Why is CEO turnover in the US so high?

From January to September this year, 1,425 CEOs in the US left their post – the highest total ever recorded by researchers Challenger, Gray & Christmas

Change at the top has been impacting many of the world’s biggest companies throughout 2023.

And now, fresh research published by Challenger, Gray & Christmas has revealed the shocking extent of CEO turnover in the US during the first nine months of the year. 

From January to September, 1,425 Chief Executives left their post, up 47% compared to the same period last year and the highest total ever recorded by the executive outplacement specialist since it began tracking this data in 2002.

In September alone, 164 CEOs left their jobs, a dramatic increase (122%) from the 74 who moved on in the same month last year. 

During the third quarter, 518 CEOs departed – the most in a quarter on record and a 166% rise compared to the same period in 2022. 

Number of new female CEOs holds steady

The rate of new female CEOs held steady during the first nine months of 2023.

Women accounted for 29% of newly-appointed chiefs from January to September, up from 26% in the same period last year. 

The rate of new female CEOs in the US held steady during the first nine months of 2023

Female CEOs leaving the top job was 22%, up from 18% last year, but 2023 has seen more new female CEOs than in any previous year where data has been collected by Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

Looking at September, 42% of new female CEOs went into government/non-profit organisations. Almost 10% were appointed at healthcare or product companies, while 7% took up positions at hospitals. 

The traditionally male-dominated fields of finance and technology accounted for 6% and 4% of new appointments respectively. 

CEOs head for the exit door

Researchers found almost a third (31%) of companies whose CEOs departed from January to September were reluctant to provide a reason, up from 24% last year. Retirement was the reason for 22% of all exits.

Almost 50 CEOs found new positions within their existing organisations, usually heading up another division or location within the umbrella company, while 241 (17%) “stepped down” into other C-level, advisory or board roles. 

Government/non-profit was the sector with the most CEO exits in September, with 28. 

Andrew Challenger, a workplace expert and SVP at Challenger, Gray and Christmas, suggests a testing set of social, economic and political circumstances is influencing change. 

“Companies are revving up for economic changes in the coming months,” says Challenger. 

“With the rise of labour costs and interest rates, companies are looking to new leaders.”

Meanwhile, eight leaders left their posts due to allegations of professional misconduct and two departed due to sexual harassment allegations.


For more business insights, check out the latest edition of Business Chief US and Canada and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

You may also be interested in the Business Chief UK & Europe website.


BizClik is a global provider of B2B digital media platforms that cover executive communities for CEOs, CFOs and CMOs, as well as leaders in Sustainability, Procurement & Supply Chain, Technology & AI, Cyber, FinTech & InsurTech. We also cover industries including Manufacturing, Mining, Energy, EV, Construction, Healthcare and Food & Drink.

BizClik, based in London, Dubai and New York, offers services such as content creation, advertising and sponsorship solutions, webinars and events.


Featured Articles

Amelia DeLuca, CSO at Delta Air Lines on Female Leadership

Driving decarbonisation at Delta Air Lines, Chief Sustainability Officer Amelia DeLuca discusses the rise of the CSO and value of more women in leadership

Liz Elting – Driving Equality & Building Billion-$ Business

Founder and CEO Liz Elting Turned Her Passion into Purpose and Created a Billion-Dollar Business While Fighting for Workplace Equality – and Winning

JPMorgan Chase: Committed to supporting the next generation

JPMorgan has unveiled a host of new and expanded philanthropic activities totalling US$3.5 million to support the development of apprenticeship programmes

How efficient digital ecosystems became business critical

Technology & AI

Mastercard: Supporting clients at a time of rapid evolution

Digital Strategy

Why Ceridian has boldly rebranded to Dayforce

Human Capital