Report: 2 MN Execs Among 10 Women on CEO Fast Track

Gail Boudreaux of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group and Juliana Chugg of Golden Valley-based General Mills were identified as likely contenders to lead a Fortune 1000 company within five years.

As companies are preparing more female leaders to ascend the executive ranks, two Minnesota women may be on the fast track to take the helm at major companies.

An informal Wall Street Journal poll of 15 U.S. search firms, executive coaches, and women's organizations identified 10 female executives whose operational expertise and track record are said to make them likely contenders to lead a Fortune 1000 company within five years.

Among them are Gail Boudreaux of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group and Juliana Chugg of Golden Valley-based General Mills.

Boudreaux-who is an executive vice president at UnitedHealth Group-is CEO of its UnitedHealthcare business, which accounted for $95.3 billion of the parent company's $101.9 billion in revenue last year.

Boudreaux told The Wall Street Journal that if her 50,000-employee business, which serves more than 38 million Americans, was a stand-alone company, it would be the largest one in the country run by a woman.

When asked if she wants to assume the top spot at a major corporation, she said: “I feel fortunate that, in a way, I'm already getting exposure to experiences that would be typical for a CEO of a Fortune 1000 company.”

Chugg, meanwhile, is credited with turning around General Mills' $2 billion Pillsbury division when she led the division in 2006-and the Meals division she now heads had $2.1 billion in annual net sales last year, which comprised 13 percent of the parent company's net sales.

Before moving to America from Australia in 2004, Chugg worried about fitting in with her male peers. But “today I am surrounded by so many capable women at General Mills who represent their authentic self,” she told The Wall Street Journal.

When asked if she wants to be a Fortune 1000 CEO, she said: “I want to be in a role in the next five years where I feel I can have a positive impact and make a difference.” She added: “I am not as hung up on the title.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, women occupy the top spot at just 35 Fortune 1000 companies. But with a growing pool of highly qualified women and increasing investor pressure on boards to diversify corporate management teams, companies “are hiring more high-potential women who could be CEO,” Judity von Seldeneck, head of Philadelphia executive recruitment firm Diversified Search, told the national newspaper.

To see the full list of the 10 women identified as likely to head major U.S. corporations in the next five years, click here.

A recent report produced by St. Catherine University and the Minnesota Women's Economic Roundtable analyzed the number of women executive officers and board members at Minnesota's top 100 public companies. What it found: Minnesota companies remain stalled on gender equality in top leadership. To read that full report, click here.

To learn what area leaders are doing to tackle the gender gap, read Twin Cities Business' April feature story “Glass Breakers” by clicking here.