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Accounting Horizons

Vol. 23, No. 1 American Accounting Association

2009 DOI: 10.2308/acch.2009.23.1.1
pp. 1–18

The Impact of Client and Auditor Gender on

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Auditors’ Judgments

Anna Gold, James E. Hunton, and Mohamed I. Gomaa

SYNOPSIS: This study assesses the influence of client gender and auditor gender on
auditors’ judgments. In an experimental task, a client offers unverified explanations as
to why the auditor’s initial proposed adjusting journal entry 共AJE兲 to lower the inventory
value should not be recorded. The design includes one randomly manipulated variable
共client gender: male or female兲 and one measured variable 共auditor gender: male or
female兲. The dependent variable assesses the influence of the client’s explanations on
the auditor’s final proposed AJE recommendation. The results indicate that both male
AC and female auditors exhibited a male favorability; that is, they were persuaded more by
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

a male than female client to change their initial AJE recommendation. Furthermore,
female auditors were more influenced by a male client and less influenced by a female
client than male auditors. Using an expert panel’s consensus opinion as a benchmark
for the “best” solution, the male auditors were more accurate than female auditors,
irrespective of client gender. Additional research will aid in substantiating, determining
the limits, and generalizing the findings.

Keywords: audit judgment; auditor gender; client gender; gender stereotypes; risk
taking; selectivity hypothesis.

Data Availability: Contact the corresponding author.

ccording to a study by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants 共AICPA

A 2006兲 on Work/Life and Women Initiatives, more than 50 percent of new accounting
graduates are women; the vast majority of public accounting firms have made retention of

female professionals a priority; and the turnover of women currently approximates that of men.
However, gender disparity in the public accounting profession remains, as reflected in a recent
report 共AICPA 2008兲 indicating that 77 percent of CPA firm partners are male, and women
outnumber men only in small CPA firms 共10 to 49 professional staff members兲.

Anna Gold is an Assistant Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, James E. Hunton is a Professor at
Bentley University, and Mohamed I. Gomaa is an Assistant Professor at Suffolk University.

We acknowledge helpful comments received from participants of the 2006 Annual Meetings of the European Accounting
Association and the American Accounting Association, as well as research workshop participants at RSM Erasmus Uni-
versity and the University of Hawaii. This project has been supported by the Foundation Vereniging Trustfonds Erasmus
Universiteit Rotterdam in The Netherlands.
Submitted: February 2008
Accepted: September 2008
Published Online: February 2009
Corresponding author: Anna Gold
2 Gold, Hunton, and Gomaa

Accounting researchers have investigated various aspects of gender differences in the ac-
counting profession 共e.g., Almer et al. 1998; Anderson, Johnson, and Reckers 1994; Collins 1993;
Dennis and Engle 1996; Hull and Umansky 1997兲; however, to our knowledge, prior research has
not examined potential gender effects on audit judgments. In the current study, we examine
whether and how audit judgments differ based on auditor gender, client gender, and an interaction

of auditor and client gender.
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Because male and female auditors receive the same education and training, normatively, one
might expect that they would exhibit similar audit judgments. However, extant research shows that
women are generally more risk averse 共e.g., Byrnes et al. 1999兲 and they process information more
comprehensively than men 共e.g., Meyers-Levy 1989兲. Risk propensity and information processing

differences of this nature suggest that auditors’ judgments might differ by auditor gender.
The current experiment randomly manipulates client gender 共between-participants兲 and mea-
sures auditor gender. The participants 共40 male and 41 female experienced auditors兲 first read a
case scenario in which the client’s inventory valuation appeared to be overstated because of
potential obsolescence of a portion of inventory items. At this point in the study, the case descrip-
tion provided the participants with an initial proposed AJE valuation write-down amount. The
participants then received unverified explanations from the CFO, who was attempting to justify the
current valuation. We assessed the influence of the client-provided explanations via the partici-
pants’ final 共post-explanation兲 proposed AJE amount.
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

The experimental results indicate that, on average, male and female auditors were more
persuaded by a male client than a female client, thereby exhibiting a male-favorability bias. A
significant two-way interaction between auditor gender and client gender revealed that female
auditors, relative to male auditors, proposed smaller AJE adjustments for a female client and larger
AJE adjustments for a male client. Using an expert panel’s consensus opinion of the “best”
solution as a benchmark, the male auditors’ final proposed AJE was more accurate than the female
auditors’ proposed final AJE, regardless of client gender.
If replicated, this study holds potentially important implications for the audit profession.
Assuming that gender-related biases indeed affect audit judgments as reflected in the current study,
interventions such as auditor training in and awareness of such biases, as well as mixed-gender
audit teams, should be explored for their potential to mitigate or nullify such effects.
The remainder of this paper proceeds as follows. The next section reviews relevant literature
and sets forth study hypotheses. The third and fourth sections describe the research method and
present study findings, respectively. The final section summarizes the study, discusses the impli-
cations for practice and theory in the context of this study’s limitations, and proposes future
research directions.


Client inquiry constitutes a major source of audit evidence and is particularly important in
situations where the auditor detects unexpected fluctuations, trends, or valuations in the client’s
accounts. In such instances, the auditor commonly seeks explanations from client personnel. Once
the client provides the auditor with explanations, the auditor assesses the credibility of such
explanations and evaluates the risk involved in accepting, at some level, the evidence. In the
following section, we suggest that male and female auditors might differ in the extent to which
they assess and evaluate client-provided explanations, mainly because gender is associated with
varying levels of risk aversion and information processing comprehensiveness.

Auditor Gender
In general, prior judgment and decision-making research reveals that gender effects on audit
judgments arise from two primary sources. First, men and women appear to differ with regard to

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The Impact of Client and Auditor Gender on Auditors’ Judgments 3

their risk aversion, such that women are generally more risk averse than men 共e.g., Byrnes et al.
1999; Dwyer et al. 2002; Hinz et al. 1997; Jianakoplos and Bernasek 1998; Olsen and Cox 2001;
Sundén and Surette 1998兲. Second, women tend to employ more comprehensive and detailed
cognitive information processing than men—a phenomenon known as the selectivity hypothesis
共e.g., Chung and Monroe 1998, 2001; Meyers-Levy 1989, 1998; Meyers-Levy and Maheswaran

1991; Meyers-Levy and Sternthal 1991; O’Donnell and Johnson 2001兲. Both of these potential
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sources of gender differences are explicated next.

A Trait Explanation—Risk Aversion

Risk-taking entails the acceptance of options that could lead to negative consequences

共Byrnes et al. 1999兲. Recent evidence from multiple research domains indicates that women are
generally more risk averse in their judgments and behaviors than men. For instance, psychology
researchers have found gender differences in studies of risky behaviors, such as drug abuse, sexual
behavior, speeding and changing jobs 共for a review, see Byrnes et al. 1999兲. In the area of financial
decision making, gender differences in risk aversion are also evident, as female investors tend to
be more risk averse than their male counterparts. For example, portfolio composition studies by
Hinz et al. 共1997兲, Sundén and Surette 共1998兲, and Jianakoplos and Bernasek 共1998兲 find that
women hold larger proportions of wealth in financial assets with lower volatility of return, relative
to men. Olsen and Cox 共2001兲 find that professionally trained female investors weigh risk at-
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

tributes more heavily and emphasize risk reduction more strongly than male investors. Dwyer
et al. 共2002兲 observe that women exhibit less risk-taking tendencies than men in their most recent,
largest, and riskiest mutual fund investment decisions. To the extent that a similar risk aversion
difference exists between male and female auditors, female auditors should exhibit less risky
judgments than male auditors. Hence, in response to unverified client-provided evidence, rela-
tively higher risk aversion 共a personality trait presumably held by female auditors兲 should result in
a relatively smaller adjustment of the initially proposed AJE, whereas relatively lower risk aver-
sion 共a personality trait presumably held by male auditors兲 should lead to relatively greater ad-

A Cognitive Explanation—The Selectivity Hypothesis

Extant research has also revealed that men and women differ in the level of detail at which
they cognitively process information—a phenomenon known as the selectivity hypothesis
共Meyers-Levy 1989, 1998; Meyers-Levy and Maheswaran 1991; Meyers-Levy and Sternthal
1991兲. According to the selectivity hypothesis, women tend to integrate more of the available
evidential cues into their judgments, reflecting an intense level of cognitive processing. Men, on
the other hand, tend to eliminate what they deem to be irrelevant cues and focus on a limited set

of salient pieces of information that are relatively easy and quick to process 共Meyers-Levy 1998兲.1
Accounting research supports this gender difference for auditors in various contexts. For
instance, Chung and Monroe 共1998兲 found that male accounting students selectively processed
information, whereas female students used a more comprehensive information processing strategy.
Similarly, in an analytical procedure planning task, female auditors exerted more processing effort
than male auditors in a low client risk context 共O’Donnell and Johnson 2001兲. Finally, in an
inventory valuation task, female auditors outperformed male auditors because of more compre-
hensive information processing 共Chung and Monroe 2001兲.
Based on gender differences in risk aversion and the selectivity hypothesis, we suggest that
unverified client-provided explanations will influence female auditors to a lesser extent than male

Meyers-Levy 共1998兲 contends that neither approach is necessarily superior to the other, as the manner in which
individuals integrate information cues into their judgments is task and context dependent.

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4 Gold, Hunton, and Gomaa

auditors for the following reasons. First, female auditors should stick to their initial judgments
more so than men, because accepting client explanations of this nature reflects a form of risky
behavior. Second, because of their greater need for detailed and comprehensive information,
female auditors should be more reluctant than male auditors to change their initial audit judgments
based solely on client-provided explanations that have not been subjected to verification testing.

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We thus posit our first hypothesis:

H1: Female auditors will be less influenced by client-provided explanations, relative to male

Client Gender
Next, we investigate the potential effect of the client representative’s gender on auditors’
judgments during client inquiry. Although inquiry may involve client personnel at all organiza-
tional levels, a common source of client explanations is the chief financial officer 共CFO兲. Despite
a growing gender shift toward female CFOs, men still typically occupy the CFO position. For
example, 35 Fortune 500 companies have female CFOs, which is less than 10 percent of the total
共Nyberg-Stuart 2006兲. Consequently, one can reasonably assume that relatively few auditors are
used to interacting with female CFOs when obtaining client-provided evidence. We expect that
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

such lack of experience can lead to differential auditor reactions toward a male and female client.
As well, auditors’ susceptibility to gender stereotypes may explain differential responses.
Psychology research demonstrates that “gender” reflects a social category, which individuals
consider, often subconsciously, during their information processing and judgment-forming activi-
ties 共e.g., Berger et al. 1977; Norton et al. 2004兲. To facilitate and accelerate decision-making,
people tend to engage in the process of stereotyping to place individuals in groups of easily
recognized members. Once they have stereotyped a target person as a member of a particular
social category 共e.g., male or female兲, decision makers often make tacitly biased assumptions
about the target person’s behaviors, skills, and capabilities. Norms of the social category are
automatically associated with the assumed member, even when the particular situation does not
provide corresponding indications 共Dunning and Sherman 1997兲.
For instance, most individuals tend to associate the male gender with greater overall ability
than the female gender 共Williams and Best 1990兲—a phenomenon often referred to as “sexism.”
Management research shows that individuals frequently stereotype male managers as possessing
high managerial abilities, while expecting that female managers lack the necessary attributes for
managerial success 共Heilman et al. 1989; Powell and Butterfield 1989; Schein 2001兲. Susceptibil-
ity to gender stereotypes can also affect an individual’s receptiveness to influence or persuasion.

Research evidence suggests that, on the whole, people tend to agree with the opinions of men to
a greater extent than those of women 共Berger et al. 1977; Wagner and Berger 1997兲, particularly
in domains that are stereotypically masculine 共Carli 1990; Lockheed 1985; Propp 1995; Schneider
and Cook 1995兲, such as management.
Given auditors’ extensive education and training in making objective and unbiased decisions,
normatively they should not consider client gender a diagnostic attribute when forming audit-
related judgments. However, audit research has demonstrated that auditors are susceptible to
nondiagnostic cues 共e.g., Hackenbrack 1992兲—a category to which client gender belongs.
While prior accounting research has not examined how client gender influences audit-related
judgments, a few studies suggest that auditors do consider gender in some situations. For example,
research on auditors’ peer evaluations finds that auditors’ judgments are sensitive to gender, such
that auditors expect hypothetical audit seniors described as female to be less likely to succeed in
their profession than male seniors 共Anderson, Johnson, and Reckers 1994兲. Furthermore, audit

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The Impact of Client and Auditor Gender on Auditors’ Judgments 5

managers with a low tolerance for ambiguity evaluate an audit senior’s performance lower when
the senior is female as compared to male 共Johnson et al. 1998兲. While the research evidence on
peer evaluation is not directly applicable to the context of the current study, it does suggest that
auditors can be susceptible to gender stereotyping.
Based on the stereotypic association between male gender and perceived managerial abilities,

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the disproportion of women CFOs in the workplace, and evidence regarding auditors’ susceptibil-
ity to gender stereotyping, we expect that auditors will be less influenced by female, relative to
male, client explanations, as reflected in the following hypothesis:
H2: Auditors will be less influenced by client-provided explanations offered by a female,

relative to a male, client representative.

Interaction between Auditor Gender and Client Gender

Next, we examine how male and female auditors might respond differentially to client gender.
Our review of the psychology, management, and accounting literature does not reveal one consis-
tent, directional prediction in this regard, which may be because of methodological, contextual, or
task differences. Some studies find that men are strongly gender-biased against women, whereas
women are less gender-biased. Another research stream indicates that men and women are equally
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

biased toward male-favorability, and a third research stream suggests that women are more
gender-biased against women than men are against women. Because there is no clear and con-
vincing evidence one way or the other, we develop three competing hypotheses in this regard.
First, evidence in the management and leadership literature suggests that a male-favorability
bias is stronger for male than female judges. For instance, research on the evaluation of male
versus female leaders reveals that female leaders are more likely to be rejected when the evalua-
tors are men 共for a meta-analysis, see Eagly et al. 1992兲. A series of management studies demon-
strates that the perception of successful managers being associated with stereotypically male
characteristics is more widespread among men than women 共e.g., Schein 2001; Schein and
Mueller 1992; Schein et al. 1996兲. Another series of studies on attitudes toward women as man-
agers similarly shows that men, relative to women, hold stronger negative attitudes against women
managers 共Brenner and Beutell 2001; Owen and Todor 1993; Peters et al. 1974; Terborg et al.
One possible explanation for these observations is that male judges may feel that they have
more to lose than female respondents by approving female leaders and managers because they fear
that men’s superior status relative to women could decline 共Eagly et al. 1992兲. Female judges, on
the other hand, may be more lenient or egalitarian than men in evaluating other women, because

they are themselves subjected to occasional penalization for violating gender-stereotypic norms
共Heilman and Chen 2005; Heilman et al. 2004兲.
Results of some audit studies also suggest that female auditors may be less gender-biased than
male auditors. For example, in a study by Trapp et al. 共1989兲, more than 69 percent of female
public accountants believe that women have the same level of commitment to public accounting as
men, while less than 37 percent of the male respondents agree. Furthermore, female auditors
appear to view their lack of upward mobility as a function of the “old boys’ network,” whereas
male auditors believe the lack of such mobility to be a function of women’s individual ability
共Pillsbury et al. 1989兲. Hull and Umansky 共1997兲 report that male audit managers evaluate female
leaders as less effective than male leaders, while female managers do not reflect this bias. Based
on the research findings just summarized, our first competing hypothesis is stated as follows:
H3a: The male-favorable influence of client-provided explanations will be greater for male
than female auditors.

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6 Gold, Hunton, and Gomaa

According to some gender stereotype researchers 共e.g., Greenwald and Banaji 1995; Rudman
and Kilianski 2000兲, women hold weaker male-favorable attitudes than men only when asked
explicitly about their gender attitudes, while both men and women demonstrate equivalent biases
when respondents are unaware that their attitudes are being measured 共i.e., implicit bias兲. Indeed,
several studies employing such implicit measurement have found no difference in gender stereo-

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typing between male and female evaluators. For instance, in a seminal study on gender stereotypes
共Williams and Best 1990兲, the stereotypical assumption that men possess greater overall abilities
than women holds equally for both male and female study participants. Similarly, with few ex-
ceptions, psychology experiments studying gender effects on social influence show no significant

interaction between the gender of the participant and the gender of the influence agent 共for a
review, see Carli 2001兲. Another research stream investigates the effect of applicant gender on
hiring decisions and finds no applicant-rater gender interaction 共e.g., Rudman 1998; Rudman and
Glick 1999兲. The same conclusion can be drawn for a series of studies on gender effects on
employee evaluations 共e.g., Heilman and Chen 2005; Heilman et al. 2004兲.
In the audit studies reviewed earlier 共Anderson, Johnson, and Reckers 1994; Johnson et al.
1998兲, participant gender also appears to be unrelated to the observed male favorability bias in
subordinate evaluations. In contrast to our first alternative interaction hypothesis, we might con-
clude from these findings that gender-stereotypic norms may be universal, regardless of the gender
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

of the evaluator. On the basis of prior research results, we offer the second competing hypothesis:
H3b: The male-favorable influence of client-provided explanations will not differ for male
and female auditors.
A third stream of research suggests that females may be harsher judges toward females than
male judges. For example, Mathison 共1986兲 finds that women’s perceptions of female managers
are more negative than men’s perceptions, particularly when the female managers are portrayed as
assertive, which is a stereotypically masculine attribute. In reviews of economic grant proposals to
the U.S. National Science Foundation, female reviewers tend to rate female-authored papers
consistently lower than male reviewers 共Broder 1993兲. During evaluations of job applications,
female judges display harsher standards for hiring a female than male judges 共Biernat and Fuegen
2001兲. One suggested explanation is that female judges want to be perceived as “fair” when
evaluating other women so that their own credibility will not be questioned; as a consequence,
some female evaluators judge other women quite harshly 共Broder 1993兲. Another potential expla-
nation is that some women do not want what they deem to be a weakly qualified woman to get
ahead in the workplace, as this may reflect badly on all women 共Broder 1993兲.

Research evidence from the mentoring literature suggests that female mentors are less willing
than male mentors to withstand protégé failure, especially when the protégé is female 共Ragins and
Cotton 1993兲. The reason for such reluctance is that female mentors believe that women’s numeri-
cal minority in the organization can lead to significantly more thorough scrutiny than all other
mentor-protégé gender compositions. As a result, some female mentors perceive that any failure
on the female protégé’s part could disproportionately damage the mentors’ career.
The only auditing study of which we are aware with consistent findings in this regard is
Harding et al. 共2002兲, who investigated whether applicant gender influenced public accounting
firm recruiters in their applicant ratings and salary offers. Although male recruiters treated male
and female applicants equally, female recruiters tended to offer significantly higher salaries to
male recruits than to female recruits 共Harding et al. 2002兲. Based on prior research findings that
females tend to judge other females harsher than male judges, our third competing hypothesis

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The Impact of Client and Auditor Gender on Auditors’ Judgments 7

H3c: The male-favorable influence of client-provided explanations will be greater for female
than male auditors.


We designed and administered a computerized experiment to test the research hypotheses.
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The experiment reflected one between-participant factor 共client gender: male or female兲, within
which we blocked participants according to their gender 共auditor gender: male or female兲. Partici-
pants in each of the blocks were randomly assigned to the two treatment conditions.
The case used in the current study is an adaptation of an inventory obsolescence scenario by

Nöteberg and Hunton 共2005兲. Participants assumed the role of an audit manager of a large ac-
counting firm who is in charge of the audit of a computer manufacturer, called MicroClone, Inc.
The participants’ task was to evaluate whether client-provided explanations would resolve a po-
tential inventory overvaluation problem that had been detected in the company’s finished goods
inventory, currently valued at $2 million. Specifically, participants learned that the client’s inven-
tory appeared to be overvalued by about $400,000 because of potential obsolescence of one
product line 共“4th generation computers”兲. The case indicated that this product line should be
written down by $400,000 共initial judgment兲.2 Participants then learned that the client’s CFO was
going to address the obsolescence issue. At this point, the gender treatment, as described in the
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

upcoming section, was introduced.

On reading background information, participants stated their initial judgment by recommend-
ing the amount by which the client should write down the potentially obsolete inventory. Partici-
pants then read five emails from the CFO, each defending full valuation of the product line.3 After
reviewing the unverified explanations,4 participants had the opportunity to revise their initial
estimates by recommending a final write-down amount. Participants then responded to a post-
experimental questionnaire that included three blocks of items: manipulation checks, psychologi-
cal clinical debriefing questions, and demographic measures.5
Experimental Treatment
We described the CFO as possessing a CPA and master’s degree and having 15 years of
accounting experience.6 For the client-gender manipulation, we used an adaptation of the Gold-
berg experimental paradigm 共Goldberg 1968兲, in which participants judge identical experimental
materials under different gender assumptions. In a typical Goldberg-paradigm study, one treatment
group is led to believe that the message source is male, while the other group is told that the source
is female. Because participants were not aware of the current study’s purpose and because we
administered the manipulation between participants, any behavioral effect of client gender on

judgment change would reflect the participants’ implicit gender bias to the extent such bias exists.
We manipulated client gender by multiple mentions of the CFO’s name, which either signified a

After much deliberation, we chose not to mention whether the overvaluation was material. Rather, we decided to let
materiality be judged by the participants. A discussion of the implications of this choice appears in the final section of
this paper.
To preclude any order effects, the order of the five explanations was randomized per participant. Randomly presenting
the messages reduces the possibility of the order of presentation driving our results in a particular direction by affecting
participants’ judgment for each message.
We chose not to include third-party verifying support of the CFO’s explanations because being persuaded by unverified
explanations entails more risk-taking than verified explanations, and this strengthens the effect of the manipulation with
regard to risk tolerance or aversion.
The order of the post-experimental items was randomized within each block.
We pilot tested the realism and sufficiency of this CFO description using five audit managers from two Big 4 CPA firms.
Pilot participants deemed our description of the CFO background to be realistic and sufficient for the case.

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8 Gold, Hunton, and Gomaa

male 共“Tom”兲 or a female 共“Mona”兲 client.7 The case materials reinforced the manipulation
throughout the experiment by either repeating the name or referring to the CFO as “he” or “she”
where appropriate.

Dependent Measure

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The dependent variable metric reflects the participants’ final recommended write-down
amount for the potentially obsolete inventory, adjusted for their initial judgment amount.8 Differ-
ences between the initial and final write-down amounts indicate influence of the client explanation
and, hence, greater differences indicate more judgment changes toward the client’s advocated

The initial judgment measurement asked: “Given the available information and realizing that
you have yet to receive a response from Tom 共Mona兲, if you had to make a recommendation at this
point, by how much would you recommend MicroClone write down their 4th generation inventory
共between $400,000 and $0兲?” The post-explanation measure asked: “Having read Tom’s 共Mona’s兲
position on this matter, by how much would you recommend MicroClone write down their 4th
generation inventory 共between $400,000 and $0兲?”9

Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

Pilot Testing
We conducted a pilot study to test various assumptions on which our research hypotheses and
experimental manipulations relied. The pilot test involved 174 senior and manager auditors 共83
female and 91 male auditors兲 who did not participate in the current study.10 First, in our hypoth-
eses development, we characterize client gender as a possible implicit bias, rather than a diagnos-
tic cue. To test this assumption, we randomized client gender among pilot study participants and
asked the following question:
Assume you have reasons to believe that a client’s inventory valuation is too high, due to
potential obsolete inventory, yet the client is attempting to persuade you that the value for such
inventory is accurate as stated. Further assume that the client is a male 共female兲 CFO. To what
extent would the client’s explanations increase the initial amount by which you believe the po-
tentially obsolete inventory should be valued? 共1 = no extent, 3 = some extent, 5 = large extent兲.
The overall mean 共standard deviation兲 responses for male and female client, respectively,
were 2.60 共0.78兲 and 2.67 共0.72兲. The means are not significantly different from each other
共t = 0.78, p = 0.43兲. As well, the male client mean is not significantly different between male and
female auditors 共t = 1.15, p = 0.25兲, nor is the female client mean significantly different by auditor
gender 共t = 0.77, p = 0.44兲. Arguably, respondents might have been aware of this question’s pur-

pose; hence, their responses could be driven by hypothesis guessing. However, at least at an
explicit level, client gender does not appear to be perceived as a diagnostic cue in the auditor-
client inquiry context.

Pilot test results 共reported in the upcoming results section兲 support our assumption that the two names, Tom and Mona,
evoke similar connotations with respect to the client’s ethnicity and age.
All participants anchored on the same initial amount 共$400,000兲 that was provided in the case materials. Therefore,
adjusting for the anchor in the statistical analysis was not necessary.
Included on the post-explanation screen was the participant’s initial write-down recommendation via the following
reminder: “Your previous estimate was 共initial amount provided earlier by the participant兲.” We included the partici-
pants’ initial recommendation to rule out any effects related to memory; that is, we did not want the participants’ lack
of recall of their initial amounts to potentially confound their post-explanation write-down amounts.
We pilot tested the diagnostic nature of gender, connotations of the CFO names used in the current study, and risk-taking
propensity of male and female auditors in conjunction with a different auditing study that used the same task, after the
other study data were collected. The other study did not examine auditor or client gender.

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The Impact of Client and Auditor Gender on Auditors’ Judgments 9

Next, the pilot study examined whether the names “Tom” and “Mona” evoke similar conno-
tations with regard to two potentially confounding source attributes—ethnicity and age. This is an
important assumption in our study, as any judgment effects should be attributable to the CFO’s
gender, rather than ethnic origin or level of experience. A total of 68 male and 59 female auditors
indicated that both Tom and Mona were of Caucasian ethnicity, while 23 male and 24 female

auditors indicated “don’t know” 共␹2 = 1.41, p = 0.23兲 共the other choices were Hispanic or Latino,
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African American, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or other兲. With regard to perceived age,
given the following choices 共1 = younger than 20 years, 2 = 21–30, 3 = 31–40, 4 = 41–50,
5 = 51–60, 6 = 61–70, 7 = 71 years or older, and 8 = do not know兲, the mean 共standard deviation兲

responses for Tom and Mona, respectively, were 4.03 共0.66兲 and 4.02 共0.69兲. The means are not
significantly different from each other 共t = 0.16, p = 0.87兲, and the mean responses by auditor
gender are not significantly different for Tom 共t = 0.09, p = 0.93兲 or Mona 共t = 0.78, p = 0.44兲.
Hence, the names Tom and Mona evoked similar ethnicity and age connotations.
Finally, with regard to auditor gender, H1 impounds the assumption that male and female
auditors hold inherently different risk-taking propensities. Although prior research among other
professional groups provides support for this assumption, we are not aware of any study testing the
gender-based risk propensity assumption for auditors.11 The pilot participants responded to the
following measure of risk propensity 共Young 1985兲:
Suppose you are in the following situation. Someone is willing to give you $500 for certain,
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

or a gamble that pays $1,000 with probability p, or $0 with probability 共1 − p兲. What would p
have to be 共between 0 and 1兲 such that you are indifferent between the guarantee of receiving $500
and accepting the gamble?
The overall mean 共standard deviation兲 response was 0.48 共0.16兲. The female and male auditor
mean 共standard deviation兲 responses, respectively, were 0.55 共0.12兲 and 0.40 共0.15兲. The gender-
based means are significantly different 共t = 7.42, p ⬍ 0.01兲. The results suggest that female audi-
tors are indeed more risk averse than the male auditors, as assumed in this study.
After completion of the current experiment, we conducted another pilot test wherein five audit
partners from a large global CPA firm, who did not participate in the experiment, participated as
members of an expert panel. They read the same case used in the experiment, except that the
materials always referred to the client as “the CFO” with no mention of gender. The audit partners
initially anchored on a $400,000 write-down, before reading the client’s explanations. After read-
ing the client’s explanations, they agreed that the client gave some credible, although unsubstan-
tiated, reasons for not writing-down the inventory and decided to split the disagreement down the
middle. Hence, the panel came to a consensus that they would recommend an inventory write-
down of $200,000.

Study Participants
A total of 81 U.S. auditors employed by a large CPA firm participated in the experiment with
a mean 共standard deviation兲 age of 26.21 共2.82兲 and 4.44 共2.64兲 years of experience. There were
40 male and 41 female auditors, of which 44 were senior and 37 were manager auditors. The
participants were newly hired, experienced auditors from other CPA firms and were attending an
introductory training course. The experienced hires previously worked at various offices through-
out the United States. Regarding the participants’ last employers, 53 were employed by one of the

During development of hypothesis H1, we also offer different levels of information processing comprehensiveness
共selectivity hypothesis兲 as a potential explanation for an auditor-gender effect. Multiple studies have confirmed the
presence of auditor-gender difference in this regard; hence, we did not deem additional testing of this assumption as

Accounting Horizons March 2009

American Accounting Association
10 Gold, Hunton, and Gomaa

Descriptive Statistics—Final Write-Down Recommendation
Means (Standard Deviations) and [Sample Sizes]
Auditor Gender

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Client Gender Male Female Overall

Male 144,500 91,682 116,833

共16,256兲 共21,173兲 共32,633兲

关20兴 关22兴 关42兴
Female 201,400 343,211 270,487
共24,790兲 共15,483兲 共74,681兲
关20兴 关19兴 关39兴
Overall 172,950 208,244 190,815
共35,473兲 共128,330兲 共95,723兲
关40兴 关41兴 关81兴

Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

other Big 4 firms, 9 came from regional firms, and 19 arrived from local firms. Over the course of
two months, there were two training courses.12 At the beginning of each training class, all auditors
volunteered to participate in the study.

Manipulation Checks
To verify the effectiveness of the client gender manipulation, participants answered the fol-
lowing question: “Was the CFO male or female?” All participants responded correctly.
In the pre-explanation measurement of the initial write-down amount, all participants re-
corded that the obsolete inventory should be written-down by $400,000. Given that this amount
reflects a constant initial judgment, we decided to use the final recommended write-down amount
as the dependent variable, rather than the difference between the initial and final write-down
amounts, because using the final write-down amount is easier to visualize and understand. Either
way, the statistical results and inferences are the same.

Hypotheses Testing
Descriptive statistics related to the dependent variable 共final recommended write-down value

for the potentially obsolete inventory兲 and sample sizes are shown on Table 1. Female auditors
indicated a relatively small change from their initial stance of $400,000 to $343,211 when the
client was female, and a relatively large change to $91,682 when the client was male. In contrast,
male auditors deviated more than the female auditors from their initial judgment when the client
was female, as they recommended a final write-down of $201,400. When the client was male,
male auditors recommended a final write-down of $144,500. These results may indicate that the
female auditors in this study adjusted their initially proposed amount less than the male auditors
when the client was a female and more when the client was a male. Based on the expert panel’s

There are no significant differences across treatment conditions for the following demographic variables: Age 共F = 0.00,
p = 0.95兲, Years Experience 共F = 0.04, p = 0.85兲, Position Level 共␹2 = 0.72, p = 0.82兲, Prior Employer 共␹2 = 0.22,
p = 0.89兲, Training Class 共1 or 2兲 共␹2 = 0.12, p = 0.73兲, and Auditor Gender 共␹2 = 0.11, p = 0.74兲. Thus, the randomiza-
tion procedure is deemed effective.

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American Accounting Association
The Impact of Client and Auditor Gender on Auditors’ Judgments 11

Statistical Analyses of Dependent Variable Responses

Panel A: ANOVA Model (Dependent Variable = Final Recommended Inventory Write Down)a

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Source of Effect
Variance d.f. S.S. M.S. F-statistic p-value Hypotheses size ( ␻2)

Auditor Gender 共AG兲 1 39.98 39.98 101.18 0.00 H1 共Supported兲 0.57

Client Gender 共CG兲 1 480.24 480.24 1215.30 0.00 H2 共Supported兲 0.94

AG ⫻ CG 1 191.23 191.23 483.93 0.00 H3c 共Supported兲 0.86
Error Term 77 304.27 3.95
Total 81

Panel B: Planned Contrast Test (Supporting H3c)

Female Female Male Male
Auditor/ Auditor/ Auditor/ Auditor/
Female Male Female Male
Client Client Client Client t-statistic p-value

AC 共$343,211 – $91,682兲 ⬎ 共$201,400 – $144,500兲 22.00 ⬍0.01

Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

共$251,529兲 ⬎ 共$56,900兲

The following potential covariates were nonsignificant 共p ⬎ 0.10兲: Age, Years Experience, Position Level 共senior or
manager兲, Elapsed Time, Training Class 共1 or 2兲, and Prior Employer 共Big 4, regional, or local firm兲

consensus opinion of $200,000, it appears as though male auditors’ recommendations were more
closely aligned with the panel’s opinion than female auditors’ recommendations, irrespective of
client gender. Next, we conduct inferential statistical analyses.
ANOVA results appear in Table 2 共Panel A兲. Planned contrast test results are shown on Table
2, Panel B. As indicated on Panel A, both main effects are significant, as is the two-way interaction
共p ⬍ 0.01兲.13
The first hypothesis predicts a main effect of auditor gender, such that the client’s explana-
tions will influence male auditor participants’ judgments more than female auditor participants’
judgments. The main effect for auditor gender is significant 共see Table 2, Panel A兲, indicating a

lower recommended write-down amount for male auditors 共$172,950兲 than female auditors
共$208,244兲 共see Table 1兲. As predicted by H1, on average, the male auditors in this study revised
their initial estimates in favor of the client’s advocated position more so than the female auditors.
However, one must be cautious in interpreting this main effect in light of the upcoming significant
The second hypothesis suggests that the participants’ judgment change will be greater when
the client is a male CFO as compared with a female CFO. The significant main effect for client
gender 共see Table 2, Panel A兲, indicates that the recommended write-down amount for a male
client 共$116,833兲 is lower than the write-down amount for a female client 共$270,487兲 共see
Table 1兲. This result signals an overall male-client favorability effect, as predicted by H2. Once

The observed power for all effects is high 共0.99兲, suggesting that the relatively small sample size yielded sufficient
power to justify the use of inferential statistics.

Accounting Horizons March 2009

American Accounting Association
12 Gold, Hunton, and Gomaa

again, though, one cannot interpret this main effect in a straightforward manner because of a
significant interaction between auditor and client gender, as discussed next.
Three competing hypotheses test for a potential interaction between auditor gender and client
gender. Recall, H3a predicts a significantly greater male-favorable influence for male auditors than
female auditors; H3b anticipates no difference between male and female auditors with respect to

the male-favorable influence of the CFO; and H3c posits a significantly greater male-favorable
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influence for female auditors than male auditors. The two-way interaction between auditor gender
and client gender is significant 共see Table 2, Panel A兲, which suggests that H3b does not hold.
Further analysis of the means, as illustrated on Figure 1, is conducted next.

As Figure 1 depicts, when the client is a female CFO, the mean write-down amount recom-
mended by female auditors 共$343,211兲 is significantly higher than the mean amount recommended
by male auditors 共$201,400兲 共t = 22.27, p ⬍ 0.01兲, which translates into a smaller pre-to-post
explanation adjustment for female auditors than male auditors. On the other hand, when the client
is a male CFO, the mean write-down amount recommended by female auditors 共$91,682兲 is
significantly lower than the mean amount recommended by male auditors 共$144,500兲 共t = −8.60,
p ⬍ 0.01兲, which translates into a greater pre-to-post explanation adjustment for female auditors
than male auditors. The contrast test shown on Table 2, Panel B, indicates that the difference-in-
differences for female auditors 共$251,529兲 is greater than for male auditors 共$56,900兲, which
supports H3c.
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

Finally, we compare the final mean AJE recommendations shown on Table 1 to the expert

Illustration of Significant Two-Way Interaction
(Auditor Gender by Client Gender—Supporting H3c)a

Higher recommended obsolete inventory write-down values indicate that participants agreed less with the
client relative to lower inventory values.

Accounting Horizons March 2009

American Accounting Association
The Impact of Client and Auditor Gender on Auditors’ Judgments 13

panel’s consensus opinion of $200,000. The male auditor and male CFO mean of $144,000 is
significantly lower than the consensus opinion 共t = −15.27, p ⬍ 0.01兲; the male auditor and female
CFO mean of $201,400 is not significantly different from the consensus opinion 共t = 0.25,
p = 0.80兲; the female auditor and male CFO mean of $91,682 is significantly lower than the
consensus opinion 共t = −24.00, p ⬍ 0.01兲; and the female auditor and female CFO mean of

$343,211 is significantly higher than the consensus opinion 共t = 40.32, p ⬍ 0.01兲.
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Post-Experiment Clinical Debriefing

Perceived Client Competence

Participants responded to two items designed to assess their perceptions of the client’s com-
petence 共adapted from Anderson, Koonce, and Marchant 1994兲. The items asked, “How competent
was the CFO of MicroClone, Inc.?” 共1 = not very competent, 5 = moderately competent, 9 = very
competent兲 and “How capable was the CFO of MicroClone, Inc.?” 共1 = not very capable,
5 = moderately capable, 9 = very capable兲. Inter-item reliability is very high 共r = 0.95兲; therefore
we averaged the two items to form a “perceived competence” index, with a mean 共standard
deviation兲 of 7.07 共2.11兲. We tested the same ANOVA model as shown on Table 2 共Panel A兲,
using auditor gender and client gender as the two independent variables, and the perceived com-
petence index as the dependent variable. The main effects are both significant 共Auditor Gender,
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

F = 31.84, p ⬍ 0.01; Client Gender, F = 230.03, p ⬍ 0.01兲, as is the two-way interaction 共F

= 10838, p ⬍ 0.01兲. Pearson correlation 共r兲 between the perceived competence index and final
recommended inventory write-down value is −0.89 共p ⬍ 0.01兲, indicating that the pattern of
means parallels the final recommended write-down amount 共recall, lower write-down amounts
indicate greater movement away from the initial judgment and toward the client’s position兲. This
finding suggests that perceived source competence, in the current study, reflects the following
pattern from highest to lowest: female auditors, male CFO 共most competent兲; male auditors, male
CFO; male auditors, female CFO; and female auditors, female CFO 共least competent兲.
Explicit Gender Stereotypes
Although our experimental findings provide indications of male and female auditors’ suscep-
tibility to implicit gender stereotypes, we administered some additional psychological debriefing
items, after the experimental results were recorded, to understand the extent to which the male-
favorability bias among participating auditors is conscious.14 To determine male and female au-
ditors’ explicit attitudes toward women as managers, we administered a portion of the Women as
Managers Scale 共WAMS兲 共Peters et al. 1974兲.15 Specifically, participants responded to the follow-
ing items 共1 = men much more, 5 = men and women alike, 9 = women much more兲:

1. In your opinion, who is more ambitious to be successful in the business world?

2. In your opinion, who is more capable of learning mathematical and mechanical skills?
3. In your opinion, who is more competitive to be successful in the business world?
4. In your opinion, who is more assertive in business situations that demand it?
5. In your opinion, who is more aggressive in business situations that demand it?
6. In your opinion, who possesses more self-confidence required of a good leader?

Controls designed into the computerized experiment prevented the participants from navigating back to prior screens to
view or change their experimental responses.
The 21-item WAMS has been used in prior studies 共e.g., Bluedorn 1983; Brenner and Beutell 2001; Owen and Todor
1993; Terborg et al. 1977兲. Some studies have performed factor analyses on the WAMS 共Cordano et al. 2003; Crino et
al. 1981兲 and one stable factor emerges—managerial ability. Thus, we administered the six items from the 21-item scale
comprising the managerial ability factor, as found by Crino et al. 共1981兲.

Accounting Horizons March 2009

American Accounting Association
14 Gold, Hunton, and Gomaa

Inter-item reliability among the items is high 共Cronbach’s ␣ = 0.88兲; thus, we averaged item
responses to form a managerial ability index.
We performed the same ANOVA model as shown on Table 2 共Panel A兲, using auditor gender
and client gender as the two independent variables, and the managerial ability index as the
dependent variable. The only significant factor is auditor gender 共F = 572.31, p ⬍ 0.01兲.16 The

overall mean 共standard deviation兲 index response is 4.29 共0.82兲, with male and female auditor
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means 共standard deviations兲 of 3.51 共0.25兲 and 5.04 共0.32兲, respectively. As indicated by the
significant ANOVA main effect, the auditor gender means are different from each other. Additional
tests were conducted to determine whether the male and female auditor means are significantly
different from the midpoint of the scale 共“5”兲. The male auditor mean of 3.51 is significantly less

than the midpoint 共t = −37.13, p ⬍ 0.001兲, while the female auditor mean of 5.04 is not signifi-
cantly different from the midpoint 共t = 0.97, p ⬎ 0.34兲.17
The finding that the male auditor index mean is significantly less than the midpoint of the
scale suggests that the male auditors in this study explicitly believe that women managers are less
ambitious, capable, competitive, assertive, aggressive, and self-confident than male managers.
Their explicit stereotypical beliefs in this regard are consistent with their experimental responses;
that is, the male auditors, on the whole, responded more favorably to the male client in this study.
However, the female auditor index mean is not significantly different from the midpoint of the
scale, yet the female auditors also responded more favorably to the male client in the experiment.
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

This result indicates a potential cognitive “disconnect” between female auditors’ explicit beliefs
and actions in this study, and confirms the importance of distinguishing between implicit and
explicit stereotypes when conducting research on gender biases.

This study investigates the extent to which auditor gender and client gender affect auditors’
judgments during the auditor-client inquiry process. First, we predicted and found that male
auditors were more influenced by unverified client-provided explanations than female auditors. We
also anticipated and observed that unverified client-provided explanations provided by a male
client influenced both male and female auditors to a greater extent than explanations offered by a
female client. Third, the study results supported one of three competing hypotheses regarding the
interaction between auditor gender and client gender; specifically, although both male and female
auditors in the experiment exhibited a male-client favorability bias, female auditors were more
persuaded by a male client and less persuaded by a female client, relative to male auditors.
Our findings support and extend previous research on auditor gender differences in audit-
related judgments and gender stereotyping. Given auditors’ extensive training in forming objective

and unbiased judgments, the preferential treatment afforded to a male client in this study by both
male and female auditors is undesirable. The study findings suggest that further research may aid
understanding of how gender-biased beliefs and actions of auditors can be changed.
For example, researchers could examine ways to change explicit beliefs seemingly held by
some male auditors that male managers are inherently more capable than female managers. If such
explicit stereotypes of women as managers did not affect the actions of male auditors, one could
argue that a call for more research and training in this area might be unnecessary. However, the
male auditors in this study exhibited some favoritism toward a male client; thus, gender stereo-
typing appears to implicitly bias their objectivity.

The effect of client gender is nonsignificant 共F = 1.15, p = 0.29兲 as is the interaction term 共F = 1.15, p = 0.29兲.
An additional robustness test was conducted by including the managerial ability index as a covariate in the main
ANOVA model as shown on Table 2 共Panel A兲. Its effect on judgment change is nonsignificant 共F = 2.22, p = 0.14兲.

Accounting Horizons March 2009

American Accounting Association
The Impact of Client and Auditor Gender on Auditors’ Judgments 15

Further research is also needed to help female auditors understand and overcome the appar-
ently powerful and persistent effects of implicit gender stereotypes, as they gave relatively greater
preferential treatment to a male client over a female client, even though their stated beliefs
reflected gender equality between male and female managers. One can only speculate about the
reasons for the female auditors’ relative harshness toward a female CFO in this study; for instance,

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such behavior could be related to a desire to be perceived as “fair” when evaluating other women
共Broder 1993兲 or to a fear of potential career damage as a result of “surrendering” to a female CFO
共Ragins and Cotton 1993兲. Alternatively, female auditors might be more willing to show confi-
dence in their professional skills when interacting with another woman and therefore stick to their

initial judgments.
The results of this study should be considered in the context of its inherent limitations. First,
the reviewed literature on gender differences and gender stereotyping is only indirectly related
to the type of judgment elicited in the current study. Whereas prior research has examined public
accountants’ hiring and evaluation decisions, the context of the current study is the auditor-client
inquiry process. Also, with respect to the reviewed extant research evidence in psychology and
management, we acknowledge that one must be careful when generalizing findings from nonpro-
fessional populations to professional decision makers, such as auditors.
Second, we predicted auditor gender effects based on gender differences in two key areas: risk
aversion 共a trait explanation兲 and information processing 共a cognitive explanation兲. However, we
Accounting Horizons 2009.23:1-18.

do not know which factor drove the observed gender effect. To our knowledge, these are two
major areas in which prior judgment research has observed gender differences, and their respective
premises support the same direction of the predicted 共and observed兲 auditor gender effect. How-
ever, we acknowledge that there may be alternative explanations for the observed main effect of
auditor gender. For instance, although we find no direct support for this assumption in the litera-
ture, one may posit that male auditors are perhaps more easily persuaded and/or more willing to
satisfy the client than female auditors. More research is necessary to disentangle the causes for the
observed auditor gender effect. The same limitation applies to the predicted and observed auditor-
client gender interaction, for which we have provided a number of alternative explanations in this
Third, we acknowledge that our research sample is relatively small, limited to lower and
medium audit ranks, and somewhat unusual given that the sample consists of recent firm switchers
共i.e., experienced auditors who were newly hired by the participating CPA firm兲. To substantiate
the validity and generalizability of our findings, we recommend replication of our study with
auditors at higher ranks and multiple audit firms.
Fourth, in the experimental case, we did not mention whether the potential inventory over-
valuation was material. Rather, we decided to let materiality be judged by the participants. In

doing so, we likely added a great deal of statistical “noise” to our results, which harms the
likelihood of rejecting the null-hypotheses. Even with the inclusion of such noise, we find signifi-
cant results, suggesting that the effects in the experiment are quite robust.
Fifth, our manipulation of client gender was limited to the mentioning of “Tom” versus
“Mona” and “he” versus “she.” We acknowledge that the concept of gender is more complex than
mere names 共e.g., behavior, tone of voice, and appearance兲. Hence, our findings may not accu-
rately generalize to auditors’ reactions to client gender in practice. Regarding our choice of CFO
names, one may argue that the names themselves are laden with certain connotations. Pilot tests
revealed that auditors’ age and ethnicity connotations do not appear to differ across the chosen
names, but there could be other unmeasured connotations that confound our results. We recom-
mend that future research replicate our findings with different or, possibly, no names 共i.e., men-
tioning only “he” versus “she”兲.
Sixth, although this study captures evidence about auditors’ initial and revised write-down

Accounting Horizons March 2009

American Accounting Association
16 Gold, Hunton, and Gomaa

recommendations, we do not know if or how the outcome would change if the auditors’ judgments
were subjected to hierarchical reviews. Finally, this study considers an arguably male-stereotyped
context regarding not only the source’s profession 共CFO兲, but also the audited business area
共manufacturing of personal computers兲. Future research could investigate whether results hold
when the audited business area is stereotypically female.

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In conclusion, the current study suggests that researchers and practitioners might need to pay
more attention to circumstances under which gender stereotyping and inherent gender differences
could affect audit efficiency and effectiveness. For instance, gender-balanced audit teams might
help to offset some of the biases demonstrated herein; yet, it appears as though an overall male-

favorability bias might still persist. Firm training in gender stereotyping and its audit effects might
also be justified. Future research and firm training could help the profession by examining ways in
which the unwarranted audit effects of implicit and explicit gender stereotypes can be better
understood, and minimized or eliminated.

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