Korn Ferry Analysis of Largest U.S. Companies Shows Percentage of Women in Most C-Suite Roles Dramatically Lagging Male Counterparts

-Data Reveals Percentages by Title and Industry -

-Percentage of Women in C-Suite Down Slightly from 2016 -

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- A new analysis of the top 1,000 U.S. companies by revenue finds the percentage of women in most C-Suite positions is dramatically lower than their male counterparts. Korn Ferry (NYSE:KFY) conducted the study in the autumn of 2017. It examines the percentage of women by title and by industry.

The analysis found that across the most prominent C-Suite titles (CEO, CFO, CIO, CMO, CHRO) and several industries (consumer, energy, financial, healthcare, industrial, retail, technology and services) an average of less than one quarter (23 percent) of the top leaders are women. That is down slightly from 2016, when 24 percent of leaders in the studied C-Suite positions were women.

CEO (Chief Executive Officer)

The study found that across all C-Suite positions, the most senior post is held by the smallest percentage of women, with only 6 percent serving as CEO. This percentage is up slightly from 2016’s 5 percent.

Less than 1 percent of CEOs in the healthcare industry are women. (This excludes some healthcare providers and hospital systems, which are often non-profit organizations that may not publicly disclose financial information). The highest percentage of female CEOs is in the retail industry (12 percent), followed by the consumer industry (9 percent). The two industries with the lowest percentage of women CEOs are industrial (4 percent) and healthcare (less than 1 percent).

“In a recent Korn Ferry study, we interviewed dozens of current and former female CEOs, and 65 percent of them said they hadn’t even considered vying for the top spot until they had a sponsor tell them they were well suited for the role,” said Tierney Remick, Vice Chairman of Korn Ferry’s Global Board and CEO Practice. “It’s critical that both talented women and those around them focus on creating a clear path for advancement.”

CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

Just 11 percent of CFOs across industries are women, which is down from 12 percent last year. The industry with the most female CFOs is retail at 19 percent, followed by consumer at 15 percent. Those industries tied for having the least female CFOs are financial and healthcare at 8 percent.

“While the percentage of female CFOs dipped slightly last year, we are seeing a positive trend of women being internally promoted to CFO,” said Bryan Proctor, Korn Ferry Global Financial Officer Practice Leader. “From 2012 to 2015, on average 48 percent of female CFOs attained the position through an internal promotion. Last year, the percentage of females internally promoted to CFO rose dramatically to 86 percent. We now see that companies consider diversity an absolute requirement when considering CFO succession options.”

CIO (Chief Information Officer)

The percentage of women who hold the CIO role dipped from 19 percent last year to 16 percent this year. The industry with the highest percentage of women CIOs is financial at 26 percent, and the lowest percentage of women CIOs is in services at 7 percent.

“The results at the most senior level are disappointing, but we do believe we are encountering a greater percentage of impressive and capable female tech talent throughout organizations,” said Craig Stephenson, Korn Ferry Managing Director, North America Technology Officers Practice. “Our research indicates women CIOs rank just as competitively as their male counterparts on key competencies, and we believe it is important to establish explicit and unbiased methodologies in how IT leaders are assessed by both competency and experience.”

CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)

The percentage of female CMOs rose this year to 32 percent from last year’s 29 percent. The financial industry has the highest percentage of female CMOs at 49 percent and energy has the lowest at 18 percent.

“While up slightly from last year, and still higher than for all other C-Suite executives except CHROs, 32 percent female CMOs is still woefully low,” said Caren Fleit, Managing Director, Global Marketing Officers Practice. “Korn Ferry research shows that in order to be successful leading the ongoing, customer driven transformation that is now part of most CMO’s mandate, marketing leaders need to excel at leadership capabilities that women rank highly in, such as inspiring across organizational silos, building and engaging teams and holding them accountable, and putting the customer at the center. So it stands to reason that what differentiates female CMOs would position them well to be successful in this pivotal role.”

CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer)

The CHRO role is the only C-Suite role where there is gender parity, with 55 percent of CHROs across industries being women, which is the same as last year. The industry with the largest percentage of women CHROs is financial (66 percent) and the industry with the lowest is retail at 48 percent.

“In recent years the CHRO role has become increasingly tied to the business strategy as leaders understand that their people are their biggest asset,” said Korn Ferry Managing Partner Emilie Petrone. “Women CHROs bring to the table several competencies, such as collaboration, agility and negotiating, that are critical to successfully guiding talent strategies in organizations.”

The Mix by Industry

When considering the percentage of C-Suite women by industry, the financial sector comes in the highest, at 29 percent. The consumer, healthcare and retail industries each have 24 percent of women in the C-Suite. Twenty-three percent of C-Suite members in the technology industry are women, followed by the industrial and energy sectors at 21 percent, and 20 percent in the services industry.

“In every industry we analyzed, there’s a tremendous need for improvement to bring more women to the C-Suite,” said Remick. “This is a joint responsibility of the women to seek out experiences and development that can help them lead and succeed, and for organizations to create an environment where women feel empowered to progress in their careers at all levels.”

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We combine strategy and talent to drive superior performance and create opportunities for our clients. Our approximately 7,000 colleagues serve clients in more than 50 countries.


Korn Ferry
Tracy Kurschner, 612.309.3957

Source: Korn Ferry