THE BLOG

A Globalised View of CEOs

29/09/2014 14:47 BST | Updated 29/11/2014 10:59 GMT

Last year, we conducted some research into FTSE 100 and 250 CEOs and found that despite the world of business being in a state of constant flux, the world of FTSE CEOs has remained static. Over the past 60 years we may have invented the internet and landed on the moon, but step inside an average FTSE boardroom and you'll find the CEO's profile has remained remarkably unchanged- Oxbridge educated, middle-aged and male.

With emerging markets booming, tech start-ups making millions and new companies springing up around the world, the economic landscape outside of the UK has changed considerably over the past decade. So this year, we expanded our research to look into CEOs from the top companies across Asia Pac, Germany and Switzerland. The research took in data looking at a range of aspects including where CEOs were born, gender breakdown, where they went to university, the subjects they studied and their previous roles. Remarkably, despite any cultural and economic differences, we found the average CEO across the world has the same profile.

Reading the papers, you'd be forgiven for thinking things are otherwise - the press loves to talk about Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo's Marissa Mayer or Evan Spiegel, the 23 year old Snapchat founder who turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer. In reality, this modern view of CEOs is still surprisingly inaccurate. The average CEO around the world remains a 54 year-old male who attended Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge University.

Perhaps the most surprising statistic concerns gender. In recent years, although progress has been slow, the political landscape has begun to look more balanced; David Cameron's recent cabinet reshuffle means 29% of the cabinet is now female. However, in the world of business, the glass ceiling appears to have remained well and truly untouched. Just 4% of top CEOs from across the world are female - even more shocking; all of the top CEOs in Japan and Hong Kong are male. Interestingly, Japan also has the highest churn when it comes to CEOs - with 68% having been in the job for less than 5 years. That's 16% higher than the average percentage of CEOs across the globe, which sees 52% having been in the job for less than 5 years.

India meanwhile has the highest percentage of female top CEOs at 8%. While this remains a small percentage, the figure is just 5% in the UK and Australia. Despite the fact that the UK gave women the vote a full 20 years before India, it appears we have been slower to change our attitudes to women in the boardroom. In the past two decades, India has seen a surprising rise in female bosses in the financial sector - all of the female CEOs from our research headed up finance companies. Chanda Kochhar, the chief executive of ICICI, the country's second largest bank - recently said that, in India, companies promote on merit, not gender, and this does indeed seem to be the case. When the finance sector expanded due to nationalization in the 1970s, it coordinated with increasing numbers of middle class women entering the workplace. Suddenly, there were plenty of jobs and women were keen to be involved in the financial sector as it appeared both safe and glamorous. Leadership style could also play a role - recent research from Grant Thornton found that emerging economies appear more open to the use of coaching, intuition and creativity whereas their European counterparts prefer more traditional leadership styles.

Digging deeper into our research did reveal some interesting variations, for example, that one third of all Swiss CEOs are actually foreign, or that women were most likely to have studied business and men economics. Ultimately however, the variations are few and far between - the very top of organizations look the same no matter where you are based. Diversity is what makes our lives interesting, what keeps us interested in our friends and what makes us enjoy our jobs. Why then, when we have been able to embrace diversity in so many areas, are we still struggling to embrace the same level of diversity in leadership? Of course, it is encouraging to see emerging markets embracing change, but if the rest of us don't catch up quickly, we'll certainly be left behind.