Study of Strategy& shows vast majority of new CEOs are promoted from within, and the share of incoming women CEOs could be a third by 2040

Percentage of 2013 Insider Incoming CEOs Climbed to 76% / In China, the share was 84% right next to Japan (97%)

Shanghai, April 30, 2014 – The vast majority — 70% — of CEO turnovers at the world’s largest 2,500 public companies in 2013 were planned events, as opposed to forced turnovers or the result of mergers, and 76% of incoming CEOs were “insiders” who were promoted from within the company, according to the newly released 2013 Chief Executive Study from Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company).

“The high proportion of planned turnovers is a strong signal that companies are continuing to take an active, considered approach to putting in place new leadership,” said Gary L. Neilson, senior partner at Strategy& and co-author of the 14th annual global Chief Executive Study, which examines trends and patterns among incoming and outgoing CEOs of the world’s 2,500 largest public companies. The current study looks at women CEOs over the past 10 years as well as overall succession trends with a focus on 2013’s incoming class of CEOs.

According to the study, more women are receiving and accepting big-company CEO jobs, but the numbers remain strikingly low, especially compared with where women now stand in the global labor force, in entrepreneurship, in education level, and in the professions.

Women comprised only 3% of new big-company CEOs in 2013, a 1.3 percentage point drop from 2012. However, over the past five years the percentage of new CEOs who were women (3.6%) was notably higher than in the previous five years (2.1%) — so the overall trend is improving.

In fact, the authors of the Strategy& study project big gains. “As much as one third of the incoming class of CEOs will be women by 2040, based on a 10-year trend in our data, ever higher education of women, continuing entry of women into the business workforce, and changing social norms of corporate leadership around the world,” said study co-author and Strategy& Senior Partner Ken Favaro.

Sarah Butler, Greater China Managing Director of Strategy& said, “Women are becoming more prevalent at the top of the world’s largest companies—a trend that will only continue to grow. Companies need to plan how they will seek out and prepare their future women CEOs for leadership.”

Huchu Xu, Partner of Strategy& Greater China, added, “our study also shows the companies in China have had the 2nd highest percentage of women CEOs in the past decade, this is because women in China are encouraged to work and their social status is increasing, particularly in more senior roles, they are more aggressive in their professional career paths and more often make it to the CEO position.”

Other notable study findings:

CEO in general

  • CEO turnover at the world’s largest companies in 2013 decreased slightly to 14.4% from 15.0% in 2012 — well within the range of turnover generally expected during non-recession periods. In China, the 2013 turnover rate increased 108 percent compared with 2012, from 8.1 percent to 16.9 percent.
  • 80% new CEOs were nationals of the same country as the company’s headquarters; the rate was 100% in China.
  • 65% new CEOs did not have experience working abroad.
  • The median age of incoming CEOs was 53.
  • CEO tenure has remained relatively steady over the past five years – but rose slightly in 2013 to the 14-year median of five years.

About women CEO

  • The countries with the highest percentage of incoming and outgoing women CEOs between 2004 and 2013 were the U.S. and Canada (3.2%). Companies in China have has the 2nd highest percentage of women CEO in the past decade (2.5%) The country with the lowest percentage (0.8%) was Japan.
  • Only 65% of women in CEO positions between 2004 and 2013 were from inside the company, compared with 78% of men CEOs in the same period, suggesting that companies aren’t doing enough to prepare women as candidates for leadership.
  • Women are more often forced out of CEO roles than men. Over the past 10 years, 38% of women CEOs who left office were forced out (as opposed to being part of planned successions or leaving because of mergers), compared with only 27% of men.

To view the full report summary, visit

About the 2013 Chief Executive Study

For 14 years, Strategy& has examined CEO turnover and the incoming class of CEOs at the world’s largest 2,500 public companies, because determining what happens at critical decision points can help us understand what companies are looking for in their CEO and how the role is changing. Along with overall succession trends, this year’s study looks at 2013’s incoming class of CEOs, and also focuses on women CEOs over the last 10 years.

This study defines the world’s 2,500 largest public companies by their market capitalization as of January 1, 2013, according to Bloomberg. Each company that appeared to have changed its CEO was investigated for confirmation that a change occurred in 2013, and additional details were sought for both the outgoing and incoming CEOs.

About Strategy&

Strategy& is a global team of practical strategists committed to helping you seize essential advantage. We do that by working alongside you to solve your toughest problems and helping you capture your greatest opportunities. We bring 100 years of strategy consulting experience and the unrivaled industry and functional capabilities of the PwC network to the task. We are part of the PwC network of firms in 158 countries with more than 236,000 people committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax, and advisory services.


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