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Study: Female execs generated higher profit, stock price returns than male peers

Companies with female CFOs outperformed their sector average while those with a woman in the CEO role saw stock price momentum outpace companies run by men, a new study by Quantamental Research found.

Quantamental Research, a division of S&P Global Market Intelligence, looked at Russell 3000 companies from year-end 2002 through May 31, 2019, and found that those with female CFOs generated $1.8 trillion more in gross profit than their sector average. Companies with female CFOs also experienced bigger stock price returns relative to firms with male CFOs during the executives' first 24 months in the role, the analysis found.

Firms run by female CEOs, meanwhile, saw more value appreciation. Companies with a female CEO or CFO are more likely to have greater gender diversity on their boards as well, the study found.

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The study also found that women who make it to the top positions at companies are generally more talented than their male counterparts. Quantamental performed a natural language processing analysis of executive biographies that uncovered a "profound" difference between the words used to describe men and women. The achievements, education and personal traits associated with success occur more often in female executives' backgrounds, suggesting that boards may be holding female executives to a higher standard than their male counterparts, Quantamental concluded.

"Being more selective with female appointees means that the board of directors may pass over a more qualified female in favor of a less qualified male," Quantamental wrote. "If this is the case, it follows that the remaining pool of female contenders for C-suite positions remains richer with talent."

Some previous research into gender and leadership has attributed differences in company performance to stereotypes about differences between men and women, such as the common conception that women are more risk averse. But the Quantamental study dismissed those ideas, instead suggesting that "common features favor success for males and females alike, and those features are more prevalent in the female contingent, to date."

"Our interpretation is that the male contingent is relatively 'overfished' compared to the female contingent, as a direct result of a bias preventing women from C-suite appointments (the so-called glass ceiling)," Quantamental wrote.

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