 2018. Born in Fujian Province in China but moved to Hong Kong as a small child, she received her bachelor’s degree from Hong Kong University. She attended the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where she received her MBA. After getting her MBA, she returned to Hong Kong and worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. She joined A.S. Watson Group UK stayed with them for ten years. In 2014, she moved back to China to become the president of KFC China and was later promoted to its CEO. She became a member of the board of directors for Yum China in 2017. The following year, she became Yum China’s CEO. While a power player in international business, she has managed to balance her work and home life. In 2019, she was interviewed by Forbes Asia and said, “I’m a mom. Nothing is more important than childcare. Not even my job.”

Teresa Rasmussen- Thrivent Financial

Ranked: 368th

Undergraduate: Minnesota State University – Moorhead
Law Degree: University of North Dakota
university-of-north-dakota-top-female-ceos

Teresa Rasmussen was born in 1956 in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. She attended Minnesota State University, Moorhead, and received her B.S. in Accounting. She is one of three female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list with a law degree, obtaining hers at the University of North Dakota, graduating in 1984, three years after finishing her B.S. Her first job out of law school was part of the U.S. Attorney General’s Honors Programs as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice tax division. She was the Managing Counsel and VP for American Express Financial Advisors for 15 years before joining Thrivent Financial as a Senior VP and General Counsel. After 10 years, she was appointed as President of Thrivent, adding the title of CEO in November of 2018.

Michele Buck – The Hershey Group

Ranked: 398th

Undergraduate: Shippensburg University
MBA: University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

As a small child, Michele Buck and her family traveled an hour to go to the Hershey factory. Little did she know that she would end up running the company. “It wasn’t something I saw coming, but it’s interesting how that all comes together. Maybe it was meant to be.” Her road to running one of America’s most famous companies started as a student at Shippensburg University, studying business. A few years later, she got her MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her professional career has been deep in the food industry, including time at Frito Lay, Kraft General Foods, and Nabisco before settling in at Hershey. When she arrived there in 2005, she was the SVP of Marketing. Twelve years later, with several senior positions in between, she was named President and CEO of The Hershey Company.

Mary Laschinger – Veritiv Corp

Ranked: 412th

Undergraduate: University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire
MBA: University of Connecticut
university-of-connecticut-school-of-business-top-female-ceos

Mary Laschinger grew up on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin. She speaks of how she learned much about business by watching her father. Her work ethic started early, working on the family farm and going to tech school before starting at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, and got her degree in business management. Later, she attended the University of Connecticut’s School of Business and received her MBA. She held several jobs before she was hired to be the Chairman and CEO of Veritiv in July of 2014. In September of 2020, she abruptly resigned. The company’s final financial reports with her leading the company were very disappointing, causing many rumors of her being ousted from the company, but nothing has ever been confirmed.

Kathleen Mazzarella – Graybar Electric

Ranked: 415th

Undergraduate: Webster University
MBA: Webster University
webster-university-top-female-ceos

Kathleen Mazzarella, CEO of Graybar, a supply-chain management and logistics services provider, started with the company in 1980 as a customer service representative. Since then, she has moved up the chain quickly and often. She obtained an associate degree in telecommunications engineering. Later, she went on to get her BA in Applied Behavioral Sciences and an MBA from Webster University, just outside St. Louis. After a decade in sales for Graybar, she became a District Marketing Manager. She continued to climb in the sales, HR, and marketing departments until she was named President and the 11th CEO in its history in June of 2012. She added Chairman to her resume the following year. She is very active in board memberships in the St Louis area.

Mary Dillon – Ulta Beauty

Ranked: 418th

Undergraduate: University of Illinois
university-of-illinois-top-female-ceos

Mary Dillon’s professional career has been varied and successful. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a double major in Marketing and Asian Studies, she ended up at PepsiCo for two decades. She initially started in the Marketing Associate program, but her final position was President of the Quaker Foods Division. She moved on to be the Global Chief Marketing Officer of McDonald’s for nearly five years. She left to take the position of President and CEO of U.S. Cellular. Three years later, she was brought on to be the CEO of Ulta Beauty, a position she held until March of 2021 when she announced her resignation. She will become the executive chair of the Board of Directors for the next year, where she will focus on Ulta and help advise the new CEO, Dave Kimbell.

Patti Poppe – CMS Energy and PS&G

Ranked: 443rd and 317th (respectively)

Undergraduate: Purdue University
MBA: Stanford University Graduate School of Business

Stanford Graduate School of Business - Top Female CEOs

Patti Poppe was raised in Jackson, Michigan, home to CMS Energy. Her father was a nuclear engineer for the company his daughter would one day go on to run. First, she needed to get a couple of degrees. She went to Purdue for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in industrial engineering. Many years later, she went on to get her MBA in management from Stanford. After getting her undergrad degree, she started to work for GM. She stayed there for 15 years. She moved on to DTE Energy, starting as a plant director and making her way up to Director of Regulated Marketing for Energy Optimization. But it wasn’t long before her hometown roots called her back. She went to work initially for CMS as VP of Customer Operations. Five years later, she was named President and CEO of the company. At the end of 2020, she announced she was leaving CMS to take over PS&G, a company with three times as many employees as CMS, as their CEO. With this move, Poppe is making history by being the first female CEO to leave one Fortune 500 company to take over the CEO position of another Fortune 500 company.

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