Top 10 female CEOs leading Fortune 500 Europe companies

Top 10 female CEOs leading Fortune 500 Europe companies
Following the release of the first-ever Fortune 500 Europe, Business Chief celebrates the minority of women leading some of the region’s biggest companies

If ever you needed a demonstration of the existence of corporate gender disparity, look no further than the newly-released Fortune 500 Europe. 

The first-ever European instalment of the iconic list shows women lead 35 of the region’s 500 biggest companies – which translates as just 7%. 

For context, that figure stands at 10.4% in the US and 5.8% globally. 

Clearly, there is still plenty of work to be done when it comes to achieving gender equality in the upper echelons of European business.

Anna Borg

10: Anna Borg, CEO at Vattenfall

Anna Borg is a results-oriented leader with extensive experience in driving change.

The CEO of Swedish energy giant Vattenfall can boast a strong track record of growing, consolidating and turning around businesses by improving the rate of customer and employee satisfaction.

Borg has spent the vast majority of her working career at Vattenfall, aside from a two-year stint at Klarna from 2015 to 2017 when she was SVP for activities in the Nordic region. 

Isabelle Ferrand

9: Isabelle Ferrand, CEO at Crédit Mutuel Group

Isabelle Ferrand is one of very few women heading up banks in Europe and across the world, having been promoted to CEO of French cooperative Crédit Mutuel in May 2023. 

Ferrand’s appointment was recognition of not only her immense capabilities, but also her outstanding loyalty to the group following four decades of service. 

Crédit Mutuel’s central objective is to provide a quality service at the fairest-possible cost to all its members.

Annie Krist

8: Annie Krist, CEO at GasTerra

Annie Krist has been working in the energy sector for the best part of four decades, starting out in the marketing department at N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie in 1987.

She subsequently held various posts in the sales division and looked after numerous account management teams. 

In 2008, Krist progressed to become Director Corporate Strategy, before being appointed as CEO at Gasunie Transport Services. 

She has been leading Dutch natural gas wholesaler GasTerra since 2017.

Emma Walmsley

7: Emma Walmsley, CEO at GSK

Emma Walmsley is one of the most influential figures in British business and has been a member of the GSK leadership team since 2011, eventually becoming CEO in 2017.

Prior to joining GSK in 2010, she worked at L’Oreal for 17 years in global and local marketing and general management roles across locations including Paris, London, New York and Shanghai.

Walmsley was appointed a Dame for her services to the pharmaceutical industry and business in 2020.

Estelle Brachlianoff

6: Estelle Brachlianoff, CEO at Veolia Environnement

Estelle Brachlianoff is CEO at Veolia Environnement, known for its management services across the areas of water, energy and waste recycling.

She originally joined the business in 2005 as special advisor to the CEO, before stepping up to lead Veolia Environmental Services Cleaning and Multiservices.

After impressing in various leadership roles, Brachlianoff’s ascent to the top was completed in 2022 when she was appointed as Group CEO. 

Brachlianoff has spoken of her desire and determination to “turn the tide” in the face of mounting environmental challenges.

Christel Heydemann

5: Christel Heydemann, CEO at Orange

Over the course of her 25-year career, Christel Heydemann has worked for some of the biggest and best-known organisations in the world including Boston Consulting Group, Alcatel and Schneider Electric. 

At the latter she progressed through the ranks to lead the firm’s operations in France and then Europe as a whole, before moving to Orange in 2022 to become CEO. 

Heydemann is recognised by industry peers for her significant telecoms experience and capabilities in managing business transformations.

Margherita Della Valle

4: Margherita Della Valle, CEO at Vodafone Group

Margherita Della Valle stepped up to officially become CEO at Vodafone in April 2023 having impressed during a short period as interim CEO. 

Upon her appointment, which followed a rigorous internal and external search, she was lauded for her “pace and decisiveness” in beginning the “necessary” transformation of Vodafone.

Over the course of three decades with the telco powerhouse, Della Valle has built up a strong track record in various marketing, operational, commercial and financial positions, most recently as Group CFO.

Louise Hahn

3: Louise Hahn, CEO at Energi Danmark Group

Louise Hahn is one of the newer CEOs in the top 10 having assumed her position at Energi Danmark Group in August 2023. 

Over the course of her 25-year career, she has built up a raft of experience in energy, utilities, IT services and management consulting across nations including Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. 

In the past, Hahn has worked alongside anthropologists and architects to understand consumer interactions with energy, electrification and the green transformation as well as brand identity and storytelling.

Julie Sweet

2. Julie Sweet, CEO at Accenture

Julie Sweet is one of the best-known CEOs in Europe and across the world.

As leader of professional services giant Accenture, she is instilling a company culture that prioritises inclusivity and equality and sustainability. 

Sweet became CEO in 2019 having previously served as Chief Executive of Accenture’s business in North America, its largest geographic market. Prior to that, she was General Counsel, Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer for five years. 

Before joining Accenture in 2010, Sweet was a partner for 10 years at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, the law firm she joined at the beginning of her career in 1992. 

Away from Accenture, Sweet serves on the World Economic Forum Board of Trustees, and has repeatedly been recognised as one of the most powerful women in business, including by Fortune and Forbes.

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Catherine MacGregor

1: Catherine MacGregor, CEO at Engie

At the helm of Engie, the highest-ranked female-led company in the Fortune 500 Europe, is Catherine MacGregor, who joined the group as CEO at the beginning of 2021. 

MacGregor has spent her entire career in the energy sector, starting out at Schlumberger to which she dedicated 23 years of loyal service. She took up various positions of international responsibility, notably as group HR director and President of the Europe and Africa region. MacGregor’s final promotion saw her become President of the organisation's Drilling Group.

Before joining Engie, this leadership trailblazer worked as President of Technip Energies, a role which saw her lead the engineering division and prepare for the firm’s public offering. 

In recent months, MacGregor has regularly called for a more decisive EU policy to support the ongoing energy transition, taking lessons from the USA.

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