Number of female CEOs of top companies falls

Tracker shows the number of women at the top of the UK’s leading companies has fallen.

Women on Boards


The number of female CEOs of FTSE 100 companies has fallen in the last year while the number of CEOs with a technology backgrounds has increased by 27%, according to new analysis.

The FTSE 100 CEO Tracker published by specialist recruitment firm Robert Half UK found the percentage of women CEOs fell by 1% to just 6% over the last year.

Technology background

The Tracker also shows the proportion of FTSE 100 CEOs with a background in technology has increased by 27% in the last year, with 14% of CEOs now having a background in the sector. This includes 30% of all new CEOs appointed in the last year. In contrast the number of FTSE leaders with retail and hospitality experience is in decline, from 21% in 2016 to 15% in 2019. Of the new CEOs appointed this year, just one (10%) had a background in retail and hospitality.

The number of CEOs with a financial background increased from 40% in 2018 to over half (52%) in 2019. While finance remains the most common route to the top, says Robert Half, this reverses a declining trend, from 55% in 2016 to 43% in 2017.

Other findings are:

  • the average age for a FTSE CEO is 55, unchanged from the previous two years,
  • 18% are Oxbridge educated, unchanged from 2018 and increasing from 16% in 2017.

Nearly half of current CEOs (46%) were appointed as a result of internal promotion, compared to 30% in 2016. Of the latest CEOs to join the FTSE 100 in the last year, 70% were internal promotions.

Charlie Grubb, UK Managing Director, Robert Half Executive Search, said: “The research highlights the importance of encouraging diversity at all levels of an organisation. A broad range of views, experience and backgrounds will not only benefit the business today, but also bolster its overall talent pipeline and pool for future leaders. While this process will take time to filter up to the top of FTSE firms, businesses need to make this a priority to deliver on their long-term diversity goals.”

Meanwhile, a report in the Guardian, backed up by People Management, says the Investment Association has warned 94 listed companies ahead of their annual general meetings that they are failing to meet 25 per cent representation of women on boards.  Eleven are in the FTSE 100 and 46 in the FTSE 250. ‘Red’ warnings for those with no or just one woman on their boards went to companies including Domino’s Pizza, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels and 888 Holdings, while ‘amber’ warnings went to 74 companies with less than 25 per cent women on their boards. These included Metro Bank, Ocado, Lloyds Banking Group and Glencore.

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