CEO Abby Johnson transformed Fidelity Investments from a firm reliant on active management of traditional mutual funds to one that now offers financial advice, brokerage services, and index funds. GM GM CEO Mary Barra, the first woman CEO of a Big Three automaker, is pushing innovation in electric vehicles. CEO Sallie Krawcheck, who launched Ellevest as a digital financial advisor for women, is an outspoken—and often quoted—proponent of closing the gender pay gap.
Don’t let these successful headline makers fool you, though: Women still hold a disproportionately small number of CEO roles among U.S. companies. How small? Only 9% of the companies on Morningstar’s list of the Best Companies to Own are led by female CEOs.
Of course, buying a stock simply because the company’s CEO is a woman doesn’t make any more investment sense than buying a stock simply because the company’s CEO is a man. Instead, you want to examine fundamentals, consider valuation, and apply whatever other investment metrics matter to you before buying. Moreover, CEOs come and go. That woman-led company may be managed by a man—and vice versa—soon enough.
Inspired by International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting the companies with female CEOs that made our list of the best companies to own in 2024. These companies earned their spot on the list by having carved out wide Morningstar Economic Moat Ratings and having made smart decisions with their capital.
Morningstar Capital Allocation Rating
|Information Technology Services
|Automatic Data Processing Inc
|Staffing & Employment Services
|Canadian National Railway Co
|Household & Personal Products
|Beverages - Wineries & Distilleries
|General Dynamics Corp
|Aerospace & Defense
|Drug Manufacturers - General
|Northrop Grumman Corp
|Aerospace & Defense
|Otis Worldwide Corp
|Specialty Industrial Machinery
|The Hershey Co
|United Parcel Service Inc
|Integrated Freight & Logistics
|Yum China Holdings Inc
|Drug Manufacturers - Specialty & Generic
Here’s a closer look at three of the names from this list of high-quality companies with women CEOs.
Accenture’s CEO Julie Sweet took over the helm in 2019 after nearly 10 years at the company and holding various positions, including CEO of Accenture’s North American business, general counsel, secretary, and chief compliance officer. She strives to promote a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Accenture and beyond.
“Accenture is one of the largest IT-services companies in the world, providing both consulting and outsourcing capabilities. We think that Accenture’s growth will remain at a healthy and gradual pace, rather than experience a massive uptick. Still, with the company’s prominent reputation, which we believe to be crucial to the consulting business, and its proven ability to bring expertise to a gamut of enterprise issues, we are confident Accenture will maintain its wide economic moat.
“As a consultant, Accenture provides solutions for specific enterprise problems as well as broad-scope strategies in addition to integrating software for more than 75% of the global top 500 companies. As an outsourcer, Accenture offers business process outsourcing like procurement services as well as application management. Slicing across both divisions, Accenture has stressed the increasing portion of its business as ‘the new.’ This includes its digital marketing agency, Accenture Interactive, as well as its applied intelligence, supply chain, cloud, and security services. In our opinion, however, there is always something new in the realm of enterprise technology to keep Accenture relevant and engaged with its most important customers.
“In our view, Accenture's wide moat stems from intangible assets associated with a stellar reputation for reliability and strategic and technological know-how, especially with large, risk-averse enterprise customers. We also believe Accenture benefits from high customer switching costs as its key customers are loath to switch service providers for large or ongoing contracts. Further, we think Accenture generates industry-leading returns on capital because of its scale, given that there are only so many blueprints and software partners that an IT-services company needs to solve enterprise problems. Plus, with Accenture having one of the largest IT workforces (at half a million) and an industry-leading number of diamond accounts (typically $100 million annually or more), smaller IT-services companies may find it hard to keep up with the increasing innovation and know-how required to service enterprise technology.”
—Julie Bhusal Sharma, analyst
Clorox CEO Linda Rendle assumed her position in 2020 after 20 years with the company and holding various leadership roles. She also values diversity, equity, and inclusion and attributes her career trajectory to mentors who have supported her along the way.
“The fruits of Clorox’s feverish work to put pronounced inflationary headwinds and supply chain angst to rest were recently waylaid as a cybersecurity breach in mid-August forced it to take some information technology systems (including ordering) offline. Although this strangled sales and profits, we don’t surmise the firm’s competitive edge has been eroded. On the contrary, we think its entrenched standing with retailers has already and will continue to enable it to build back its shelf position, similar to its inventory revival during the pandemic.
“Importantly, we expect management will continue investing to ensure its competitive edge holds. In light of the stepped-up e-commerce adoption that has taken hold since the onset of the pandemic, Clorox intends to invest $500 million over the next few years to bolster its digital capabilities and to look for additional productivity advancements within the organization, which we view as a prudent way to fuel added investments. And we’re encouraged Clorox’s strategic playbook remains tethered to bringing consumer-valued innovation to market and touting its fare in front of consumers, which we view as particularly critical against the current backdrop of elevated inflation and intense competition. More specifically, Clorox goes to bat with lower-priced private-label offerings in most of the categories in which it plays, but we think investments in innovation and marketing should help its products stand out on the shelf and stifle trade down. This underpins our forecast, which calls for Clorox to direct 12% of sales annually, nearly $1.1 billion, toward research, development, and marketing.
“We believe Clorox will continue employing multiple tactics, including raising prices surgically and keeping a stringent eye on its cost structure, to blunt the hit from higher costs (particularly around agricultural products, diesel, and labor) as it builds back profits the next few years.”
—Erin Lash, sector director
Kristin Peck, who became CEO of Zoetis in 2020, helped the company make its initial public offering in 2013. She serves on the board of directors of Catalyst, a nonprofit that helps companies create environments that support women, particularly women in leadership.
“Zoetis is the undisputed leader in the global animal health industry, and we believe it possesses the widest moat of all the competitors. Zoetis has set itself apart based on its impressive innovation that shows up across its product portfolio, including a number of drugs for specific pet ailments such as separation anxiety. The firm has also sought to expand its presence into virtually every type of animal-related health market, including aquaculture and pet diagnostics.
“The animal health industry had long been largely ignored because these businesses were buried within larger human health companies, but no longer. It has many attractive characteristics, including cash-pay buyers, a fragmented customer base, and minimal generic competition. Due to the fragmented and cash-pay customer base, animal drugmakers hold significant pricing power. On the human health side, firms are traditionally at the mercy of payers. Government payers or large managed-care firms with pharmacy benefit managers have more power to force generic utilization, squash price increases, and even in extreme cases force price cuts onto drug manufacturers. However, animal health products are purchased by a fragmented group of protein producers, veterinarians, and pet owners, allowing very little bargaining power over the highly concentrated animal health firms.
“This industry also benefits from favorable growth tailwinds that should allow Zoetis to increase revenue at a low-double-digit long-term growth rate. Zoetis has successfully shifted its business further toward companion animals, where it benefits from pet owners’ increasingly strong relationships with pets as members of the family, which drastically increases their willingness to pay for expensive treatments. We expect Zoetis to grow faster than the industry and maintain above-average margins due to its scale, as the companion animal segment rises to account for more than 70% of total revenue by 2027. Zoetis’ investments in dermatology, parasiticide, and monoclonal antibody innovation have been paying off handsomely here.”
—Debbie Wang, senior analyst
The author or authors do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.