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Hiring of women CMOs reaches record pace, new report says

Women are making gains in the C-suite, at least when it comes to top marketing jobs. Of the marketing leadership appointments made in the first half of the year, 48 percent went to women, marking an all-time high, according to a new report from executive recruiting firm Russell Reynolds Associates, which has been tracking CMO moves for six years. The previous high for female appointments in a six-month period was 47 percent in the second half of 2016.

The firm tracked more than 200 senior marketing job changes in the first half of 2019. Two industries—financial services and industrial and natural resources—appointed more women than men to the CMO role, according to the report, which declared that “gender parity is almost here.”

Spencer Stuart, a competing recruitment firm, also painted an improving picture on representation of women in a report published in August. It studied 100 brands and companies, finding that 36 percent had a woman as CMO in 2018, up from 28 percent in 2017. But Spencer Stuart also found that the marketing industry remains plagued by a lack of minority representation in top roles. Only nine of the CMOs at the top 100 brands and companies it studied were minorities, down from 11 CMOs in 2017. The Russell Reynolds report did not cover minority hiring. 

Companies that hired women as marketing executives this year include: Best Buy, which promoted e-commerce president Allison Peterson to chief customer and marketing officer; E-Trade, which hired Alice Milligan from Citibank as its chief customer officer; Sallie Mae, which installed Donna Vieira as executive VP and CMO after she had been at JPMorgan Chase; and Gap, which tapped Alegra O’Hare as senior VP and CMO, luring her from Adidas.

Russell Reynolds also reported on what it described as an “acute CMO succession crisis,” noting that more than 80 percent of publicly reported CMO appointments in the year’s first half were external hires. The firm cited the highly specialized nature of roles beneath the CMO, which often focus on single functions like CRM and data and analytics. As a result, companies are looking externally rather than promoting internal talent because “many of these mid-level marketing leaders lack a deep understanding of the full spectrum of marketing that is demanded of a CMO today,” the report says.