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