Accenture adds woman to ranks of corporate CEOs by appointing Julie Sweet

Julie Sweet will become the new chief executive of Accenture, the consulting firm announced Thursday, adding another female leader to the senior-most ranks of the corporate world.

With Sweet’s appointment, 27 women will be leading companies in the S&P 500. That figure is up slightly from a year ago, but still means that just slightly more than 5% of the most valuable public companies in the United States are led by women.

Sweet, a former lawyer who is currently Accenture’s head of North America, will bring a measure of stability to the firm, which has been without a permanent leader for most of the year. In January, Pierre Nanterme stepped down as chief executive, citing poor health. Nanterme led the company for eight years, significantly enlarging Accenture’s market value, influence and head count.

Accenture’s chief financial officer at the time, David Rowland, was tapped to serve as interim chief executive while the board conducted a search for a full-time replacement. Nanterme died in January.

Rowland will become executive chairman of Accenture. KC McClure, who took over as chief financial officer from Rowland in January, will continue in her role, making Accenture the rare company to have women in both the chief financial officer and chief executive roles.

“On this day, I am focused on the fact that I am the fifth CEO of Accenture since we became a public company,” Sweet said. “I represent all our employees, which includes over 200,000 women.”

A former lawyer at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Sweet was recruited to become Accenture’s general counsel in 2010. After five years in that role, she became chief executive for North America, Accenture’s largest market, with annual revenues of $17.8 billion.

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