The number of female Fortune 500 CEOs dropped 25% this year
- With a record 32 female Fortune 500 CEOs, 2017 was a banner year for women in top leadership positions. But, according to Fortune, 2018 brought a 25% decrease, dropping the total to 24.
- Both veteran and short-tenured women have left their high posts this year, says Fortune, including Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup Co.; Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard; Sheri McCoy of Avon; Shira Goodman, Staples' only female chief executive; Margo Georgiadis of Mattel; and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo. Fortune reports that McCoy and Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez, were at odds with investors during their tenures. Morrison reportedly left her position abruptly.
- On the other hand, four women joined the elite group, says Fortune. They are Mary Dillon of Ulta Beauty, Michelle Gass of Kohl’s, Joey Wat of Yum China, and Gail Boudreaux of Anthem.
Fortune's report seems to illustrate a setback — even if only temporary — for women and for companies committed to increasing diversity and inclusion throughout their ranks.
The situation is even more dire for women of color. No black woman currently heads up a Fortune 500 corporation. According to a 2017 Fortune report, the few black women who make it into the executive ranks often end up in a supportive role rather than an operational role, the latter of which is the normal path leading to chief executive.
But some employers are working to change these numbers. In a survey of 1,300 recruiters nationwide, 80% report an increase in requests for female executives. Some say it's the #MeToo movement that's driving that demand, as reports show that organizations with women in high-level positions not only see improved revenue and more diversity, but also respond better to sexual misconduct complaints.
Employers seeking to increase diversity and inclusion often take proactive steps to hire and advance women to leadership positions. Creating pipelines from which to recruit and promote professionals is sometimes the first step in the process, with sponsorships and leadership development programs following, among other things. These efforts have the potential to prepare women to move up in their careers and send a supportive message — but only if they are done right.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, the name of the former Staples CEO was incorrect. Shira Goodman was the former CEO.