(Bloomberg) -- The world’s biggest companies seem to have decided that leadership in a global pandemic is men's work.

Since March 11, when the World Health Organization designated Covid-19 as a pandemic, only 3% of the chief executive officers picked by the world's largest companies have been women, according an analysis to be released Thursday by executive recruiter Heidrick & Struggles. In the six months before that, women were winning four times as many of the jobs at the 965 largest companies around world. The study didn’t consider race or ethnicity.

Women and other underrepresented groups have been at greater risk of career setbacks and unemployment during the pandemic because they hold a larger share of the jobs hurt by lockdowns and other restrictions. Women also were more likely to quit their jobs to care for children because of school shutdowns or lack of child care. Some economists are calling the economic downturn the first female recession, reversing much of the workplace progress women have made during the past decade.

A big reason that more men were picked for the top job is that companies now are more likely to pick a new leader who has already served as CEO, a role dominated by men. Women now hold only about 6% of the CEO jobs at S&P 500 companies.

The number of new CEOs appointed also fell since the pandemic began, with 30 new leaders among the largest companies in 20 global markets from March to the end of June, compared with 45 in the same period a year ago. Companies also were more likely to pick men to fill the CEO job after the global financial crisis in 2008, but the shift was less pronounced, Heidrick found. 


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