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When the 2014 Fortune 500 list appeared in June, numbers like $476 billion (Wal-Mart’s 2013 revenue) and 141 (Facebook’s jump in the rankings) received a lot of attention. Another number didn’t make it into the headlines: 51.
That’s how many Fortune 1000 companies are led by women. We feature some of these female super-achievers in the Fortune Most Powerful Women rankings, but neither that annual list nor the Fortune 500 tells you what these leaders have in common, besides big jobs and big paychecks and gender.
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So, we took a deep dive into our own numbers numbers. And here’s what we found:
There are 24 women CEOs in the Fortune 500 and 27 in the Fortune 1000.
The number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 has been rising steadily since 1998, when the only female chiefs of such corporate giants were Jill Barad of Mattel MAT and Marion Sandler, Co-CEO of Golden West Financial. The female Fortune 500 CEO population dropped in 2009, resurged, and now it’s at an all-time high of 24.
New York is home to the most Fortune 1000 companies with women CEOS.
Texas boasts the most Fortune 1000 companies (103), but New York has the most big corporations led by women (seven). California comes in second, with six women-led companies, followed by Illinois with five.
Specialty retailers lead the list of companies with women chiefs.
CEOs Carol Meyrowitz at TJX TJX and Mindy Grossman at Home Shopping Network HSNI are among the nine women heading retail giants. The mining and crude oil production industry has no female CEOs, though it has 33 companies in the Fortune 500.
Only 5% of Fortune 1000 companies have female CEOs, but those giants generate 7% of the Fortune 1000’s total revenue.
The biggest woman-led company: Mary Barra’s General Motors. It’s No. 7 on the Fortune 500, with $155 billion in 2013 revenue.
Fortune 1000 companies with female chiefs outperformed the S&P 500 index over their respective tenures.
Women-led companies tend to reward investors well. Home Shopping Network’s Mindy Grossman and TJX’s Carol Meyrowitz are among the CEOs who generated the highest returns during their respective tenures.
Fewer women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 hold the chairman role than at S&P 500 companies.
More than two-thirds of the women-led companies in the Fortune 1000 have split the CEO and chairman roles, vs. 43% of companies in the S&P 500. General Dynamics’ GD Phebe Novakovic and Xerox’s XRX Ursula Burns are among the female Fortune 500 CEOs who fill both roles.
More women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 are hired internally than at S&P 1500 companies.
While a recent study indicated that women CEO are more likely than men to be hired from the outside, the female chiefs of America’s largest companies don’t reflect that trend. Kim Bowers at convenience store retailer CST Brands CST and Meg Whitman at Hewlett Packard HPQ are among the few Fortune 1000 women CEOs who were recruited from the outside.
Fewer than half of the women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 have MBAs.
Pepsi’s PEP Indra Nooyi, Avon Product’s AVP Sherilyn McCoy and Cracker Barrel’s CBRL Sandra Cochran are among the 39% of Fortune 1000 female chiefs with graduate business degrees.
The most common college major among women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 is engineering.
Engineering degrees fueled the careers of nine of the 51 Fortune 1000 female chiefs. Meanwhile, four female Fortune 1000 CEOs — Mondelez International’s KRFT Irene Rosenfeld, William Sonoma CEO WSM Laura Alber, Campbell Soup CEO CPB Denise Morrison and ANN Inc. ANN chief exec Katherine Krill — majored in psychology. Morrison and Krill both majored in economics as well.
More women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 are married and have children, vs. the national average.
Female Fortune 500 CEOs tend to be wives and moms. Schnitzer Steel Industries SCHN chief Tamara Lundgren has the most unusual marital setup: Her husband is Stanley Black & Decker SWK CEO John Lundgren, a fellow Fortune 500 CEO. The Lundgrens don’t have children — but more than 80% of the female CEOs in the Fortune 1000 (who would disclose their family status) do.
Graphics designed by Analee Kasudia and Nicolas Rapp. Saskia Jensen contributed reporting to this piece.