The New Fortune 500

For the past 65 years, Fortune has been naming the Fortune 500, a listing of the top companies in the U.S. by revenue. Combined, these companies make up two-thirds of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), with $22.6 trillion in market value. Those combined total revenues clock in at $13.7 trillion and they make a combined $1.1 trillion in profits.

The Fortune 500 is a yearly compilation of the largest U.S. companies by revenue.

The Fortune 500 for 2019 was recently named, and there are some interesting changes. Before we look at them, however, let’s establish the top 10.

  1. Walmart
  2. Exxon Mobil
  3. Apple
  4. Berkshire Hathaway
  5. Amazon
  6. UnitedHealth Group
  7. McKesson
  8. CVS Health
  9. AT&T
  10. Amerisource Bergen

Amazon is in the top five for the first time.

Amazon Hits the Top 5 for the First Time

First, tech platform giant Amazon reached the top 5 in the Fortune 500 for the first time, with $233 billion in revenues as of year-end 2018 – a whopping 31 percent rise since 2017. It marks a long climb from its mid-1995 start-up status and the years immediately following, of eking out meager profits or none. Perhaps even more significantly, future increases stemming from business strategy could mark a potential threat to competitor retailer Walmart, which is currently in the #1 spot.

The rise of Amazon also illuminates another feature of this year’s Fortune 500, which is the prominence of West Coast-centered firms. Historically, many leading U.S. businesses have been founded on the East Coast, with a sizable contingent operating out of the Midwest as well. However, 5 out of 6 of the companies valued most highly were founded on the West Coast (Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft). In addition, California-based firms alone had the highest aggregate revenue, at $1.6 trillion and the highest aggregate profits, at $256 billion. These companies’ market capitalization, at $5.5 trillion, was also the highest.

An Increase in Women CEOs

The second notable feature of the recent Fortune 500 is the increase in women chief executive officers (CEOs) in the nation’s biggest firms. Thirty-three of the companies named have women at the helm, compared with 24 last year. Though this is still a small percentage, at 6.6 percent, it still shows considerable progress and is the highest number ever.

The figures also indicate the success of leadership development. Studies have shown that the more corporate board membership includes women, the greater the likelihood of women becoming CEOs, as board membership is likely to require sufficient experience and provides the visibility and connections that lead to being tapped to be chair. The number of women board members among the Fortune 500 has shown significant strides in the past 15 years. Then, women held just over 15 percent of board seats in the Fortune 500; now, they hold more than 25 percent.

Despite this, there is still progress in gender parity to be made. The number of women in the CEO suite and boards needs to continue to rise, as does the tenure of female CEOs. Currently, the average male CEO is in the position for 60 months, but the average woman CEO is in the position just 42 months.

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