Gender Discrimination? Evidence from the Belgian Public Accounting Profession
54 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2018 Last revised: 1 Dec 2020
Date Written: November 26, 2020
Prior research finds that women receive lower salaries than men. Similarly, we show that female audit partners in Belgium receive significantly lower compensation than male partners. However, there are alternative explanations for the pay gap other than gender discrimination. For example, the gap in compensation could reflect that men are paid more because they have higher levels of productivity. We provide new predictions and tests of gender discrimination by comparing the fees generated by audit partners (a measure of partner productivity) and the types of clients assigned to partners. Consistent with female partners having to meet higher performance thresholds than male partners, we show that female partners generate larger fee premiums, but they are less likely to be assigned to prestigious clients. To test whether these patterns are attributable to gender discrimination, we examine whether the results are stronger in male-dominated offices because this is where we would expect to find the most discrimination against women. We find the fee premiums generated by female partners are larger in male-dominated offices, while the negative association between prestigious clients and female partners is stronger in male-dominated offices. Collectively, our combined predictions and tests are consistent with female partners facing gender discrimination in audit offices that are dominated by male partners.
Keywords: gender discrimination; public accounting firms; female partners
JEL Classification: D22, J71, M41, M42, M51
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