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Gender diversity needs to catch up with these C-suite roles

At the C-level, gender diversity remains greatest among chief marketing appointments, but sorely lacks in sales and revenue roles.

That’s according to Russell Reynolds Associates’ annual report on chief marketing officer appointments and departures in North America, which found 45% of CMO openings last year went to women, a 5-percentage-point drop from the previous six months. The firm tracked more than 1,000 C-suite moves globally in 2020.

CMO appointments rose 25% in 2020; in the second half of the year, following the initial shock of Covid-19’s arrival, appointments climbed 17% from the first six months of the year.

Although there’s notable gender diversity among CMOs, it’s lacking elsewhere.

“While it is encouraging that diversity is being prioritized at the top, it has not resulted in increasingly gender diverse senior go-to-market leaders: only 27% of appointments across North America were female,” the RRA report noted.

Commercial and sales leader appointments were overwhelmingly male: Globally, about 92% of chief revenue officers, 91% of chief sales officers and 85% of chief commercial officers appointed in 2020 were men.

Head of marketing and communications roles favor women, at 56% female and 44% male, but head of sales and marketing roles skew male, with a 24% female, 76% male breakdown.

A report by Challenger Gray & Christmas revealed women made up nearly 23% of CEO appointments in 2020, far less than the 77% that were men.

“If organizations want to elevate diversity and inclusion, which is now an expectation of customers and stakeholders, they need to start diversifying their hires and promotes. … The past year has sparked a renewed sense of social purpose across North America. Customers are choosing businesses that do not just preach diversity, equity and inclusion, but practice it,” the RRA report advised.

The report also highlighted the persistence of the CMO succession crisis: 84% of CMOs were hired externally — 5% more than the previous six months.

Per Marketing Dive, one survey found less than 20% of senior marketers aspire to move up the ladder to CMO, suggesting a “brain drain” crisis among marketers.

An ongoing issue for CMOs: managing long-term brand vision while delivering on short-term goals, per Marketing Dive. More than half of chief marketers in that poll said their influence increased during the pandemic.




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