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Chief Executive Officer & Board of Directors

Route to the Top 2017

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Route to the Top

Heidrick & Struggles’ most recent demographic study of global chief executives finds the typical CEO to be largely male, highly educated, and likely to have a background in finance—but with some notable differences by country. For example, some 85% of CEOs in the United States were promoted from within their companies; in France, the figure is 48%. CEOs in the United States are also likely to be older than their counterparts in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom boasts a larger percentage of foreign nationals at the head of its companies, while US companies lag significantly in this respect and French companies are led almost exclusively by natives.

The research, conducted in mid-2016, encompasses current chief executives of each of the top 100 companies listed in the Fortune 500, the FTSE 100 in the United Kingdom, the DAX 30 and MDAX 50 in Germany, and the SBF 120 in France. This report represents the fourth in a series of such studies begun in 2011. It provides profiles of today’s top leaders, looks at how those profiles vary from country to country, and observes how they vary within countries by industry sector.

Key findings include the following:

  • CEOs in the United States not only tend to be older than their counterparts in other countries but also take far longer to reach the top when they are promoted from within.
  • CEOs in the United Kingdom are more diverse by nationality than CEOs in other countries, especially the United States and France.
  • Finance, engineering, and sales and marketing are still the main ingredients of a CEO’s background, with the emphasis varying according to sector and country.
  • Women have made little notable progress toward the top job in any country we studied since the inception of this research in 2011.


For the full report, click the download link above.


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