A new report from global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that CEO exits rose 29% in the first quarter (Q1) of 2022 compared with the same quarter last year. And while health care firms have seen a 17% decrease in CEO resignations in 2022, hospital and pharmaceutical CEO departures have risen.
CEOs are stepping down in record numbers
In total, 395 CEOs left their positions during the first quarter of 2022—marking the highest quarterly total since Q1 2020, which had 441 recorded CEO exits.
In March alone, CEO exits rose by 6.3% year-over-year, with 119 reported departures. In February, 151 CEOs left their positions.
Notably, the rate of women taking over incoming CEO roles has risen by 26% in 2022—an increase from 25% in the first quarter of 2021. Among the 395 CEOs who departed during Q1 2022, 21% were women, compared with 16.3% of the 307 CEOs who left during the first quarter of 2021. In total, 19.6% of CEOs who left their posts in 2021 were women.
According to the report, CEOs are leaving their positions for a variety of reasons. So far, 92 CEOs have retired this year, with 27 CEOs retiring in March alone. Twenty-eight CEOs transitioned into other high-level roles within their company, typically serving as a chair or adviser to the CEO. Notably, 62 CEOs did not provide a reason for their exit.
"A high rate of Americans are quitting their jobs each month, and CEOs are no exception. Meanwhile, inflation concerns may have some boards looking to new leadership to weather the coming storm," said Andrew Challenger, SVP of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
CEO departures by industry
In March, government/non-profit entities had the highest rates of CEO turnover with 35 exits, totaling 91 so far in 2022. This marks a 75% increase over the same period in 2021, when just 52 CEOs departed. Similarly, technology companies reported 38 CEO departures during the first quarter, up 27% from the 30 tech CEOs who left their position during Q1 2021.
Notably, health care firms experienced a 17% year-over-year decrease in the first quarter, with just 34 departing CEOs, compared with the 41 CEO departures during Q1 2021.
However, 29 hospital CEOs left their positions during Q1 2022, up from 15 during the same period last year. Similarly, eight CEOs in the pharmaceutical industry left their roles during Q1 2022, an increase from three exits in Q1 2021.
"Inflation, staffing shortages, and possible recession concerns are giving more cause for companies to reevaluate leadership," Challenger said. "This, after years of companies trying to figure out the right formula to attract and retain talent and create a culture of inclusion, issues that often start at the top. (Ellison, Becker's Hospital Review, 5/18; Challenger, Gray & Christmas, CEO Turnover Report, 4/21 ; Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Challenger CEO Report, 4/21 )