More than half of companies didn't have female candidate for CEO

10 March 2020 2 min. read
More news on

More than half of organizations didn’t assess a single female candidate when searching for their next CEO, according to a report from leadership consultancy DDI. The study drew data from 55,000 executive assessments, including 1,100 CEO candidates, over the period of a decade.

After examining the executive leadership pools of more than 250 organizations, DDI found that 52% didn’t assess a single female candidate for CEO. Female candidate comprised only 25% of executive candidate pools, while 19% of C-level candidates were women.

The findings reiterate the common presence of a “broken ladder” for female advancement. According to a BCG study, though women make up 51.5% of manager-level roles at US companies, they make up only 14.2% of executives and 5.8% of CEOs.

"The lack of diversity revealed in the Executive Leadership Outlook 2020 presents missed opportunities to identify and develop talent from new backgrounds and areas," said Stephanie Neal, director of DDI's Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research (CABER). "Organizations that want to unleash new capabilities and future talent need to seek out leaders who think and operate differently. They're going to need stronger, more inclusive pipelines to find these fresh perspectives and wisdom."

More than half of companies didn’t have female candidate for CEO

The report also noted that senior and C-level executives were mostly selected from one or two functional areas (operations, finance), and extremely rarely from IT or HR.

DDI says that a more inclusive leadership delivers more varied perspectives and wisdom, while preventing tunnel vision. “Building a more inclusive pipeline provides more opportunity to secure new talent that can form crossbusiness alliances, think entrepreneurially, and couple strategies, skills, and perspectives with those from another division or area that isn’t typically tapped,” the report noted.

Other key findings from the report included that most CEO candidates are best equipped for present challenges and less prepared for strategic challenges, such as entering new markets. Meanwhile, less than 15% of executives had strong “money skills,” suggesting that growth in this skill occurs after transition to an executive role. The report also found that well-aligned senior teams handled change better, and were 22% more likely to effectively fill critical leadership roles.