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Female Fortune 500 CEOs Are Poised to Break This Record in 2017

December 22, 2016, 7:53 PM UTC
Courtesy of Reynolds American

Next year is already looking better than this one, at least when it comes to women in leadership.

By the end of the first quarter of 2017, Fortune has learned there will be 27 women leading Fortune 500 companies. While that is an undeniably paltry number, it’s better than the number of female CEOs in 2016—or ever.

The previous record for most female CEOs on the list was set in 2014, when 24 women made the list. This number stayed unchanged the following two years (as of December 2016), meaning that the percentage of women at the top of the Fortune 500 has been holding steady at 4.8%.

While we will see a few female chiefs stepping down next year, these losses will be offset by a number of powerful businesswomen stepping up to take their places. For the first time ever, more than 5% of CEOs on the list will be women.

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1. Debra Crew will take over as chief of Reynolds American (RAI) on Jan. 1, becoming the first woman to succeed another woman as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. (Susan Cameron will be retiring on the same date). Crew, No. 47 on Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women list, currently serves as COO and president of R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco company’s largest subsidiary.

2. Anna Manning will be taking over as CEO of Reinsurance Group of America (RGA) on the first day of next year. Manning has been with the company since 2007 and most recently served as its president.

3. Kathryn Marinello, who was most recently a senior adviser to Ares Capital Management, will take over the helm of Hertz Global Holdings (HTZ) on Jan. 3. The appointment pleased activist investor Carl Icahn, the car rental company’s largest shareholder, who said he has said that he is “excited about Hertz and its prospects with [Marinello] at the helm.”

See our full list of the Most Powerful Women of 2016 here.

4. Michele Buck, an 11-year veteran of Hershey (HSY), has been tapped to serve as the chocolate maker’s next president and CEO. The 55-year-old currently serves as the company’s COO and will officially begin to steer the company on March 1.

5. Geisha Williams, currently the president of PG&E Corp.’s (PCG) electric business, will become president and CEO of the company on March 1. She is the first woman to be the company’s top boss.


1. Susan Cameron is retiring from her post at Reynolds American on Jan. 1 for the second time. Her first tenure at the helm of the company lasted seven years before she passed the baton to her successor in 2011. The 58-year-old’s first stab at retirement lasted about three years before she was asked to come back.

2. Ursula Burns is retiring from her post at Xerox (XRX) after nearly eight years as chief. Her stepping down means that Fortune 500 CEOs will have no women of color in their ranks. Burns appeared at No. 25 on on Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women list this year.