Number of Women CEOs Rose Significantly in 2018

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After two years of relatively flat growth in the number of women CEOs at U.S. companies, 2018 saw a significant increase in both the number and percentage growth of women moving into the corner office. Just over 22% of 1,183 replacement CEOs appointed last year were women, a record-high total of 264.

In 2017, 18.4% of replacement CEOs (183 of 993) were women, according to data released Wednesday morning by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. In 2016, 129 of 1,043 replacement CEOs (18.5%) were women and in 2015 108 of 1,025 CEO appointments (15.3%) were women.

Challenger, Gray Vice President Andrew Challenger commented:

The rate of women CEO replacements has risen steadily since 2014. 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. This is crucial to creating an environment where bullying and harassment based on gender is eliminated.

Among Fortune 500 companies, the number of women CEOs dropped by 25% in 2018, and among 259 publicly traded companies that announced CEO departures last year, Challenger, Gray said only 18 of 217 replacement CEOs were women.

The number of incoming CEOs last year named in the government/nonprofit sector totaled 100, some 51% of all replacement CEOs in the sector, the highest percentage of any sector. In the hospital sector, 31 replacement CEOs (29%) were women and in the financial and services sectors, 19 women in each were named to the top job (14.4% and 25%, respectively).

Computer companies, which include software developers and hardware manufacturers, appointed 18 women CEO replacements, or 12.6% of all replacements.

In 2018, eight CEOs left due to sexual misconduct allegations. Of the six replacement CEOs named, two are women. In 2017, 12 CEOs left due to sexual misconduct allegations, including Harvey Weinstein. Eight companies announced replacements for those leaders, four of whom were women, according to Challenger tracking.

Men still comprise the vast majority of CEO replacements, accounting for 78 percent of the replacements recorded in 2018. In 114 of those instances, men were named as replacements for women. Last year saw 175 women replace male CEOs.

2018 Total (interim) 2017 (interim) 2016 (interim) 2015 (interim) 2014 (interim)
Women Replacing Men 175 (23) 117 (11) 129 (18) 108 (8) 103 (9)
Women Replacing Women 89 (10) 66 (9) 64 (6) 49 (1) 52 (0)
Men Replacing Women 114 (17) 87 (9) 99 (13) 88 (6) 87 (9)
Men Replacing Men 805 (70) 723 (76) 751 (74) 780 (65) 796 (55)
TOTAL Replacements 1,183 993 1,043 1,025 1,038
Percentage of Women CEO Replacements 22.30% 18.40% 18.50% 15.30% 14.90%

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

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