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Enabling factors that contribute to women reaching leadership positions in business organizations: The case of management accountants

Rusmir Cimirotić (Hofer KG, Linz, Austria)
Verena Duller (Institute of Management Control and Consulting, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Linz, Austria)
Birgit Feldbauer-Durstmüller (Institute of Management Control and Consulting, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Linz, Austria)
Bernhard Gärtner (Institute of Management Control and Consulting, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Linz, Austria)
Martin R.W. Hiebl (University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Article publication date: 20 February 2017

2872

Abstract

Purpose

Although the number of women working in management accounting has increased, the percentage of female executives in this area remains low. Previous studies examining the underrepresentation of women in accounting leadership positions have analyzed factors that hinder women from reaching these positions. The purpose of this paper, by contrast, is to identify factors that support the advancement of those female executives who have reached a leadership position. Further, this paper highlights the self-reported obstacles and difficulties faced by respondents in reaching their current positions.

Design/methodology/approach

Semi-structured interviews were conducted face-to-face with ten female executives in the management accounting departments of Austrian firms. The interview transcripts were analyzed by using the general inductive approach.

Findings

The results of the study show that most women classified their social skills and professional expertise as the key factors leading to their successful advancement; however, they also highlighted that ambition and luck played important roles. The authors found that support from both life partners and superiors was essential for these women in reaching their current positions and in handling difficulties when in a leadership position. Further difficulties include working time, work-life balance and motherhood.

Research limitations/implications

As the findings are based on interviews conducted with female Austrian executives in large (more than 250 employees) manufacturing- or service-sector firms, they are not readily generalizable.

Practical implications

This study identifies factors that may help prospective female management accounting executives reach leadership positions. Furthermore, less senior female management accountants may learn from this paper that women who have already reached leadership positions in management accounting may have had to cope with problems similar to those that younger and less senior female management accountants currently experience.

Originality/value

This paper is among the first to address gender in the field of management accounting.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank all interviewees for devoting significant amount of their time to this research project. Furthermore, the authors thank Ingrid Abfalter for her help in language editing and two anonymous reviewers for most helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.

Citation

Cimirotić, R., Duller, V., Feldbauer-Durstmüller, B., Gärtner, B. and Hiebl, M.R.W. (2017), "Enabling factors that contribute to women reaching leadership positions in business organizations: The case of management accountants", Management Research Review, Vol. 40 No. 2, pp. 165-194. https://doi.org/10.1108/MRR-10-2014-0233

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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