The CMO Role Grew Slightly More Diverse in 2019, While Average Tenure Slipped

July 8, 2020

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Asian-American | Business of Marketing | Demographics & Audiences | Featured | Hispanic | Men | Staffing | Women

SpencerStuart Average CMO Tenure 2004 2019 Jul2020The role of the CMO has not always been a diverse one. Indeed, in 2018, none of the new CMOs among the 100 most-advertised US brands came from racially or ethnically diverse backgrounds. But that appears to have changed, if only somewhat. The latest annual analysis from Spencer Stuart reports that, at the end of 2019, one-fifth (19%) of those people new to the role of CMO for these select companies were from diverse backgrounds.

Added to that, 14% of all CMOs from the analyzed brands last year were from diverse backgrounds, up from 10% in 2018. While this may be seen as progress, there still remains a sizable gap in racial and ethnic representation among top marketers as well as in the fields of marketing and advertising, in general.

Female Leadership Increases in the CMO Role

Although there is still much room for progress when it comes to ethnic and racial equality in the role of CMO, the representation of women in the role has continued to make strides. Last year’s report showed that in 2018, some 36% of CMOs at the 100 most-advertised brands in the US were women. That percentage grew to 43% in 2019. This is notable progress considering that women only represented 23% of CMOs for these top companies as recently as 2016.

The number of new female CMOs has risen as well. Of all of the CMOs at the analyzed companies new to the role in 2019, 48% were women, up from 44% in 2018 and 38% in 2017. This near-parity representation of male and female CMOs is also seen in separate research. When Russell Reynolds Associates analyzed more than 200 publicly-disclosed marketing leadership moves in the first half of 2019, they found that 48% of the newly appointed CMOs were female.

CMO Tenure is the Lowest in a Decade

As seen over the past couple of years, the average tenure of CMOs for the analyzed brands has decreased. In 2019, the average time spent in the role was 41.1 months, shaving off 6 weeks from the average tenure of 42.5 months in 2018. In fact, the average CMO tenure hasn’t been this low since 2009, when it was under 3 years.

On the other hand, the median average rose to 30 months in 2019, up from 28 months in 2018, while remaining slightly below the median of 31 months from 2017.

As for the next moves for CMOs at the end of their role, most remain marketers. Research from last year shows that when CMOs move on to another company, about two-thirds take a role in marketing, while far fewer join new companies in the capacity of President/GM (11%) or CEO (10%).

First-Time CMOs Increase

While the number of months CMOs remain in their role is decreasing, the percentage of first-time CMOs has increased over the past few years. In 2019, 72% of CMOs were in that role for the first time. This is up from comparable figures in 2018 (71%), 2017 (68%) and 2016 (70%).

This influx of new talent may be down to the changing nature of marketing, with the report noting that “traditional best practices do not apply in many cases”. But even as technology and consumer behaviors change, the soft skills of marketing remain as important as ever.

Further analysis from Spencer Stuart can be found here.

About the Data: Findings are based on an analysis of the tenures of CMOs from 100 of the most-advertised US brands as of December 31, 2019.


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