CMOs: Tenure Remains Low; Women Constitute Majority for the First Time

May 16, 2022

This article is included in these additional categories:

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

For the first time, women made up more than half of CMOs at 100 of the most advertised US brands as of the end of 2021, according to the latest annual review of CMO tenures and representation from Spencer Stuart. It has been quite the rise: as recently as 2016, fewer than 1 in 4 (23% of) CMOs in Spencer Stuart’s analysis were women.

In recent years, however, women have been accounting for an ever-greater share of incoming CMOs (so-called “freshman” CMOs), and that has been reflected in their increasing share of the overall CMO population at these top brands. In fact, among CMOs new to the role last year, fully 71% were women, helping catapult them from 47% share of CMOs in 2020 to 51% last year.

The results support previous research from the ANA. Last year, the ANA released an analysis of its membership, finding that 54.6% of its member CMOs were women, up from 52% in 2020.

CMO Ethnic and Racial Diversity Lags

The same ANA study revealed that despite a modest uptick, the share of CMOs identifying as Asian or African American remained well short of population-wide representation, while Hispanic share of ANA CMO membership fell.

The Spencer Stuart analysis also finds that diversity among the CMO population is slow in coming. Last year 15% of the CMOs at the top 100 advertisers hailed from a traditionally underrepresented racial or ethnic group. This does represent a small uptick, from 13% in 2020 and 14% in 2019, but remains modest progress at best and somewhat surprising given the industry’s attention to DE&I initiatives.

On a more positive note, a larger share (18%) of incoming CMOs last year were diverse, up from 11% the year prior, though down from 19% in 2019.

CMO Tenure Continues to be Short

The average time spent in the role of CMO stood pat at 40 months last year, unchanged from 2020 and therefore tying its lowest level in more than a decade. The median average did climb a little, however, increasing to 28 months from 25.5 months in 2020.

Spencer Stuart notes that the gap between CMO and CEO tenure continues to expand. Last year, average CEO tenure, at 85 months, was more than double that of CMOs.

Fewer CMOs Are Promoted from Within

Last year 55% of CMOs were promoted from within, down from 63% in 2020 and 64% in 2019, as external hires grew to almost half of the analyzed CMOs.

First-time CMOs were more likely to be promoted from within, but even so the 30% that were hired externally last year represented a jump from the 16% the year earlier.

See here for the full analysis.

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, 2021.


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