Approved routes and alternative paths: the construction of women's rarity in large accounting firms. Evidence from the Big Four France
AbstractDespite decades of gender-balanced recruitment and clear-cut criteria for promotion based on meritocracy, women in public accounting firms remain proportionally fewer in number in the highest levels of the hierarchy than men. This paper aims to explore the mechanisms fostering women's rarity in top positions within French accounting firms in terms of organizationally constructed approved paths. Drawing on 21 semi-structured interviews with both male and female accountants, the specificities of these approved paths, alongside the construction of alternative, feminised routes, lacking the legitimacy of the former and often implying a derailment of women's careers from a very early stage, will be explored. It is suggested that more than a matter of only lifestyle preferences or practical constraints, this rarity is constructed by the interplay between the two, often resulting in "unintended and unwanted consequences, which retroactively may become unacknowledged conditions of future actions" (Giddens, 1984: 76). The focus of this study is to understand how the discursive and practical components of daily routines contribute to the reproduction of Big Four's gendered culture. Furthermore, this paper invites to question the concept of the glass ceiling and consider the construction of women's rarity in the accounting profession in terms of a labyrinth.
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Date of creation: 2011
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gender; Big Four; career path; lifestyles; constraints; glass ceiling; France;
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