June 24, 2022

Earnings Calls: Study Says Analysts More Aggressive in Questioning Female CEOs

Dealing with analysts in an earnings call can sometimes be a challenging and even somewhat confrontational process for any CEO, but a recent study cited in an IR Magazine article says that male securities analysts are much tougher in their questioning of female CEOs than they are of their male counterparts.  This excerpt from the article discusses the study’s findings and some of their implications:

Analyzing transcripts of 39,209 earnings conference calls, including with Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, we found that male analysts’ questions to CEOs were more aggressive than those of female analysts and that this contrast doubled when the CEO was female. We also found that when male analysts challenged female CEOs, they were more aggressive than when questioning men.

Our findings lay bare yet another challenge female leaders face in the workplace, and with workplace gender diversity linked to everything from increased productivity to improved performance, staff retention and collaboration throughout a business, the ramifications are enormous.

The findings are of particular relevance to the finance industry and investors, as the way analysts ask questions sends signals to the capital markets. When investors following earnings conference calls witness analysts asking verbally aggressive questions, it could signal to them that the analysts are not happy with a company’s performance.

The study’s authors say that its findings are a classic example of ‘in-group bias’, a psychological theory that says we give preferential treatment to those we regard as belonging to the same group as us. This theory suggests that male securities analysts question female CEOs more aggressively because they see them as outsiders and a threat to their sense of identity and self-esteem.

John Jenkins