CEOs Are Leaving Their Jobs -- and Women Are Filling Those Vacant Roles -- at a Higher Rate Than Usual

Of the chief executives who have stepped down this year, 22 percent of those lined up to replace them are women.

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CEOs Are Leaving Their Jobs -- and Women Are Filling Those Vacant Roles -- at a Higher Rate Than Usual
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2 min read

Last month, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi announced her decision to step down after 12 years in the role. PepsiCo president Ramon Laguarta will replace her. But while the food and beverage corporation is replacing a female chief executive with a man, national trends in company leadership are inching in the other direction.

In 2018 so far, 879 CEOs have left their roles, for various reasons including retirement, resignation for new jobs or other opportunities, termination, scandal and others. The gender breakdown is 727 male, 152 female.

A total of 716 replacements for the 879 have been identified, and 161 of them, or 22 percent, are women, according to outplacement consultancy and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. So, there are more women CEOs replacing departing CEOs this year than there are women CEOs departing.

Related: Ousted Papa John's Founder Creates Website to 'Save' His Company and Get the 'Truth Out There'

August 2018 was the month with the greatest number of CEOs leaving their roles since Challenger began tracking CEO changes in 2002: 154 chiefs (male and female) announced plans to leave. (In September 2006, 152 CEOs departed their roles.) Typically at this time of year, approximately 95 CEOs leave their roles within a given month.

A total of 765 CEOs left their posts throughout 2017, and this year’s number already exceeds that with four months to go. Between January and August 2017, Challenger had identified 656 replacement CEOs for those who had announced departures during that time, and 119 of them (18 percent) were women.

Numbers fluctuate from month to month and year to year, but it’s heartening to see that a greater proportion of replacement CEOs in the first eight months of this year are women compared to last year. However, the share of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies dropped by 25 percent from 2017 to 2018. Nooyi’s departure will mean only 24 of the Fortune 500 chiefs will be women -- less than 5 percent.

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