More women took CEO spots in 2018 compared to 2017, but not by much
- The number of vacated CEO spots taken up by women upped to 22% in 2018, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported. The number hovered around 18% in the previous two years. Challenger, which tracks CEO changes in publicly held U.S.-based companies, said that of the 1,183 CEO replacements on record in 2018, 264 (22.3%) were women.
- Challenger tracking found that eight CEOs left last year because of sexual misconduct allegations. Of the six replacements announced, two were women. Twelve CEOs exited in 2017 because of sexual misconduct allegations, and of the eight companies that announced replacements, four were women. The government/nonprofit sector placed the most female CEOs (100) in 2018, while hospitals appointed 31 female CEO replacements. The finance and service sectors placed 19 female CEOs.
- Challenger said that despite women's gains as company heads in 2018, the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies dropped by 25% last year, and less than 5% of Fortune 500 companies are headed by a woman.
The lengthy list of exits in 2018 included: Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard; Shira Goodman, Staples' only woman chief executive; Sheri McCoy of Avon; Margo Georgiadis of Mattel; Marissa Mayer of Yahoo; and Denise Morrison from Campbell Soup. Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo also left the company last year.
Women are moving into the top slot at their companies as CEO replacements, but this gain is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that men still make up the overwhelming number of company heads. The situation is even more dire for African-American women; few are promoted into the C-suite, where the path to the CEOs office often starts, and none currently head up a Fortune 500 company.
Even when women shatter the glass ceiling, they face another challenge known as the "glass cliff." This phenomenon occurs when women are called in to help turn around a poor-performing company, but must take the blame when the company ultimately doesn't recover.
Victims and witnesses of sexual harassment who found the courage to speak out in the #MeToo movement likely opened up some opportunities for women — even beyond achieving greater awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct in the workplace. But most women in a Fairygodboss report published last month said they don't feel the workplace for women has changed much regarding gender equality and overall job satisfaction, despite the #MeToo movement.
Recruiters can do more to attract women for leadership roles, by promoting benefits that appeal to them, like paid family leave, career development opportunities and flexible work schedules. HR can review its organization's compensation and promotion practices, flag any inequities or biases that could hinder women's advancement and lead the creation of a work environment that's inclusive and female-friendly for promising female employees.
- Challenger, Gray & Christmas 2018 Women CEO Report: 22 Percent of Replacement CEOs Are Women, Up From 18 Percent in 2017