The rate of women taking over the top position at companies nationwide is ticking up in 2020, as calls for diversity and inclusion intensify around the country, according to a new analysis of CEO turnover data from global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Of the 591 replacement CEOs recorded in the first half of 2020, 138, or 23.4%, were women, the highest rate recorded since Challenger began tracking gender data in 2010. That is up from 21.6% of female CEO replacements in the first half of 2019 and 18.6% in the first half of 2018.

Challenger tracks CEO changes from U.S.-based companies nationwide that have been in business for at least two years, with a minimum of ten employees. In many cases, replacement data is not available when a CEO departure is announced. Challenger updates its list with replacement CEO data as it becomes available.

The rate of new women CEOs is up significantly from 2010, when 12.4% of CEO replacements were women.


“While it is indeed good news that more women are taking the top job at U.S. companies, the rate is still less than one in four. We know it is even lower for women of color,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Gender diversity, along with other visible and unseen diversity, is crucial to creating an environment that finds and develops the best talent for the role. In the wake of nationwide protests for racial equity, many companies have made public statements that they will strive for more diversity. It remains to be seen how this will translate to meaningful change,” he added.

Men still represent the vast majority of CEO replacements, according to Challenger tracking, accounting for 76.6% of the replacements recorded so far this year. In 54 of those instances, men were named as replacements for women. So far in 2020, women have replaced male CEOs 92 times, up from 81 times through June 2019.

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The Government/Non-Profit sector has named the most women CEOs in the first half of this year with 55, 58% of all incoming CEOs in that industry. Of the six incoming CEOs at Apparel companies, three, or 50%, are women. At Utility companies, four of six incoming CEOs (40%) were women.

Nearly 30% of new hospital CEOs are women this year, down from 36% through June 2019. Meanwhile, Technology companies have announced eight women CEOs of 79 total replacements, or 10.1%, up from 6.7% through June 2019. Retailers have announced two new women CEOs out of 14, or 14%, down from 22% in 2019.


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

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