Female CMOs Overtake Male Ones For The First Time


Short CMO tenures continue to be common. For example, Dunkin’s previous CMO lasted nine months, a remarkably short tenure even among CMOs.

The average tenure in 2021 remained at 40 months, per Spencer Stuart, and has continued to creep down from a high of 48 months in 2014. Median tenure continued to inch up to pre-pandemic levels and, in 2021, hit 28 months.

The prevalence of relatively short CMO stints may be compounded by efforts to diversify and the lingering effects of the pandemic, as Americans leave their jobs in record numbers. However, CEO tenures were more than double the average CMO tenure, at 85 months.

Despite a focus on diversification, the rate of CMOs from an underrepresented racial or ethnic background remained low, with efforts to increase representation stalling. Incoming CMOs came from an underrepresented background at 18%, down from 19% in 2019 and 29% in 2017. The rate of female CMOs has continued to steadily increase since 2016 in both the overall and incoming CMO categories.

Perhaps most reflective of the industry’s desire to diversify and find a fresh way of looking at things is the increasing rate of external CMO hires. The rate of external CMOs hired in 2021 was 45%, up from 37% in 2020. First-time CMOs were even more likely to be hired externally than in previous years. In 2020, 16% of first-time CMOs were hired externally. In 2021, that number jumped to 30%. Tenures could begin to stabilize as diversity goals are met.

External talent has increasingly appealed to companies, especially as legacy brands search for post-pandemic relevancy. Cryptocurrency, increased metaverse popularity, and the expansion of eCommerce demand outside experience for many legacy marketers. These factors, combined with the increased push for diversity, are a driving force behind the demand for external hires.

Despite the high turnover rates, most CMO positions are filled internally. Fifty-five percent of CMOs appointed in 2021 were promoted internally, down from 63% in 2020. This eight-point drop is much more dramatic than the one-point decrease from 2019 (64%) to 2020.