March 28, 2023

New Fortune 500 General Counsels a More Diverse & Experienced Group

A recent Russell Reynolds report on GC hiring trends among Fortune 500 companies includes a number of interesting conclusions about the increasingly diverse makeup of CGs and how their roles are evolving. Here are some of the highlights:

– More women than men were appointed to the Fortune 500 general counsel role for the first time in history. 38% of appointed GCs were ethnically diverse for the first time in history. This was an increase of 12% over 2021, which was already a high water mark at 34% of appointments.

– Despite the impressive diversity headline, female legal executives below the GC level are less likely to get the opportunity to step into the top legal job compared to their male counterparts. 67% of male GCs are first timers in the role, vs. only 60% of female GCs and only 51% of ethnically diverse GCs. The report also suggests that female and ethnically diverse GCs need stronger educational credentials than their male counterparts in order to achieve their positions.

– The crisis environment under which many companies have operated in recent years has put a premium on experience. Only 56% of GCs appointed after the start of the pandemic (March 2020) are first-timers in the job, compared to 67% of those appointed pre-pandemic. Industry experience is also highly valued, although that preference varies among industries.

The report also notes that the percentage of newly hired Fortune 500 GCs responsible for their company’s compliance program declined from 37% in 2021 to 22% in 2022, while the percentage of those who served as corporate secretary remained relatively constant (62% in 2021 v. 60% in 2022).

John Jenkins