Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 131, Issue 3, pp 577-594

First online:

Are Female CEOs and Chairwomen More Conservative and Risk Averse? Evidence from the Banking Industry During the Financial Crisis

  • Ajay PalviaAffiliated withOffice of the Comptroller of the Currency
  • , Emilia VähämaaAffiliated withDepartment of Finance and Statistics, Hanken School of EconomicsDepartment of Accounting and Finance, University of Vaasa
  • , Sami VähämaaAffiliated withDepartment of Accounting and Finance, University of Vaasa Email author 

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This paper examines whether bank capital ratios and default risk are associated with the gender of the bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chairperson of the board. Given the documented gender-based differences in conservatism and risk tolerance, we postulate that female CEOs and board Chairs should assess risks more conservatively, and thereby hold higher levels of equity capital and reduce the likelihood of bank failure during periods of market stress. Using a large panel of U.S. commercial banks, we document that banks with female CEOs hold more conservative levels of capital after controlling for the bank’s asset risk and other attributes. Furthermore, while neither CEO nor Chair gender is related to bank failure in general, we find strong evidence that smaller banks with female CEOs and board Chairs were less likely to fail during the financial crisis. Overall, our findings are consistent with the view that gender-based behavioral differences may affect corporate decisions.


Female CEOs Chairwomen Bank capital ratios Bank failures Financial crisis

JEL Classification

G01 G21 G30 G32