Female CEOs showed more inclusive leadership style than men throughout pandemic, study suggests

CEOs who are women exhibited a different leadership style than their male counterparts during the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating more empathy, adaptability, accountability and diversity, according to a May 25 report by S&P Global.

The report studied the transcripts of leaders at nearly 5,000 companies worldwide from March 9 to Dec. 31.

Five key findings from the report:

  1. CEOs who were women exhibited a more positive communication style at the peak of the pandemic, using more words expressing trust and anticipation. CEOs of both genders expressed negative sentiment at a comparable frequency.

  2. Female CEOs are significantly underrepresented. Women at companies in the S&P Global Broad Market Index accounted for 5 percent of CEOs on Jan. 25, 2021, compared with 4.9 percent on Feb. 8, 2020. There were 8,047 male CEOs and 411 female CEOs in 2020. By 2021, there were 8,031 male CEOs and 427 female CEOs.

  3. Healthcare and real estate companies are about four times more likely to have a female CEO than energy companies. The top three sectors that have female CEOs are real estate, healthcare and utilities. The three sectors with the lowest number of female CEOs are energy, industrials and materials.

  4. Male CEOs are more prone to discussing metrics, which shows a performance-dominant leadership style. Men were more likely to use words like "profit," "acquisition" and "balance sheet." Their female counterparts were more likely to use words like "customer engagement," "customer satisfaction" and "mission."

  5. For words about family and labor concepts, the three top words men used were "parent," "unemployment" and "state of emergency." Female CEOs took a different approach, using words like "maternity," "paternity" and "gender."

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