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Women CEOs Gain Momentum, Remain Significantly Underrepresented


While gender pay equity is a hot topic in many countries, diversity among CEOs remains low.

Men hold the vast majority (95%) of CEO positions across 13 countries with the United States (93%) slightly more female, according to the “Route to the Top 2018” report from Heidrick & Struggles.

“While the advancement women have made toward the CEO role has gained momentum in recent years, we still are not seeing a significant increase to the number of appointments of women to the CEO role,” said Anne Lim O’Brien, vice chairman of the global CEO & Board Practice. “It’s clear there is much work to be done on a global scale. As boards plan for succession, it will be critical for companies to focus on the development of women and diverse leaders to help them gain the experience necessary to serve at the highest levels and become CEO-ready.”

The report also revealed that more than half (67%) of current CEOs rose to the top from an internal promotion and almost half (47%) have previous experience as a member of a C-suite leadership team.

The report examined 674 current chief executives of the companies listed on the following country indexes: Denmark, OMX Copenhagen 20; Finland, OMX Helsinki 25; France, SBF 120; Germany, DAX and MDAX; Italy, FTSE MIB; Netherlands, AEX; Norway, OBX; Portugal, PSI-20; Spain, IBEX 35; Sweden, OMX Stockholm 30; Switzerland, SMI Expanded; United Kingdom, FTSE 100; United States, Fortune 100.

Additional findings from the “Route to the Top 2018” report include:

  • Women CEOs are still significantly underrepresented, with one in 20 occupying the corner office.
    • Women represented only 4.9% of CEOs in the countries studied, with women accounting for 6.9% of CEOs in the U.S.
    • At the bottom were Denmark and Italy, both at 0%, and Germany (1.2%).
  • Internal promotions are still the most common route to the top.
    • Across the 13 countries, 67% percent of CEOs rose to the top from an internal promotion.
    • The U.S. had the highest percentage of internally promoted CEOs (84%), followed by the Netherlands (80%) and Sweden (70%).
  • Almost half of all CEOs have held other C-suite leadership roles.
    • Germany had the largest proportion of CEOs who previously served as CFOs (32%), and the United States had the largest proportion of CEOs who previously held the COO role (47%).
    • 27% of CEOs have experience in the finance function while 22% have general management experience.
  • CEOs averaged 50 years of age at the time of their appointment.
    • S. CEOs are the oldest with an average age of 52 at the time of appointment. Norway had the greatest percentage of CEOs younger than 50 at the time of their appointment (64%). Overall, internally appointed CEOs served an average of 14 years within a company before being appointed to the position.
  • Fewer than three in 10 CEOs hold an MBA degree.
    • Portugal had the highest proportion of chief CEOs who hold MBA degrees (47%) while Italy had the lowest (13%).
    • In the United States, birthplace of the MBA program, 34% of CEOs hold the degree, a figure that is sharply down from 49% seven years ago.


Systemic Flaws Cause for UK’s Out-of-Whack CEO Pay Ratio
In just three working days, the United Kingdom’s top bosses make more than a typical full-time worker will earn in the entire year. This is according to calculations from independent think tank the High Pay Centre and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The average (median) full-time UK worker earns a gross annual salary of £29,574 ($37,709). In 2019, the average Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 CEO, earned an average (median) pay packet of £3.9 million ($4.9M), and only needed to work until 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4, to be paid the same amount.

The £3.9 million figure was calculated by the CIPD and the High Pay Centre in their 2018 analysis of top pay, and it marks an 11% increase on the £3.5 million figure reported in their 2017 analysis. The pay increase means that 100 CEOs will only need to work for 29 hours in 2019 to earn the average worker’s annual salary, two hours fewer than in 2018.

“There is still far too great a gap between top earners and the rest of the workforce. Average pay has stagnated whilst top CEO reward has grown, despite overall slow economic growth and very variable business performance,” said Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD. “Excessive pay packages awarded by remuneration committees represent a significant failure in corporate governance and perpetuate the idea of a ‘superstar’ business leader when business is a collective endeavor and reward should be shared more fairly. This imbalance does nothing to help heal the many social and economic divides facing the country.”

The CIPD and High Pay Centre launched “RemCo Reform: Governing Successful Organizations That Benefit Everyone,” which identifies the shortcomings of the remuneration committees (RemCos) charged with setting executive pay and calls for them to be significantly reformed. In particular, it highlights:

  • The myth of super talent as a factor that continues to drive excessive pay with one remuneration committee chair commenting: “It’s nuts . . . and nuts has become the benchmark.”
  • The need for much greater diversity among those responsible for setting CEO pay in order to combat group think. This diversity is not just in terms of ethnicity and gender but other factors, such as professional background and expertise.
  • The current pay mechanisms contribution to the problem of high CEO pay. In response, the CIPD and High Pay Centre recommend replacing long-term incentive plans (LTIPs) as the default model for executive remuneration with a less complex system based on a basic salary and a much smaller restricted share award. This would simplify the process of setting executive pay and ensure that pay is more closely aligned to executive performance.


M&As Expected to Bounce Back in 2019
The global mergers and acquisitions market has struggled to add value, and buyer performance has been in steady decline since a 2015 peak.

That’s the conclusion of long-term data compiled and analyzed by Willis Towers Watson and the University of London’s Cass Business School.

After 2018 saw dealmakers underperform in terms of shareholder value for an unprecedented fifth consecutive quarter — and record their worst annual performance for a decade — what can potential acquirers expect in 2019?

“The ability to deliver anticipated benefits in terms of shareholder value for the buyer is at a 10-year low,” said Jana Mercereau, Willis Towers Watson head of corporate mergers and acquisitions for Great Britain. “On top of this, the market stress that characterized 2018 will persist, with rising regulatory uncertainty, ongoing trade and tariff negotiations, including Brexit talks and the U.S.-China trade disputes, making it ever more challenging to deliver deals successfully.”

Based on short- and long-term trends revealed by the data, as well as conversations with clients and colleagues, Mercereau offers five M&A predictions for 2019:

  • Things can only get better in 2019. “2018 was a tough year for deal makers, who recorded their worst annual performance since the financial crash in 2008. Although complex headwinds remain, we are optimistic that the market will bottom out in 2019 and, supported by more clarity over the direction of the U.S. administration and Brexit, improve the position of buyers in achieving better value from their deals.”
  • Fall in foreign deals. “We expect to see a global decline in the number of cross-border deals due to regulatory constraints fueled by an increasing trend towards protectionism. This will lead to a more defensive strategy of domestic consolidation, for which some nations will be better equipped. The U.S. domestic M&A market, for example, has traditionally shown itself to be very robust, so we expect volumes to remain stable as acquirers focus their firepower on domestic targets.”
  • No uptick expected in Asia-Pacific (APAC). “As well as a significant drop in deal volume, Asia-Pacific acquirers recorded the worst annual performance of all regions in 2018, with an underperformance of 17.1pp (percentage points) below the regional MSCI Index. We expect M&A activity from Chinese companies to be muted in 2019, impacting volumes across the Asia-Pacific region.”
  • Outside interest in the United Kingdom remains strong. “While ongoing uncertainty around Brexit is likely to translate into less M&A activity for UK companies in 2019, the positive results enjoyed by non-UK acquirers when buying in the UK will see Britain remain one of the most popular M&A target nations.”
  • Megadeals continue to struggle. “There were 17 megadeals (more than $10 billion) in 2018, which underperformed the market by 14.5pp, the worst performance of all deal types. Global political uncertainty, from trade wars and growing protectionism to Brexit, will continue in 2019 and negatively impact megadeals in particular, as buyers will be cautious of transactions that take a long time to complete in a volatile dealmaking environment.”

Quarterly Deal Performance Monitor (QDPM) Methodology

  • All analysis is conducted from the perspective of the acquirer.
  • Share-price performance within the quarterly study is measured as a percentage change in share price from six months prior to the announcement date to the end of the quarter.
  • All deals where the acquirer owned less than 50% of the shares of the target after the acquisition were removed, hence no minority purchases have been considered. All deals where the acquirer held more than 50% of target shares prior to the acquisition have been removed, hence no remaining purchases have been considered.
  • Only completed M&A deals with a value of at least $100 million which meet the study criteria are included in this research.
  • Deal data sourced from Refinitiv.

Compiled by Workspan contributing editor Brett Christie.