Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Women Accountants in Practicing Accounting Firms: Their Status, Investments and Returns

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Women Accountants in Practicing Accounting Firms: Their Status, Investments and Returns

Article excerpt

Introduction

The world-wide economic recession is of concern to both men and women. Women, however, worry more than men according to a 2008 Gallup poll which finds that 64% of women, compared with 37 % of men, worry about the economy. The poll also suggests that such concerns are expressed for health care, crime, the environment, drug use, hunger, unemployment and homelessness. Why is it that women worry more than men? One theory suggests that when there is an economic down turn, those that are disadvantaged suffer greater deprivation. Women unfortunately fall in this category of the disadvantaged because most of them do not hold permanent jobs; have no pensions, portfolio investments in stocks and even homes. Another theory is that women are more worried about the welfare of their spouses and children and less of themselves when the security they enjoy through marriage and paid employment is threatened. To counter some of these effects, women go to work, not as a matter of choice, but of necessity.

According to U.S. Women's Bureau, the real value of median weekly wages for men 25 years and older fell steadily from $807 in 1979 to $797 in 2006. In response to this phenomenon, women have been massively entering the work force. Women's contribution to family income rose from 26 % to 35 % in 2007. In 2007, the U.S. Labor Department estimated that about 68 million women are on the work force earning on the average $614 weekly. The struggling economy and the high unemployment rate that now stands at 10.2 % put undue strain on the family and the marriage institution that supports it. Given these disturbing trends, it seems most appropriate that Oxford University should hold this Round Table Conference to discuss issues concerning women in the world of work.

Practicing women accountants may be classified as elitist professionals who are expected to bring financial and emotional stability to their families. They train to become career accountants as they hope to excel and to progress steadily to the highest positions of partners or managing partners. It takes an average of 10 years for a very bright accountant to become a partner (Satava, 2009). But there have been problems with the retention (turnover) of women in practicing accounting firms in spite of their superior technical skills and ability to work hard alongside their male counterparts. Our premise in this study is those women who remain in practice as career accountants must have favorable perception of their status, investments and the returns that come to them. The constraints and how they impact their decisions will be explored.

Motivation for the Study

There are several reasons for undertaking this study. The first is the privilege of participating in Oxford Round Table Conference for the first time. This year's Oxford Round Table theme, "Women at Work: Benefits and Barriers" seems to encompass the experience of women in practicing accounting firms. Thus, my topic "women accountants in practicing accounting firms: their status, investments, and returns," fits well into the conversations that will ensue. Second, there is paucity of information about the expectations of practicing women accountants in the US, the low rate of their retention and what needs to be done to keep them. This study helps to fill that gap, and should evoke considerable interest among major accounting firms. The third reason has to do with the diversity of work force in accounting firms. How seriously are accounting firms taking the question of diversity and flexibility of work schedules in accommodating a multi-racial and a multi-cultural workforce? Since women are becoming increasingly dominant force in the profession, it is only a matter of time before the demographics of the profession change completely. In an attempt to study this topic and to develop the appropriate research instrument (questionnaire), a conceptual framework was developed. In the section that follows, the conceptual framework is presented with brief explanations. …

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