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CEO gender and readability of annual reports: do female CEOs’ demographic attributes matter?

Sahar E-Vahdati (Othman Yeop Abdullah Graduate School of Business, Universiti Utara Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Javad Oradi (Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran)
Jamal A. Nazari (Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada)

Journal of Applied Accounting Research

ISSN: 0967-5426

Article publication date: 28 December 2022

Issue publication date: 14 July 2023




This study examines the association between chief executive officer (CEO) gender and the readability of annual reports by considering some demographic attributes of female CEOs.


Ordinary least squares (OLS) regression is used to test the research hypotheses on a sample of S&P 500 firms between 2004 and 2016.


The results show that female CEOs are significantly positively associated with the readability of 10-K reports – in line with ethical-sensitivity theory. Further results show that this association is variable depending on the demographic attributes of female CEOs – in line with upper echelon theory. Specifically, older female CEOs and those with financial expertise are significantly associated with more readable 10-K reports. In contrast, female CEOs hired from within the firm are negatively associated with the readability of 10-K.

Research limitations/implications

This study provides evidence on the effect of female CEOs and their demographic attributes on annual report readability, which was not addressed in prior research.

Practical implications

The findings show that the appointment of female CEOs seems like a helpful avenue to reduce concerns among the regulators about the textual complexity of annual reports. However, the most important policy implication of the study is that the decision to appoint female CEOs should be based more on their demographic attributes than on gender equality recommendations and full trust in women's behavioral consequences.


This study contributes to the academic literature on readability and gender. Prior research has not clarified which attributes and skills of female CEOs drive their abilities to improve shareholder value and make more ethical decisions. This study suggests that female CEOs are not better “per se” to improve corporate governance practices, and the impacts of female CEOs are not the same and differ according to their demographic attributes.



E-Vahdati, S., Oradi, J. and Nazari, J.A. (2023), "CEO gender and readability of annual reports: do female CEOs’ demographic attributes matter?", Journal of Applied Accounting Research, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 682-700.



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