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1998 Annual Meeting

Gender Issues in the Accounting Classroom

Julia K. Brazelton
College of William and Mary

Women are underrepresented in corporate management positions and at the partnership level in public accounting firms. While at least 50 percent of undergraduate business majors are women, only three percent of managers in Fortune 1000 corporations are nonwhite males. Women comprise a mere 6.9 percent of partners in national accounting firms. The academic performance of female students is at least equal to men's level of achievement; so, why is women's career performance inferior? Researchers seek potential explanations for this phenomena. Prior investigations suggest that the source of disparity can be traced back to early educational environments. For more than a decade, educational analysts have examined classrooms as the primary factor fostering gender bias. This study explored patterns established early in an accountant's academic career as one cause for subsequent professional career performance. Observations in accounting classrooms reveal that men demand more classroom communication time and professors provide more and better feedback when teaching male students. The findings suggest that the educational defect, which begins in grade school, continues into the post-secondary instructional environment. The unique discovery of this research involves the culprit of gender inequity. Prior to this work, it was believed that professors were solely responsible for disparate classroom gender interactions. This study places the responsibility for inequality equally on male students and faculty. Male students interrupt and control more than their fair share of classroom time. It is believed that teachers can ameliorate this obstacle by suppressing men who dominate. Equalizing gender time is an uphill battle; nevertheless, an effort to balance the classroom situation may change the course of women's advancement in the accounting profession. Consistent with earlier studies, which found gender inequity in workplace meetings and conferences, future research into the dynamics of the work environment of professional women may provide evidence regarding the existence of gender communication bias in their employment communities.

Presentation: Tuesday, August 18, 1998 at 10:30 - 12:00 noon