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Women CEOs Are More Vulnerable to Activist Investors Than Men

  • 23% of male-run companies have provisions to fight activists
  • Just one female-led firm in S&P 500 has staggered board terms
Ursula Burns, chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corp.

Ursula Burns, chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corp.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Fewer female chief executive officers have the weapons corporations typically use to fight off hostile takeovers than their male counterparts. While that’s won their companies the approval of good-governance watchdogs, it’s made them more vulnerable to activist investors.

Of the 27 Standard & Poor’s 500 companies led by women at the end of their latest financial year, just one, or 3.7 percent, had adopted any of the three most common takeover defenses, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis. By contrast, 23 percent of companies led by men have provisions for poison pills, staggered election of board members or unequal voting rights.