Influence 100 Insights 2021, Demographics & Background

Insights: Demographics & Background

The following data is based on responses from a survey sent to this year‘s Influence 100, and where applicable, further analysis. Some percentages might not equal exactly 100% due to rounding.

The following data is based on responses from a survey sent to this year's Influence 100, and where applicable, further analysis. Some percentages might not equal exactly 100% due to rounding.

Who Are The 100? 



After a big shake-up last year when nearly a third of the table were new entrants, for 2021 there are 16 new entrants to the 2021 Influence 100, due to a range factors including job changes (several high profile in-house leaders have left their roles over the past year) and the rise of various executives, companies and sectors. 

North America remains dominant, with 57 influencers from this region (last year it was 56%). Meanwhile, 29% come from EMEA (the same as last year, although we have a couple more faces from the Middle East and Africa and slightly fewer from the UK and Continental Europe), 14% from Asia-Pacific (up from 13% last year and 10% in 2019) and, as last year, 2% from Latin America.


For the second year running, we’re delighted to have not only achieved gender balance but to actually have even more powerful women in global communications leadership roles than men in the Influence 100, with 55 women and 45 men. This is a continuing upward trajectory from 38 women in 2018, 47 women in 2019 and 54 women in 2020.

Ethnic diversity 

We again looked at the racial diversity of our 100 influencers after introducing this data last year as part of PRovoke Media’s commitment to increasing the visibility of Black and ethnic minority communications professionals. The Influence 100 has long struggled with diversity and inclusion, as it prioritises the heads of communications and marketing functions. We believe that this kind of change must be made visible for it to happen, and including more people of colour on this list is one way to ensure that they are more often considered for leadership roles.

In an industry that is overwhelmingly white in the US and Europe, where the majority of our influencers are based – particularly at a senior level – we have again applied a certain amount of conscious bias towards representation of Black and ethnic minority professionals. To that end, we’ve looked at a wider range of job titles beyond the CMO and CCO roles. There’s no-one in the table who isn’t at the top of their game or one of the most senior global comms professionals within their organisation, but it’s a more interesting picture that also reflects the evolution of the PR industry itself, including heads of sustainability, digital transformation and brand.

When the Influence 100 first launched, around 90% of the list was white. We have since made a conscious effort to redress this imbalance. In the 2019 version, 23 of the 100 executives were PoC, but only four were Black. In 2020, the table was 30% made of up people of colour and 10% Black, with 6% being Black women, a particularly under-represented group in the industry.

Our target for this year was again for 25% of the Influence 100 to be PoC and 15% to be Black. In fact, 30% of the listing are people of colour, but – again – only 10% are Black and 5% are Black women. It’s still an improvement on pre-2020 numbers, but we’ve again only partially hit our targets.


With practically every company now a technology company to a greater or lesser extent, breaking down the Influence 100 by sector has become increasingly complex. Our categories focus on what the organisations our influencers work for actually do or sell, not how they do it or whether their audience is consumer or B2B. So, for example, Amazon is a retailer, Uber is a transport firm, and Paypal is a financial services company.

Our categories split out mainly consumer-facing brands, including putting FMCG (including fashion and beauty) and automotive together but separating out food and drink, and media and entertainment. Our ‘social and search’ category includes Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, rather than putting them in the technology cohort. Meanwhile, the technology category is old-school: traditional hardware and software companies, plus telecoms and electronics.

The split between sectors is more or less the same as last year. There was a lift in presence for technology and telco, up from 15% to 17% of our cohort, and in our health-conscious times, for healthcare, up from 5% to 8%. 


Our Influence 100 communicators and marketers have worked for their current company for an average of 8.8 years, a little up on last year’s average tenure of 7.1 years. 

The longest-serving influencers include Michael Sneed, J&J’s worldwide VP, global corporate affairs and chief communication officer, who has been with the firm for 38 years; Masayoshi Shirayanagi, who has been with Toyota for 37 years; Conny Braams, who has been at Unilever for 30 years; Jan Runau, who has worked at Adidas for 29 years, and Bea Perez, who has worked at Coca-Cola for 27 years. 

In fact, 14% of the 2021 cohort have been with their employer in various roles for 20 years or more, compared with 11% last year, and 29% have been with their current company for two years or less, compared with 34% in 2020. 

The Early Days


Nearly all our Influence 100 are educated to at least first degree level, although a small number (2%, the same as last year) have proved that it’s still possible to get to the top without a college or university education. Of this year’s cohort, 58% are educated to first degree level (compared to 50% last year), and almost 40% also have an advanced degree, down from 48% in 2020.

In terms of the most popular subjects for study, there was a clear bias towards degrees focused on marketing, communications, journalism and PR, but the second biggest category was political science, international relations and economics. Many of our influencers also have a MBA or other business or management qualification. There are very few pure English graduates, and only a scattering of languages, law, sociology and other humanities degrees. At least two of our cohort, however, come from a science background, with degrees in engineering and chemistry.