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08-06-2020 | Original Paper | Issue 2/2021

Journal of Business Ethics 2/2021

Partner Gender Differences in Prestige of Clients Served at the Largest U.S. Audit Firms

Journal:
Journal of Business Ethics > Issue 2/2021
Authors:
Elizabeth D. Almer, M. Kathleen Harris, Julia L. Higgs, Joseph R. Rakestraw
Important notes
We appreciate helpful comments from Reza Espahbodi (Discussant), Tom Omer, Maria Wieczynska (Discussant), and conference attendees at the 2017 AAA Diversity Section Midyear Meeting, the 2018 Hawaii Accounting Research Conference, the 2018 AAA Audit Section Midyear Meeting, the 2018 AAA Western Region Meeting, the 13th World Congress of Accounting Educators and Researchers, and the 2018 AAA Annual Meeting. This paper won the Best Paper Awards at the 2017 AAA Diversity Section Midyear Meeting, the 2018 AAA Western Region Meeting, and the 13th World Congress of Accounting Educators and Researchers. We appreciate the helpful research assistance of Yijing Cui and Michael Decker.

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Abstract

Despite tremendous investment to promote gender equity, U.S. public accounting firms continue to be gendered organizations. Our archival study examines gender equity within the partnership of these large firms for a one-year period. We find female partners are clustered in lower prestige client types including investment funds, benefit plans, and single audits, rather than higher prestige public company clients. Second, we consider whether there is gender bias in prestige of client served by female partners who lead public company audits. In these tests of those individuals who have already achieved the partnership and lead public company audits, we find no evidence of bias. This research contributes to the understanding of gender bias in U.S. public accounting firms and helps inform the societal narrative on where women continue to be marginalized even when they have achieved the highest levels in an organization.

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