Gender Discrimination? Evidence from the Belgian Public Accounting Profession

Posted: 8 Feb 2021

See all articles by Kris Hardies

Kris Hardies

University of Antwerp

Clive S. Lennox

University of Southern California

Bing Li

City University of Hong Kong (CityU)

Date Written: December 15, 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 our prediction of 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

Suggested Citation

Hardies, Kris and Lennox, Clive and Li, Bing, Gender Discrimination? Evidence from the Belgian Public Accounting Profession (December 15, 2020). Contemporary Accounting Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Kris Hardies

University of Antwerp ( email )

Department of Accounting and Finance
Pleinlaan 13
Antwerp, 2000

Clive Lennox (Contact Author)

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Bing Li

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) ( email )

83 Tat Chee Avenue
Department of Accountancy, AC3
Hong Kong


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