Female CEOs face more aggressive questioning from men on earnings calls, research finds

Female CEOs face more aggressive questioning on earnings conference calls than male CEOs, according to research from the University of Exeter Business School in England.

For the study, researchers analyzed recordings of 39,209 earnings calls with U.S. firms over a 13-year period ending in 2018. Researchers defined "verbal aggressiveness" through four measures: the frequency of follow-up questions, the use of preface statements, the number of direct questions, and questions that begin with assertions like "aren't you."

The study found that when male analysts questioned female CEOs, they were "more aggressive" with their questions than with male CEOs. Specifically, when the CEO is female, a male analyst uses 5.3 percentage points more direct questions, 9.5 percentage points more follow-up questions and 3.4 percentage points more preface statements. The coefficient for negative assertions was insignificant, according to the researchers.

The study noted that male analysts used more aggressive questions than female analysts, but it was more pronounced when the CEO was female. For example, male analysts use 2.6 percentage points more direct questions than female analysts.

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