Study: Women Gaining More CEO Positions, But More Progress Needed

Women captured more than 22 percent of open chief executive jobs in 2018. Admittedly, that’s nowhere close to 50-50 parity with male CEOs. But many of the c-suite stats still show some progress for women CEOs for each of the past two years, according to a new study.

Within information technology, 18 percent of women won the top slot to supplant incumbents in 2018, a 5.4 percent uptick to 12.6 percent of CEO replacements in the sector, job recruiter Challenger, Gray & Christmas‘ data showed. Of the 28 industries the consultant followed last year, 264 of the 1,183 replacement CEOs, or 22.3 percent, were women, up from 18.4 percent in 2017, when women accounted for 183 of 993 replacement CEOs, the findings revealed.

The consultant tracked CEO changes from U.S.-based companies that have been in business for at least two years with a minimum of 10 employees. According to Challenger’s data, 259 publicly traded companies announced CEO exits last year. Of the 217 announced replacements, 18 were women.

Still, the outlook for women CEOs at the top companies in the U.S. remains discouraging. Among the stats:

  • Women currently hold 24 (4.8%) of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, according to Catalyst, Pyramid: Women CEOs of the S&P 500.
  • That number has slid 25 percent from last year, when 32 women, or 6.4 percent, commanded the top jobs. The downturn is skewed somewhat owing to an unusually high number of women CEOs who resigned in 2018, among them HP Enterprise’s Meg Whitman. Other high-profile departures of women CEOs include Indra Nooyi from PepsiCo and Denise Morrison from Campbell Soup.

Safra Catz at Oracle, Virginia Rometty at IBM and Lisa Su at Advanced Micro Devices remain the most prominent female CEOs in IT.

“The rate of women CEO replacements has risen steadily since 2014,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “It’s the highest rate of women CEO replacements since we began tracking gender data in 2013. As companies grapple with increased awareness surrounding gender equality issues, such as pay parity and eliminating sexual harassment and gender discrimination, they appear to be hiring and promoting women candidates into the top role,” he said.

Despite women making incremental gains into the C-suite, men still accounted for 78 percent of CEO replacements in 2018, Challenger said. And, in 114 of those instances, men were named as replacements for women. Last year, 175 women replaced male CEOs.

Based on Challenger’s data, the government/non-profit sector named the most women CEOs in 2018 at 100, which represented 51 percent of all incoming CEOs in that industry. Hospitals named 31 women CEO replacements, 29 percent of all replacement CEOs named in the healthcare sector in 2018. Both the financial and services industries appointed 19 women CEOs, 14.4 percent and 25 percent of all CEO replacements in those sectors, respectively.

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1 Comment


    Dustin Bolander:

    I’ve had several people point out that our company is majority women just in this week alone. Nobody ever pointed out my old MSP was majority men…

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