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Gender stereotypes and gender-discriminant behaviors have been shown to have strong and undesirable organizational, managerial, and economic effects. We examine the relationship between sexism and accounting practices, and the effect of contextual feedback using laboratory experiments. Sexist stereotypes and contextual feedback may affect the likelihood of financial misstatements and audits when auditors and issuers are of known gender. To investigate these aspects of sexism at zero acquaintance and after contextual feedback, we presented males and females with incentivized belief elicitation tasks about anticipated interaction behaviors and then a series of strategic-communication game decisions in same, other, and unknown gender interactions. Feedback about belief accuracy, actual behaviors, and earnings was only given after completing a full set of belief elicitations and interactions. At zero acquaintance, both genders stereotyped the other gender’s behavior propensities as relatively different than their own gender’s. Both genders’ stereotyped male and female targets similarly, and while both genders discriminated based on target gender, males’ and females’ behavior was similar. Consistent with a statistical discrimination account of sexism, stereotypes and game behaviors were adjusted after contextual feedback to more accurately reflect and predict others’ behaviors. While biosocial and evolutionary perspectives may help explain why undesirable sexism is prevalent, our results suggest that by providing contextual information and incentives in reporting and auditing settings, we can motivate sexists to moderate their stereotypes and linked behaviors.


Working Paper 14-19



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