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Sexual Harassment and Public Accounting: Anecdotal Evidence from the Profession Gerald J. Miller, PhD, CPA, CGFM The College of New Jersey Brian B. Stanko,

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Presentation on theme: "Sexual Harassment and Public Accounting: Anecdotal Evidence from the Profession Gerald J. Miller, PhD, CPA, CGFM The College of New Jersey Brian B. Stanko,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Sexual Harassment and Public Accounting: Anecdotal Evidence from the Profession Gerald J. Miller, PhD, CPA, CGFM The College of New Jersey Brian B. Stanko, PhD, CPA Loyola University-Chicago Ellen L. Landgraf, PhD, CPA Loyola University-Chicago

2 Sexual Harassment in the Professional Business Environment-Prior Studies 1990 National Assoc. of Female Executives: 77% believed sexual harassment is a problem 1991 survey of 524 firms by the American Management Association: 52% had dealt with allegations of sexual harassment 1994 survey of 8,000 Federal workers: 44% of women respondents had experienced sexual harassment in the past two years

3 Sexual Harassment in Accounting: Prior Studies 1994-96 Stanko & Miller: Government Accounting 1999 Stanko & Schneider: Public Accounting 2009 Stanko, Zeller & Werner: Public Accounting

4 What is Sexual Harassment? Fair Employment Practices Manual, EEOC, 1991: Hostile Environment : unwelcome sexual conduct of co-workers or supervisors that interferes with an individuals ability to work or creates an intimidating or offensive atmosphere Quid pro quo: a workplace superior or coworker demands some degree of sexual favor and threatens to or actually does retaliate in a way that has a tangible effect on the working conditions of the harassment victim if he or she refuses to acquiesce

5 Survey Information 2000 female members of the AICPA randomly selected; 616 responses for a rate of 31% Each questionnaire included a definition of sexual harassment Follow up questionnaire after six weeks Some respondents may no longer have been employed in the public accounting sector

6 Demographic Summary DemographicCategoryFrequencyPercent Age20-296410% 30-3920534% 40-4923739% 50 and over10417% 610 Highest Degree HeldBachelors42570% Masters or above18230% 607 Years of professional accounting experience0-2 yrs 4 1% 3 to 5 yrs 6711% 6 to 10 yrs12220% Over 10 yrs41768% 610 Type of firm affiliationNational (big four)11923% National (other) 51 9% Regional 9918% Local27150% 540

7 Demographic Summary (cont.) DemographicCategoryFrequencyPercent Area of specializationAudit22239% Tax23942% MAS 13 2% Other 9617% 570 Present positionStaff37 7% Senior/In-Charge11622% Manager23744% Principal/Partner14627% 536 Current marital statusSingle14023% Married47077% 610

8 Narrative Comments Approximately 18% (111/616) of the respondents provided narrative comments on the issue of sexual harassment. The comments were analyzed and 96/111 (86%) were classified into five categories (one comment addressed two categories and was included in both).

9 Narrative Comment Categories 1.Incidence or lack thereof of sexual harassment (39%) 2.Sexual discrimination versus sexual harassment (23%) 3.Advice on how women can discourage or prevent future incidents of harassment or described their organizations policy on sexual harassment (20%) 4.The current versus the past climate of sexual harassment (16%) 5.What does or does not constitute sexual harassment (2%)

10 Selected Comments-Incidence Sexual harassment and discrimination are very serious problems in public accounting and need to be addressed for women to remain employed in the industry. I feel sexual harassment is extremely prevalent and is not going anywhere. I see it all of the time and have experienced it myself several times. I experienced all of my sexual harassment or similar experiences during my Big 4 career, and virtually none of it outside of my of my Big 4 career.

11 Incidence (cont.) I had no problems in public accounting. I have not known of any sexual harassment cases at my firm in the 7 years I have been employed there. I dont know if the accounting profession has adequately addressed the issue of sexual harassment because I have never been exposed to it.

12 Discrimination vs. Harassment Sexual discrimination is more of a problem than sexual harassment. Look at all Big 4 accounting firms and youll see it quite starkly. Sexual harassment is not the problem, but gender issues. A new partner told me that he didnt hire female accountants because they just have babies and then quit.

13 Discrimination vs. Harassment (cont.) I believe the traditional nature of the accounting profession makes it easier for sexual harassment and discrimination to take place. I believe that the accounting profession, as I experienced it during internship and two years of service, has problems with plain harassment toward women. Sexism is still a BIG issue.

14 Discouragement and Prevention Company has made adequate provisions, but does not take complaints seriously. On the surface yes-policies are in place and enforced if management is aware; no because individual attitudes remain in place. I think the large firms are more concerned about protecting the firm from liability than their employees who may have been victims or violators.

15 Current vs. Past Climate The problem has gotten much better over the last 15 years-training in sexual harassment, in general an awareness and better environment. Isolated occurrence early in my career; much has changed in the last 20 years to eliminate issues.

16 What Constitutes Sexual Harassment Harassment also takes the form of derogatory remarks over a female taking the mommy track; hence no promotions, lower raises, etc. I do not consider vulgar language and jokes that are not tasteful to be sexual harassment. Further, I believe women abuse the use of the term.

17 Conclusions, Implications, Recommendations Public accounting firms continue to be exposed to significant within-firm risk, as well as with associated clients. Sexual harassment most often takes the form of inappropriate comments or jokes. The incidence of sexual harassment in public accounting is mixed. Policies have been put in place but are not always enforced.

18 Conclusions, Implications, Recommendations (cont.) There has been a general improvement in both incidences and training during the past 15-20 years. Sexual discrimination may be just as important an issue as sexual harassment. Firms must continue to establish and enforce effective, well-communicated policies denouncing harassing behavior. The AICPA should establish a separate rule on sexual harassment with an interpretation.

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