Joseph Comprix, Syracuse University – Are Male Analysts More Verbally Aggressive Than Female Analysts in Earnings Conference Calls

We all communicate differently, but how does this effect our work?

Joseph Comprix, professor of accounting at Syracuse University, discusses this.

Joseph Comprix is a Professor of Accounting at Syracuse University. He has a B.S. from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Professor Comprix previously taught at Arizona State University and at the State University of New York at Buffalo before joining Syracuse University in 2008. He has served as the Chair of the Accounting Department at Syracuse University since 2013. He has been named the Outstanding Professor in the graduate program four times while at Syracuse, and in 2012, the University recognized him for excellence in graduate education. Prior to becoming an academic, Professor Comprix spent several years working as a staff accountant and accounting manager at Mead Corporation. Professor Comprix’s research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Accounting and Economics, The Accounting Review, Journal of Marketing, and Contemporary Accounting Research, the Journal of the American Taxation Association, and Accounting Horizons.

Are Male Analysts More Verbally Aggressive Than Female Analysts in Earnings Conference Calls


Research documents differences in how men and women communicate. Specifically, women are generally more polite in conversations, more likely to hedge when asking questions, and use disclaimers more often. These results fit a widespread belief that women prefer to use collaborative speech while men prefer a more competitive style.

Societal expectations and norms can at least partly explain these differences in linguistic styles between men and women. Women often feel that they need to use disclaimers and tentative words to be seen as courteous. As a result, women tend to be more indirect and self-deprecating in their language. Our research investigates whether gender-based differences in linguistic styles show up among analysts in earnings conference calls. These calls are where executives of publicly traded companies present and discuss their financial results with analysts. We investigate whether questions by male analysts are more verbally aggressive than those of female analysts. In essence, verbal aggressiveness captures how difficult questions are to answer. It may be that male analysts are more verbally aggressive in earnings conference calls, consistent with psychology research in non-professional settings. However, women who self-select into careers as analysts may be more verbally aggressive than other women.

We measure verbal aggressiveness with four measures: directness, preface statements, follow-up questions, and negative questions. We have two main research questions: First, do questions by male and female analysts differ in their levels of verbal aggressiveness? Second, are questions by male analysts more verbally aggressive when the CEO is female? We find that male analysts are more verbally aggressive than female analysts – especially when the CEO is female. Finally, more verbally aggressive female analysts are more likely to be acknowledged as a top 3 analyst in their industry. However, verbal aggressiveness is not associated with male analysts being acknowledged as top 3 in their industry.

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