Women C-Suite Ranks Increase, but Not Much

More women are holding the nation’s most important corporate roles, just not that many more, according to a survey by Korn Ferry, a global consulting firm and executive recruiter.

Women now hold 25% of the five critical C-suite positions. That’s an increase from 23% in 2018, according to the analysis of the nation’s 1,000 largest corporations across eight industries – consumer, energy, financials, health care, industrial, retail, services and technology. Still, women hold a majority of only one of those spots, chief human resources officer, and only 6% 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 organizations to create an environment where women can succeed, she says.

The Korn Ferry analysis reviewed the positions of chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief information/technology officer, chief marketing officer (CMO), and chief human resources officer (CHRO). Among the eight industries, retail has the highest percentage of female CEOs (12%). In contrast, healthcare has the fewest, at 1%.

Women hold 55% of the CHRO spots across industries. The CMO role saw the biggest percentage increase of all C-suite roles, rising to 36% from 32% in 2018. The financial industry has the highest percentage of female CMOs at 53%, up from 45% last year.

About 45% of employees at the nation’s largest firms are women, according to various studies. But female representation diminishes considerably up the leadership ladder. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how gender influences hiring and promotion, but companies must commit to developing a pipeline of women leaders, experts say. “It’s critical that both talented women and those around them focus on creating a clear path for advancement,” Stevenson says.