Earlier this week, GM announced that Mary Barra is scheduled to take office as its next CEO, making her the first female to lead a major automotive company. The announcement isn’t out of left field considering the direction many companies have gone in as of late. The past 12 months have been heralded as a groundbreaking year for women, with several companies in industries that are predominately headed by males electing a female as their chief. Though only 23 Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs, five of those women were appointed in 2013, a number we hope to see rise in 2014.

Here’s a look at those five women.


Mary Barra, General Motors




Mary Barra is set to replace current CEO Dan Akerson, who is stepping down to be by his wife’s side as she battles cancer, in January 2014. She’s been with GM for over 30 years, starting her career with the automaker as a 19-year-old co-op student at General Motors Institute, known today as Kettering University. Since 2011, she’s been the company’s Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, a position that entails overseeing design, quality, and engineering of GM’s 11 brands.


Quote: “I think there was sometimes so many boundaries put on them [employees] that we didn’t give them a recipe for success. So now were saying no excuses, if its budget, if its resources, we have to do great cars, trucks and crossovers and it’s our job to enable you to do that. The simple thing I said was no more crappy cars.” From GM Authority, October 2013.


 Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin Corp.


Marillyn Hewson


Since becoming CEO and President of Lockheed Martin in January 2013, Marillyn Hewson has been busy on Capitol Hill, discussing Department of Defense spending cuts and their effects on the aerospace and defence industry. Due to the nature of her role – leading one of the world’s largest defense contractor – Forbes named her to its World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list, coming in at #34.


Quote: "When an opportunity comes along, if it makes sense for you to take it, don't hold yourself back. Just as my mother said, 'You can do anything if you put your mind to it, you work hard and you take that responsibility,' and I think that that would be my message." From CBSNews, October 2013.



Phebe Novakovic, General Dynamics Corp.


Phebe Novakovic


Also at the helm of a major U.S. aerospace and defense company is Phebe Novakovic, who serves as CEO of General Dynamics. Novakovic’s resume is extensive and impressive, holding an MBA from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and having worked at the CIA as an operations officer and at the Pentagon as a senior official. Known for her candour, Novakovic isn’t afraid of holding back when it comes to discussing General Dynamics’s past acquisitions.


Quote:  "Some of the acquisitions that we've made I'm not a particular fan of and had I been consulted, wouldn't have been done." From Washington Business Journal, January 2013.



Lynn Good, Duke Energy Corp.


Lynn Good


Lynn Good assumed her role as CEO on July 1, 2013, making her the first female chief of Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the U.S. Prior to her promotion to CEO, Good oversaw Duke’s finances for four years in her role as CFO. She also served as Partner at Deloitte & Touche in Cincinnati, where she put her Accounting degree to good use.


Quote: With people at this level in their career, it’s no longer about whether you are the smartest subject-matter expert in the room. It’s whether you can be effective in leading a diverse team. Can you adapt? As you think about developing people through their careers, you’re looking for that transition from being the smartest person in the room — and caring so much about that — to being the most effective.” From Human Capital League, November 2013.



Jacqueline Hinman, CH2M HILL Companies


CEO Jacqueline Hinman


Effective January 1, 2014, Jacqueline Hinman will succeed Lee McIntire as CEO of CH2M HILL Companies, a global leader in environmental, engineering, and construction consultation and services. Hinman’s leadership qualities were on display early in her career when she asked for an assignment serving as construction manager at a landfill job site at just 23 years of age. As the only female onsite, she was told by the male workers that she could simply stay in her trailer, fill out her reports, and they would let her know when the work was complete in six months. Without hesitation, Hinman informed the workers that her job was to oversee the project and work with her team. As a result, she gained their respect and learned more about construction than at any other point in her life.


In the years since, Hinman has held a number of senior positions, most recently President of CH2M HILL’s International Division.


Quote: "To be honest, I've never felt like 'Oh, my gosh I am a woman, I can't do this.' It has just never crossed my mind. That is the story. How did I get to be the CEO? I moved through every single step." From The Denver Post, October 2013.


Do you expect to see more females at the helm of Fortune 500 companies? Connect with us on Twitter @NapkinBetaBeyond or through Facebook to let us know your predictions for 2014.


Photo credits: Wesley Mann; Erin Hull/The Denver Post.