Gender Discrimination? Evidence from the Belgian Public Accounting Profession

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1509-1541
Number of pages33
Journal / PublicationContemporary Accounting Research
Issue number3
Online published24 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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.

Research Area(s)

  • gender discrimination, public accounting firms, female partners

Bibliographic Note

Information for this record is supplemented by the author(s) concerned.