Gender, family responsibilities and career success in the New Zealand accountancy profession
Whiting, Rosalind Heather
This study contributes to an understanding of the causes, consequences and complexities of gender inequity in career success (high levels of status and salary) in the New Zealand accounting profession. Sixty-nine (twenty-seven male and forty-two female) experienced Chartered Accountants were interviewed about their career histories. A feminist, interpretative and qualitative approach was followed and NVIVO was used for analysis. The first significant contribution of the study was the identification of five work/family strategies based on levels of family and work involvement (Traditional Men, Traditional Women, Family Balancers, Stepping Stone Men and Work First Women). Secondly, the level of family responsibilities explained career success much better than gender alone, although these two factors were commonly (but not always) directly related. The third contribution was the revision of the three-pronged model previously offered by Whiting & Wright (2001) to explain gender inequities in salary and status in the New Zealand accounting profession. Because the original model was derived from quantitative data, using qualitative data to revise the model constituted a sequential mixed method (pragmatic) approach. In the revised model, gender centrality and the three explanatory categories (Attributes, Structure and Attitudes) were removed. Career success was enhanced by high career aspirations (related to perceptions of stress, managerial and responsibility requirements and remuneration), long working hours and availability to clients, hard work, high technical competence and skills (enhanced by overseas experience), networking (less attractive to women), self-confidence (enhanced by mentoring for the least self-confident), flexibility to relocate if required (decreased by family and lifestyle ties) and large size and growth of the employing organisation. Most influential were career aspirations and a long hours/available work ethic. This demonstrated the pervasiveness of the male linear career model (derived from the male breadwinner-female carer family structure), that rewarded (in terms of progression) unilateral allegiance to the firm. Career aspirations, desire for responsibility, perceived ability to handle pressure, long hours, availability to clients, networking and possibly technical skills (if there were periods of extended leave) were all influenced by the Chartered Accountant's level of family responsibilities. Those with the least family responsibilities (childless, Traditional Men and Work First Women) demonstrated unswerving commitment to the firm and were equally the most successful career wise. The impact of family responsibilities on career progression could be ameliorated by organisational cultural change. There were some indications of cultural change, being most prevalent in public sector and educational organisations. Enhancing conditions included a culture of flexibility and a concurrent atmosphere of trust, a less competitive work culture, absence of constant overtime demands and on-call work, encouraging top management who worked positively to retain and foster top performers over a longer period, and high level part-time positions supported by well-trained subordinate teams. To achieve these conditions provides an imminent challenge to organisations which employ Chartered Accountants, because the profession is increasing its proportion of females, has a younger generation more interested in work-life balance, and is losing many of its members overseas.
Advisor: MacGregor, Alan; Schick, Ruth; Mallon, Mary
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Accountancy and Business Law
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis