US-survey shows more women in C-suite

Women now hold 25 per cent of the five critical C-suite positions. That’s an increase from 23 per cent in 2018, according to a new analysis of the US’ 1,000 largest corporations across eight industries.


The recent Korn Ferry analysis on how many women now hold positions in the C-suite is promising but also only a small step into the right direction. Despite women holding 25 per cent of the five critical C-suite position, the majority hold only one of those spots, the chief human resources officer or CHRO. Only six per cent of CEO spots are held by women, unchanged from 2018.

“In every industry we analyzed, there’s a tremendous need for improvement to bring more women to the C-suite,” says Jane Stevenson, global leader of Korn Ferry’s CEO Succession Services. The onus is on both women to seek out experiences that can help them lead and organisations to create an environment where women can succeed, she says.

The Korn Ferry analysis looked at the positions of chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief information/technology officer, chief marketing officer, and chief human resources officer. Among the eight industries, Korn Ferry found that retail has the highest percentage of female CEOs  (12 per cent). In contrast, healthcare has the fewest, at one per cent.  Women hold 55 per cent of the CHRO spots across industries apart from retail.

“In recent years the CHRO role has been increasingly tied to business success as leaders understand that talent, when properly motivated and deployed, can be a significant lever for differentiation,” says Dan Kaplan, a senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s CHRO Practice. “Woman CHROs bring several competencies to the table, including collaboration, agility, empathy and an ability to coach and influence that are critical to successfully optimising the leadership of an organisation.”

Other interesting results of the survey were: The CMO role saw the biggest percentage increase of all C-suite roles, rising to 36 per cent from 32 per cent in 2018. The financial industry has the highest percentage of female CMOs at 53 per cent, up from 45 per cent last year. Energy has the lowest percentage of women CMOs at 20 per cent.

The analysis also points to some generally known statistics which show that about 45 per cent of employees at the nation’s largest firms are women. “But female representation diminishes considerably up the leadership ladder,” a Korn Ferry article argues. “It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how gender influences hiring and promotion.”

Possible reasons are that women choose human resources rather than finance and family over career. Other reasons mentioned are implicit bias, overt discrimination and disadvantaged structures that drive women away.


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