Female CEOs communicate more positively in crisis: study

Female CEOs employ a more positive communication style than their male counterparts, and they are on the rise in the healthcare sector, according to an Oct. 24 S&P Global report. 

To produce its "Women CEOs: Leadership for a Diverse Future" report, S&P Global completed a language analysis of 6,831 corporate leaders across 5,801 companies. The data sets reflected the deficit in female CEOs — only 442 of the transcripts were from women — but the analysis was normalized to account for this imbalance, according to the report. 

The report found that diversity has replaced accountability as the most important trait in female CEOs' leadership style. They also were found to communicate more positively, meaning they use words such as "growth," "continue," "good" and "customer" more often than men. By contrast, men were more likely to use words such as "transaction" and "performance." 

The report also compared male and female CEOs' expressions from early in the COVID-19 pandemic to later in the pandemic. They found women used more expressions of joy while men used more expressions of anger. And as the pandemic progressed, the difference widened. 

S&P Global said women's positive leadership style can enhance male leaders' by making their tactics more comprehensive and sustainable. 

"So far, our latest data indicate that the type of positive communication style favored often by women CEOs seems more aligned with the concept of authentic leadership that draws from and mirrors the diversity of society," the report said. 

The report also zeroed in on the distribution of female CEOs across different industries. Healthcare had the second-largest concentration of female CEOs at 8.3 percent, following real estate at 8.7 percent. From 2021 to 2022, the number of female CEOs in healthcare grew 1.3 percent. 

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