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The CEO Landscape: Diversity in Reverse

On Monday, PepsiCo leader Indra Nooyi announced that she is stepping down from her role as CEO of the company after 12 years at the helm.

During her tenure, Nooyi transformed the PepsiCo from a sugary soda company into one that included a line-up of healthful products. Some say with mixed results, but you can’t argue with the numbers—annual revenue for the giant grew 81% under her watch.

Yet the news of Nooyi’s departure is distressing on a broader level. She is among a string of high-profile women who have recently left the ranks of S&P 500 C-Suite. Campbell Soup Co.’s CEO, Denise Morrison; Irene Rosenfelt, CEO of Mondelez International; Joanna Coles, chief content officer of Hearst; and Meg Whitman, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s CEO, have all left their roles in the upper echelon of their companies.

In each instance, their successor has been a male. This is particularly troubling when you consider that only 4.8% of S&P CEOs are women, and these departures will push that share down even further.

In some respects, the move toward equality and inclusion is making headway. Institutional investors have put considerable pressure on these firms and there’s an increased emphasis on bringing more women onto their boards.

That’s not the case, however, among public companies. It’s time for these investors—and their boards—to press for more women in the CEO succession queue.

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