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Getting to the Bottom Line: An Exploration of Gender and Earnings Quality

Abstract

For stakeholders, such as investors and lenders, to appropriately assess a company’s financial performance, the reported accounting earnings must closely reflect the economic reality of the organization’s financial activity throughout the reporting period. The degree to which reported earnings capture economic reality is called earnings quality. Managers have an ethical obligation to report high quality earnings to interested stakeholders in a timely matter. Accounting research has identified conditions within an organization, such as management compensation contracts and pending litigation that can impact earnings quality. We extend this line of research by exploring whether another characteristic of an organization, gender diversity in senior management, influences the quality of reported earnings. Companies with more women in senior management are found to be more profitable and have higher stock returns after initial public offerings than those with fewer women in the management ranks. Our findings suggest that the improved bottom line for companies with more women senior executives is not produced through the management of earnings or lower quality earnings. Instead, earnings quality is positively associated with gender diversity in senior management.

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Correspondence to Linda M. Parsons.

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Gopal Krishnan is an associate professor and holds the VSCPA Northern Chapter Professorship in Public Accounting at the School of Management at George Mason University. He has published several articles on corporate governance and the role of auditors in journals such as Accounting Horizons, Contemporary Accounting Research, Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Finance and Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory.

Linda Parsons is an assistant professor at the School of Management at George Mason University. She is the author of several papers that examine the value relevance of accounting in the nonprofit sector, especially as it impacts decision-making by donors. Her work has appeared in journals such as Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Finance, Research in Governmental and Nonprofit Accounting, and Journal of Accounting Literature.

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Krishnan, G.V., Parsons, L.M. Getting to the Bottom Line: An Exploration of Gender and Earnings Quality. J Bus Ethics 78, 65–76 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-006-9314-z

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Keywords

  • earnings quality
  • gender
  • diversity
  • ethics
  • conservatism