Top Female CEOs: The 16 Leading Women of Business

Illustration of woman sitting behind a desk working on her laptop and two men

While women in business still face many challenges not typically shared by their male counterparts (including discrimination and inequal pay), the tables are slowly turning.

In fact, only 6.6% of this year’s Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs, as opposed to last year’s 4.8%. It’s a small growth, but a growth, nonetheless.

Still, these powerful female entrepreneurs are leading the way for women around the globe and changing the business world for the better. And if you aspire to follow in their footsteps and begin a career in business, you would do well to take a page or two out of their books!

Here are the top 16 female CEOs making history in the business world in 2019, according to Glassdoor.

16. Cindy Mi

Cindy MiBusiness Insider

Company: VIPKid

Age: 36

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 90%

Cindy Mi is a prime example of a successful, self-made entrepreneur.

Working as an English teacher in China, Mi knew there was an untapped demand for English language tutors. Mi herself is a self-taught learner who begun studying the language by using any English magazines and cassette tapes she could find.

This English teacher-turned-entrepreneur was determined to create an accessible educational tool that could help students access helpful resources and learn the language. Her idea struck gold, and today VIPKid is the biggest K-12 online English language platform in the world, giving over 200,000 students access to English instructors from across North America.

15. Liv Garfield

Liv GarfieldFinancial Times

Company: Severn Trent

Age: 44

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 91%

Liv Garfield worked her way up to the top of Severn Trent, a leading UK company responsible for supplying clean water to over 8 billion people. On her climb up the corporate ladder, Liv worked within different industry sectors (including her stint as BT’s Director of Strategy and Regulatory Affairs and later as chief executive for BT’s Openreach division).

During her term as Severn Trent’s CEO, she has proven herself to be a natural leader. Indeed, since her appointment in 2014, Severn Trent has had a remarkably positive upturn and was recently named 1 of the top 50 companies to work for in the UK company.

13. Lynne Doughtie (tie)

Lynne DoughtieFortune

Company: KPMG

Age: 56

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 92%

Lynne Doughtie is another female entrepreneur who worked her way up the career ladder. Not only is she the first female CEO of KPMG but she is also the second woman to ever lead a Big Four accounting firm, after Deloitte’s very own Cathy Enelgbert (who also appears on this list).

During her time as CEO, Doughtie placed a big emphasis on making KPMG a more diverse and inclusive organisation, turning it one of the most proactive Big Four companies.  However, Doughtie’s five-year term as CEO has not been short of challenges, having had to fire five partners from her firm due to unethical behaviour.

Regardless, Doughtie’s focus on developing a purpose-driven company culture has altered the face of KPMG for the better, making innovation its primary pursuit.

13. Mary Ackenhusen (tie)

Mary AckenhusenConversations That Matter via Podbean

Company: Vancouver Coastal Health

Age: N/A

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 92%

An engineer by profession, Mary Ackenhusen found her true calling after working within the healthcare sector. Currently, she is one of the few engineering executives in the Canadian healthcare system, leading the largest academic and tertiary health authority in British Columbia.

Over the years, Ackenhusen has introduced new technology and system models that have transformed healthcare delivery for the better. One of her key achievements is the use of a new clinical process which led to a staggering clinical capacity increase by 20%. Under her leadership, Vancouver Coastal Health has been able to create an efficient patient-centred service and find innovative solutions to one of the world’s best healthcare systems.

12. Tricia Griffith

Tricia GriffithFortune

Company: Progressive Corporation

Age: 55

Net worth: $56.6 million (£50.9 million)

Approval rating: 93%

Tricia Griffith took over as Progressive Corporation’s CEO in 2016 after years of dedication and hard work. She joined initially the company as an entry-level claims representative back in 1988 and went to hold a number of leadership roles within Progressive, including Chief Human Resources Officer, Group President and President of Customer Operations.

It seems that the role of CEO, however, was the perfect fit for the entrepreneur, as under her reign, the company has seen remarkable growth in profits. Monetary growth, however, hasn’t been the only item on Griffith’s agenda; the CEO places great emphasis on the welfare of employees and firmly believes that success is the result of a driven workforce.

9. Colleen Wegman (tie)

Colleen WegmanDemocrat & Chronicle

Company: Wegmans Food Markets

Age: 47

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 94%

Colleen Wegman’s rise to the top, unlike the rest, was hereditary. After her father stepped down as CEO of Wegmans Food Markets, Wegman took up the reins of the family business.

Despite Wegmans being one of the largest supermarket chains in the US, she has put the primary focus on the company’s workforce. The proof is in the pudding, as under her leadership, Wegmans Food Market has been one of the best places to work for the past five years.

9. Karen Flavelle (tie)

Karen FlavelleVancouver Observer

Company: Purdy’s Chocolatier

Age: N/A

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 94%

Despite Purdy’s Chocolatier being a family-owned business, Karen Flavelle had to work her way up to the CEO position. Wanting his children to follow their own paths, Flavelle’s father encouraged her and her siblings to pursue their own interests outside the company. However, her passion for retail (and chocolate) led Flavelle back to the family business.

Since becoming Purdy’s CEO in 1997, the company has doubled its number of stores to 80 locations across Canada, while Purdy’s infamous family culture has earned the company a never-ending list of awards.

9. Pamela Nicholson (tie)

Pamela NicholsonGlassdoor

Company: Enterprise Holdings

Age: 59

Net worth: N/A

Approval tating: 94%

Pamela Nicholson spent years working in various roles before climbing the ranks as CEO in 2013. Starting out behind a rental counter in a regional branch, her management skills and ambition took her to the very top 20 years later.

Nicholson is not only the first female CEO of Enterprise Holdings but also the first CEO that isn’t a member of the Taylor family, the original founders of the company. Ever since her appointment, the company had experienced substantial growth, following an international expansion that globalised the brand. Unsurprisingly, Nicholson’s achievements have granted her a spot on Fortune’s ‘Most Powerful Women in Business’ list for 12 consecutive years.

5. Anne Wojcicki (tie)


Company: 23andMe

Age: 46         

Net worth: $690 million (£620 million)

Approval rating: 97%

As the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki is a prime example of a self-made entrepreneur. A Yale graduate with a biology degree, she developed her company along with her fellow co-founders while working as an investment analyst.

Her company’s main objective was to empower people by informing them of their personal disease risk and helping them take preventative steps. Getting the FDA’s stamp of approval wasn’t an easy task, but Wojcicki’s strategic changes within the company convinced them otherwise. Today, 23andMe is considered a pioneer company in biotechnology and genomics and the only FDA-approved personal genetics firm.

5. Sarah Nahm (tie)


Company: Lever

Age: 33

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 97%

Sarah Nahm is the leading figure behind Lever, as its co-founder and CEO. With a bachelor’s degree in engineering and product design from Stanford University, Nahm began her career at Google as a speech writer for Marissa Mayer before joining the product team that successfully launched Google Chrome.

Wanting to pursue her own projects, she founded Lever with the aim of creating a platform that would modernise recruitment software. Today, her company has successfully reached 40 countries, assisting over 2,000 clients worldwide.

5. Isabelle Kocher (tie)

Isabelle KocherFortune

Company: Engie

Age: 52

Net worth: $4 million (£3.6 million)

Approval rating: 97%

In her brief three-year run as CEO of Engie, Isabelle Kocher has managed a fleet of achievements. Although her tenure begun during a trying time for Engie, under her leadership the company has achieved substantial growth, with revenues going up to €60 billion (£53.9 billion).

She also laid the groundwork for diverting Engie’s assets to renewable energy sources, putting the world’s third-largest energy group on the path to becoming completely fossil fuel-free.  While she might be the only female CEO in charge of a CAC 40 company, Kocher works relentlessly to empower other women at Engie by setting a 35% minimum target of high potential staff to be women.

5. Cathy Engelbert (tie)

Cathy EngelbertTime

Company: Deloitte

Age: 54

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 97%

Cathy Engelbert joined the Deloitte family when she was just 17 years old, but almost threw in the towel when she fell pregnant with her first child. Luckily, her mentors William G Parrett and William Ehrhardt, then senior partners in New York, stepped in and convinced her otherwise.

She spent the next 30 years in various roles across the company, and in 2015 was appointed CEO of Deloitte – effectively becoming the first female US CEO of a Big Four firm and inspiring hundreds of women to advance their own careers in the process.

Engelbert recently took on a new venture, stepping down as CEO of Deloitte to become WNBA’s first commissioner.

4. Nora Su

Company: Horizon Innovations

Age: N/A

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 98%

Nora Su is the quintessential success story. The young entrepreneur migrated from Taiwan to the US at the age of 13, and after graduating at the top of her class with a degree in economics from the University of Washington, she joined the team at Horizon Innovations.

Although she joined the company thinking it would be a great way to kickstart her career as a wide-eyed graduate, she eventually took on a lot more responsibilities – as CEO. Under her leadership, the marketing firm has been named Florida’s best company to work for the past four years.

1. Jessica Catino (tie)

Jessica CatinoDigital Prospectors

Company: Digital Prospectors

Age: N/A

Net worth: N/A

Approval rating: 99%

Since rising to C-suite status, Jessica Catino helped Digital Prospectors experience substantial growth. Indeed, through her strategic planning and leadership, the company’s annual revenues grew from $4 million (£3.6 million) in 2003 to over $50 million (£44.9 million) today.

Catino is a firm believer in the company’s core values, which include perseverance, integrity and accountability. Undoubtedly, these principles have been the guiding light to the company’s persistent growth over the years and have shaped the company’s culture.

1. Lisa Su (tie)

Lisa SuFortune

Company: Advanced Micro Devices

Age: 49

Net worth: $161 million (£144.6 million)

Approval rating: 99%

Lisa Su is the driving force behind Advanced Micro Devices’ success. Indeed, she was able to save the 50-year-old company from bankruptcy by venturing into the graphics and video game chip market – today, the company is the sole chip provider for Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 consoles.

Her expertise is the result of an extensive and multi-faceted career. Starting out as a member of technical staff at Texas Instruments Inc, she then took on multiple leadership roles within IBM before moving on to Freescale and then eventually Advanced Micro Devices.

1. Lynsi Snyder (tie)

Lynsi SnyderPeople

Company: In-N-Out Burger

Age: 37

Net worth: $3.6 billion (£3.2 billion)

Approval rating: 99%

Lynsi Snyder is one of the youngest billionaires in the world. The heiress of the popular fast-food chain has taken the business to new heights – making it one of the best places to work in the US.

Snyder has formed a real company culture and invests time in her staff members by arranging trips, days out, company perks and decent wages. She encourages them to learn and grow within the organisation, making them feel satisfied in their position and choice of employer.

Venturing into the business world may be a challenging path, but these successful female entrepreneurs have proven that it is possible for women everywhere. While everyone’s career progression is different, one thing is definitely true: with the right amount of determination and drive, nothing will stop you from reaching the top!

Which of these powerful female entrepreneurs is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below.


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 7 August 2018. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by on 18 October 2019.