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Although women still account for a small minority of the business world's top leading exec's, their place within that elite circle has not diminished and in fact only shows promise to continue growing.

The top earning female executive of 2009 is Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft Foods. Rosenfeld was among 15 women to make the top 500 rankings, ousting last year's former number one earner, Andrea Jung of Avon Products, who dropped to the number five spot this year.

The Forbes 500 list rankings of chief executives, is compiled based on the composite ranking of sales, assets, market value and company profits each year.  

Second place went to Susan Ivey, CEO of the tobacco company Reynolds American,  

while Carol Meyrowitz of TJX Cos, the retail chain, was third, followed by Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo in fourth.

Many of these companies are household names and their products are very well-known.  As for Rosenfeld in particular, her business is the largest food manufacturing corporation in the U.S., putting her on par with Kellogg and General Mills, of which both companies are run by men.

Rosenfeld hopes to further expand her business pursuits through a recently completed merger with British candy making company, Cadbury, which assisted in her ascension in rank for the Forbes 500.  This is Rosenfeld's fourth career merger.  

Women, as astute and successful business moguls, are very hard to come by.  But after this past year's leaps and bounds up through the rankings, it seems there's a good chance we'll be seeing more women taking the lead entrepreneurial endeavors only more in the future.  

Here's our salute to 2009's most successful women, as ranked by the Forbes 500.

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