- PepsiCo announced on Monday that Indra Nooyi would be stepping down as CEO and be replaced by the company’s president, Ramon Laguarta.
- Nooyi is the latest of high-profile women running Fortune 500 companies to step down in recent months, with male executives taking their places.
- “It concerns me in that we can actually count how many there are, as opposed to saying there are hundreds,” Nooyi told Fortune.
- The number of Fortune 500 companies led by women dropped by 25% from 2017 to 2018.
In 2017, Fortune reported that more women than ever before were leading the 500 largest companies by revenue in the United States. With 32 Fortune 500 companies led by women, that was a peak of just over 6% – a figure that has since dropped.
In just one year, the number of Fortune 500 companies led by women declined by 25%, Fortune reported when it published its 2018 list in May. When Nooyi steps down as PepsiCo’s CEO in October, it is looking like there will be just 24 Fortune 500 companies led by women.
Recent departures include Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of snack food giant Mondelez, and Meg Whitman, the only woman to have run two Fortune 500 companies (eBay and, most recently, Hewlett Packard Enterprise). Both women were replaced by male CEOs; Nooyi will also be replaced by a man, PepsiCo veteran Ramon Laguarta.
“It concerns me in that we can actually count how many there are, as opposed to saying there are hundreds,” Nooyi told Fortune on Monday.
In many cases, such as Nooyi’s, these chief executives have decided to leave the company with carefully constructed succession plans. However, research shows that female executives are generally more likely to be blamed for companies’ struggles.
A 2016 report from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Global Strategy Group found that female CEOs were substantially more likely to be seen as the source of companies’ problems. In a study of more than 100 news stories about 20 CEOs, researchers found that female CEOs were blamed as the source of the crisis in 80% of stories. Meanwhile, male CEOs were only blamed 31% of the time.
Nooyi is also one of the few women of color to lead a Fortune 500 company. There are currently no African-American women on the list of Fortune 500 CEOs.