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2022 Route to the Top: Female Australian CEOs surge ahead of global average

Announcement posted by Heidrick & Struggles 24 Nov 2022

  • Thirteen percent of CEOs are female compared to seven percent last year and globally
  • AN/Z companies are hiring more non-national CEOs which make up 22%, up from 15% last year 
  • AN/Z has fewer CEOs under the age of 45 — 21% against a global average of 25% 


Heidrick & Struggles (NASDAQ: HSII), a premier provider of executive search, leadership assessment and development services, has released its annual Route to The Top report, highlighting key statistics and research around the profiles of CEOs globally. In AN/Z, the research revealed growth in gender diversity and the hiring of non-national talent, as well as a local preference for older, more experienced executives.


The global report, now in its sixth year, found that the AN/Z region employs nearly twice the global average of female CEOs — 13% of the total. This sits in contrast to the global average of seven percent, indicating that while there is still a long way to go towards gender parity, AN/Z has more pathways open to female executives.


With Australia borders reopening, not surprisingly there has been a renewed interest in international executives who bring a global perspective and diverse thinking. AN/Z companies are hiring more non-nationals than in previous years, with the figure growing from 15% in 2021 to 22%. More than half of those have cross-border experience.


When it comes to defining how AN/Z CEOs attained the top role, incumbency and C-suite experience is still a major factor. Eighty-one percent of current CEOs held a C-level role prior to being appointed, which is higher than the global average.


Becoming a CEO in AN/Z is now a faster process than in previous years, with the average time taken to progress from the previous role to CEO taking 6.6 years compared to the prior year’s 11. Interestingly, there has also been a dip in higher education, with 44% of AN/Z CEOs holding an advanced university degree, well below the global average of 62%.


Graham Kittle, Managing Partner of Australia at Heidrick and Struggles, said of the findings: “It is great to see that AN/Z is well ahead of the global average for gender diversity, showing we’ve made promising progress. However, we are reminded that there is still a lot of work to be done. The AN/Z region, like everywhere, has had two years of disruption and on the whole, CEOs have done exceedingly well given the circumstances, with the vast majority of organisations performing despite these challenges. We are entering a new period where high interest rates, inflation and low investment are starting to bite, so the role of the CEO is absolutely critical for ongoing stability in the region.”


View the full global report here: