Who is she and who are we? A reflexive journey in research into the rarity of women in the highest ranks of accountancy


Critical Perspectives on Accounting

janvier 2012, vol. 23, n°1, pp.1-16

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

accepté le 14 juillet 2011This paper proposes a critical stance on research into the rarity of women at the highest levels of accountancy. We aim to unravel the discourses produced on this topic in the accounting literature and question our own experience and perception as scholars building on Bourdieu's work on reflexivity (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992; Bourdieu, 2001, 2003). As a first step, we provide a review of literature, identifying four stories that account for the creation of this rarity. The first story focuses on the historical lag that women supposedly face; the second insists on personality traits that purportedly make men and women different; the third shows the organisational barriers faced by women; and the fourth considers gendered stereotyped roles infused at a social level. We argue that persistent combinations of organisational and social obstacles have structuring effects on the identity of the accountant, regardless of gender. The controversial nature of the stories developed by researchers and the numerous debates that oppose them, call for an examination of how argumentations are structured. We therefore provide an analysis of the research designs used in the corpus and discuss their levels of reflexivity. This focus on reflexivity is two-fold. First, we elaborate on the epistemological reflexivity, including issues regarding the formulation of research question and its effects on results, how methodology structures the results and how the scope of the research limits the findings. Second, building on the concept of participant objectivation (Bourdieu, 2003), we provide a reflexive analysis of our own experience dealing with doing research in this field.Keywords * Gender; * Accounting profession; * Methodology; * Reflexivity