Women CEOs show more inclusive leadership

S&P Global research finds women leaders emphasised flexibility and adaptability during pandemic

Women in discussion


Natalie Kenway

Women CEOs displayed more empathy, and were more open to flexibility and adaptability when communicating with staff during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, research has revealed.

S&P Global analysed the language of 4,958 earnings calls from 1 January 2019 through to 31 December 2020, and found on average, women CEOs scored higher for positive sentiment and used words related to trust more frequently than men. 

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The rating provider worked with the recently launched Diversity Research Lab and Panthéon-Assas Management Science Research Laboratory (LARGEPA), the management science laboratory within the University of Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas, on the project, which concluded women had a more inclusive leadership style during the pandemic.

“Our research identified clear gender affinities for key concepts and words during the peak pandemic period across nearly 8,500 companies in 61 countries that we examined,” said Daniela Brandazza, senior director and analytical manager at S&P Global Ratings and a lead author of the report.

“We concluded women CEOs favoured a leadership and communication style that emphasised flexibility and adaptability during a crisis period, enabling their connection with employees and other stakeholders. As our research shows, women CEOs may be leading the way in this regard even if their relative numbers remain small.”

The report also concluded little progress had been made on gender equity at the CEO level with men outnumbering their women counterparts by a ratio of 19:1. There highest number of women CEOs were in Norway and Singapore – but this was still low at 14% and 12% respectively. The lowest percentage was in Brazil where there were zero women CEOs, while Japan had just 0.8%.

Dr. Gabriel Morin, associate professor of leadership development for LARGEPA, commented:  “Quota policy is a way forward that we believe is more of a transitional means to achieve deeper change. The impact of women CEOs as role models seems to be far more inspiring.”

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