The changing face (but not the sex) of CEOs

The changing skillsets and backgrounds of CEOs around the world have been highlighted in an analysis of more than 900 chief executives of major companies across 16 nations.

The changing skillsets and backgrounds of CEOs around the world have been highlighted in an analysis of more than 900 chief executives of major companies across 16 nations.
Conducted by global executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, the new 'Route to the Top' report says that today's CEO is a different creature from the ones being appointed a decade ago.The analysis found that, among chief executives appointed over the course of last year, 78 per cent had previous C-suite experience, 73 per cent were appointed to the role internally, 64 per cent held advanced degrees, and the average age was 52.By comparison, among CEOs with 15 years or more in the role, 51 per cent had previous C-suite experience, 47 per cent were appointed internally, 46 per cent held advanced degrees and they were, on average, only 39 at the time of their appointments.

A changing CEO skillset

"The job of the CEO continues to expand and the skills required for the role today are quite different than a decade ago," says Jeff Sanders, co-managing partner of the global CEO and board practice at Heidrick & Struggles' Chicago HQ. "CEOs today continue to execute the managerial role of yesterday, maintaining day-to-day operations and obligations to shareholders."At the same time, they have to lead through constant digital and business disruption, serve as inspirational leaders, foster a diverse and inclusive workplace culture, maintain good relationships with multiple stakeholder groups and, increasingly, focus on long-term sustainability; in other words, today's CEOs have to accomplish everything their predecessors did, and much more."

Men still dominate the boardroom

One thing that has changed little, however, is gender parity with women CEOs remaining significantly under-represented and comprising only 5 per cent of CEOs globally, said the report.Women made up on 9 per cent of the CEOs appointed last year despite achieving higher education levels than their male counterparts, with 71 per cent of women chief executives holding advanced degrees compared to 58 per cent of male CEOs."Over the past several years, we have seen minimal change in the number of women represented in CEO positions globally," says Bonnie Gwin, co-managing partner of global CEO and board practice at Heidrick & Struggles."
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Ms Gwin adds, "As the CEO profile changes and more is expected from the role to meet future demands, so too must the face of the CEO. The pool for diverse CEO candidates – women, people of colour and individuals from under-represented backgrounds – remains small and more needs to be done to develop the pipeline of the future generation of CEOs."* The report examined 906 current chief executives of companies listed on leading share indexes in Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Read more news and articles by David Sapsted

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