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 Springer 2008

Journal of Business Ethics (2009) 85:4958


DOI 10.1007/s10551-008-9946-2

The Relative Importance of Ethics


as a Selection Criterion for Entry-Level
Public Accountants: Does Gender Make
a Difference?

ABSTRACT. This paper examines public accountants


perceptions of the relative importance of business ethics as
a selection criterion for entry-level public accounting
positions. Also, it seeks to determine whether gender
differences do exist with respect to these perceptions. The
data were collected through a survey of 335 professional
accountants in four southeastern states. The results show
that, among the eight selection factors that were studied,
technical competence in accounting, communication
skills, and interpersonal skills were the most influential,
while professionalism and leadership abilities were the
least important. Ethics was ranked fourth by the females
and sixth by the males. A multivariate analysis of variance
revealed significant differences between the genders with
respect to five of the eight factors. The females scores
were higher for ethics and interpersonal skills and lower
for conceptual aptitude, strategic thinking, and leadership
abilities. Implications for accounting educators and
practitioners are discussed.
KEY WORDS: selection, accounting, ethics, communication, interpersonal skills, professionalism, strategic
thinking, conceptual aptitude

Introduction
The ethical standards and competency of managers
have been two of the principal issues confronting
business and society for many years. Of particular
interest to educators, practitioners, and regulators is
the extent to which businesses are responsive to the
expectations of shareholders and society. While
businesses have always been expected to maximize
long-term value for shareholders, they are increasingly urged to recognize the importance of their

Nabil Ibrahim
John Angelidis

responsibilities toward society and to faithfully


adhere to certain ethical standards.
Widespread media accounts of illegal and fraudulent actions involving some of the largest corporations have shaken the publics confidence and
diminished investors trust in the soundness of corporate decisions and the integrity and competence of
business executives. In view of these revelations,
scholars, practitioners, and media commentators
have questioned the importance businesses attach to
ethics. Although this issue had been discussed for
many years, these recent events have provided
greater impetus for calls for sustained support and
enforcement of business ethics. One of the most
potent tools for promoting ethical practices and
establishing a strong ethical culture is the employee
selection process. Since every person enters an
organization with a set of values, this step can be
used to weed out the most undesirable applicants.
For entry-level positions, an examination of the
importance of ethics as a selection criterion would be
a worthwhile endeavor. As societys future business
leaders, their values will help to determine the
course of organizations over the next three or four
decades. Ethics writers have recognized the importance of including this potentially influential group
in their research.

Literature review
A sizeable literature has focused on the ethics of
managers and executives. One important stream of
research is in response to calls for the study of a
persons demographic characteristics as antecedent

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Nabil Ibrahim and John Angelidis

variables (e.g., Kelley et al., 1990). As a growing


number of women graduate from business schools
and rise to managerial and executive levels, the ethics
literature has recognized the value of examining the
influence of gender. The purpose of such research is
to investigate differences and commonalities of
attitudes based on the gender of respondents.
Overall, empirical studies have produced conflicting results. Some studies did not find any significant differences. For example, Barnett and
Karson (1989) reported that, among business executives, gender had no impact on ethical beliefs.
Kidwell et al. (1987) concluded that female managers
were more ethical for only one of 17 ethical decision
situations. Interestingly, they reported that, when
asked to estimate the ethics of the opposite sex in
each of the situations, respondents almost universally
perceived the opposite sex to be more unethical than
themselves. In a more recent study of senior executives, Das (2005) found no significant differences
between the genders regarding their ethical preferences. On the other hand, a number of studies
produced significant differences between the genders
on ethical sensitivity (Simga-Mugan et al., 2005).
Compared to male managers, female managers perceived questionable business practices as more
unethical (Deshpande et al., 2000). In a study of
1,875 business people, females assumed a more strict
ethical stance than their male counterparts on seven
out of 19 vignettes (Weeks et al., 1999). Males,
however, adopted a more ethical stance on two out
of the 19 vignettes.
These studies examined differences in ethical
judgment between female and male business persons
without making any distinctions based on their
occupations. Others have sought greater precision by
focusing on more homogeneous subjects. The
overall findings have been inconclusive. For example, in a study of marketing professionals that used
scenarios to measure a persons ethical score, females
had higher scores for three of 11 scenarios (Akaah
and Riordan, 1989). When ethical differences in the
sales profession were studied, Dawson (1997) concluded that females were more likely to agree that
behaviors described in 20 scenarios were unethical.
Among insurance employees, Serwinek (1992)
reported that females were more ethical for one of
the four factors that were examined. However, in
their study of industrial buyers, Browning and

Zabriskie (1983) found no significant differences


between men and women.
A number of these investigations have concentrated on accountants. This issue is a particularly
worthwhile research theme with respect to entrylevel positions. In 2006, the American Institute of
Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) reported that
more females than males received Bachelors degrees
in accounting and were new employees in CPA
positions (AICPA, 2006). These studies have produced mixed results. In her survey of 400 CPAs,
DAquila (2001) found that females and males had
different perceptions of managements ethical standards and expectations. In another study, when
practicing accountants were surveyed, males rated
only three of the 12 components of the AICPAs
Code of Professional Ethics as more important than
did females (David et al., 1994). However, two other
studies of accountants (Jones and Hiltebeital, 1995;
Radtke, 2000) reported no significant differences
between the genders regarding the appropriateness of
ethical conduct.
The considerable attention to this subject is an
ongoing testament to the importance placed on the
influence of gender on the ethical attitudes of business managers and accounting practitioners. Yet,
while each of these studies has attempted to determine whether there were differences in ethical
attitudes and behavior between females and males,
significant gaps in the literature remain. One area
which has been largely overlooked and, therefore,
warrants further investigation is the selection process
for entry-level positions in public accounting. The
current study attempts to partially fill this void.
Specifically, the purposes of this paper are twofold. First, to examine practitioners perceptions of
the relative importance of business ethics as a selection criterion for entry-level public accounting
positions. Second, to determine whether gender
differences do exist with respect to these perceptions. The results may have implications for
accounting educators and practitioners.

Variables
While this study focuses on the importance of ethics
as a selection criterion, several other variables are
examined. In addition to gathering demographic

The Relative Importance of Ethics as a Selection Criterion


data, the participants were asked to indicate whether
they had received any formal education or training
in professional ethics. They were then requested to
respond to a number of questions about the
importance of eight criteria in the selection of entrylevel public accountants: ethics, professionalism,
leadership abilities, conceptual aptitude, technical
competence in accounting, strategic thinking,
communication, and interpersonal skills. The first
criterion was included because prior research confirms that ethical sensitivity is a highly valued trait in
applicants for entry-level accounting positions
(Ahadiat and Smith, 1994). According to Turpen
and Witmer (1997), in public accounting a
commitment to ethical behavior is regarded as the
foundation for all other standards of performance
(65). Employers seek to hire accountants who will
consider the ethical implications of their actions and
expect them to respond appropriately when confronted with ethical dilemmas. Indeed, the AICPAs
Code of Professional Conduct the AICPAs Code of
Professional Conduct asserts that members ethical
awareness is a professional responsibility. Also, the
recruiting information disseminated by public
accounting firms supports the prominence placed on
ethics.
The other seven skills and characteristics were inspired by selection criteria discussed in academic
journals (e.g., Kirsch et al., 1993; Klein et al., 1990;
Peppas and Yu, 2005), practitioners publications
(e.g., Messmer, 2003, 2005; Myers, 2005, 2006;
Siegel, 2000), and newspaper reporters (e.g.,
Bradshaw, 2004). Specifically, in addition to proficiency in accounting, the literature has identified
communication (speaking, writing, and listening) and
interpersonal skills (the ability to work with others,
social skills, and teamwork) as important for accountants (Gardner et al., 2005; Hassall et al., 1999; Novin,
1997). When highly successful business leaders were
compared to average performers, almost 90 percent of
the difference in their profiles was attributable to
possessing communication and interpersonal skills
(Coleman et al., 2002). As their roles expand, many
accountants have become information managers.
According to Messmer (2003), accountants continue
to assume broader responsibilities To succeed
professionally, accountants need to be strong
communicators who can convey complex information to people outside of the financial field (36). An

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extensive study by Albrecht and Sack (2000) revealed


that, in the opinion of educators and practitioners, the
most important competencies that should be taught to
accounting students include communication, interpersonal skills, and teamwork. In response, the
accounting profession has, in recent years, issued
impassioned calls for increased emphasis on these
skills. For example, the AICPA has identified the
ability to communicate and to exercise judgment and
understanding among the major skills for protection of
the public interest. These calls have been answered by
some in the academic community. A recent survey of
66 business school deans found that two-thirds of
educators require in-class student presentations and
assign business communication papers (Specht and
Sandlin, 2006). Although there is a growing emphasis
on the importance of these skills in the accounting
profession, studies show that their level is significantly
lower among accounting students than nonaccounting business school counterparts (Bay and McKeage,
2006; Esmond-Kiger et al., 2006).
Another pertinent criterion relates to strategic
thinking, i.e., the ability to visualize and comprehend
the big picture, and to address long-term and crossfunctional issues (Albrecht and Sack, 2000). Wilder
and Stocks (2004) contend that there is a strong need
to promote accountants as general business strategists.
The AICPA has embarked on a program that
encourages accountants to develop a keen sense of
strategy. Messmer (2005) asserts that the long-term
success of a business requires accountants to think
strategically by evaluating data and making recommendations based on an assessment of financial trends.
Joseph (2006) argues that in todays unstructured
business environment, accountants need a broad
view of the organization, the ability to understand the
organization in the context of its environment, and
the individuals that form part of it (31).
A related concept is conceptual skills, i.e., problem
solving and critical analytical thinking. Accountants
make important judgments and decisions. They
choose methods of accounting for inventory
make judgments about future earnings judge
whether there are material misstatements in
financial statements (Bonner, 1999, p. 386). Among
management accountants, in particular, Tatikonda
(2004) contends that technological advances have
automated many activities that accountants traditionally performed and have changed accountants

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Nabil Ibrahim and John Angelidis

role (62). Today they spend less time preparing


standardized reports and more time analyzing, interpreting, and providing information for decision
making (63). Since students are not exposed to a
broader understanding of the purpose and impact of
accounting information, the gap between current
accounting education and the needs of industry are
widening. (63, 64). This shortcoming has been
attributed by some writers to the influence of the
CPA examination. For example, Nelson (1995)
argues that since the CPA exam encourages professors
to focus on technical proficiency, students do not
appreciate the importance of critical thinking. Yet
when asked to prioritize skills in terms of how much
class time should be spent developing each, Albrecht
and Sack (2000) report that analytical/critical thinking was ranked first by educators and second by
practitioners. Clearly, accounting education must
endeavor to inculcate conceptual thinking in addition to purely technical accounting knowledge.
Responding to these concerns, some accounting
programs have introduced a capstone course in their
curricula. Its purpose is to expand upon skills and
knowledge from prior courses in the major, so students may learn to solve new problems in unstructured situations all within a liberal arts tradition
(Jervis and Hartley, 2005, p. 30).
Professionalism refers to individual modes of
behavior that command respect and build trust. It
encompasses professional appearance, public image,
attitude, and confidence (Anderson et al., 1994;
Harrison, 2004; Kirsch et al., 1993; Tan et al., 2004).
In its role as the professional organization representing the accounting profession, the AICPA continuously emphasizes its commitment to
professionalism. It establishes and maintains professional standards for public accounting and strives to
maintain an image that would enhance public confidence in the professionalism of CPAs.
Finally, leadership abilities have been identified as
another attribute considered important by practitioners. In their survey of accounting educators and
practitioners, Albrecht and Sack (2000) found that
leadership is one of the most important competencies that should be taught to accounting students. It
relates to an individuals level of motivation, determination, and assertiveness; willingness to accept
responsibility and challenges; and the ability to inspire others (Kirsch et al., 1993).

Methodology
A questionnaire was administered to 345 public
accountants in four southeastern states. All were
briefed on the importance of the study and told that
the information was strictly confidential. Of the 345
completed questionnaires, three did not disclose
gender and were excluded from the analysis.
The instrument adopted a forced-choice format.
This format is especially functional in the ethics and
selection areas since it can limit respondents social
desirability bias and compels them to prioritize,
through the use of a ratio scale, a number of highly
desirable alternatives (see, e.g., Cohen et al., 1996;
Randall and Fernandes, 1991). The respondents
were asked to allocate up to 30 points among eight
criteria in each of the ten sets of statements. Each of
the eight statements in a set represents a different
selection criterion. The mean of each individuals
scores on each of the eight criteria was calculated to
arrive at an individuals position regarding the
importance of each criterion.
With respect to the instruments psychometric
properties, several steps were taken to ensure its
validity. The items were reviewed by practicing
accountants and by colleagues who teach human
resources management, business ethics, and
accounting. The alpha coefficients of internal consistency for each of the eight criteria were: 0.87 for
ethics, 0.72 for professionalism, 0.74 for conceptual
abilities, 0.88 for technical competence in accounting, 0.81 for communication, 0.83 for interpersonal
skills, 0.76 for leadership abilities, and 0.77 for strategic thinking. To address issues of clarity and
readability, the questionnaire was pilot tested on 26
graduate business students, nine of whom had
undergraduate degrees in accounting. As a result,
several minor problems in the wording of the items
were found and changes and refinements were
made.

Results
The majority of the respondents was male (56%) and
the overall samples mean age was 41.6 years. The
females had, on average, 13 years of work experience in public accounting and their average age was
44. The males had, on average, 17 years of public

The Relative Importance of Ethics as a Selection Criterion


accounting work experience and their average age
was 41. Although the females, on average, were
older than the males, they had fewer years of
experience. This apparent discrepancy is accounted
for by the incidence of work interruptions experienced by the females because of family responsibilities. When asked whether they had received any
formal training in business ethics, all but six of the
respondents indicated that this topic was covered in
their college education and/or in continuing professional education (CPE) classes. Overall, the entire
samples mean scores for the eight selection criteria
ethics, technical competence in accounting, communication, interpersonal skills, strategic thinking,
professionalism, conceptual aptitude, and leadership
abilities were 2.94, 7.63, 5.03, 4.50, 2.89, 2.07,
2.91, and 2.01, respectively.
The analysis of the results was conducted in several
stages. First, Table I displays the descriptive statistics
for the eight factors. It reveals that the two groups
rankings (based on the means of scores) of the eight
criteria are different. A Spearman rank-order correlation test showed that the two sets are positively
correlated (rs = 0.8810, p = 0.0198). That is, there is
a high degree of consistency between the two groups
rankings. Technical competence in accounting,
communication, and interpersonal skills were viewed
as the most influential, while professionalism and
leadership abilities were the least important.
Closer examination of Table I shows that the
means of the two groups scores on each of the items
are different and that the males scores were higher

53

than the females for five of the eight factors. For this
reason, a second test was conducted to explore these
differences. A multivariate analysis of variance
(MANOVA) procedure was considered to be the
most appropriate analytic technique for exploring
differences in scores between the female and male
students. This procedure compensates for variable
intercorrelation and provides an omnibus test of any
multivariate effect. However, as a preliminary check
for robustness, a test for unequal variances between
the two groups was conducted (Hair et al., 2006).
Boxs M test for homogeneity of dispersion matrices
produced a nonsignificant F (p = 0.39). This
confirmed the homogeneity of the two variance
covariance matrices thus validating the appropriateness of the use of the MANOVA for the analysis. The
MANOVA revealed significant differences between
the two groups (Wilks K = 0.5117, p = 0.0273).
That is, overall, the two groups had different scores
for each of the eight selection criteria.
Next, to understand the underlying contributions
of the variables to the significant multivariate effect,
each independent variable was tested using a oneway analysis of variance (ANOVA) with the two
groups treated as our two levels of the independent
variable. The results, depicted in Table I, show that
differences between the two groups were significant
on five of the eight variables: ethics (F1,340 = 78.62,
p < .0000), conceptual aptitude (F1,340 = 11.04,
p = 0.0010), interpersonal skills (F1,340 = 58.94,
p < 0.0000), strategic thinking (F1,340 = 16.00, p =
0.0001), and leadership abilities (F1,340 = 29.99,

TABLE I
ANOVA results for differences between female and male accountants
Dependent variables

Ethics
Technical competence in accounting
Communication
Interpersonal skills
Strategic thinking
Professionalism
Conceptual aptitude
Leadership abilities

Females (n = 151)

Males (n = 191)

Mean

Mean

3.23
7.65
4.99
4.70
2.75
2.02
2.78
1.85

Figures in parentheses are standard deviations.

(0.51)
(0.37)
(0.49)
(0.39)
(0.46)
(0.56)
(0.68)
(0.59)

Rank
4
1
2
3
5
7
6
8

2.71
7.61
5.06
4.35
3.00
2.11
3.02
2.14

(0.56)
(0.33)
(0.55)
(0.44)
(0.65)
(0.52)
(0.65)
(0.55)

78.62
1.11
1.50
58.94
16.00
2.36
11.04
29.99

0.0000
0.2922
0.2211
0.0000
0.0001
0.1254
0.0010
0.0000

Rank
6
1
2
3
5
8
4
7

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Nabil Ibrahim and John Angelidis

p < 0.0000). Compared to the men, the female


students scores revealed greater concern about
ethics and a persons interpersonal skills and less
concern for conceptual aptitude, strategic thinking,
and leadership abilities. No significant differences
between the two groups were observed with respect
to professionalism (F1,340 = 2.36, p = 0.1254),
communication skills (F1,340 = 1.50, p = 0.2211),
and technical competence in accounting (F1,340 =
1.11, p = 0.2922).

Discussion
One significant area largely ignored by prior research
is an examination of an individuals ethical attitudes
as a selection criterion for entry-level positions in
public accounting. A particularly critical subject
concerns similarities and differences between female
and male accountants with respect to the relative
importance of this criterion. This study led to several
insights about this relationship as well as the other
seven selection criteria with important implications
for educators and practitioners.
First, when the results shown in Table I are
analyzed, several patterns emerge. On average, there
was some agreement between the female and male
accountants on the relative importance of the eight
criteria. Both groups, understandably, shared the
opinion that the most important factor is technical
competence in accounting and the ANOVAs show
that there were no significant differences between
the genders with respect to this crucial factor.
Indeed, their scores were almost identical.
Interestingly, communication and interpersonal
skills were next. Both groups agreed that these two
areas are essential for todays accounting professional.
As indicated earlier, there is general agreement among
business professionals and educators that these abilities
are indispensable for successful business careers. The
former have urged colleges to improve the effectiveness of courses that focus on developing the students communication, interpersonal, and social skills.
Educators are increasingly concerned with meeting
these challenges, and many colleges have taken steps
to address these concerns. The results of this study
suggest that accounting professionals are persuaded of
the importance of these competencies when selecting
entry-level public accountants.

There is a dearth of studies examining differences


between female and male accountants in communication skills. However, one study investigated
classroom interactions in accounting classrooms.
Men were found to be more active in classroom
discussions, while women tended to be less assertive learners, often discounting their own comments,
and frequently silenced through interruption by
male students (Brazelton, 1998, p. 527). Despite
these findings, this study clearly shows that, compared to the male sample, the female accountants
recognized the importance of communications and
interpersonal skills in entry-level accounting positions. Indeed, the ANOVA revealed no significant
differences between the genders with regard to these
skills.
Although interpersonal skills were ranked third by
both samples, the females scores were significantly
higher. This is not surprising in light of the research
results reported earlier. Also, Smith and Oakley
(1997) found that females exhibited greater concern
for social and interpersonal relationships. According
to Gilligan (1982), while women tend to value
interpersonal relationships, men are less likely to let
such notions to get in the way of competitive success.
Another important finding is that ethics was
placed by both genders around the middle of the
scale. Some writers have suggested that this might be
due to the lack of attention that accounting education, the CPA examination, and continuing professional education courses have been giving to ethics.
For example, Burke and DAquila (2004) have
expressed their disappointment and called for greater
emphasis on ethics by showing that the attention
devoted to it is less than five percent of the CPA
examination. Furthermore, they urged CPAs to
enroll in ethics courses as part of the mandatory CPE
requirement: Just as emphasizing ethics at the
entrance to the profession helps fulfill accountants
public responsibility, emphasizing ethics through
continuing education strengthens that commitment
(61).
For educators, these results provide additional
momentum to calls for requiring a business ethics
course in the accounting curriculum. There is evidence that these classes do have an impact upon
ethical behavior by reinforcing and strengthening
the ethical beliefs of some or, for others, calling the
inadequacy of their beliefs into questions. Although

The Relative Importance of Ethics as a Selection Criterion


this topic is discussed in depth in separate courses,
and often arises in the ordinary course of teaching
other business subjects, Albrecht and Sack (2000)
report that one of the most frequent criticisms of
accounting curricula and course content is we do
not deal enough with values, ethics, and integrity
(512). In recent years a number of writers have
suggested that accounting programs offer courses
focusing specifically on accounting ethics. According
to Bean and Bernardi (2007) ethics is of primary
importance to the accounting profession, and the
profession clearly has the right, if not the obligation,
to require an accounting ethics course as a condition
of admittance to the profession (67). Clearly, ethics
courses cannot guarantee that accountants will
behave ethically; however, there is evidence that the
probability of ethical lapses is likely to decrease with
increased ethics education. Armstrong (1993) has
shown that accounting students who took a general
ethics course as well as an ethics and professionalism
course had significantly higher ethical sensitivity
scores compared to those who did not attend those
courses. Furthermore, some have suggested that a
discipline-specific accounting ethics course taken
during the same semester that a student takes
auditing would provide a synergy not in the current
curriculum (Bean and Bernardi, 2007, p. 66).
Hopefully, such proposals and our results will stimulate other researchers to examine these possibilities.
Three of the other seven factors were perceived
by the females to be more important than ethics for
entry-level positions in accounting, while five of the
other factors were deemed more important by the
males. The ANOVA results showing that the
females scores with respect to ethics were significantly higher than the males corroborate previous
research. One potential explanation may be found in
the literature on the socialization process. Gilligan
(1982) and Gilligan and Attanucci (1994), for
example, concluded that men and women perceive
ethical matters from distinctly different perspectives.
They contend that these differences can be attributed
to the early socialization process which fosters an
ethic of caring in women.
The other two factors which were ranked around
the middle of the scale are conceptual abilities and
strategic thinking. Clearly, the accounting function
is perceived as a mechanical process not requiring
the ability to see the big picture, visualizing can

55

organization as a whole, understanding the relationships among its parts, thinking critically and
analytically, addressing problems that are ambiguous,
and thinking strategically by taking a broad and
long-term perspective. This suggests that these skills
were viewed as far removed from entry-level
accountants day-to-day responsibilities. One optimistic explanation of our results is the possibility that
they perceived these skills as important later in the
accountants careers. These results are parallel to
those reported in a study of auditors skills.
Accountants felt that a broader perspective was less
valuable than the ability to efficiently perform routine and mechanical tasks. The authors speculated
that the former would assume a role of greater
importance later in the careers of those remaining in
the firm (Kirsch et al., 1993, p. 66).
Some writers have attributed this perception to
certain flaws in accounting education. For example,
Albrecht and Sack (2000) criticize the educational
process because it does not properly prepare entrylevel accountants for the ambiguous business world
and when they encounter situations that require
them to exercise analytical skills. In spite of continued emphasis on the value of a broad education
that fosters analytical and conceptual thinking while
developing the students sensitivity to business ethics, these results suggest that educators continue to
face important challenges. Nelson (1995) asserts that
rather than focusing on passing the CPA exam, the
goal of accounting education should be to develop
analytical and conceptual skills. Indeed, professional
reports continue to express concern that accounting
education over-emphasizes the technical competencies of applicants to the detriment of other
important skills and abilities (Gardner et al., 2005).
The results, however, show that the males had a
much greater appreciation of the importance of these
skills than the females.
The most surprising aspect of this study was the
last-place finish for professionalism and leadership
abilities. As stated earlier, educators and professional
accountants have urged business programs to
improve the effectiveness of courses that focus on
developing the students leadership abilities and
instilling professional attitudes and demeanor.
Although these characteristics were not ranked in
the same order, both genders agreed that these were
the least important factors. Overall, when the

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Nabil Ibrahim and John Angelidis

respondents were asked to allocate their 30 points


among eight factors, professionalism was assigned
only 2.07 points while leadership abilities were
allotted 2.01 points of their total scores. Although
the latter was given significantly higher scores from
the males than the females, these two areas, combined, received slightly more than one-half of the
score assigned to technical competence in accounting. This contrast suggests that the accountants see
these attributes and skills to be of minor importance
for entry-level positions. It is possible, however, that
they are viewed as much more relevant for higherlevel positions.
While this study offers an improved understanding of differences and similarities between female
and male students, a number of limitations must be
pointed out regarding the conclusions generated by
this research. First, our subject pool consisted of
accountants from four southeastern states. Additional
research with larger national samples would be
necessary to confirm these findings. As Shaub (1994)
points out, an individuals ethical perspective could
be influenced by geographical and cultural location.
An additional limitation concerns the generalizability
of these results. A study such as this one is based
largely on aggregate measures. However, it opens a
line of inquiry on whether these results are valid
when the respondents hierarchical positions in their
organization are taken into account. This would
ensure a greater homogeneity within the groups
being studied. Some writers have suggested that, as
one progresses in a public accounting firm, socialization will lead to a more homogeneous ethical
perspective regardless of gender (Ponemon and
Gabhart, 1994).
An additional cautionary note concerns the possibility of bias in the data provided by those who
were sampled in this study. Since previous studies
(e.g., Nederhof, 1985) have demonstrated that social
desirability is inversely related to the degree of
anonymity provided, respondents were promised
this guarantee. Yet such a bias cannot be completely
ruled out. However, as a number of authors have
pointed out, self-report measures are indispensable in
organizational research (Podsakoff and Organ,
1986). Indeed, in certain research contexts, selfreports may provide more accurate estimates of
population parameters than behavioral measures
(Howard et al., 1980).

Finally, a comparison of business students and


practitioners would be another productive avenue. It
would be useful to examine future managers,
younger managers, and managers with more extensive work experience. This type of analysis would
yield insight into the salient factors that affect the
ethical behavior of these three generations.
In conclusion, the findings of this study provide
helpful insights into an area of growing concern to
society and all types of organizations. The numerous
managerial ambiguities that are inherent in business
decisions are further complicated by growing societal demands on corporations and increased awareness of the ethical dimension of decision making.
This issue is likely to gain increased attention by
educators and practitioners in the coming years.

References
Ahadiat, N. and K. J. Smith: 1994, A Factor-Analytic
Investigation of Employee Selection Factors of Significance to Recruiters of Entry-Level Accountants,
Issues in Accounting Education 9(1), 5979.
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Nabil Ibrahim
College of Business Administration,
Augusta State University,
Augusta, GA 30904-2200, U.S.A.
E-mail: nibrahim@aug.edu
John Angelidis
Department of Management,
St. Johns University,
8000 Utopia Parkway, Jamaica, NY 11439, U.S.A.
E-mail: angelidj@stjohns.edu