Fewer than 3% of incoming CEOs are women

CEO turnover rate was especially high in 2015, but the executives filling those positions were overwhelmingly male, according to a report from PwC's Strategy&.

The share of incoming women CEOs fell to 2.8 percent among the world's 2,500 largest public companies, the lowest it has been since 2011, according to the report. This means just 10 of the incoming 359 CEOs at these companies in 2015 were women. In the U.S. and Canada, the share of incoming women CEOs fell to its lowest point in the history of the study — for the third year running. Just one of 87 incoming CEOs in the U.S. and Canada was a woman among the companies studied.

Interestingly, the study found more companies are now choosing to bring in outsider CEOs — this is up to 22 percent in the latest four-year period from 14 percent in 2004-07 — and women outsiders are hired more often as CEOs than men. Approximately one-third of female CEOs are outsiders compared to less than a fourth of male CEOs, according to the report.  

"That women CEOs are more often hired from the outside may be an indication that companies have not been cultivating enough female senior executives in-house," DeAnne Aguirre, an advisor with Strategy& and a principal with PwC U.S., said in a statement. "One of the reasons why women may be more likely to be outsiders is that their development is not being recognized within their own organization, and therefore they may be more likely to be attracted away. The fact that more companies are considering outsiders might improve the chances for women CEOs in the future."

So why are female CEO rates at a five-year low? It may be because the industries with the smallest share of female CEOs — energy (1.6 percent), industrials (1.5 percent) and materials (1 percent) — reported some of the highest turnover rates in 2015. Energy had a 23.2 percent turnover rate, industrials had a 16.8 percent turnover rate and materials had a 19.6 percent turnover rate, according to the report. Only the telecom services industry had a higher rate of turnover (24.7 percent) and its share of female CEOs is 4.5 percent.

Healthcare has one of the lowest shares of female CEOs over the past decade, at just 1.6 percent, according to the report.


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