CEO facial masculinity and firm financial outcomes

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Jackson Mills, Karen M. Hogan ORCID logo


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In this paper, we explore relationships between CEO facial width, a proxy for testosterone levels during adolescence, and financial management decisions. Using methodology from prior research, we collect a sample of 968 S&P 500 CEO profiles and analyze them to determine the facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR). We expect that greater CEO facial width will be associated with riskier, more aggressive financial policies. We find that higher CEO facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) is associated with more aggressive financial management decisions. Specifically, we find a positive relationship between CEO fWHR and firm leverage and a negative relationship between CEO fWHR and firm cash holdings. These relationships are also observed among subsamples where CEOs are likely to wield substantial influence over financial management policies, such as long-tenured CEOs. We do not find evidence that CEO selection process explains the observed relationship between fWHR and financial policies. Thus, it appears that the relationships documented between CEO fWHR and firm financial policies are likely consistent with managerial preference and that high testosterone levels may induce CEOs to pursue aggressive financial policies. We show that high-fWHR CEOs tend to own a smaller fraction of their firms. This suggests an increased priority for more masculine CEOs on pursuing their own best interests (diversification in their personal portfolios) ahead of signaling alignment with shareholders, while the reverse is true for CEOs with lower fWHRs. The results are robust to the inclusion of industry and year fixed effects and firm-year controls. This paper adds to the literature that shows individual differences in CEOs, in this case, CEO masculinity, can predict differences in the financial managerial characteristics of firms and financial policies.

Keywords: Financial, Policies, Firm, CEO, Masculinity, Facial

Authors’ individual contributions: Conceptualization – J.M.; Methodology – J.M.; Writing – J.M. and K.H.; Formal Analysis – J.M.; Investigation – J.M.; Formal Analysis – J.M.; Resources – J.M.; Supervision – J.M. and K.H.

Declaration of conflicting interests: The Authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

JEL Classification: G4, G30, G32

Received: 12.02.2020
Accepted: 02.04.2020
Published online: 10.04.2020

How to cite this paper: Mills, J., & Hogan, K. M. (2020). CEO facial masculinity and firm financial outcomes. Corporate Board: Role, Duties and Composition, 16(1), 39-46.