FTSE 100 CEO moves hit five-year high – but women take just a quarter of roles

Leadership StrategiesLeadershipCEO Succession
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July 24, 2023
4 min read
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipCEO Succession
Executive Summary
FTSE 100 CEO appointments reached a five-year high in the first half of 2023 as UK businesses seek to complete a post-covid leadership reset.


  • H1 saw a 38% increase in FTSE 100 CEO appointments YOY with more than a tenth of FTSE 100 changing CEO
  • The overwhelming majority (73%) of FTSE 100 CEO appointments in H1 went to men
  • Global CEO appointments hit 129 in H1 2023 as businesses continue post-covid reset

July 24th, London – FTSE 100 CEO appointments reached a five-year high in the first half of 2023 as UK businesses seek to complete a post-covid leadership reset and prepare to face new economic challenges. However, despite the record intake of senior talent, boards continue to overwhelmingly favour men in a reality check on progress towards gender parity.

More than a tenth (11%) of FTSE 100 CEO positions changed hands in H1 2023, a 38% increase in FTSE 100 CEO appointments year-on-year according to the quarterly Russell Reynolds Associates’ (RRA) Global CEO Turnover Index. It is the highest rate of turnover in the 5 years of data Russell Reynolds has collected, with new CEOs appointed at Vodafone, British American Tobacco, and Diageo in the past quarter alone.

Despite this rate of turnover, just 27% of FTSE 100 CEO appointments have gone to women in the first half of the year. This is at least up on the five-year average female CEO appointment rate in the FTSE 100 of 16% - a figure which drops to just 10% in the FTSE 250.

Over the past five years, the FTSE 100 has remained behind Europe’s largest businesses on gender parity, with 20% of CEO appointments on the EURONEXT 100 going to women1. The US lags further behind at just 9% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 has seen no female CEOs appointed in the last five years. When looking beyond appointment rates, the current number of women CEOs remains disappointingly low with the FTSE 100, FTSE 250, and EURONEXT 100 featuring fewer than 15 women CEOs (10, 12, and 11 respectively) and the S&P 500 containing 41 or just 8% of the index’s CEOs.

Women CEO appointment rate

FTSE 100

FTSE 250

S&P 500


H1 2023 27% 0% 13% 29%
5-year average 16% 10% 9% 20%
Total women CEOs (H1 2023) 10 12 41 11

Laura Sanderson, UK Country Manager of Russell Reynolds Associates, said:

“The FTSE 100 is making progress towards gender parity and we are seeing a gradual ramping up of the rate at which women are being appointed CEO. But we must also be impatient for change. Until half of the people being appointed CEO each quarter are women, there is still room for improvement.

“FTSE 100 businesses are, at least, moving more quickly than their counterparts in the US. There are many drivers behind this, but the UK has an important advantage over the US in building a pipeline of talented women. Term limits for non-executive directors in the UK provide a natural refresh of talent. This is a key route for women looking to build a breadth of experience while showcasing their ability. The right corporate governance standards can help to enable change, without resorting to quotas.

“We are living through an unprecedented degree of change at the top of UK businesses. We must aim high and use this opportunity to rebalance the leadership of the UK, not reinforce old paradigms.”

The second quarter of the year has historically been a high point for appointments, as the world’s largest organisations look to reset from the previous year’s strategy and financial results. Globally, 752 CEOs joined firms across Europe, Asia, and the US, the largest movement since before the pandemic (79 in Q2 2019).

Luke Meynell, Managing Director & Co-lead Global Board & CEO Advisory Partners of Russell Reynolds Associates, commented:

“This quarter has seen a significant reshuffling of CEOs within both UK and global organisations. Much of this is still part of post-covid reset strategies, as businesses adjust to realities of a world no longer reeling from a pandemic. We must remember that the wheels of these movements were set in motion in many cases 12 to 18 months ago when the global economy had very little idea of what kind of environment we were emerging into – in our current case one fraught with difficult economic decisions.

“We can expect that boards       will look for consistency in future candidates. Candidates with a demonstrated ability to deliver within the organisation. We may well see a period of comparative calm in CEO appointments towards the end of the year as boards look for a safe pair of hands to steer them through the turbulent waters ahead.”



Media Contacts

Russell Reynolds Associates: Sarah Carlyle, Marketing Director EMEA

Email: sarah.carlyle@russellreynolds.com


Notes to the Editor

1Variation within Europe is high, however. The CAC 40 five-year average sits at 15% while the DAX five-year average is 7%.
2Global total appointments total (75) does not include duplicates from organisations in multiple indices.

About Russell Reynolds Associates

Russell Reynolds Associates is a global leadership advisory firm. Our 600+ consultants in 47 offices work with public, private, and nonprofit organizations across all industries and regions. We help our clients build teams of transformational leaders who can meet today’s challenges and anticipate the digital, economic, sustainability, and political trends that are reshaping the global business environment. From helping boards with their structure, culture, and effectiveness to identifying, assessing and defining the best leadership for organizations, our teams bring their decades of expertise to help clients address their most complex leadership issues. We exist to improve the way the world is led.