PUBLISHED September 8, 2021

U.S.-based companies announced 118 CEOs left their posts in August, 7% lower than the 127 who did so in July, and 8% higher than the 109 CEOs who left their posts in August 2020, according to a report by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

So far this year, 888 chief executives have left their posts, down 1% from the 897 CEOs who left their posts through August last year.

“On one hand, leaders are certainly getting poached right now. On the other, companies are replacing their leaders with those who can get a handle of the talent shortage and recreate the workplace for a COVID world and beyond,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

25% of New CEOs Are Women, Up From 12% in 2010

Many more of those CEOs are being replaced by women than at any other time in Challenger’s tracking. Nearly 25% (24.94%) of new CEOs are women, compared to 22% in 2019 and 15% in 2014. Just 12% of new CEOs were women in 2010, when Challenger began tracking gender.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. © | Digital Artist, Nicole Lobdell with Piktochart

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

“The focus on truly fostering diverse talent and commitment to representation in the leadership ranks is starting to be felt in the chief executive role. Although progress is slower than it should be, the positive trend is encouraging,” said Challenger.

In fact, a recent Challenger survey conducted online in May among 191 companies of various sizes and industries nationwide found 93% of business leaders said “developing women leaders” was the most crucial leadership issue post-COVID. Another 88.9% listed “developing diverse leaders” as most crucial.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. © | Digital Artist, Nicole Lobdell

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

What Industries Experienced the most leadership change?

CEO turnover is led by Government/Non-Profit entities, which include charities, foundations, school systems, transportation authorities, and other government-funded entities. This sector announced 36 CEO changes in August for a total of 187 this year. This is the highest monthly total for the sector since January 2020, when 41 CEOs left organizations from this sector.

Technology announced the second-most CEO exits in August with 14, for a total of 106. Another 86 CEOs left Health Care/Products manufacturers in 2021, while 68 CEOs left Hospitals. Companies in the Entertainment/Leisure sector have announced 63 CEO changes this year, up 8% from the 58 announced through this point last year.

Why Are CEOs Stepping down?

Amid a labor shortage causing talent to leave companies or get poached for better opportunities, 100 CEOs have left for new roles in completely different companies or in different companies within the hierarchy of their current organizations this year. This is compared to 71 CEOs who similarly found new roles through the same period in 2020. 

So far in 2021, 264 CEOs have stepped down into other roles within the same company, typically on the Board or into another C-Level role, compared to 226 who did so through August last year. Another 219 retired, 54 saw their interim periods end, and 25 left after an acquisition or merger.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. © | Digital Artist, Nicole Lobdell with Piktochart

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

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Contact Colleen Madden Blumenfeld for more data or to set up an interview with SVP Andy Challenger.

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