Female accountants in regional areas are still hitting the glass ceiling because of outdated work cultures and gender-based discrimination, according to research by three academics from the University of New England.
The study found that women in regional accounting firms still felt enormous inequality in the workplace when it came to pay, promotions and flexibility according to researchers Dr Sujana Adapa, Professor Alison Sheridan and Dr Jennifer Rindfleish, from UNE’s Business School.
Women make up half of qualified practicing accountants but these numbers are not translating to senior positions as Principals or Partners.
“Gender inequality continues to be reinforced and reproduced by male principals and partners through day-to-day work and social practices. These meant women felt they couldn’t see themselves progressing into senior roles,” said Dr Sujana Adapa.
Extensive face-to-face interviews were carried out with owner/managers at small to medium sized accounting firms in regional and metropolitan centres for the study.
“When it comes to pay discrimination it seems male employees is compensated with ‘attractive incentives’ for their engagement with networking related activities that many women can’t do because of family commitments.”
A rewarding work-life balance is perceived as difficult to achieve in the larger accounting firms because of the pressures and demands of the job.
“While smaller firms offered flexible arrangements most medium sized businesses didn’t because of the isolation of the work and the concern it would affect profits.”
‘Doing Gender’ continues to be reinforced and reproduced as women’s aspirations are constrained by the day-to-day practices shaping expectations about women and intersects with the location and size of the accounting firms in the study to entrench a specific type of disadvantage for women.
These findings are published in papers titled ‘Doing Gender’ in a Regional Context: Explaining Women’s Absence from Senior Roles in Regional Accounting Firms in Australia’ published in Critical Perspectives on Accounting and ‘Career Enablers for Women in Regional and Metropolitan Accounting SMES’ published in the Australasian Journal of Regional Studies.
Dr Sujana Adapa, Senior Lecturer, UNE Business School, 02 6773 2915.
Professor Alison Sheridan, Head of School, UNE Business School, 02 67733222
Dr Jennifer Rindfleish, Senior Lecturer, UNE Business School, 02 6773 2552
Small sized regional accounting firm, Respondent # 9, Male Principal “I feel women lack the talent of multitasking as they are confronted with family and/or career conflicts and pressures.”
Medium sized regional accounting firm, Respondent # 10, Male Principal “….(women) They cannot progress further with having many career breaks or part-time employment options in this field. Confidentiality of information and maintaining it is also an important issue. In our firm, certain procedures are formalised and we usually tend to retain important and/or confid
Small sized regional accounting firm, Respondent # 6, Male Principal “We have high net worth clients and often out of business hours networking is a compulsory activity. Our female employees have children and family commitments after the normal working hours. Only our male employees are available to engage in these networking activities and they have to be paid more in the form of incentives for their efforts.”
Medium sized metropolitan accounting firm, Respondent # 2, Female Partner “Annual pay and incentives are different for men and women working in the profession. Everybody is aware of this discrimination.”
Small sized regional accounting firm, Respondent # 6, Male Principal “We have high net worth clients and often out of business hours networking is a compulsory activity. Our female employees
have children and family commitments after the normal working hours. Only our male employees are available to engage in these networking activities and they have to be paid more in the form of incentives for their efforts.”
Medium sized regional accounting firm, Respondent # 10, Male Principal. “We are aware that our female staff members are not available out of business hours because of their family commitments. Obviously our male staff members make themselves available for networking with our clients. We have to pay attractive incentives for their out of business hours related work.”
Medium sized metropolitan accounting firm, Respondent # 6, Male Principal “Male accountants spend more time and engage in networking with our high net worth clients out of business hours. They have to be paid extra to keep our business going.”