US-based firms announced 125 CEO changes in January, up 17.9% month-over-month, up 40% year-over-year; nearly 27.1% of new CEOs were women, the highest monthly rate since September's 26.9%: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

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February 9, 2022 (press release) –

In January, U.S.-based companies announced 125 CEO changes, up 17.9% from the 106 CEO exits recorded in December, according to a report by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

January’s total is 40% higher than the 89 CEOs who left their posts in January 2021.

The rate of women taking over the CEO role hit a new high in January with 27.1%, the highest monthly rate since September 2021, when 26.9% of new CEOs were women. In all of 2021, 26.4% of new CEOs were women.

“Companies are renewing or making real commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and that requires women in the leadership ranks,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Job creation was strong in January. Employers are still very much in retention and hiring mode. Meanwhile, leadership challenges have shifted in the face of a pandemic, adaption of new technology, and focus on social change. Leaders need to respond, and in many cases that means a change at the top,” he added.

Top Reasons CEOs Left in January
The leading cause of exits in January was from CEOs “stepping down” from their posts, typically into other positions, usually to a Board or other C-Level role. Thirty-nine CEOs stepped down, while 32 retired from their posts. Nine found other opportunities, while 5 took other roles within their organizations.

Office Relationships & Misconduct Update
Companies are still wary of leaders having romantic relationships with colleagues, as was the case with Jeff Zucker, who led CNN Worldwide since 2013 and resigned in February after it was discovered he and his direct report were engaged in a consensual relationship. While Challenger did not record any exits due to inappropriate relationships or sexual misconduct allegations in January, 41 CEOs have left their posts amid these allegations since 2013, the first year this reason appeared in Challenger’s tracking. The majority occurred in 2017, the year the MeToo movement gained significant traction.


Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

In a 2018 survey conducted in June by Challenger among 150 companies nationwide, 51% of companies reported they had a formal written policy on office romances, and 78% of companies said they do not allow relationships between a manager and a direct report.

Related: In Age of #MeToo, More Companies Crack Down on CEOs’, Top Leaders’ Consensual Relationships 

Survey Results: 

Industries with the Most Exits
CEO turnover was led by Government/Non-Profit entities, which include charities, foundations, school systems, transportation authorities, and other government-funded entities. This sector announced 33 CEO changes in January, up 57% from the 21 recorded in December. Hospitals and the Services sector each announced 12 CEO exits in January, followed by Health Care/Products with 11. The Technology sector announced 9 CEO changes in January.

Inside or External Replacement Plans
While companies have been more often going outside their organizations for their next leaders in recent years, in January, 60 CEO replacements came from within the company, while 47 were external replacements. In 2021, of the 1,218 CEO replacements tracked, 666 of them were external. In 2020, 636 CEO replacements were external and 528 were internal.

Industry Intelligence Editor's Note: This press release omits select charts and/or marketing language for editorial clarity. Click here to view the full report.

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