3 Large-Cap Companies Led by Women

These firms stand out for their robust gender policies, competitive strength, and significant representation of women in key leadership roles.

Vikram Barhat 13 March, 2024 | 2:09AM
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The presence of women in leadership and strategic decision-making positions within public companies has improved, but the pace of progress remains slugging.

Findings from a 2024 global study reveal that women continue to make up only 30% of board members, with a mere 7% serving as CEOs and 17% as CFOs. These statistics underscore the ongoing gender gap in top leadership positions. Closer to home, a recent study by the Diversity Institute informs that despite the mounting evidence of its benefits, diversity in corporate Canada continues to face headwinds.

In the spirit of the International Women’s Week, we shine a spotlight on companies that are championing female representation in leadership. The following U.S. and Canadian companies stand out for their robust gender policies, have sustainable competitive strength, and significant representation of women in key leadership roles.

Cleaning giant Clorox (CLX) operates in multiple product categories including cleaning supplies, laundry care, food dressings, water-filtration products, and natural personal-care products. Apart from its namesake brand, the firm’s portfolio includes several household names such as Liquid-Plumr, Pine-Sol, S.O.S, Tilex, Kingsford, Fresh Step, and Brita, among others. U.S. accounts for nearly 85% of its total sales.

The consumer products company is headed by CEO Linda Rendle, who joined the Fortune Most Powerful Women list when she assumed the top position in 2020.

While a recent cybersecurity breach has dented sales and profits, “we don’t surmise the firm’s competitive edge has been eroded,” says a Morningstar equity report. “On the contrary, its entrenched standing with retailers has already and will continue to enable it to build back its shelf position.”

Clorox continues to invest heavily to bolster its competitive edge. This includes its plans to invest US$500 million over the next few years to ramp up its digital capabilities, driven by faster e-commerce adoption.

“Investments in innovation and marketing should help its products stand out on the shelf and stifle trade down,” says Morningstar equity analyst, who recently lowered the stock’s fair value to US$156 from US$168, incorporating the negative impact of the cybersecurity breach.

That said, the wide-moat company’s return on invested capital has averaged 29% over the last 10 years, and Lash forecasts ROIC to average 37% annually over the next 10 years.

Animal health company, Zoetis (ZTS) sells anti-infectives, vaccines, parasiticides, diagnostics, and other health products for animals. Approximately 35% of the firm’s total revenue comes from production animals (cattle, pigs, and poultry), while nearly 65% is derived from companion animal products (dogs, horses, and cats).

In the U.S., the company’s business is predominantly focused on companion animals, whereas its international operations show a slight tilt toward production animals.

The company is helmed by Kristin Peck, director and CEO, who’s held the position since 2020.

An unrivalled force in the global animal health industry, Zoetis 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,” says a Morningstar equity report.

Over the years, the company has expanded its footprint to cover virtually every segment of the animal-related health sector. The market has cash-pay buyers, a fragmented customer base, and minimal generic competition, which enables “animal drugmakers hold significant pricing power,” says Morningstar equity analyst, Debbie Wang.

This industry also benefits from favourable growth tailwinds that should allow Zoetis to increase revenue at a low-double-digit long-term growth rate.

The firm has strategically shifted toward companion animals, capitalizing on pet owners’ deep emotional bonds and willingness to invest in premium treatments, says Wang, who pegs the stock’s fair value at US$170.

Canadian telecom behemoth, BCE (BCE) provides wireless, broadband, television, and landline phone services across Canada. With over 10 million customers, the company holds about 30% of the market share. BCE’s media assets include television, radio, and digital media assets.

Claire Gillies, president of Bell Mobility, stands as the company’s top female executive—a remarkable achievement in a largely male-dominated industry.

The operator has made significant investments over the past several years to upgrade its wireline network with fiber. As a result, “the firm has been outperforming competitors in adding new broadband subscribers,” says a Morningstar equity report, which forecasts BCE to continue to expand its market share, albeit at a slower pace.

The telecom operator’s other businesses – wireless and media – remain dominant entities in an oligopolistic market. “We expect BCE to remain atop the wireless market with Rogers and Telus, with each having top-tier network quality and nationwide scale,” says Morningstar equity analyst, Matthew Dolgin, but cautions that competition in the wireless market could become more intense as rival Quebecor expands its footprint beyond its home turf.

The company also offers an impressive array of content through Crave (video-on-demand service), HBO, Showtime, and Starz, which collectively contribute to BCE’s formidable presence in the Canadian media landscape. “BCE has the highest-quality and most diversified media unit of Canadian telecom firms,” says Dolgin, who recently lowered the stock’s fair value to $60 from $65, “due to the change in our cash flow expectations and greater long-term uncertainty.”

 

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar Rating
BCE Inc32.59 USD1.18Rating
BCE Inc44.80 CAD1.04Rating
Clorox Co143.55 USD0.24Rating
Zoetis Inc Class A146.50 USD-4.32Rating

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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