5 Companies Championing Female Leadership

Stocks to know as investors are increasingly favouring diverse leaders.

Charity Blue 7 March, 2024 | 4:18AM
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Women at computer

Female representation in leadership roles within public companies continues to be an area of limited progress in the U.S. marketplace and globally.

According to a 2024 study of 3,795 companies globally by Equileap, women account for only 30% of board members, 22% of executives, and 27% of senior management positions. Meanwhile, according to Fortune, there are only 53 female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies as of 2023. Although it’s the first time ever that more than 10% of Fortune 500 companies are being led by females, this number is still relatively small. After all, more women have college degrees than men, according to NBC.

Investors are also favouring increased female representation in corporate management and pushing for transparency and progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion. According to Morningstar data, in 2023, there was an average 36% support for DEI-focused shareholder proposals from minority outside shareholders across US companies, about 10 percentage points higher than the average support for all sustainability resolutions. Indeed, a majority of investors supported a proposal asking Kroger KR to report on its racial and gender pay gaps for employees in June 2023.

Women-led Companies

For International Women’s Day, we highlight five companies that showcase high rates of female representation in leadership: Figs, Gap, Bright Horizons, Cracker Barrel, and Essex Properties.

Female Leadership

5 companies with female leadership stats


Figs is a relatively young company, selling scrubs and other wearable products for healthcare professionals, with a mission to celebrate, empower, and serve those who serve others. As a female-founded and -led organization, Figs embeds diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, or DEI&B, practices across its workforce and community efforts. In addition to strong female representation, Figs’ DEI&B programmatic strategy is also strong. In 2022, Figs instituted new hire equity grants so that all team members within the organization are owners and can share in the company’s success, which contributes to overall employee engagement.


Gap sells apparel, accessories, and personal-care products under the brands Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and the female-focused athletic brand, Athleta. Its DEI program is focused on the core principles of promoting employee, community, and customer belonging. Given its high rates of female representation across levels in the organization, Gap has set multiple DEI goals focused on racial diversity; by 2025, it seeks to increase representation of Black store leaders by 50% and double Black and Latinx-identifying employees in its US region.

Bright Horizons Family Solutions BFAM

Bright Horizons Family Solutions provides education and care solutions with a focus on supporting working families that seek to better manage their work/life balance. It currently offers full-service childcare, backup care, and educational advisory services. Bright Horizons’ approach to DEI is focused not only on female representation within its organization but also on working with employers focused on advancing female careers, as stated by its chief operating officer, Mary Lou Burke Afonso.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store CBRL

Known for its “Momma’s Pancake Breakfast,” Cracker Barrel is driving female representation across all levels of its organization. Cracker Barrel operates hundreds of restaurants throughout the United States, with a focus on providing homestyle country food. Through its DEI&B steering committee, advisory board, and council, Cracker Barrel shapes strategic direction for both internal diversity practices and community development initiatives and seeks to provide a dining experience where all people can feel at home. Notably, in the past year, Cracker Barrel increased the female representation on its board of directors to 50% from 40% in 2022.

Essex Property Trust ESS

Essex Property Trust owns apartment communities on the West Coast in the urban and suburban markets of Southern California, Northern California, and Seattle. Sustainable practices are evident throughout Essex’s operations, with a focus on providing LEED-certified properties with energy-efficient appliances and various green community initiatives across its portfolio of spaces. In its sustainability report, Essex claims to embrace diversity as it leads to better service for residents and better business performance for investors, and this is evidenced through recognition on Bloomberg’s Gender-Equality Index since 2022. Essex also conducts a pay equity study, annually, to maintain gender pay parity for all team members.


The author or authors do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. This article was originally published on Morningstar.com for a U.S. audience.

Get the Latest Stock Insights in Your Inbox

Subscribe Here

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar Rating
Bright Horizons Family Solutions Inc119.49 USD0.18
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc44.76 USD-3.87
Essex Property Trust Inc285.87 USD0.67Rating
FIGS Inc Class A5.99 USD-2.28
Gap Inc22.88 USD-0.33Rating

About Author

Charity Blue  is a senior product manager at Morningstar.

© Copyright 2024 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Terms of Use        Privacy Policy       Disclosures        Accessibility