The Impact of Gender and Dress on the Choice of a Minority Certified Public Accountant for a Small Business

By Chawla, Sudhir K.; Khan, Zafar U. et al. | Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship, March 1993 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Gender and Dress on the Choice of a Minority Certified Public Accountant for a Small Business


Chawla, Sudhir K., Khan, Zafar U., Smith, Mary F., Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship


ABSTRACT

A field experiment was conducted to assess the impact of client gender and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) gender and dress on the likelihood of the client hiring minority African American CPAs for professional services. The subjects of the study (clients) were small business owners located in a west Texas city of approximately 100,000 who were utilizing the services of CPAs. The CPA gender and dress variables were operationalized through use of four photographs of two minority CPAs, one male and one female. One set of photographs showed the two CPAs dressed in formal business attire, whereas the second set showed the same CPAs in casual dress. The subjects were asked to indicate the likelihood of hiring the CPA based on the photograph and a brief description of the CPA. The subjects also judged the CPA on a number of important variables such as expertise, credibility, and professionalism. The findings indicate that while clients do not appear to discriminate between male and female minority CPAs, they are more likely to hire formally dressed CPAs. Formally dressed CPAs were considered more expert, knowledgeable, trustworthy, credible, reliable, professional, friendly, and honest than casually dressed CPAs. Female CPAs were considered as more friendly than male CPAs. Implications are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Research in marketing suggests that customer (client) perceptions with regard to the product (services) are important determinants of the purchase (hiring) decision. A problem with perceptions of the quality of "service" is that perceptions cannot be disassociated from those of the "provider." Customer satisfaction research (Churchill and Surprenant, 1982; Oliver, 1980; Bolton and Drew, 1991) suggests that customer satisfaction is a function of prior expectations, current perceptions of performance and disconfirmation arising from discrepancies between expectations and perceptions of actual performance. Prior expectations regarding a CPA play a pivotal role in not only the decision to hire the CPA but also in the client's continued satisfaction. A client is satisfied when he/she finds that the CPA meets or exceeds expectations as to knowledge, trustworthiness, reliability, professionalism, and expertness. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) recognizes the fact that the value of the services provided by the public accounting profession is closely tied to the perceptions of the users of those services. Approval and adoption of both a Professional Code of Ethics and Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) are among the actions taken by the members of the AICPA to safeguard the public's perception of the profession (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 1988)

Perceptions may be influenced by several factors including the gender (for example, Olian, Schwab, and Haberfeld, 1988), appearance (for example, Berkowitz, 1987; Galin and Benoliel, 1990), cultural and ethnic background of the CPA. Chawla, Khan, and Cornell (1992) determined that both CPA gender and appearance (dress) have a complicated effect on clients' perceptions of the CPA. Whue client and CPA gender affected the perceptions of friendliness only, CPA dress affected perception of professionalism alone. More importantly, they found strong interaction effects for both client gender by CPA gender and client gender by CPA dress on several important attributes, including the likelihood of hiring.

We extend the research to examine the impact of the CPA client's gender, the CPA's gender, and the dress worn by the CPA on the likelihood of small business owners hiring minority (African American) CPAs for professional services. Human resource managers of several CPA firms indicate a desire to significantly increase the hiring of minority accounting graduates. As the decision to hire is based on perceptions of several attributes of the professional, the subjects (clients) of the study were also required to rate the CPA on eight relevant variables discussed in the literature. …

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