Long after Harvey Weinstein’s disgrace and the beginning of #MeToo, the dominoes continue to fall.
Specifically, the movement continues to rattle the foundations of the business world, where a record number of CEOs left their posts in 2018 (the highest number since the departures of the financial crisis in 2008).
In the final three months of 2018 alone, American companies changed 425 CEOs, according to a report by job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s 45% higher than the number of CEOs who left at the end of 2017. According to the firm’s vice president, Andrew Challenger, “Boards are anticipating a changing environment and putting leadership in place who are capable of succeeding in it.”1
Of course, all business environmental changes don’t have to do with gender politics (tech advances and a wobbly stock market are more to blame than anything else), but eight CEOs left prominent companies in 2018 due to sexual misconduct allegations, and another four left due to professional misconduct.2
What’s shifting more broadly is the CEO’s role and responsibility in the business sphere, and his/her ability to be held accountable.
For example, June 2018 saw the departure from Intel of CEO Brian Krzanich for a consensual relationship with a subordinate that violated company policy.3 In a different era people may have looked the other way, but in the era of social media and #MeToo, this transgression is 100% a liability (to say nothing of the more sinister allegations brought against CEOs such as CBS’s Les Moonves).
The continuing repercussions of this movement – the increasing precedent for these sorts of things to come to light – is creating a small cascade of #PRFAILs. Gone are the days when nobody crossed the CEO – when the C Suite had free reign. Now the rules apply to everyone. And companies who haven’t been living by that standard are going to feel it where it hurts – in high-profile departures, instability, and negative PR.
1) Horowitz, Julia. “CEO Churn Was the Highest Last Year since 2008.” CNN, Cable News Network, 9 Jan. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/01/09/business/ceo-departures-economy/index.html.
2) Ross, Katherine. “Intel CEO Resigns after Revelation of Past Relationship with Employee.” TheStreet, TheStreet, 21 June 2018, www.thestreet.com/technology/intel-ceo-brian-krzanich-resigns-after-past-relationship-with-employee-14629145.