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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Sonal Kumar, Business Administration

Three Essays on the Role of Glass Ceiling in Corporate Finance

Tuesday, May 26, 2020
1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Dolly Grewal



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


The first essay extends the literature on how social and organizational discrimination in the form of glass ceiling, interact with managerial traits in shaping observed leadership effectiveness1. We show that when the population of CEOs is stratified by ethnicity and gender, the colored female CEO emerges as the best performing while the white male CEO is consigned among the worst performers. Additionally, the transition from male to female CEOs seems to follow corporate downturn and precede an upturn. Furthermore, the upswing is strongest following a transition from white male to colored female CEO. We attribute these observed differences between the groups to the existence of the glass ceiling. Discriminatory selection and promotion process potentially imposes much higher demands on candidates belonging to the discriminated group. Thus, the level of ability of the successful average colored female is much higher than those of the average white male CEO. These results potentially have important implications for both policy and research. The second essay examines whether gender discrimination after women are elevated to positions of power impacts financial reporting quality2. Specifically, we extend the literature by using role congruity theory and glass cliff hypothesis to examine the earnings management behavior of female chief executive officers (CEOs) conditional on the power they hold. We find that female CEOs do not necessarily reduce earnings management. For CEOs holding less power, women CEOs demonstrate lower earnings management relative to their male counterparts. However with increased power, we find women and male CEOs to exhibit similar earnings management behaviors. Thus, the earnings management behaviors of women CEOs are not solely dictated by their risk-taking and ethical attitudes, but by the existence of glass cliffs which imposes high demands on women CEOs to conform to their gender roles.

The final essay examines the stock price changes to the firm’s strategic choice towards symbolic and substantive CSR3. Our results indicate that stock prices react differently to symbolic and substantive CSR. Symbolic CSR is used as a means to repair reputational damage following a corporate controversy and attracts a positive stock price change consistent with stakeholder wealth maximization theory. In contrast, substantive CSR, undertaken to conform long-term commitment towards CSR is perceived as over-investment by managers in the manifestation of agency leading to a negative stock return-substantive CSR relation. However, no such negative relation between stock returns and substantive CSR is found for a subset of family firms, where the controlling families have a personal interest in the long-term performance of the firm. Overall, the results indicate that the stock market responds to the nature of CSR activities.

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