Study Finds Employee Gender Influences Evaluations of Past Performance, Future Potential

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla., Sept. 19, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — An employee’s gender influences how managers evaluate both past performance and potential for advancement – with female employees being deemed as having less ability but more potential. The seemingly counter-intuitive findings stem from a recent study published by the American Accounting Association.

“We wanted to see whether the gender of an employee influences how a manager interprets information about the employee’s potential and past performance,” says Michele Frank, co-author of the study and an associate professor of accountancy at Miami University.

“This is important because accounting information informs employee evaluations, and gender should not influence how people interpret accounting information,” says Anne Farrell, co-author of the study and a professor of accountancy at Miami University. “If gender stereotypes are influencing professional decisions, that’s bad for both employees and companies.”

The researchers recruited 160 experienced business professionals to serve as study participants. Participants were split into groups. Two groups were given identical information about a high-performing fictional employee and asked to assess the employee’s performance and potential. For one group, the employee had a female’s name and image; the second group had a male’s name and image

The assessments of male and female employees were very different.

Specifically, high performance in male employees was attributed more to ability, whereas high performance in female employees was attributed more to luck or effort.

“This is an important distinction, because ability is viewed as being stable over time, whereas luck and effort can be fleeting,” Farrell says. “These differences also reflect well-established gender stereotypes.”

However, assessments of employee performance were not tied to how study participants viewed the employee’s potential for success in a higher-level position.

“The twist is that study participants were more likely to say the female employee had greater potential, even though the male was viewed as having greater ability,” Frank says. “This highlights the extent to which companies have placed a value on promoting females.”

“But it is detrimental to female employees when assessments of potential are not tied to underlying beliefs about their ability,” Frank says. “It can undermine their credibility and confidence and raises the possibility of backlash against females within the organization.”

“Existing equity programs don’t appear to be doing what we need them to do,” Frank says. “Firms are devoting significant resources to equity programs, but we clearly have to do more to address deep-seated gender stereotypes.”

“This is a particularly important study for the accounting community,” Farrell says. “The study looked specifically at accounting information, and it found that gender stereotypes affect how that information is interpreted. As accountants, we need to be aware that the information we provide may not be used to make impartial decisions and look for ways to help address that challenge.”

The study, “It’s Complicated: How a Subordinate’s Gender Influences Supervisors’ Use of Past Performance Information When Appraising Potential,” is published in the Journal of Management Accounting Research.

The American Accounting Association ( is the largest community of accountants in academia. Founded in 1916, we have a rich and reputable history built on leading-edge research and publications. The diversity of our membership creates a fertile environment for collaboration and innovation. Collectively, we shape the future of accounting through teaching, research and a powerful network, ensuring our position as thought leaders in accounting.

Media Contacts:         
Anne Farrell,
Michele Frank,
David Twiddy,, 941-556-4115

SOURCE American Accounting Association