Close this search box.
Close this search box.

10 Best Companies for Executive Women and What CEOs Can Do to Develop Women Leaders

The percentage of board seats occupied by women among those ranked increased for the second consecutive year. AstraZeneca. EY, and General Mills top the list. General Motors recently named its first female CEO – although there was controversy over her “gendered” salary. The experience of Deloitte LLP offers guidance to CEOs on how to retain talented women leaders by incorporating flexibility into one’s culture.

The National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) just released its annual list of the Top 50 Companies for Executive Women, which it says “recognizes American corporations that have moved women into top executive positions and created a culture that identifies, promotes and nurtures successful women.”

NAFE, a division of Working Mother Media, says there are certain criteria a company must meet in order to be considered for its annual list: It must have at least two women on its board of directors; have a minimum of 1,000 employees and; it must be a public or private for-profit company (NAFE also has a separate, Top 10 list for not-for-profits).

The group also excludes divisions of companies involved in the business of providing work/life services, consulting or government agencies.

NAFE points out that 28% of executive officers on its Top 50 list are women, up from 25% last year and 22% in 2012. The top 50 Companies for Executive Women continue to increase the numbers of women in their top ranks, and have made positive program and policy changes as well. Below are statistics published by NAFE:

  • Women represent 35 percent of the top tenth of earners at the NAFE Top 50 Companies, and a full two thirds at the NAFE Top 10 Nonprofit Companies.
  • Female participation in advancement programs increased significantly at the NAFE Top 50 this year, with almost a third (32%) of women using management/leadership training and mentoring programs, and 64% of women participating in career counseling.
  • 96% of the NAFE Top 50 Companies now offer job rotation programs, compared with 80% last year; and 60% support sponsorship programs, up from just 42% in 2013.

Also among the companies on the list is General Motors, which recently named its first female CEO – although there has been some controversy over how much she is being paid compared to her male predecessor. When Mary Barra was tapped as the first female chief executive officer of General Motors, the appointment was hailed as an achievement for women’s equality in the executive suite. But according to reports from The Washington Post and elsewhere, Barra will be paid less than half what her predecessor Dan Akerson earned. Even more startling, according to the newspaper, is the fact that Akerson will earn more in his new advisory role with GM than Barra will reap as the company’s top executive. General Motors will pay Barra $4.4 million in salary and other compensation, according to a regulatory filing. Akerson earned $9.1 million in 2012, which included $1.7 million in salary and stock awards of $7.3 million.

Dial Up, Dial Down

Empowering the next generation of women leaders is less about structure and more about culture. That’s the message of The Committee of 200 (C200), a Chicago-based invitation only organization of the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. Several point to the culture and flexible nature of Deloitte’s effort to develop woman leaders.

Deloitte LLP, the accounting and consultancy, recently figured among the top private companies that are best for leadership development, a ranking Chief Executive publishes every January based on research conducted in partnership with Chally Worldwide. At Deloitte, every employee meets with his or her supervisor twice every year to determine to what extent he or she will adjust such factors as schedule, workload, location and business travel—adjustments that may or may not result in change in pay. About 10 percent of Deloitte employees choose to “dial up” or “dial down” at any given time. Deloitte has 4,500 partners/principals/directors. Currently 1,100 are women, up from 100 in 1993.

A component of Deloitte’s Mass Career Customization (MCC) program, which began as a way to keep talented women in its ranks, the Dial-up, Dial-down program has become very popular with all employees. It turns out that men also seek flexibility and it takes real modeling from the CEO on down to make such programs work. It’s natural for people in organizations to ask people who are perceived to be on dial-down if they are committed and be counted on for the long haul. CEOs must ensure that employees who avail themselves of such flexibility can get their careers back on track.

Here are NAFE’s top 10 companies as ranked by the percentage of each company’s senior managers and corporate executives who are women:

Company Percent of Female Senior Managers Percent of Female Corporate Executives
AstraZeneca 40% 27%
Ernst & Young LLP 45 33
General Mills 39 37
Grant Thornton 34 20
IBM 26 22
KPMG 37 18
Marriott International 40 34
Proctor & Gamble 34 31
State Farm 40 34
Verizon Communications 31 29






  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.