Career stories of women professional accountants

Peggy Wallace (Trent University, Peterborough, Canada)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Publication date: 8 May 2009



The purpose of this paper is to describe the use of Simone de Beauvoir's feminist existentialist philosophy in an empirical research study concerned with the career choices of women professional accountants.


A theoretical framework, based on de Beauvoir's philosophy, is developed. It is argued that her feminist philosophy provides an appropriate theoretical lens for the study of careers. The challenges encountered in developing this approach together with their resolution are described.


The theoretical framework informs the analysis and critique of the stories of career told by 13 women chartered accountants. Multiple meanings for the oft‐reported categories for leaving public accounting surface, extending the women‐in‐accounting literature.

Research limitations/implications

The use of a structured tool may obscure certain aspects of career or unduly highlight other aspects. The framework should be used in future studies of the careers of women professionals, e.g. lawyers and minority groups, such as men of colour to assess its contribution beyond the current study.

Practical implications

The generated insights can be used by the accounting firms to develop alternative human resources policies and practices in an effort to retain women accountants and by the profession in assessing the nature of the work.


The development of a research methodology incorporating individual voices, the role of personal agency in career and feminist existentialism, all of which are often absent from the research concerned with women accountants provides a more in‐depth understanding of careers and a way forward for further research on the subject.



Wallace, P. (2009), "Career stories of women professional accountants", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 62-84.

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