117 years for gender parity at CEO level in the UK

The UK’s leading companies will not reach gender parity at CEO level for 117 years , well behind many comparable countries, according to a new study.

Women on Boards


The UK’s leading companies will take 117 years to reach global parity at CEO level most, higher than many other comparable countries, according to leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

It says that in the UK this is in part driven by the number of women CEOs leaving their posts. The FTSE 100 saw women CEOs account for almost a quarter (23%) of departures, while CEO appointments continued to overwhelmingly go to men (87%) in 2023.

The Russell Reynolds Associates’ 2023 Global CEO Turnover report analyses the trends driving CEO appointments and departures over the past year across 12 national and international stock markets.

The report paints a mixed picture of global efforts to ensure more women CEOs lead the world’s top businesses. For instance, at the current rate of change the S&P 500 in the US finds itself 22 years ahead of the global average of 81 years while the FTSE 100 lags considerably at 117 years.

Last year the FTSE 100 saw 19% of CEO appointments go to women, but departures were high at 23%. Globally, a tenth of all CEO departures this year were women, with women three times as likely to leave for personal reasons (16% versus 5% for men) and significantly more likely to be removed from the role (34% versus 25%).

As a result, men on average serve as CEO for four and a half years longer (8.7 years compared to 4.1 years) than women globally. In the FTSE 100 women’s tenure trailed men’s by 2.4 years.

Laura Sanderson, UK Lead and EMEA Co Lead of RRA, said:“We can’t dodge the conversation about why women CEOs are leaving their roles prematurely. Last year, we saw women CEOs being fired at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. Today’s CEOs are expected to be more of a public figure than ever before, and the relative scarcity of female CEOs automatically gives them a higher degree of prominence. So they get disproportionate media attention; but the stories that are written about them show that we still have paradoxical expectations of them. If you’re a woman, you are under more pressure to visibly outperform. But woe betide you if you’re seen to be enjoying the profile of the CEO role to much or if you become too prominent, as tall poppy syndrome is never far away.”


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