After a Record Year, the Number of New Women CEOs Slips

In all of last year, 22.5% of all CEO replacements were women. For the first six months of 2019, 21.6% of all CEO vacancies have been filled by women. That total has grown from 12.4% in 2010 and jumped over the 20% bar for the first time last year.

A record 271 women were named as new CEOs last year, while just 131 have taken on a new CEO role in the first six months of this year. The total number of CEOs replaced so far in 2019 is 607, almost exactly half the total number (1,205) replaced in all of last year.

The number of men replacing women as CEOs is on track to be lower in 2019, with 49 men replacing women so far this year compared to a total of 120 such switches in all of last year. But the number of men CEOs replacing other men is gaining pace with 429 such replacements in the first half of the year compared to 814 in all of last year.

Challenger, Gray Vice President Andrew Challenger commented, “It is clear that over the last nine years women have made significant strides in the chief executive role. That said, companies are installing men as CEOs far more often than they are women.”

Following a 25% decrease (from 32 to 24) in the number of women heading Fortune 500 companies in 2018, the total for the first six months of 2019 has climbed to 33. The last includes Mary Barra of GM, Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum and Ginni Rometty of IBM.

Year over year, total CEO turnover has increased by 15%, from 631 in the first half of last year to 726 in the first half of 2019. A total of 1,452 CEOs left their jobs in 2018, the second-highest total ever. In all of 2018, 182 women replaced men in CEO positions, while the total for 2019 now stands at just 81.

Two-thirds of 2019’s new CEOs in the apparel sector (four of six) are women, while just over 44% of new CEOs in the government/nonprofit sector (53 of 120 total) were women. In the real estate industry, five of 12 new CEOs are women (41.7%) and in the hospital sector, nine of 25 new CEOS are women (36%).

The technology industry has named 75 new CEOs so far this year, only five of which are women, a meager 6.7%. Pharmaceutical companies have named 28 new CEOs this year, of which just one is a woman (3.6%). Some women CEOs are leading and building multi-million and billion dollar businesses, and that makes them very powerful — these are the most powerful women in the world right now.

No women have risen to CEO positions in the automotive, construction, insurance, manufacturing or utility industries, among others, so far this year.

As Andrew Challenger notes, however, “Well over 100 companies have yet to announce who will take the reins from their outgoing CEO this year.” And that’s just for companies we already know about.

There are surely more that will be making changes before we ring in 2020. Our list of 2018’s best and worst CEOs would be a good place for boards of directors to start looking for leaders who should be shown the door.

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