From our friends at comes some good news for those who are rooting for more women to advance in business.

As I've said before, it's up to us to decide how we want to view the news. In this case, we can focus on the reality that there are a mere 26 women leading companies in the Fortune 1000. That's a paltry 2.6%. Or we can note that that figure is up a full 30% over last year's levels. If this growth rate continues, women might pass the 50% mark in just 12 years. (The skeptic in me doesn't expect it to happen that quickly, though.) 

New to this year's list of female CEOs at top companies:

  • Angela Braly at WellPoint (NYSE:WLP).
  • Patricia Woertz at Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM).
  • Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP).
  • Carol Meyrowitz at TJX (NYSE:TJX).
  • Christina Gold at Western Union (NYSE:WU).

They join Anne Mulcahy at Xerox (NYSE:XRX) and Janet Robinson at New York Times (NYSE:NYT), among many others.

Meanwhile, the number of women on corporate boards of directors has jumped 36% between the first half of 2006 and the first half of 2007.

So what?
So why does this matter? Well, it has implications not only for advocates of advancement for women, but also for investors. As I noted in my 2006 article "Women on Board, for Better Governance," various studies have found not only that three or more women on a corporate board can improve corporate governance but also that their presence can bring higher returns on equity -- and higher equity translates to better shareholder performance.

So as you seek out compelling and promising investments, you might want to pay attention to how many women hold top posts in various companies. By poking around a company's website, you'll often be able to find a list or even photos of the directors of the board. (Try looking under links labeled something like "About Us" or "Corporate Governance.") You'll also frequently be able to spot the names of top managers there.

In Fooldom
Women have a growing presence in Fooldom as well. Our personal-finance service, Motley Fool Green Light, is co-headed by longtime Fool writer Dayana Yochim. Learn more about the service -- and try it for free! Every month, it offers tips on how to save several hundred dollars and includes stock and mutual fund discussions.

Finally, what do you think of all this? Share your thoughts on women in the business world on our Women & Investing discussion board.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of PepsiCo. She was interested to learn recently that some food colorants are made from ground beetles. Western Union is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any one of our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.