The number of female CEOs leading American companies has grown over the past decade. In 2014, there were 24 women leading as CEO among Fortune 500 companies, and 27 women among Fortune 1000. And even though progress seems slow, it’s faster in the United States than any other region in the world. A study last year by Strategy& found that 3.2% of companies in the United States and Canada had women leaders, compared to the lowest rate of 0.8% in Japan. The consulting firm expects that women will make up one-third of new CEO appointments by 2040.
Analysis by Fortune magazine of its own rankings lists shows that only 5% of Fortune 1000 companies have female CEOs at the helm. However, those companies generate 7% of Fortune 1000’s total revenue. And what’s more, only two of the 20 largest companies in America that are led by women saw their stocks dip in 2014.
Those numbers show the continued work women have ahead of them if they aspire to one day lead a company. However, there are several women who are already leading massive companies in the United States who often have unique opportunities to steer their companies — and industries — in a new direction.
“Power” is a subjective term. But our list takes into account the size of the company each woman is leading, challenges she faces and opportunities the company will have for growth under her leadership. While it’s a challenge in itself to maintain the status quo of companies worth billions of dollars, it’s quite another to make strides forward into new areas of growth. Because of those opportunities and the position of each company today, these six women have the chance to shape American companies for the future.