The Leadership Gap: 20 Revealing Male vs. Female CEO Statistics

By Milica Milenkovic

February 6, 2024

Women account for 50.8% of the US population, hold 57% of all undergraduate degrees, and approximately 60% of all master’s degrees. And even though they hold about 52% of all management-level jobs, American women cannot keep pace with men in terms of representation when it comes to top leadership roles. 

As male vs. female CEO statistics show, it’s the profit and loss roles or P&L responsibilities such as leading a brand, unit, or division, that set executives on the track to becoming a CEO.

On the other hand, women who advance into C-suites – the “chief” jobs in companies – typically take on the roles such as head of human resources, legal, or administration. Although all of these functions are extremely important, the line of work they focus on doesn’t involve profit-generating responsibilities, which rarely makes them a path to running a company.

Why does the percentage of CEOs that are female remain low in all parts of the world? There isn’t a simple answer to this question. Several studies have shown that it’s the fusion of work-life constraints, early professional trade-offs, and firmly established attitudes towards women in power and the skills and traits that make a good leader that can explain why the careers of equally ambitious and capable men and women often take such different turns.

Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting findings.

Male vs Female CEO Statistics – Editor’s Choice

  • Female CEOs are running 41 Fortune 500 companies.
  • There are two Black women among the Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • Women made up only 5% of the CEOs appointed in 2020 globally.
  • At the CEO level, men outnumber women by approximately 17 to one. 
  • 59% of male employees aspire to become CEOs versus 40% of women.
  • 77% of women say the biggest obstacle to gender equity at the workplace is the lack of information on how to advance.

Between 2015 and 2020, the share of women in senior vice president roles in the US increased from 23% to 28%.

(McKinsey & Company)

Over the same period, the percentage of women in the C-suite went up from 17% to 21%. All women, especially those of color, remained significantly outnumbered in senior management positions. However, prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the representation of female workers in corporate America was slowly trending in the right direction. 

According to 2020 statistics on female CEOs in the United States, 21% of C-suite members were women. 

(McKinsey & Company) 

Based on the survey results published by McKinsey & Company, there’s a leaky pipeline for women in leadership. In 2020, female workers accounted for 47% of entry-level positions, 38% of management roles, and 33% senior management/director roles. Women were entrusted with under one third (29%) of all vice president positions in American organizations.

For every 100 men who got promoted to a managerial role, only 85 women advanced to the same position, based on the 2020 data. 

(McKinsey & Company)

This gap was even larger for women of color as only 71 Latinas, and 58 Black women received a promotion. Consequently, women remained underrepresented at the managerial level holding just 38% of manager positions, while men accounted for 62%.

Male vs female CEO statistics from 2020 indicate that 39% of senior-level women burned out compared to 29% of men.

(McKinsey & Company)

Furthermore, 36% of women felt pressured to work more, in comparison with 27% of men. At the same time, 54% of C-suite women reported that they constantly felt exhausted, and so did 41% of men in similar positions.

More than 50% of women in senior leadership roles promote gender and racial equality at work, in comparison with approximately 40% of male top executives.

(McKinsey & Company)

Women in leadership positions are more likely than men in senior-level roles to take a public stand on racial and gender diversity and champion the advancement of employee-friendly programs and policies. Women CEOs are also more likely to sponsor and mentor other female workers. According to the results of a recent survey, 38% of women in senior-level positions currently mentor or sponsor at least one woman of color, compared to only 23% of men in the same roles.  

Female CEOs are running 41 Fortune 500 companies.

(Fortune, Statista)

In 2021, the number of women appointed to CEO positions in America’s 500 highest-grossing companies reached an all-time high. However, the new record still only translates to approximately 8% of female representation at the top of the country’s largest public businesses. 

On the plus side, the number of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies almost doubled in comparison with 2018 when there were 24 females leading the nation’s biggest businesses. Calls for diversity and inclusion in the highest echelons of America’s business world are starting to bear fruit as the number of female Fortune 500 chief executive officers increased for the third consecutive year.

The top five biggest female-led Fortune 500 businesses as of August 2021 are CVS Health (rank four), Walgreens Boots Alliance (rank 16), General Motors (rank 22), Anthem (rank 23), and Citigroup (rank 33). 

Speaking of women in leadership roles, statistics show that there are two Black women among the Fortune 500 CEOs.


For the first time, two Black women are running Fortune 500 businesses – Roz Brewer of Walgreens Boots Alliance (rank 16) and Thasunda Brown Duckett of TIAA (rank 79).

Before Duckett and Brewer started their new jobs in 2021, only one Black woman – Ursula Burns, former Xerox chief – had ever been appointed CEO at a Fortune 500 business on a permanent basis. After Burnes stepped down from the role in 2017, and, with the exception of Bed Bath & Beyond’s Mary Winston, who worked as interim chief for a few months in 2019, Black female chief executive officers have been missing from the Fortune 500 list ever since.

Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser is the first woman to run a major Wall Street bank.


Fraser’s appointment marked huge progress for the financial industry. Much like Dick’s Sporting Goods chief Lauren Hobart, Clorox chief Linda Rendle, new Coty CEO Sue Nabi, Walgreens Boots Alliance’s Roz Brewer, Thasunda Brown Duckett of TIAA, and CVS’s CEO Karen Lynch, Fraser took over from a male CEO.

Statistics on Fortune 500 CEOs by gender reveal that there were only 37 female and 463 male chiefs leading America’s highest earning businesses in 2000.


The number of women in CEO positions in the Fortune 500 hasn’t been growing steadily throughout the last two decades. There were 24 female chiefs in 2015, 21 women CEOs in 2016, and 32 women running Fortune 500 businesses in 2017, while that number dropped to 24 in 2018. 

At the median, 16 female CEOs earned $13.6 million in 2020, in comparison to $12.6 million for the 326 men included in a study.


According to a study published in May 2021 comparing a male CEO salary vs. a female CEO salary, women have outpaced men in total pay but remained underrepresented in executive positions. Equilar’s study indicates that Lisa Su, the chief executive officer of Advanced Micro Devices, was the highest-paid woman for the second consecutive year and the highest-paid CEO overall in 2020. 

Globally, women made up only 5% of the CEOs appointed in 2020.

(Heidrick & Struggles)

The highest percentage of newly-appointed female CEOs was in Ireland (15%), while the lowest was in Brazil (0%).

This is according to a paper that analyzed the backgrounds of chief executives leading 965 of the largest companies in 20 markets around the world. It sought to identify the skills and experience that shaped their path to the top while taking different male vs. female CEO statistics into account. 

At the CEO level, men outnumber women by approximately 17 to one. 


According to a study that explored the gender gap in US companies, the number of male executive officers is seven times higher than the number of women holding the same positions. More than 50% of the companies analyzed didn’t have a single female on their lists of executive officers. Jackie Cook, the author of the Morningstar report, found that online retail giant Amazon didn’t have any women among its highest-paid executives as of 2020. 

Women who negotiate for raises and promotions are 30% more likely to be considered as “too aggressive” or “intimidating”.

(Business Insider)

Speaking of male managers vs. female managers, statistics reveal that women who don’t negotiate at all are 67% less likely to receive the same negative feedback.

The proportion of women in senior management roles increased from 20% in 2011 to 29% in 2020, globally.

(Grant Thornton)

As 2019 saw a jump of 5% compared to 2018 (amounting to a total of 29%), 2020 represents a leveling off of the progress made during the previous year. This lack of movement doesn’t necessarily reflect a failure of companies to address the existing gender gap.

Globally, the proportion of companies with at least one woman in senior management was 87% in 2020. 

(Grant Thornton)

The number of female CEOs and senior managers has risen by almost 20 percentage points over the last few years. For comparison, this figure stood at 68% in 2015 and 68% in 2017. 

77% of women say the biggest obstacle to gender equity in the workplace is the lack of information on how to advance.

(Working Mother Research Institute)

Only 41% of female survey participants, as opposed to 64% of male respondents, said they have a network of coaches, mentors, and sponsors offering them career guidance.

37% of women versus 64% of men said that their companies provide information on career paths that lead to executive roles.

(Working Mother Research Institute)

Additionally, women CEO statistics indicate that 74% of female employees understand what the specific requirements are for advancing to the highest-paying roles in their companies even though they don’t receive this type of information directly. 

60% of women believe they have the same opportunities to advance as anyone else at their workplace versus 74% of men. 

(Working Mother Research Institute)

Similarly, 65% of women express they are satisfied with the way their careers are progressing, and so do 78% of men. 

Male vs female CEO stats reveal that 59% of male employees aspire to become chief executives versus 40% of women. 

(Working Mother Research Institute)

Of those women who aspire to become CEOs, 6% are first-level managers (as opposed to 13% of men) and 39% are executives. The same goes for 40% of men hoping to take on the role of chief executive officer. 

Businesses with high representations of women in leadership roles had a 35% higher return on equity and 34% higher total shareholder return in comparison with male-dominated companies. 


Female vs male CEO statistics compiled by an NGO during a review of 353 Fortune 500 companies show that the differences were most apparent in facial services, consumer discretionary, and consumer staples industries.


What percent of CEOs are female?

If you’re wondering what percentage of CEOs are female in the US, the best way to approach this question is to look at Fortune 500 companies. As of June 2021, there are 41 female chief executive officers employed at the country’s 500 highest-grossing businesses. This number translates to 8% and represents a new record of women CEOs in America’s biggest public companies. Among the 41 female CEOs, there are two women of color, which is also a new record in female representation at the Fortune 500.

Do male CEOs make more than female CEOs?

According to male vs. female CEO pay statistics at the median, 16 female CEOs earned $13.6 million in 2020, compared to $12.6 million for the 326 men included in a recent study. Wage gap statistics show that women have outpaced men in total pay but still remain grossly underrepresented in executive positions. Lisa Su, the CEO of Advanced Micro Devices, was the highest-paid woman for the second year in a row and the overall highest-paid CEO in 2020’s study.

Do female CEOs perform better?

A study has shown that companies with a higher percentage of women in executive positions and C-suite have better financial performance. In other words, male vs female CEO statistics demonstrate that companies with women in leadership roles saw a 34% higher total shareholder return and 35% higher return on equity when compared to male-dominated businesses.

​​Which country has the most female CEOs?

The country with the highest proportion of female business leaders is Thailand, with 30% of companies employing female chief executive officers, followed by the People’s Republic of China, with 19% of female CEOs.

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