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Women in Business: Top Companies with Female CEOs

Tuesday, January 21, 2020 | Matthew Sweeney
Women in Business: Top Companies with Female CEOs

CEO stands for “chief executive officer,” which is a gender-neutral term. That said, it shouldn’t surprise you that many female leaders have climbed the corporate ladder to become women CEOs of the biggest, most prestigious companies from around the world.

Top 10 Companies with Female CEOs

You might wonder what the presence or lack of female executives has to do with Wall Street and deciding which stocks to buy. But while the role of gender equality in any given industry might not be part of an investor’s typical process of fundamental analysis, it cannot be ignored that an increasing number of women are closing the gender gap with men to hold CEO positions. Some women, such as the Cuban-born Geisha Williams (former chief executive of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company), have not only become women in leadership, they have closed racial and cultural gaps in leadership. This gives hope to future men and women leaders who feel trapped by the glass ceiling in terms of advancing their career...whether or not they make it as far as becoming CEO and president of a large corporation.

Short-term traders who play the stock market are always looking to profit from the biggest winners and biggest stock losers. By contrast, long-term investors are looking to capitalize off of monthly dividend stocks. But no matter your strategy, it’s certainly interesting to take a look at the companies you’re buying and selling, and see who’s the captain of the ship. But even more than just satisfying curiosity, this type of fundamental analysis—such as who the CEO, what is their track record, and what is their strategy—can be a big part of what goes into stock analyst ratings.

Top 10 Companies with Female CEOs

Here are some of the biggest companies in the world, headed by some of the biggest and most impactful leaders in the business world—who also happen to be women.

Anthem (NYSE: ANTM) is the fourth largest for-profit health insurance company in the Blue Cross corporate family, with 40 million subscribers. Anthem’s CEO is Gail Koziara Boudreaux, who Forbes and Fortune have ranked on their list of the 100 most powerful women. Prior to Anthem, Koziara headed Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois, and United Health Group—which shows investors that Anthem is piloted by a woman with a lot of experience leading an insurance company.

From 2014-2017, Boudreaux was elected to head her own consulting company, GKB Global Health. She was named CEO of Anthem in 2017, the second-largest company in the world to be headed by a woman CEO. Koziaria played college basketball for Dartmouth, was named the Ivy League MVP three years running, and still holds a number of records to this day. Her involvement in college basketball led to receiving the Billie Jean King Contribution Award in 2018.

General Dynamics (NYSE: GD) is one of the largest aerospace and defense contractors—the fifth largest in the United States and the sixth largest in the world in terms of sales. General Dynamics' greatest claim to fame is the F-16 fighter jet, although GD later sold its aviation unit to Lockheed. Today, General Dynamics focuses mostly on shipbuilding and land craft, like the M1 Abrams Tank.

General Dynamics is headed by CEO Phebe Novakovic, an American businesswoman of Serbian descent who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Department of Defense until 2001 when she joined General Dynamics. By 2012, Novakovic had risen through the ranks to become President and COO. One year later, she began serving as the Chairman of the Board and the CEO of General Dynamics. A woman of diverse business interests, she also sits on the board of Abbott Laboratories, a Chicago-based health care company that manufactures Pedialyte, Ensure, and Similac.

Kohl’s (NYSE: KSS) is a department store chain with almost 1,200 locations in every state except Hawaii, making it the largest department store chain in the United States. The company surpassed its biggest competitor, JCPenney, in 2012. Michelle Gass has been the CEO of Kohl’s since 2018. Gass worked for Procter & Gamble and Starbucks before Kohl’s, perhaps leveraging the chemical engineering degree she obtained from Worcester Polytechnic and her MBA from the University of Washington.

Forbes and other publications have described Gass as the secret weapon of Starbucks. She was instrumental in leading big initiatives in her 16-year tenure at Starbucks, including the development of Frappuccinos, along with leading the company as president of their European, Asian, and African operations. Gass is actually Kohl’s first CEO, man or woman. Since her leadership, the company has seen major gains in its stock performance, which bodes well for investors of this retail giant. For those investors interested in dividends (at the time of this article), Kohl’s had a dividend yield of almost 6%.

Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF) is the largest provider of private label credit cards in the United States, operating the magic behind the plastic for retail venues in diverse verticals from Guitar Center to Lowe’s to Gap. Synchrony has been headed by Margaret Keane since 2014, one of two women heading a US bank valued over $10 billion and independently traded on the stock exchange. Synchrony happens to be the most valuable bank run by a woman after it was spun off of General Electric’s financial services division.

Keane was the only one of her siblings to not follow in her father’s footsteps and join or marry into law enforcement. Instead, she went to college and got a call center job in the debt collection department of Citibank, climbing the ranks until 16 years later, she was running Citibank’s domestic retail operations. From there she headed over to GE, where she held a number of executive positions until taking the reins at Synchrony.

The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) is one of the largest chocolate producers in the world. They also make cookies, cakes, milk, and other drinks. They also run a theme park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is a township named after the company.

As of 2017, Hershey is headed by Michelle Buck, a native of the Keystone State. Buck certainly has experience in the food industry, serving 17 years at Kraft-Nabisco in various leadership capacities, along with stints at PepsiCo's Frito-Lay. Before becoming CEO, Buck was the COO of Hershey, overseeing their American operations and leading the process of acquiring Krave Beef Jerky and BarkThins. Continuing to lead Hershey into diversifying its holdings into healthier venues, Buck has also spearheaded a $1.6 billion deal to buy Amplify Snack Foods, the maker of SkinnyPop and Pirate’s Booty.

Based in the California Bay Area, Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) is a computer tech company that sells cloud systems, database software and technology, and enterprise software for companies that need large-scale data management. As of 2018, Oracle was the fourth largest software company in the US and one of the top ten globally in terms of revenue. Oracle is headed by Safra Catz, an Israeli-born banker with a track record in executive tech positions, such as the ones she’s held within Oracle since 1999.

Prior to Oracle, this Wharton grad was a banker at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, an investment bank that has since been acquired by the Swiss Credit Suisse. Catz has also served on the board of HSBC and will serve on the board of the Walt Disney Company. Catz was one of the CEOs invited to speak with President-elect Donald Trump about a cabinet position, and at this time remains the highest-paid female CEO of any American company.

General Motors (NYSE: GM) is a Detroit-based international corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells automobiles and financial services. It is the largest carmaker in the United States and one of the largest globally, ranking just outside the top ten of the Fortune 500 companies in terms of revenue. Mary Barra is the CEO of General Motors and has been since 2014 when she became the first CEO of a major car manufacturing company.

Before being summoned to this leadership post, Barra was the vice president of global product development and supply chain at GM. In fact, Barra had worked at GM since she was 18 years old, inspecting car parts to pay her way through school. She moved on to a variety of admin and engineering roles, which included overseeing an assembly plant in Detroit. In 2008, she became the VP of Global Manufacturing and Engineering. Under Barra’s tenure, GM has attempted to reduce its number of automobile platforms, while transitioning into the tech space to compete with companies like Uber and Tesla.

KeyCorp is the parent company of KeyBank (NYSE: KEY), a regional bank based in Cincinnati. It ranks 28th on the list of the 100 largest American banks. KeyBank operates almost 1,200 branches in 29 different states and is headed by CEO Beth. E. Mooney.

After graduating with a BA in history from the University of Texas, Mooney decided to go into banking and worked in the real estate department of First City National Bank of Houston. Mooney went on to serve as the regional president of Bank One in Akron and Dayton, and became the president of Bank One Ohio in 2000. Over the course of the next six years, she held leadership positions in a number of banks, including Tennessee and North Louisiana Banking Group, AmSouth, and Regions Financial Corporation. Mooney served as the CEO of KeyBank since 2011, but as of 2020, she will be making a transition to serve on the board of Cleveland Clinic, a world-class, non-profit medical research center.

Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) is an international electronics store that was once an audio tech store called Sound of Music, rebranding in 1983 to emphasize a broader array of consumer electronics. Dubbed the “largest specialty retailer for electronics,” Best Buy ranks 72nd in terms of US corporations in terms of revenue, according to the Fortune 500. Corie Barry is CEO of Best Buy, and in addition to being one of seven women among Fortune 100 CEOs, she is also one of the youngest top executives at a public company at 44 years of age.

Corie Barry has a reputation for reaching out to people at all levels of Best Buy in her strategy for the company, which has fostered accolades of her humanity, authenticity, and purpose. Prior to Best Buy, Barry spent two years at accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, before joining Best Buy as a financial analyst. Moving up the ranks to lead finance teams, she picked up other operational leadership roles, such as strategic growth. In 2016, she was named CEO, and she also sits on the board of Domino’s Pizza and the University of Minnesota’s Business School.

IBM (NYSE: IBM), once the International Business Machine, is a New York based information technology company that does business in over 170 countries. IBM creates and sells both hardware and software, along with selling consulting services in diverse areas involving tech. IBM is also a powerhouse of a research-based business, holding the record for US patents filed by a business for more than 25 consecutive years. IBM inventions include the ATM, disk drives, magnetic stripes (like those on a credit card) and the UPC barcode.

Today, the CEO of IBM is Ginni Rometty, the first woman to lead IBM. Rometty has been with “Big Blue” since 1981, when she joined as a systems engineer before heading global sales, marketing, and strategy. One of Rometty’s key moves was orchestrating the acquisition of London-based PwC Consulting. Since becoming CEO, Rometty has focused the business on cloud computing, analytics, and cognitive computing. Bloomberg, Fortune, Time, and Forbes have all given Rometty noteworthy awards and global rankings in terms of power and influence.

What Percent of Fortune 500 CEOs Are Women?

As of 2019, 6.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women—that means 33 women CEOs. At the very top was Mary Barra of General Motors (#13), Gail Koziara Boudreaux of Anthem (#33) and Ginni Rometty of IBM (#38). Despite the low percentage, it’s the largest ever in history and a sizable jump from 24 female (4.8%) CEOs of 2018. A big part of this increase may be due to the fact that more women and minorities are sitting on corporate boards—15% of Fortune 500 boards as of fifteen years ago, and 25% today...and CEOs are elected by the board.

How Do Companies with Female CEOs Perform Compared to Those with Male CEOs?

Some studies have shown that women in executive roles have a positive impact on company performance—bigger profits, higher margins, and more returns for investors—which, of course, is good news for investors with a dividend investing strategy. A 2016 report from Credit Suisse attributed superior sales growth, strong cash flow, and reduced leverage among companies where women had decision-making power.

Another study by McKinsey and Company, partnering with the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, found that companies with a higher percentage of women in leadership roles performed better financially, and the findings of this study were echoed by research from Catalyst, the Finnish bank Nordea, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and the University of California at Davis.

Increasing the number of women leaders among industry leaders who are men is part of an ongoing struggle that includes eliminating sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and other workplace inequalities in terms of gender. The percentage points are showing that there is positive movement in this area, though arguably not yet enough. There is still plenty of room for growth.

Women in Business

Some of the most sizable and successful companies in the world are headed by women CEOs. As the percentage of women CEOs increases over the years, there will likely be more studies done on gender, power, and economics. But in all honesty, such studies may not interest the traders and investors of Wall Street very much. Business is business, and when business is good, it means huge payoffs for investors. After all, “chief executive officer” is a gender-neutral term.

Companies Mentioned in This Article

CompanyBeat the Market™ RankCurrent PricePrice ChangeDividend YieldP/E RatioConsensus RatingConsensus Price Target
Anthem (ANTM)2.1$312.80+1.2%1.21%16.17Buy$343.94
General Dynamics (GD)2.7$152.06+0.0%2.89%13.80Hold$172.38
Kohl's (KSS)1.4$33.50+0.1%N/A-47.86Hold$31.47
Synchrony Financial (SYF)2.3$31.09-0.9%2.83%14.26Buy$26.97
The Hershey (HSY)1.9$148.05-0.1%2.17%29.03Hold$149.20
Oracle (ORCL)2.4$57.76+0.6%1.66%18.11Hold$60.90
General Motors (GM)2.0$45.06-0.9%N/A20.21Buy$43.06
KeyCorp (KEY)2.9$16.33-1.1%4.53%14.20Hold$18.28
Best Buy (BBY)2.3$112.63-1.1%1.95%17.12Buy$108.00
International Business Machines (IBM)3.0$124.35+0.1%5.24%14.08Hold$140.07
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