3 Companies that Walk the Talk on Women in Leadership

These firms have highly accomplished female CEOs at the helm.

Vikram Barhat 8 March, 2023 | 4:19AM
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Woman CEO in boardroom

One of the intended outcomes of the worldwide effort toward achieving equal opportunity was that it would result in equal representation. However, things haven’t panned out as expected. This is particularly true of women in the corporate world.

If recent gender equality studies are anything to go by, only a small number of women have been able to rise to the C-suite both in the U.S. and Canada. A recent report from Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) reveals only 5% of major publicly traded companies have women CEOs. South of the border, women hold only 6.2% of the top jobs at the S&P 500 companies.

It is, therefore, all the more crucial to honour female CEOs who have overcome obstacles to secure top positions in what still remains a male-dominated domain. The following companies spanning various industries have highly accomplished women at the helm, establishing benchmarks for gender parity in their spheres of influence.

 

Global financial services company, Citigroup (C) has business operations across more than100 countries. The bank has two main segments: the institutional clients group (ICG) and the personal banking and wealth management group (PBWM).

In a ground-breaking move, Citigroup named Jane Fraser as its chief executive in 2020, making her the first woman to lead a major Wall Street bank.

The bank's primary offerings comprise cross-border banking services for multinational corporates, investment banking and trading, and credit card services in the U.S.

“Within the bank's commercial operations, called the Institutional Clients Group (ICG), Citi has large trading, investment banking, international corporate banking, and custody operations,” says a Morningstar equity report.

ICG is the crown jewel of Citi's businesses, as its global footprint is hard to replicate. “This international presence will help Citigroup remain a bank of choice for companies with cross-border needs,” says Morningstar strategistEric Compton, who pegs the stock’s fair value at US$75.

On the commercial business side, Citigroup has a unique and robust set of offerings for multinational corporations. However, Compton cautions that the bank hasn’t been able to convert it into higher profitability. “Yes, Citi’s distinctive global commercial banking business is difficult to replicate, but this hasn’t led to an ability to properly monetize this distinctiveness,” he says.

Compton underscores several reasons for this failing, including the expenses of maintaining a physical presence in nearly 100 countries, the capital that is eaten up by maintaining trading floors in over 70 markets, and competition from local players.

 

The world’s largest marketplace for heavy equipment, Ritchie Bros. (RBA) provides auction and marketplace services for used heavy equipment. The company has expanded its operations to include the sale of construction, agricultural, oilfield, and transportation equipment. It operates over 40 live auction sites in more than 12 countries, along with online marketplaces, and holds over 300 auctions yearly, selling US$6 billion worth of equipment.

In 2020, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers appointed Ann Fandozzi as its Chief Executive Officer. She was recognized by The Globe & Mail as its CEO Innovator of the Year in 2022.

The robust auction liquidity of the company attracts both buyers and sellers to its network. “Ritchie Bros. will continue to be one of the top players in the asset disposition market,” says a Morningstar equity report, stressing that the network effects of its business “have consistently delivered higher average selling prices for consignors (or sellers) and provided buyers a wide range of equipment to choose from.”

Ritchie Bros. drives significant value for both buyers and sellers, which has allowed it to monetize its network effects and develop a strong competitive positioning, says Morningstar equity analyst Dawit Woldemariam, who recently upped the stock’s fair value to US$51 from US$48.

Near term, the company is poised to benefit from favourable market conditions. “In economic upturns, equipment owners often opt to sell their older equipment to buy new,” says Woldemariam, adding that the firm also “benefits when markets are pressured, and asset owners look to increase liquidity through asset disposals.

 

Canadian National's (CNI) railway spans Canada from coast to coast and extends through Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico. In 2022, the railroad major racked up $17.1 billion in revenue by hauling intermodal containers (29% of revenue), petroleum and chemicals (19%), grain and fertilizers (16%), forest products (12%), metals and mining (11%), automotive shipments (5%), and coal (5%).

In 2022, Canada’s largest railway named Tracy Robinson as its new president and CEO — the first woman to helm the company in its 103-year history.

In 2021, CN's organic revenue grew 9%, on industrial sector recovery off pandemic lows, jumping to 16% in 2022, on continued solid yield expansion.

“Railroads generate solid cash, and CN is no exception with free cash flow in the high-teens as a percentage of sales on average over the past decade,” says a Morningstar equity report.

CN's mix is richest in intermodal, agriculture, and chemicals, though forest products and autos contribute meaningfully to results, the report adds. 

Canadian National was long the highest-margin (lowest operating ratio) Class I railroad due to being the precision railroading pioneer in the 2000s, but peers are catching up, warns Morningstar equity analyst Matthew Young, who recently raised the stock’s fair value to US$109 from US$107, due to the impact of foreign exchange.

CN enjoys a wide economic moat rooted in cost advantages and efficient scale. “A railroad's competitive advantages are inseparable from its geography, and CN's network boasts a unique three-coast system spanning Canada coast to coast, and down through the U.S. to New Orleans, says Young. 

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar Rating
Canadian National Railway Co129.55 USD0.86Rating
Citigroup Inc59.30 USD-0.64Rating
RB Global Inc73.17 USD0.15Rating

About Author

Vikram Barhat

Vikram Barhat  A Toronto-based financial writer specializing in investing, stock markets, personal finance and other areas of the financial services industry, Vikram also writes for CNBC, BBC, The Globe and Mail, and Toronto Star.

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