Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Tomorrow’s CEOs will be Increasingly Female, and will have Different Skills than Today’s CEOs

Although women’s overall share of this year’s incoming class of CEOs is small, the “2013 Chief Executive Study” by Strategy& shows that more women are rising through the ranks to the CEO position than did five years ago (3.6 percent vs. 2.1 percent, respectively).

With 60% of all college students and 40% of all MBA students currently being women, by 2040, Strategy& says that women will represent one-third of the incoming class of the top 2,500 companies. The woman CEO of the future will also achieve the top position earlier than women do today, and will have a more diverse background, with communication skills increasing in importance.

“The woman CEO of the future will have a more diverse background, with communication skills increasing in importance.”

The report also found two anomalies: 1) That women are more likely than men to be hired from the outside rather than groomed from within, and 2) They are more likely to be fired than their male counterparts. These findings suggest that boards tend to take a higher risk on women, but those risks come with as many failures as successes.

HP’s former CEO Carly Fiorina, Kraft’s Irene Rosenfeld, Campbell’s President and CEO Denise Morrison and Maggie Wilderotter, CEO of Frontier Communications (who is Denise’s sister), were all hired away from other companies. Xerox’s former CEO Anne Mulcahy, GM’s current CEO Mary Barra and IBM’s Chairperson and CEO Virginia Rometty were all hired from within.

What educational paths are these women taking to get to the corner office compared to men? The top 10 Fortune 500 male CEOs attended state schools for undergrad. Not so for the women. HP’s current CEO Meg Whitman went to Princeton; Rometty, Northwestern and Rosenfeld, Cornell. Fiorina attended both Stanford and MIT.

Of the top 20 female CEOs of Fortune 500s (based on revenue) today, nearly half (45%) do not have graduate degrees, while just 5% of the top 20 male CEOs don’t.

In addition to seeing many more women CEOs a quarter century from now, Strategy& says that they will be greater connectors and greater communicators than they are today.

To find the best CEO talent in the future, Strategy& suggests companies offer the broadest and deepest experience to a promising array of young people. “Focus on the deepening bench strength and special skills that future leadership of your company requires,” says Per-Ola Karlsson, Senior Partner of Strategy&. And, he says, seek out and cultivate women employees.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.