Female CEOs in Chicago lose more ground – Consumer News

on Sep20

19 September 2017 | 10:30 am

Is it a blip or a worrisome trend? With Ilene Gordon’s announced retirement as food processor Ingredion’s CEO, Chicago’s two largest women-run companies will revert to male CEOs.

In 2014 Crain’s assembled a list of Chicago’s 20 most powerful women. Since then, five of the top eight, including Gordon and Mondelez’s Irene Rosenfeld, have stepped down or said they would, with only one successor a female: Paula Steiner replaced Patricia Hemingway Hall at Health Care Service Corp. (A successor is pending at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce for CEO Theresa Mintle.)

Moreover, Sally Blount, the first woman to head a top business school, recently announced she will depart next year as dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Nationally, the number of Fortune 500 firms run by women rose to a record 32 this year after dropping to 21 last year. But Rosenfeld’s and Gordon’s retirements, coupled with Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer’s and Avon’s Sheri McCoy’s, could reduce the total to 28.

That’s still much better than in 2006, when there were 10 female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, or 20 years ago, when there were two, according to research group Catalyst. Tripling of the number over the last decade naturally set the stage for a wave of retirements. Gordon will turn 65 in July, two months after Rosenfeld does.

Trouble is, fewer women are in the C-suite pipeline.

Gordon will be succeeded on Jan. 1 by James Zallie, an Ingredion executive vice president. Rosenfeld will be replaced at the snack maker by Dirk Van de Put, CEO of Canada’s McCain Foods, in November.

“The talent isn’t there,” says Josh Crist, a managing director at executive recruiter Crist/Kolder Associates in Downers Grove, speaking generally of the lack of internal CEO candidates who are women. “Unfortunately, you can’t point to why. Whether it’s the fault of companies or strictly coincidental, it’s hard to say.”

Last month Crist/Kolder, relying on Crain’s data, said 8.1 percent of the largest public companies in Chicago are led by women, unchanged from the previous year. (The national figure is 5.8 percent.) Besides Mondelez (No. 10 on Crain’s list) and Ingredion (No. 33), only one other woman-led company is in Crain’s top 50: Ulta Beauty, headed by Mary Dillon.

The showing is even weaker on Crain’s list of the largest privately held companies, where 6.7 percent have female CEOs. No. 2 is Health Care Service Corp., parent of Blue Cross & Blue Shield. The next-largest woman-led firm is American Hotel Register, at No. 55. Angela Korompilas is CEO.

Susan Gallagher is chair-elect of the Chicago Network, a group of more than 450 professional women—and a CEO herself, of the U.S. operations of HR consultant BPI Group. “One of the key attributes going forward will be resilience—the ability to react, bounce, act very fast. And I think women are very good at that,” she points out. “That said, there are still barriers at the highest level.”

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