by Stacey Delo
There will soon be 11 women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. The latest is Indra Nooyi, who will run PepsiCo, the soft-drink and snack giant that had $33 billion in annual sales last year. That’s a lot of Pepsi. Even so, 11 female CEOs  out of 500 companies (ranked by amount of sales) equals just 2% of the pool. But there were just nine women at the helm in 2005 and only seven in 2004, the year Carly Fiorina was ousted from Hewlett-Packard.
The wage gap It’s old news that full-time working women make just 76.5 cents on the dollar to men annually. But could it be in part because they’re more empathetic?
A new study  shows females tend to prioritize relationships over fees, in some cases charging needy customers less. And a recent Forbes story  says women may forfeit $500,000 during their career because they don’t ask for more.
On the higher education front, women are trouncing men on college campuses  – getting more bachelors degrees and making better grades. And while women make up about half of all law students, the number of women enrolled in business school programs is still stuck in the 30% range.
Speaking of women at the top, Katie Couric  takes the reins at CBS Evening News on September 5, marking the first time a woman has led a national nightly news program alone. Let’s hope the critics focus less on her hair and makeup and more on the quality of the broadcast.
The big picture
Assuming a greater number of women do manage to achieve equal pay and executive positions in the coming years, demonstrating the quality of their strength and intelligence, the question remains whether the U.S. will be ready to accept a woman as Commander in Chief...and when?
Fortune 500 female CEOs
1. Mary Sammons, Rite Aid
2. Ann Mulcahy, Xerox
3. Andrea Jung, Avon
4. Patricia Russo, Lucent
5. Marion O. Sandler, Golden West Financial
6. Paula Renyolds, Safeco
7. Meg Whitman, eBay
8. Susan Ivey, Reynolds American
9. Brenda Barnes, Sara Lee
10.Patricia Woertz, Archer Daniels Midland
11.Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo
Stacey Delo is a multi-media reporter and producer for MarketWatch in San Francisco. She is also the founder of the fabulous http://www.discussiondivas.com .