Frances Ball 14 May 2019 01:01pm

Tech wins over gender in CEO search

More FTSE 100 CEOs have a background in technology than ever before, but progress on diversity has stalled

According to research from recruiters Robert Half, of the CEOs appointed to positions in the FTSE 100 in the past year, 30% have a background in technology. The proportion of CEOs with tech experience in the FTSE 100 is now at 14%.

Financial experience has long been the most common background for CEOs, but it had nonetheless been a declining trend in the FTSE 100. This year marked a reversal of that trend, as 52% of CEOs have a background in finance, up from 40% in 2018.

Charlie Grubb, the UK managing director at Robert Half, pointed out that a skillset in technology and in finance would equip CEOs to lead businesses into the future.

“This is a trend that is increasingly becoming a focus for executive and senior leadership hires within a business as well – especially when coupled with invaluable softer skills such as communication, adaptability and resilience,” he said.

Despite the apparently forward-thinking shift, there is a lack of progress on diversity among top CEOs. The average age of a CEO is still 55; almost a fifth are Oxbridge-educated.

Despite initiatives to improve gender representation in the boardroom, the number of female CEOs has actually decreased, from 7% to 6%, since last year.

Internal promotions account for almost half of the CEOs currently in place, up from 30% in 2016. Of those appointed in the past year, 70% were promoted internally.

Grubb commented, “The research also highlights the importance of encouraging diversity at all levels of an organisation. A broad range of views, experience and backgrounds will not only benefit the business today, but also bolster its overall talent pipeline and pool for future leaders.

“While this process will take time to filter up to the top of FTSE firms, businesses need to make this a priority to deliver on their long-term diversity goals.”