About the report

CEOs may be the most scrutinized people outside professional athletes. Magazines and data companies analyze their education, career history, tenure, stock performance, and more. And yet too little is known about what distinguishes the women in that group. The reason is profound in its simplicity: Until quite recently, there were so few female CEOs that a statistically valid study wasn’t feasible.


Korn Ferry’s portion of the Rockefeller Foundation's 100x25 campaign, called the CEO Pipeline Project, seeks to learn from the women who have already succeeded at becoming CEOs.

"The more somebody tells me I can’t do something, the more determined I get. I developed a lot of resilience skills. And it was important to me that I not become another victim of the system that didn’t want to accommodate me."

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When roughly 94% of Fortune 1000 CEOs are men, what qualities drive the 6% who are women to the most elite reaches of corporate leadership?


To find out, the Korn Ferry Institute studied 57 women who have been CEO—38 currently and 19 previously—at Fortune 1000-listed companies and others of similar size. We analyzed structured interviews with all 57 women and the results of psychometric assessments taken by two-thirds of them.


Among the key findings:

  • Few set out to be CEO
  • More than 40% of the CEOs started out with STEM degrees
  • There is no one direct path to the top
  • Being driven by a challenge was a stand out trait for women CEOs
  • The CEOs interviewed are motivated by a sense of purpose
  • Interviewees highly value the contribution of others, and moreover concede that they value team collaboration



Bloomberg Radio

Evelyn Orr sat down with Bloomberg Boston Bureau Chief Tom Moroney and Radio News Anchors Peter Barnes, Pat Carroll and Anne Mostue to discuss report findings and why we still have so few women in the C-Suite.

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5 Things Women Can Do to Become CEO

of a Company

Report authors Jane Stevenson and Evelyn Orr identify several key factors the Women CEOs Speak report uncovered that helped women ascend the top of the corporate ladder.

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We Interviewed 57 Female CEOs to Find Out How More Women Can Get to the Top

Only 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs, and while there is incremental progress, the rate of change can feel excruciatingly slow.

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From Commitments to Results:
Building a Pipeline of Women CEOs

When it comes to developing women leaders the numbers don’t lie: only 27 Fortune 500 companies are currently run by women, and women only represent 20 percent of Fortune 500 board seats.

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Work/Life Balance for Women

At a time when the world needs strong leadership, it’s all hands on deck. Yet data shows women continue to be an underleveraged resource. In this column, Evelyn Orr explores the intersection of career, relationships, and gender and the impact on organizations, and society.

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Our work with the Rockefeller Foundation's

100x25 campaign

Korn Ferry has joined The Rockefeller Foundation’s “100x25” campaign, a multi-faceted effort uniting organizations to help achieve the goal of advancing 100 women to the top role at Fortune 500 companies by 2025.

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