Global CEO gender parity a lifetime away despite record women CEO appointments

Board and CEO AdvisoryChief Executive OfficersCEO SuccessionTeam Effectiveness
Article Icon Press Release
January 22, 2024
6 min read
Board and CEO AdvisoryChief Executive OfficersCEO SuccessionTeam Effectiveness
Executive Summary
According to RRA, it will take 81 years to achieve global CEO gender parity, with women CEOs accounting for 23% of departures in the UK's FTSE 100 in 2023.


  • Global CEO gender parity is still 81 years away despite record number of women being appointed to the role. FTSE 100 not set to reach parity until 2141 (117 years away)
  • 10% of CEOs departed their roles last year with more than a quarter (27%) of these dismissed
  • Boards have turned to internal candidates to provide continuity, accounting for 77% of new CEO appointments

January 22nd 2024, London – At current rates it will take 81 years to reach global CEO gender parity, an increase of seven years from 2022’s figures1 according to leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates. The UK’s FTSE 100 saw women CEOs account for almost a quarter (23%) of departures, while CEO appointments continued to overwhelmingly go to men (87%) in 2023.

The finding is part of Russell Reynolds Associates’ 2023 Global CEO Turnover report which analyses the trends driving CEO appointments and departures over the past twelve months across twelve2 national and international stock markets.

The report paints a mixed picture for efforts to ensure more women CEOs lead the world’s top businesses. Despite departures remaining high across all global indices last year, the estimated time to achieve parity shows significant variance. At the current rate of change the S&P 500 finds itself 22 years ahead of the global average (81 years). Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 is not on track to reach this goal until 2141, 117 years from now.

Last year, global indices saw 12% of CEO appointments (22) go to women candidates, a joint record with 2022. European and Australian indices lead the pack, with a quarter (25%) of CEO roles going to women in the Euronext 100 and ASX 200. The FTSE 100 was not far behind at 19%.

However, 2023 was also a record year for the rate of women CEO departures. A tenth of all global CEO departures this year were women, with women three times as likely to leave for personal reasons (16% versus 5% for men) and significantly more likely to be removed from the role (34% versus 25%).3

As a result, men on average serve as CEO for four and a half years longer (8.7 years compared to 4.1 years) than women globally. This figure does however vary significantly across the globe, with the FTSE 100 beating the 2023 global average with women’s tenure trailing men’s by 2.4 years and while the S&P500 fares significantly worse at 7.8 years.

“Though 2023 saw more women appointed to the CEO role globally than ever before, the rate of change is still too slow if we are going to get to parity in a reasonable time frame.  said Laura Sanderson, UK Lead and EMEA Co Lead of RRA. “We also can’t dodge the conversation about why women CEOs are leaving their roles prematurely. Last year, we saw women CEOs being fired at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. Today’s CEOs are expected to be more of a public figure than ever before, and the relative scarcity of female CEOs automatically gives them a higher degree of prominence. So they get disproportionate media attention; but the stories that are written about them show that we still have paradoxical expectations of them. If you’re a woman, you are under more pressure to visibly outperform. But woe betide you if you’re seen to be enjoying the profile of the CEO role to much or if you become too prominent, as tall poppy syndrome is never far away.



FTSE 100 experience highest CEO churn in 2023 as businesses look for stability of internal hires

In 2023, 10% (178) of global CEO roles changed hands, as the trend of historically high CEO turnover continued. The leading reason for departures was retirements at just under a third (29%). Almost a fifth (19%) of this cohort moved on to non-executive roles, with just 5% retiring entirely. Dismissals feature as a close second, accounting for 27% of departures.3

The NSE Nifty 50 saw the highest proportional turnover at 14%, followed by the Hang Seng at 13.8% and the STI at 13.3%. Turnover levels were lower across Europe, with the CAC 40 and DAX 40 both recording 5%, and the Euronext 100 slightly higher at 8%. The FTSE 100 saw one of the higher rates of departures with 13% of CEO roles changing hands, while the CEOs in the S&P 500 faired better with 9.6% of the Index’s companies seeing CEO departures.

“The role of the CEO is fundamentally changing, and we’re seeing a level of turnover that reflects the realities of many CEOs coming to terms with this change.” said Luke Meynell, global lead, RRA’s Board & CEO Advisory Partners at Russell Reynolds Associates. “We’re seeing CEOs stepping down from their roles for myriad reasons, including increasing work pressures, life priority choices, or simply that conditions for their success have been compromised. And it is little wonder, as the challenges that CEOs are facing continue to multiply, including net-zero ambitions, high inflation, and ongoing global supply chain challenges.”

A key long-term global trend is the move to favor internal CEO candidates with 77% of CEO appointments coming from within organisations. The trend towards internal candidates has been partly driven by shareholder pressure to select candidates that are perceived as lower-risk due to a proven track record within the business, and cultural pressure on the basis that an internal appointment is more likely to connect with current staff due to this past experience. This is borne out by the data which shows that internally appointed CEOs serve on average 1.8 years longer than their external counterparts.


Notes to the Editor

Years to gender parity as at December 2022 is derived from a retrospective analysis projecting the current trend of CEO appointments backward while adjusting for the estimated number of women CEOs at that time. Data should be viewed as a directional indicator due to changes in index composition over the past 12 months.

Russell Reynolds Associates’ Global Index of CEO Turnover tracks CEO departures from constituent companies of the following global stock indices: ASX 200, CAC 40, DAX 40, Euronext 100, FTSE 100, FTSE 250, HANG SENG, Nikkei 225, NSE Nifty 50, S&P 500, S&P/TSX Composite, and STI. More data and analysis can be found at the dedicated Global Index of CEO Turnover section of the Russell Reynolds website at:

Classification of the reasons for CEO departures is derived from a comprehensive review of publicly available information, including news publications, official announcements, and relevant articles around the time of each CEO's departure announcement. This categorization is intended to provide insight into overarching trends and should be interpreted within the context of the best available information at the time of the analysis.


Media contact

Sarah Carlyle, Marketing Director EMEA

About Russell Reynolds Associates

Russell Reynolds Associates is a global leadership advisory firm. Our 500+ 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.