Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), General Dynamics Corporation (GD) – Women in Power: CEOs in Defense, Technology

Recently, I read an article about some defense firms and their CEOS. The hook of the story was that all the CEOs were women. It’s interesting to think about how times change. There are now women running major defense and technology firms. Think about that for a minute. These are both men’s clubs, by and large. Technology and defense have both traditionally been gender-defined industries.

Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO)Now, maybe not so much. While Sheryl Sandberg may be maintaining that women are frozen in corporate America, we still have real examples of women taking the reins of power. Can any of you imagine how major multinationals would have treated the idea of having a woman in the CEO slot in the 1970s? Even the 1980s? I don’t think it would have been taken seriously.

But it’s happening now. There are still issues to be worked out, but a smart investor looks at things the way that are and will be in the future. A positive, forward-looking investor ignores the past, to the extent that it is the past, and focuses on the gains to be made in the future.

Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO)

Without a doubt the most famous women CEO in existence right now, Marissa Mayer is the very definition of ‘having to work twice as hard.’ Sure, she’s a former Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) exec, but she’s mostly famous for having a baby while CEO and for ending the telecommuting culture at Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO). It’s early days to see how things play out, but I think Mayer is at least shaking up a company that had grown complacent as an also-ran.

During her admittedly short tenure Yahoo’s stock has grown 41% in a strong sign of market confidence in the new leadership. Yahoo still has some real hurdles to overcome but to me a P/E of 6.70 indicates that there’s a lot of value left in Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) for the right investor.

Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ)

Another one of the female titans of technology, Whitman is the current head of HP and a former head of eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY). Nothing wrong with that resume. Still, Whitman’s taken on a tough task in Hewlett-Packard. Enterprise level technology that centers on PCs is an unknown future. Still, Whitman did great work during her time at eBay and there’s no reason to think she lost her talent anywhere along the way.

Since Whitman took over at HP the stock has basically been flat. It’s a tough place to be when that’s considered a win, but HP isn’t a quick grower these days and a draw might be the best that could be done. Still, she’d better turn it around in the next year or so or she might not get another shot.

General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD)

OK, I’ll bet you knew about Whitman and Mayer but I bet most of you haven’t heard of these next two women CEOs. Phebe Novakovic runs General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD), the fourth largest defense contractor in the world. That’s not a small operation to be in charge of for anyone. Novakovic took over following the departure of Jay Johnson and was officially installed at the beginning of the year. Still, this has been her project for about nine months now.

General Dynamics is a great firm, even if it had a shaky year. But defense is dodgy right now with the sequester hanging over everything. Still, the stock is up since last July when she became the heir apparent to Johnson. And the firm did just increase its dividend by a bit less than 10%. There’s a lot to like about General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD) and Novakovic’s leadership.

Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT)

Another recent move into the ranks of CEOs, Marillyn Hewson got elected by Lockheed Martin’s board last year and officially took over on Jan. 1. Still, leading the Pentagon’s top contractor isn’t for the faint of heart and Hewson isn’t. She’s tough and capable in the position, and I think she’ll do well.

Over the last few months, since it was announced that she was taking over, the firm’s stock has seen some highs and lows, but it’s been up overall. It’s gained almost 6% since mid-November even with some peaks and valleys. It also upped its dividend by 15% during that time. There’s a lot in Lockheed Martin to like, and you should think carefully about getting some.

Look, there’s nothing special about hiring a woman as CEO. But there’s also nothing negative about it, either. And that’s progress. There are still real problems with women as CEOs, given that fewer than 5% of the Fortune 500 are currently helmed by those with XX chromosomes, and that should likely be higher. But I like to think that’s a process that will occur over time. It may be slower than I like (I’m a father of two smart girls, after all), but it is happening. That’s the important thing. And for investors, it might just pay off if you move quickly enough. There are certainly some investors who will turn away from a well-run firm with a woman in the top slot. Take advantage of those guys, will you?

The article Women in Power: CEOs in Defense, Technology originally appeared on and is written by Nate Wooley.

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