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The career experiences of women with children who are working alternative arrangements in the big accounting.. Rubin, Limor 2008

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THE CAREER EXPERIENCES OF WOMEN WITHCHILDREN WHO ARE WORKINGALTERNATIVE ARRANGEMENTS INTHE BIG ACCOUNTING FIRMSbyLIMOR RUBINB.A., Tel-Aviv University, 1995A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIALFULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTSFOR THE DEGREE IN THE FACULTY OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Adult Education)THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA(Vancouver)August 2008©Limor Rubin, 2008ABSTRACTIn recent years it has become common for womenin the four large publicaccounting firms (hence forward to be called,Big Firms) to use alternative workingarrangements during the first few years afterthe birth of their children. Though thesearrangements provide women with flexibilityfor managing their life, they have not ledtoadvancement in the status of women in the Big Firms.The main purpose of this study isto develop and improve our understandingof the experience of mothers who workalternative arrangements in the Big Firms.Using qualitative interviews, four womenCA’s in management positions reflect on theirown experiences and career progress. Thestudy incorporates these women’s experiencesin order to understand why, despite of thealternative arrangements offered by the BigFirms, women with children rarely progressin the Big Firms. Through social constructionismand feminist perspectives, the studyattempts to understand the inner-workings ofthese arrangements and their effect on thecareers of women with children in the Big Firms.Several important findings emergefromthis study. First, women’s ambition to progressat work tends to decrease after their returnfrom maternity leave. Second, though working arrangementsallow some flexibility formoms in balancing work-family life, it is rarely sufficient.Women need to use severalindividual strategies to help them manage theirresponsibilities. Third, the study raisescritical questions about the expectationthat women should be responsible foraccommodating the Big Firm’s structural and culturalnorms, which somewhat defeatsthe purpose of providing alternative work arrangements.Forth, by allowing women towork alternative arrangements theBig Firms give impression that it is accommodatingthe needs of working mothers, but in reality it is stillwomen who do most of the11accommodating. Further, coming froma higher social class and higher position helpswomen succeed in their workplace as higher householdincome allow more flexibility inmanaging every day responsibilities. Recommendationsfor mother CAs and accountingpractice are evaluated and suggested.111TABLE OF CONTENTSABSTRACTiiTABLE OF CONTENTSivLIST OF FIGURESvACKNOWLEDGEMENTSviCHAPTER ONE, INTRODUCTION TO MY PRACTICE1Purpose9Research Questions10Significance10Theoretical Perspective11Theoretical Rational14CHAPTER TWO. LITERATURE REVIEW16The Importance of Gender16Women’s Labor17Social Identity Theory22Theory on Work-Family Balance23Using Alternative Working Arrangements26CHAPTER THREE. METHODOLOGY35Research Design35Sampling37Data Collection40Ethics42The Interviews44Data Presentation46Data Analysis47Limitation and Delimitation of the Study52CHAPTER FOUR. WORKING ALTERNATIVE ARRANGEMENTS54Introduction to the Narratives55Story #1: Rachel56Story #1: Sarah64Story#1:Liana71Story#1:Megan83CHAPTER FIVE. DISCUSSION92CHAPTER SIX. REFLECTIONS AND IMPLICATIONS130Reflections130Educational Implications134Recommendations For Practice135Implications for other Women CAs138Recommendations for Future Research139Final Thoughts141REFRENCES144APPENDIX A. LETTER OF INTRODUCTION155APPENDIX B. LETTER OF INTRODUCTION157APPENDIX C. LETTER OF INITIAL CONTACT159APPENDIX D. RECRUITMENT ADD160APPENDIX E. CONSENT FORM161APPENDIX F. INTERVIEW GUIDE164APPENDIX G. UBC RESEARCH ETHICS BOARD CERTIFICATEOFAPPROVAL165ivLIST OF FIGURESFIGURE 1. STRUCTURE OF THEBIG FIRMS6VACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI want to thank my Advisory Committee-Wendy Poole, Shauna Butterwick, andKjell Rubenson-for their support and care,their respect for my practice-based knowledgeand experience, and their ongoing effortsto challenge my thinking and writing inthoughtful and important ways. I am also gratefulto my husband Amir Rubin who hasbeen a great editor and a major source of loveand support.viCHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTIONTO MY PRACTICEDuring the last two decades dramatic changeshave been developed in theopportunity of women to continue developingtheir careers while maintaining theirtraditional role as mothers in the accounting profession.While, it has become morecommon for women to use alternative workingarrangements during the first few yearsafter the birth of their children, thesealternative arrangements have not led toa bigadvancement in the status for women with children inthe four large public internationalaccounting firms (hence forward to be called,Big Firms). Alternative workingarrangements means any sort of working arrangementswhich are not the traditional full-time work (the 9:00 am to 5:00 pm work hours). Alternativearrangements can take avariety of forms such as working part-time,working a compressed work-week,telecommuting, and flexibility in the timingof work. The intent of alternative workingarrangements is to help employees reduce the work-familyconflict by allowing for morecontrol over the work schedule. Previous studieson the career experiences of mothers’working alternative arrangements within the Big AccountingFirms have largelyconsisted of quantitative research that highlights thecosts and benefits of sucharrangements. The methodology used in these studiesconsists of surveys, questionnaires,and experimental design. While the findingsof these studies are valuable to the topic ofthis study, they neglect to reflect the voices, experiences,and therefore challenges ofwomen who work such arrangements.I have a personal relationship with the topic as I am a CertifiedAccountant (CA).I have more than ten years of experience working forthe Big Firms both in Israel and inCanada. These Big Firms have a unique prestigein the accounting profession.1Accounting graduates wish to join thesefirms because of their reputation, resources,andinfluence in the market. By havingthe experience of working in these firms,anaccountant improves his/her optionsto learn the profession and achievea successfulcareer. I was able to join as a trainee in oneof these firms as soon as I graduated fromTel-Aviv University. I worked for threeyears in Israel and then additional seven yearsinCanada.In the accounting profession, to qualifyas a professional, graduates have toregister as a member in the professional Association(CA, CMA, CGA in Canada) thatrepresents the profession in the specific province (inCanada), state (in the US), orcountry (in smaller countries such as inIsrael). In the case of the CA designation,students are registered as trainees for threeyears. During this training period they have totake a few professional practice coursesoffered by the CA professional Association,work for thirty months in one of the public accountingfirms, and pass a qualifying exam.In the Big Firms the vast majority of professionalsare CAs.The culture in these Big Firms is very demanding,because they are responsiblefor the shaping of the profession, the trainingof the best professional accountants, and forthe delivery of the best service to their clients. Therefore,Big Finns require totalcommitment from their employees froman early stage. For example, the firm moulds itstrainees during the training period toachieve the “correct” image in order to fit intotheaccounting profession and achieve a successful career (Grey,1998). Some of theimportant aspects of this process includethe ability to adopt “professional” signatures,knowing the right way of shaking hands,and following correct dress codes (Grey, 1998).Another example is the important practiceof time-management. Trainees have to show2their commitment to the firm by spendingmost of their time within the firm (Coffey,1994; Anderson-Gough, Grey & Robson 2001). Traineesare tutored to get used toworking weekends and evenings to complete theirtasks. This willingness and ability todrop everything in one’s personal life to meet the expectedneeds of the Firm or its clientis considered essential for promotion withinthe Firm. For example, CAs in various stagesof their careers with the Firm often complain about difficultiesto have a life outside ofwork. Young CAs admit sometimes that their girlfriend/boyfriend left them because theydid not have any free time to invest in their relationship.Staff accountants who need tofulfill their studies are required to get special authorizationfrom their supervisors to leaveat 7:00, or 8:00 pm in order to study for courses/exams. These examplesillustrate thestress that this sort of culture creates for employees.In this study I am referring to all of the four Big Firms,as a single group. In spiteof some differences these firms are similar in theirorganizational structure, their valueswith respect to alternative work arrangements, andtheir Human Resources policies. Myapproach is consistent with the approach of variousresearchers who studied theorganizational culture in the Big Firms (Coffey, 1994;Grey, 1998; Anderson-Gough,Grey & Robson 2001). In order to illustrate that these Firms havesimilar policies towardsdiversity and human resources issues I present a few of the excerptsfound in their websites: KPMG’s web-site states “At KPMG, our goal isto provide a work environment ofinclusiveness for all our people, regardless of culture,race, color, gender, sexualorientation, family status, age, disability or religion. It is imperativefor us to achievediversity in our organization, from our employees to our leadershipteam. As such, we’reaiming to enhance the spirit of respect for differenceswithin the firm and create more of3an environment of inclusion.” (KPMG web-site).Similarly, PricewaterhouseCoopersweb-site maintains: “We want our peopleto succeed. Without great people, wecannot bea great organization, so we strive to providean environment where talented peoplecandevelop and flourish. We call it People First.”(PricewaterhouseCoopers web-site).Ernst& Young’s web-site also states: “Weare committed to creating an inclusiveenvironment—one that is progressive, flexible, and valuesthe individual contributions ofall of our people. The diversity of thoughtand experience of our people is essentialto ourfirm’s success. Our diversity initiatives arededicated to maintaining an environmentthatrespects and builds on the assets andtalents of everyone, without regard torace,background, gender or sexual orientation.We believe that people perform best in—andwant to maintain relationships with—organizationsto which they feel truly connected.Ernst & Young has earned a reputationas having a culture that enables people tomeetboth their personal and professional goals.More than work/life balance, our effortstocreate a supportive culture have grownto focus on workplace flexibility. Giving ourpeople flexibility means we help them navigate where,when and how their work getsaccomplished” (Ernst & Young, web-site). Deloitteand Touche’s web-site explains“Career satisfaction involves balancing professionalopportunities with personalfulfillment. What is work/life harmony?It’s managing the many demands of work andpersonal life while exceeding client expectations. It’smaking room for a variety ofchallenges without sacrificing opportunities for advancement.It’s providing flexibility indefining work/life harmony in away that’s best for you. And it is feelingsupported inmanaging priorities, regardless of your work arrangement.Work/life harmony is allabout having options to reach your full potential. Helpingour people achieve a balance4between career and personal interests makes sound businesssense. What’s in it for ourpeople? Improved personal and professional satisfaction.What’s in it for our clients?Continuity of service. What’s in it for our firm? Theopportunity to help both our clientsand our people excel.” (Deloitte and Touche web-site).Therefore, I conclude that all ofthese firms provide identical Human Resources policies:flex work, fitness, personal care,time off for personal, family and community commitments,maternity income benefits,parental and sabbatical leaves, learning assistance,and global opportunities, in order tosupport their employees. In addition, according tothese web-sites, three of these Finns(KPMG, PWC, and E&Y) were elected in severalpoints of time as the Top 50 “Dreamemployer”, Canada’s Top 100 Employers, Top 25Employer in British Columbia, andTop Employer in Quebec.Generally, the hierarchical structure of auditfirms and particularly in the BigFirms in particular affects all dimensionsof the power relation. Senior management iscomprised of partners and associate partners, who providethe overall direction andleadership. The next level is lower management (managersand senior managers), whomaintain close working relationships with the superordinate partners and provideguidance and leadership on an overall basis to the audit seniors at the subordinatelevel.The audit seniors supervise the fieldwork and provide leadership for theaudit team. Theyare responsible for coordinating between the staff and management.The staff accountantsare the graduating students who have limited experience(typically less than 3 years) andoften are graduating students during their training time. Movingup the career ladder inthe firm is based on performance review, client feedback, knowledge,and leadershipability, and also on power relations in the firm.5Figure 1: Structure of Big FirmsAfter graduating from the university, I worked for three years in one of the BigFirms during my training time and passed the qualification exam in Israel. Afterimmigrating to Canada I found a similar position in another Big Firm in Vancouver. Ipassed the qualification exam in Canada and had additional training time in this Firm.Because of my unique circumstances of learning a profession and then adapting to thespecial requirements of the profession in Canada, I basically doubled my training periodLower ManagementAudit SeniorsStaff Accountants6and have a more globally oriented perspective on theprofession. During my ten years inthe profession I had the opportunityto work with public firms, non-profit organizationsand other institutions. I received promotions similarto my colleagues throughout theyears based on my years of experience;however I am not sure if my remuneration wasincreased in the same way. I climbed the hierarchicalladder in these Firms to the level oflower management (an audit manager).I was promoted to lower managerlevel after returning from my first maternityleave. In total I worked six years full-timeand after the birth of my first daughter, fouryears ago, I reduced my workloadto part-time (80%). Initially, after I cameback frommaternity leave I reduced my workload to60%, but after three months I realized that Iwas not able to get anything done in my current workingarrangements and increased myworkload to 80%. In total, I worked almost four yearsat 80%. Reflecting on the totalexperience of working forsuch firms I can divide the experience into two periods: beforetransitioning to part time and after that transition.After transitioning to part time I noticed a huge changein my professionaldevelopment, client base, promotion level, and overallattitude from my superiors andcolleagues. In general, themain issues which I encountered were problems with mysuperiors’ and colleagues’ attitudes. Although,I believe that I am an extremely efficientworker, it was hard to managemy clients, my staff, and my professional developmenttraining courses in the reduced schedule.I always felt like I was running a marathon.There was always too much to doand not much time to do it. The accounting professionhas dramatically changed in thelast few years because of the recent scandals in corporateAmerica. Thus, the audit firms havebecome much more sophisticated. The knowledge7base needed in order to comply with the professionalrequirements is much broader andinvolves more complex auditing, technical,and reporting standards. Overall, I felt lackofsupport from my superiors, who often ignoredmy working at a reduced workload andchallenged me with unreasonable deadlines.For example, a few partners came intomyoffice at the end of my workday (5:00 pm)and asked me to complete a report! or reviewfinancial statements for them by the endof the day. A few partners scheduled meetingswith clients on days and during times whenI was not working. Other partners suggestedthat I ignore my alternative work arrangementsfor two weeks and work full time in orderto finalize engagements and meet some deadlines.These partners suggested that I hireeither a sitter, or that my husbandstay with my children, so I could come and workduring weekends. I felt like my superiors did notconsider my role as a parent to youngchildren, and did not take into account that I was workingarrangements that allowed mespending time with my children in the days that Iwas not working, and during theweekends.Additionally, due to the intense competition among theBig Firms, the audit-clientrelation presents new challenges that deserveattention. The firm has adopted manypractices and social events that managers should attendafter regular working hours.These events raised conflicts for me because ofmy family requirements after my workinghours that were more important than entertaininga client on the golf course, or at ahockey game. Because I was not availableto dedicate most of my free time to the firmand to my clients, I could not meet all of myjob’s requirements. As a result, myperformance evaluations were not as goodas they were before I had my children.8While I believe that some of these career costsare the “right sacrifices” that oneshould bear in order to maintain career andfamily life, the reality is that after two yearsin the same position and after the birth of my seconddaughter the attitude towards mefrom my colleagues in the office and fromsome of the partners with whom I worked,pushed me to resign and find another position outsideof the public accounting field. Allthese issues are relevant to my thesis and explainmy interest in the stories of othermothers CAs who either work or have workedalternative arrangements in the Big Firms.I wanted to enquire whether my experienceis unique or whether other women withchildren have experienced this pattern, or a similarpattern of difficulties.In this study, I have explored the retrospective narrativeaccounts of four motherswho are CAs in the Big Firms. These accounts includeboth their current and pastexperience of working alternative arrangements and raisingchildren. Retrospectiveaccounts may allow individuals to look back with a freshperspective and consider someof their experiences with the benefit of hindsight.This research is important becausefrom prior research, we know little about the challengesof mothers CAs, who workalternative arrangements in the Big Firms, and how theysucceed or fail to balance theirlife in a social and cultural context that values total commitmentto the Firm and to itsclient (Charron & Lowe, 2005).PurposeThe purpose of this study is to develop a comprehensiveand in-depth descriptionof the experience of mothers CAs who use alternativearrangements in the BigAccounting Firms. The study examinespatterns and anomalies in their stories that mayinform other mother CAs who choose towork such arrangements. While the study is9informed from my own experiencein Big Firms in two countries, it is not dominatedbymy personal story. By using various perspectivesof different women, this study aims tomake a new and worthwhile contribution tothe existing knowledge base on work/lifebalance. This study is promptedby my personal experience; however, thestudy examinesthe experiences of other womenand is intended to broaden our understandingofprofessional women’s conflictsin the arena of Public Accounting.Research QuestionsTwo broad research questions provide thefocus for this study.1. What are the experiences of women withchildren who use alternativeworking arrangement in the Big Firmsin terms of:(a) their ability to balance family and work commitment(b) their promotion progress(c) their satisfaction with their career and(d) their relationships with colleagues and superiors?2. What can we learn from these experiences/storiesin order to support achange in the Big Firms’ practices for improvingthe experiences ofwomen with children that work alternativearrangements?SignificanceThis study focuses on understanding thechallenges that these women face intheir workplace, their career advancements, and theiroverall career satisfaction.This study provides information for researchers interestedin the rich livedexperiences of professional women with children whowork alternative arrangements inthe Big Firms (Cohen & Single, 2001). At thesame time, this research is significant to10feminists who are studying the experiencesof women with children in the workplaceinorder to raise gender consciousness amongprofessional women in particular, and in orderto validate the experiences of women in other workplaces.There are multiple educational implicationsfor this study. First, as 1 arguedpreviously, the Big Firms have policies in place allowingmothers and employees ingeneral to balance work and family. Further,these firms chose to mention on their web-site the importance of these policies to thesuccess of their firms. Therefore, this researchmay help to educate policy makers about(a) problems with the policy and its practicalimplementation from the perspective ofemployees; and (b) how to carry out thesepolicies better in the future. Second, the findings of thisresearch can educate the uppermanagement in the Big Firms, and human resources managers,about the experiences ofthese women. This may help address women’s concernsand improve their workingconditions in the future. Third, the findings can educatethe women’s colleagues aboutthe difficulties that women face when balancing familyand career. This sort of educationcan help clear the resentment surrounding these working schedules.Finally, the study caneducate women who work in such Big Firms, and womenin general, who are working invarious occupations, to understand the complexitiesof trying to balance professional lifewith motherhood, so that professional women willknow what to expect based on pastwomen’s experiences. It can also educate women howto best advocate for themselves,and how to create a supportive atmospherearound them.Theoretical PerspectiveThe theoretical assumptions guiding this research are based onprinciples of socialconstructionism, and feminism. Social constructionismasserts that instead of seeking11some irrefutable once-and-for-all truth in some area,the truth is the product of our socialpractices and institutions, or of the interactions and negotiationsbetween relevant socialgroups (Gasper, 1999). Each individual mentallyconstructs the world of experiencesthrough cognitive processes (Young & Collin, 2004).We as researchers ought to searchfor the meanings and the consequences of“the various ways of putting things”, (p.40)and appreciate that all forms of text and talk exist withinparticular cultural andinstitutional traditions which have their ownset of rules for determining validity andlegitimacy (Gergen, 2000). Social constructionist ideaschallenge essentialist notions that,for example, women are nurturing and men are aggressive.In his discussion of social constructionism and the narrative constructionofidentity, Gergen (2000) suggests that we identify ourselvesthrough the stories we tell,and that conventional narrative structures shape our senseof identity and placerestrictions over who we can be. Gergen (2001) also proposesthat who we are and howwe behave are negotiated and defined within social relationships.A person’s career represents a unique interaction ofself and social experiences.Social constructionism has an important role in contextualizingcareer issues. It locatesindividuals, their concerns and actions, within their social,economic, and culturalcontexts. By this it uncovers issues of power and ideologyin career (Young & Collin,2004). In this research I want to explore,through the stories of the participants, howmothers who are CAs have experienced alternativeworking arrangements in a culturethat demands full time commitment fromits employees. I also intend to inquire how theyperceived these career experiences may influence the women’ssociocultural context,social structures, and relationships.12Further, social constructionism aims notto uncover “the truth” about people orsociety, but to search for any value thatthe researcher’s reading of a phenomenon mighthave in bringing about change for those who benefitfrom it (Burr, 1995). From a socialconstructionism perspective, an important pragmaticand political objective of thisresearch is to provide knowledge usefulto (a) other mothers CAs who work inthe BigFirms and have the same challenges, (b)human resources managers in those firms whowork with such women, (c) upper managementin those firms who supervise suchwomen, and (d) other individuals,and in particular, professional women in a variety oforganizations.In general, feminist theory is interested in questioning women’sagency, powerrelations, voice, individual experience, and sociallyconstructed knowledge (Collins,1990; hooks, 2000). There are many forms of feminism.However all varieties offeminism have in common two main themes;the first theme is “the question of patriarchyand how to get rid of it” (Mojab & Gorman, 2001,p.287) and the second theme is how touse gender as a tool for analysis and action. Accordingto Baker (1998) the essence offeminist research is: “Unlike much traditional research... which has systematicallyignored or distorted the roles of women in social life, feminist researchhas attempted torecognize, faithfully document and respect women’s diverseexperiences. Consequently,feminist research has been rootedin women’s experiences; and as women’s lives becomeknown and visible through feminist research, women have becomethe subjects andcreators of knowledge and theory”(p.32). Riger (1992,p.734, cited in Denzin andLincoln, 1998, p.241) argues: ‘Giving voiceto women’s perspectives means identifyingways women create meaning, and experiencelife from their particular position in the13social hierarchy”. Feminist theorists also suggest thatbecause women have traditionallybeen in a position of less power than men, they havebecome more attuned to identifyingand understanding the feeling and perspectivesof others (Hayes, 2000).To explore what is considered to be ‘feminine’ inthis study I draw on liberalfeminism. Liberal feminism focuses on women’sability to show and maintain theirequality through their own actions andchoices (Morgan, 1996). Men and women areequal and essentially the same, thus women shouldhave equal access to employmentopportunities and pay (Jaggar, 1983). The importanceof articulating women’s voicewithin a liberal feminist agenda is to lookat the personal interactions of men and womenas the starting ground from which to transform societyinto a more gender-equitableplace.From a feminist perspective the aim of this researchis to help women CAsworking alternative arrangements to tell their livedcareer experiences in order to createchange in the Big Firm’s culture and attitude.Theoretical RationalSocial constructionism is valid for my study becauseof my interest in otherpeople’s subj ectivities. People’s stories are not objective.There is no objective reality.People socially construct their own realityto some degree. Therefore, other people’srealities may validate my own personal experience.Social constructionism theory helpedme look across the stories and find social connectivityamong these women’sexperiences.Liberal feminism in particular and feminist researchin general are valid for thisresearch because they honor personal experience asthe foundation of the theory (Gluck14& Patai, 1991; hooks, 1994) My work does not aimfor universal, positivist “truths,” butinstead affirms that lived experiences (ratherthan abstract theories or generalizations)reveal the nature of working alternative arrangements.Not only are women’sexperiences inherently valuable and worth recordingin and of themselves, they also serveas a window to understand larger scale phenomena.In other words, this study recognizesparticipants’ career experience as experiences in context;it considers the study ofindividual stories as a move beyond the retelling of careerexperiences, and as a practiceuseful to others (Chapman & Sork, 2001).15CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEWA range of intellectual resources are employed toexplore the various issuesdiscussed in this study. Thus, in orderto understand and analyze the lived experiencesofthe mothers CAs, a variety of theoretical lensesis relevant. A review of the relevantliterature is provided starting with abrief survey of gender and its importance, followedby a reference to the theories on women’s labor, theorieson professional identity, andtheories on work-family balance. The literature reviewis concluded with the accountingliterature on using alternative working arrangementsin the accounting profession, andparticularly in the Big Firms.The Importance of GenderThere are many social categories explaining humanbehavior and interaction. Thetwo abstract social categories, “men” and“women” are two of the universally familiarcomponents of identity. Following the behavioral prescriptionfor the gender affirmsone’s self image, or identity, as a “man” oras a “woman” (Alcerlof& Kranton, 2000).From earliest childhood women and men have beensocialized differently (Whole personweb-site, 2005). McDill, Mills and Henderson (2000)illustrate that “the gender barrierbecomes a significant factor in the lives of girls as early as age9 and is firmly in place bygrade 13” (p.2). Thus, there are differentpatterns of involvement, behavior and activitiesthat women and men have in education, economic, socialand legal structure (Bern, 1993;Hayes, 2000). For example, in research done in Germanyon transport planning;Schmucki, (2002) notes that a critical research studyof the gendered nature of planningin Germany still points out huge differences in planning approachesbetween women and16men: “while women base their plans onlocal needs and relations betweenpeople, menbase their plans on vast building and acresof impressive space “(Schmucki, 2002,p.69).Gender in the past primarily referredto the social expectations, and roles expectedby people based on their biological sex(Baber & Allen, 1992; Marshall,1995). Latelythe term gender has taken broader views.Marshall argues, “It has becomea general labelfor talking about women, men,the relationships between them, related aspectsoforganizing, processes throughwhich gender differentiated behaviorpatterns are enactedand associated issues of power in variousguises” (p.853). Reflecting on issues relatedtogender bias in almost all structuresis complex and troublesome. On the one hand,thecontemporary western society acts underthe assumption that women and menare equal.There appears to be equality betweenthe genders with respect to legal, formaleducation,economic and social rights. Wemay teach our daughters and sons thatwhen they growup they can choose the profession thatthey like regardless of their gender. Onthe otherhand, we must realize that formal policyhas not been effective in eliminatinginequality;rather, bias and discrimination tendto occur in informal settings (Martin, Reynolds&Keith, 2002). Gender inequality isrooted in our cultural patterns and inourorganizations. There are limitsto the extent to which education as an institutioncan“cure” unequal social relations.Education as an institution has the capacityboth toperpetuate and to resist ideologies of genderbias.Women’s LaborWomen comprise over half of Canada’spopulation and make up nearly half(46.6%) of the Canada workforce in 2005(Statistics Canada web-site). Yet, theirpresence is virtually non-existent on theupper levels of power. For example, only1917women in 2004 led Canada’s top 500 companies, furthermore than half of Canada’s topcompanies have no women on their board (Kingston,2005). Women still have to adapt tothe dominant male-oriented values, communicationpatterns, and work style and ignore orrepress their own identity, values, and experiencesin order to assimilate to the existingworkplace cultures and to succeed in the organization(Fenwick, 2001). Bierema (2001)argues that women’s career development in the workplacehas been dominated by male-oriented theories that inadequately illuminate women’scareers. For example: trait-factortheories explain career choice as matching individualability and interest with workexperience (Holland, 1985). However,due to women’s social role in the society and sexstereotyping this theory is not appropriate for womenbecause women do not have equalopportunity to explore matches between their personalityand work environment.This situation raises conflict for women; howto cope with their gender role asmothers and their desire to maintain a careerand a balanced life (Saija & Merilinen,1999). This conflict is addressed in various articles in different fields;such as academia,corporate world, information technology, and constructionfield (Bown, 1999; Foster,1999; Wyn, Acker, & Richards, 2000). For example, inthe field of academia, theuniversities are presented as greedy institutions; an institution whichmakes total claimson its members (Coser, 1974). In order to be successfulacademics, women sacrifice theirfamily, their friends, and their health (Currie, Harris& Thiele, 2000). Although men havethe same experiences, and also need to sacrifice, becausewomen still have theresponsibility of child rearing, and elder care they havemore commitments than menoutside of the workplace.18Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s (1977) seminal workon “men and women of thecorporation” is a comprehensive case studyof one company called Industrial SupplyCorporation (Indsco); however it reflectswomen’s status in the corporate world.According to the author, women populate organizationsin the corporate world, but theypractically never run them, especially thelarge businesses and public establishments.Thejob of a secretary according to the author is symbolicof the status of female employmentin the corporate world. Office jobs for women havelow status, little autonomy oropportunity, and generally low pay. InIndsco gender roles are inherent in the company’spractices. The author describes the threemain characteristics of the company; managers,secretaries, and wives and the distributionof power and opportunities between these threecharacteristics inside of the organization.Women’s “typical” behavior in the organizationas secretaries or as wives of the managers in the organization canbe attributed, accordingto Kanter, to the long socializationof a “female sex role”. The author further discussesincontrast the “masculine ethics” that washistorically attached to managers. All managershave analytic abilities, a capacity to setaside personal emotional consideration in theinterests of task accomplishment and leadership abilities.She also explains the socialconformity which is so important in managerial careers andthe reason why it is soimportant. Managers tend to carefullymaintain power and give privilege to people whofit in. They become a closed circle; all of the managers inthe organization looked thesame, and acted the same way. The expectationfrom people in management positionsisto have total commitment and devotion to the organization;so most of them actually formall their life around their career and around the organization. Thus,some of men in themanagement of such organizations havebeen concerned about the suitability of women19for managerial roles especially when theyare married and have kids. Therefore, womenand especially women with children findit hard to break the management circleand fit inat the same status and power positions.Almost 28 years later Kingston (2005)points out the same arguments that Kanter(1977) discussed. Kingston argues thatwomen do not have greater corporate powerbecause: first, people hire people who looklike themselves, second the lack of womenreflects a lack of female role models andthird, women are wired differently thanmen andbusiness is wired for men.Women who try to ‘fit in’ need to fight prejudicesabout ‘proper’ gender roles andto earn the respect of their male colleagues,and their male clients. Because leadershipqualities are so essential in the corporateworld, women need to embrace men’scharacteristics of leadership and managementin order to get promotions (Liff & Ward,2001). Women learn that to be ‘treated thesame as boys’ while at school, or at thebeginning of their career when they do not haveother responsibilities outside of theworkplace, does not guarantee equal participationpolicies by both genders in theworkplace throughout one’s career (Aveling,2002).In the construction industry women learn to conceal their femininityand theirother commitments in order to beaccepted into this masculine industry. The messageisagain that unless women are willing to mirror male behavior, thenthey have onlythemselves to blame for their exclusion (Greed,2000; Liff& Ward, 2001).Despite equal opportunities legislation, fewerthan five percent of senior-levelpositions in corporations are occupied by women, andonly two women hold the positionof chief executive officer (CEO) in Fortune500 companies at the beginning of the new20millennium (Bierema, 2001). There is no doubt thatsenior management jobs requiredrive, ambition, competence, and ability. They alsorequire spending longer hours,supervision of more staff members, and increasedcommitments. Women are usuallyprepared to take on the requirements of responsible anddemanding jobs; howeverwomen’s career progression is sometimes interruptedand is not as linear as men’s; suchpositions are not always offered to many womenbecause of assumptions about women’scareer paths in general (Bown, 1999; Liff& Ward,2001; Wyn, Acker, & Richards,2000). After all, sex discrimination has not disappeared,it has just become more difficultto trace, due to its subtle, concealed and often unconsciousnature (Saija & Merilainen,1999).Hayes (2000) discusses women’s learning experiencesin the workplace. Womenusually get fewer opportunities for formal job trainingdue to the nature of their work, aswell as due to their other commitments outsideof work. Employment practices continueto have unaccommodating results for women, whoare often working part-time becauseof their roles as primary caregivers. In ideal organizations,such as the ‘learningorganization’, personal and work-related developmentsare combined. However, in actualpractice, employee needs to determine the balancebetween work and family based onindividual goals along with the willingnessto accept the consequences (Howell, Carter &Schied, 2002). This can be challenging for women when the behaviorexpected may notwork as these behaviors conflict with “feminine” behavior.Since women are still themain caregivers of their families they are faced with challengesto achieve equalopportunities in the workplace.21Fenwick (2001) notes that workplaceeducation is a tool of culture control inorganizations, and it does not address complex issuesof culture, race, gender, power,identity, and politics. Few articles discussthe sociocultural environment in the workplacetoday and the changes that educators andpolicy makers need to address in order to adaptto changes in today’s workplace, where more andmore women are active participants(Fenwick, 2001; Bierema, 2002). Most articles acknowledgethat the various genderequality policies were not successful in their abilityto make the change in theorganizational culture that still prefersand favors the male’s experience, which is basedon uninterrupted career paths, long-hours,and aggressiveness. (Fenwick, 2001; Liff andWard, 2001).Social Identity TheorySocial identity theory maintains that individuals classify themselvesinto varioussocial groups (Tajfel & Turner 1985). According to Tajfel (1978), a socialidentity is “theindividual’s knowledge that he belongsto certain social groups, together with someemotional and value significance to him of that membership” (citedin Harquail, 1998,p.223). The process of professional socialization in accountingis broadly about theprocess of identification. The goals and standards of the profession includecornerstoneconcepts such as independence, objectivity, professional skepticism,technicalknowledge, and integrity (Aranya & Ferris, 1984;Shaub, Finn & Munter 1993). Once theindividual is in the profession, the already establishedcodes or structures in theprofession of masculinity, rationality, and calculabilityget loaded onto the individual inthe attempt to take on the role of accountantand the need to fit into the professionalaccountancy environment. In this way the ‘accounting persona’ is constructed.The22profession assumes that at the beginning oftheir career the trainees are willingto doeverything in order to acquire professionalidentity and to get access into theprofession.The firm moulds its trainees duringthe training period to achieve the “correct” image inorder to fit into the accountingprofession and achieve a successful career (Grey,1998).However, identity that is basedon one’s membership in a particular social groupis not the only kind of identity that one canhave (Aquino, Reed, Stewart, & Shapiro,2004). The individual and the ‘self’ do notenter the accounting profession as‘unconstructed’. There is a part of the individualself that has been constructed throughthe individual life biography and experience.These include social factors such as age,class, sex, and ethnic background. Accordingto Self-Regulatory Identity Theory (SRIT),there is another type of identity, referredto as counter identity. The counter identityisrooted in the notions of “ought” and“should”, and include personal values that mightmake an individual sensitive to broader issuesof social justice (Aquino, Reed, Stewart, &Shapiro, 2004). Under some circumstancesthe loading of ‘codes’ can be a troublesomeexperience, which could give rise to internalor external experiences of conflict. Forexample, professional women can have identityconflict in working while raising afamily. In order to functionas professional women, they need to redefine and reordertheir priorities in order to accommodatethe demanding nature of their roles. Themother’s voice and needs are marginalized infavor of the rational, institutional structureobjectives.Theory on Work-Family BalanceWork-family balance reflects an individual’s orientationacross different life roles,an interrole phenomenon (Marks & MacDermid,1996). Marks and MacDermid suggest23that individuals can and should demonstrateequally positive commitments to differentlife roles. Other scholars view living a balanced lifeas achieving satisfying experiencesin all life domains (Clark, 2000; Kirchmeyer,2000). These definitions of balance shareseveral common elements; the notion of near-equalitybetween experiences in the workand experiences in the family; the notionof similar and high level of satisfaction acrossmultiple roles; and the notion that all roles are approachedwith a similar set of resources.However, other scholars define the work-familyrelationship as a conflict. Work-family conflict represents incompatibilities betweenwork and family responsibilitiesbecause of limited resources (Bamett, 1998; Kahn,Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, & Rosenthal,1964). Employees increasingly findthemselves struggling to juggle the competingdemands of work and family. It seems that to achieveequality or near equality in terms ofresources, satisfaction, and time commitmentis challenging. This view supports theconflict theory (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985) whichhighlights the potentialincompatibility of work and family.Working for the Big Firms raises the conflictbetween the company time and thepersonal time. For example: trainees are tutored fromearly stages to get used to workingweekends and evenings to complete their tasks. Thisbehavior usually leads to a conflictbetween the private time and the firm’s time, andsometimes raises thoughts and/or evenactions about leaving the firm after receivingthe CA designation (Anderson-Gough et al.;Grey, 1998). This conflict increases when professionalsexperience other personalcommitments outside of the workplace due to their roleas the primary care givers. Thenthe mechanism of putting the firm’s time before the familytime is problematic.24Moreover, women who want to succeedin professional or managerial jobs facestrong pressures at work. Most careersare still based on a male pattern (Bierma, 2001).Inorder to succeed in the male dominated culture, womenneed to act like men; putting inlong hours, building a reputation, competingwith fellow professionals, and minimizingfamily work by finding outside help (Hochschild,2000).Hochschild (1997) argues that in recent decadesthe rewards of work haveincreased relative to those of family life and this culturalreversal has aggravated the timebind that families face by increasing work hours. Further, Hochschild(1997) claims that,for many, work takes precedence over homeas a source for friendships,accomplishments, and even relaxation. In thepast, the situation was right for only some“workaholic” men, who gained greater satisfaction fromwork than home, but now moreand more workers, including women feel thatthe stress of home life drives them to investmore time in their jobs.Women still have to deal with the dual-burden of working fulltime and bearing adisproportionate responsibility for house work and childcare (Gershuny,Bittman, &Brice, 2005). Thus, women have few options availablefor them when facing work-familyconflict: (a) to leave the labor market (b) to leavethings as they are (to juggle) (c) todecrease their domestic work in order to adapt to the norms of thelabor market, includingdelegating the unpaid work of raising childrento the “care industry” which has steppedinto the traditional mom’s role (Hochschild, 2000),and (d) to reduce their workload byworking alternative arrangements in the labor market while still remaining themaincaregiver.25In this study, I focus on the women that selected option(d), i.e., using alternativework arrangements as their solution to the work-familyconflict. I focus specifically onwomen CA’s who chose to work such arrangementsin the Big Accounting Firms.The above literature review illustrates that women in variousprofessions need toadapt to the dominant male-oriented values in theirorganizations. They need to repress orignore their own identity in order to be promotedin the workplace. Employment practicescontinue to be unaccommodating for women, and asa result, women tend to prefer towork alternative arrangements and keep their role asprimary caregivers.Using Alternative Working ArrangementsThe Big Firms’ CultureThe work environment in the accounting profession,and especially in the largestinternational CPA firms, the Big Firms, is very demanding(Charron & Lowe, 2005).These Big Firms were founded and managedby males (Hooks, 1996). As such, the malepreference and value structure are heavily embeddedin these firms’ culture (Hooks,1996). These issues include working long hours (including weekends)throughout theyear, especially in the “busy season”, and having littlespare time for the private life,either for themselves or their families (Collins, 1993;Bernardi, 1998). The Big Firmstransform the individuals into disciplined firm members from very earlystages in order tofit them into the accounting profession and to achieve a successfulcareer (AndersonGough, et al., 2001; Covaleski, et al., 1998). Anderson-Gough,et al. (2001) research theways in which modern audit firms have become gendered,the practice through whichgender relations in audit firms is constructed. They find thatmale partners and seniormanagers recruit, promote, and mentor people with thesame backgrounds and26preferences as themselves, and thus reproduce organizationalgender relations.Furthermore, from the socialization stagesthe identification of future “partner material”is evident from the integration into norms of undividedcommitment and a firm-approvedsocial life. Trainees have to show theircommitment to the firm by spending most oftheirtime within the firm (Coffey, 1994; Anderson-Goughet al.).Coser (1974) defines greedy institutionsas those which make complete claim ontheir members and seek undivided loyalty.He discusses monks, Bolsheviks, Jesuits andwives/mothers as the perfect examples of such institutions.Using Coser’s analogy, theBig Firms are also greedy institutions as they requirefull devotion from their employees.The demand for a “workaholic” attitude, the stressfulenvironment, the long workinghours, and the need to meet strict deadlines leadto the “up or out” attitude associatedwith these Big Firms (Cohen & Single, 2001).This organizational culture raises questions for manyfemale trainees regardingtheir prospect of future family life and their long-termcareer with the firm (AndersonGough et al., 2001). The issue of family life appearsto impact the trainees’ idea ofgendering of the firm and the profession. However, inthe early stage of fulfilling theirtraining with the firm, both males and femalestend to be young, unmarried and childless.At this stage there is usually no difference between maleand female, because they do nothave many non-work responsibilities. At thisstage, there is only the issue of visioning afuture career in the Big Firm as more than a daily struggle.At advanced stages, when thefemale accountant has more responsibilities outsideof her work, the conflict between thework and the family time arises (Anderson-Goughet al). Although both men and womentend to marry and have children, women still bear primaryresponsibility for managing27the home and children. Thus, women are more likelythan men to voluntarily leave theBig Firms due to their commitments to theirother greedy institution, the family (Cohen& Single, 2001). Hence, in advanced stagesand at the upper level management, thedifference in numbers between women andmen is striking. This is especially true forpartner positions (Anderson-Gough et al.).The Benefits of Alternative ArrangementsIn general, the intent of alternative arrangements isto help employees to reducethe work-family conflict by allowing themmore control over their work schedule. Thearrangements can take a variety of forms suchas working part-time, working acompressed work-week, telecommuting, and flexibilityin the timing of work (Cohen &Single, 2001; Rogier & Padgett, 2004). Sucharrangements have been touted as especiallybeneficial for women given their family, homeand work responsibilities (Huws, 2000).Collins’ (1993) research on stress and departure fromthe public accounting professionconcludes that female accountants experience higherlevels ofjob-related tension and aremore affected by stress than their male colleagues.Collins notes that a female oftenassumes two conflicting roles, a professionaland a home maker. Combined pressuresfrom the home and work environments may lead femaleaccountants to higher level ofjob-related stress. Collins suggests offering alternativeschedules to females in order toassist them in balancing work and home responsibilities.All of the Big Firms have introduced such arrangementssince the 1990s in orderto allow the increasing number of women entering theprofession a chance to balancework and family commitments (Cohen & Single, 2001;Hooks, 1996; Kinard et al.,1998).28Hooks (1990) is the first to discuss whether flexibleworking arrangements can besuccessful in helping female accountants to balance thefamily and the work. She hasnoted that in order for such arrangements to succeed significantamount of planning andnegotiation are needed. She has also raised the issueof perception problems surroundingflexible work arrangements. The main perception problemis that employees onalternative work schedules are considered by their colleaguesand by the management tobe less committed to the firm and thus less likelyto advance in the organization.In her later research, Hooks (1996) interviews the leaders of Big Firms regardingtheir initiatives to promote diversity and to overcomebarriers to women’s advancements.The leaders have discussed their efforts to changethe culture in the firms, the “up or out”approach, and their goal to allow individuals toprogress in the firms according to theirown pace. They have agreed that in order to allowfemales to progress, male partners inleadership positions need to understand and respectthe differences associated with beinga professional woman. They have acknowledged that offering alternative arrangementscan benefit their clients, who expect their professional service teamto reflect thedemographics of the workforce.Further, Hooks (1998) in an extensive survey of over 1000 experiencedprofessionals in one of the Big Firms find that technology has allowed the workplacetobe more flexible because the work no longer needs to be performed atthe office.However, she has further found an increased blurring ofthe work and the personal timeand she has called on the firms to demonstrate a high level of sensitivity regardingthebalance among personal, family and career commitments.29The benefits of using alternative arrangementsto the individual and the firm havebeen further researched. Almer and Kaplan(2002), for example, survey CPAs workingunder alternative arrangements as opposedto CPAs working under standardarrangements (who are likely to be candidatesfor alternative arrangements). The resultshave shown that employees of alternativearrangements have lower levels of burnout,stressors, emotional exhaustion and depersonalization.Further, CPAs working underalternative arrangements have increasedjob satisfaction, productivity, and have loweredturnover rates. An important contributionof this research is the indication that womenaremore likely to work alternative schedules.The main limitation of the study for otherinterest is its lack of surveying CPAsworking in the Big Firms. CPAs in these firmsaretypically the high achievement-motivatedCPAs. As such, the study may not berepresentative of individuals who are morecareer-oriented.The Costs Associated with Alternative ArrangementsWhile alternative arrangements havethe benefit of allowing women to continuepromoting their career, it may comeat some costs. The costs associated with adaptingalternative arrangements are usually careeradvancement and equity issues (Cohen&Single, 2001; Rogier & Padgett, 2004; Charron& Lowe, 2005). Career advancement isaffected because of the negative perceptionassociated with alternative arrangements.These arrangements reinforce traditional constructionsof gender and undermine attemptsto break down the barriers posed by gendersocialization. Cohen and Single (2001)conduct an experimental study with 107seniors and managers of one of the Big Firms.Their study examined if other firm members’ perceptionsof an individual’s professionalsuccess, anticipated turnover, and desirabilityon engagements are affected by adoptinga30flexible arrangement. The results showthat managers on alternative schedulesareperceived more negatively on all threedependent variables in comparison tothemanagers who are on regular work schedules. Thestudy has further examined whetherthe gender of the individual taking partin alternative arrangement affects the perceptionof respondents on the issue of advancement, turnoverand desirability of engagement. Thefindings indicate that the negative perceptionof individuals with flexible arrangement isindependent of whether the manageris a male or a female. The authors have indicatedthat the Big Firms are acting unethicallyby setting up the participants in alternativearrangements for failure as the firm does not providethe resources for the employees onsuch arrangement to succeed (Cohen & Single, 2001).Some of the resources that the BigFirms are withholding according to the authors areproviding successful role models,adopting effective persuasion messages and programsto help these schedules flourish,and ensuring that participants in these programsreceive sufficiently challengingassignments. The authors have suggested that futureresearch will explore the actualexperiences of the participants in such arrangements.Further, Anderson-Gough, et al., (2005) also notethat alternative arrangementsare “unambiguous failures”(p.487) because they have failed to change the normsand theacceptable code of conduct in the Big Fimis.Similarly, Rogier and Padgett (2004) conductedan experiment to assess femaleemployee’s suitability for promotion in accounting firms.They provided bothexperimental and control groups of managers withthe same information on a femaleemployee’s personal file. The only difference was theschedule that the employee works(flexible time vs. full time). They found that managersperceived a female employee31using alternative work arrangements as having lessjob-career commitment and lesscareer advancement potential than a female who worksa regular schedule. Further,Charron and Lowe (2005) indicated that althoughalternative arrangements have beenoffered for years, only relatively few accountantsare taking advantage of such programs.In the public accounting setting, men perceiveit more costly to adopt such schedules thanwomen do. Hence, in public accountingfirms, men tend to consider alternativearrangements as a women’s issue. This differencebetween men’s and women’sperceptions in flexible arrangements is less pronouncedfor accountants in othermanagement settings. Thus, overall they have foundthat in the public accountingenvironment there are more equity issues around alternativearrangements than in othermanagement accounting settings. Further,Almer and Kaplan (2001) claim thataccountants that take alternative arrangements areperceived by their peers ascontributing less to the firm’s goals.Some may argue that alternative schedules arehurting the advancement of womennot because of the lack of support in the firmor the negative perception, but due to otherreasons. For example, Kinard et al. (1998) examinedthe employment policies andpractices of public accounting firms in order to understandthe lack of women atmanagerial positions. They surveyed 5000 randomlyselected members of the AICPA.The results indicate that public accountingfirms provide adequate support for females inthe profession. The reason for the high turnover rateamong female CPAs, according tothe authors, is the high demands of the profession ratherthan the unsupportiveenvironment in the firms. These results mustbe interpreted cautiously because of thesmall sample size (a 15% percent response). Further,there might be a survival bias in the32results when those that have responded are still workingin the public practice and areprobably happy, while the females who have not beensatisfied with the firm’s policiesand attitudes have left and therefore are not part ofthe sample.Only a few studies provide evidence of the potential careerconsequences ofalternative schedules. MacDermid, Lee, Ct al. (2001) examinedthe level of success of thealternative arrangements, and expected career implications.The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with seventy-eight women managersand professionals (notnecessarily accountants) who used a reduced workloadalternative schedule. The mainresults indicated that most of the respondents were satisfiedalthough they felt that theysacrificed some upward mobility in their careers, especiallyin the short run. Only somerespondents reported that overall, the alternative arrangementsare more costly thanbeneficial, from a personal and career perspective.This study has been done in variousorganizations, not only on accountants in the Big Firms.The above studies in the accounting literature providea broad understanding of thebenefits and costs for female professionals who adaptalternative arrangements in the BigFirms. Most of the studies use quantitative methods,such as: questionnaires,experimental research, and survey research. Thus,much of the literature ignores thesubjective meaning given to the experiencesby the individual in their organizations andsocial settings. Further, these studies lack a deep understandingof the process that leadsto the negative perception of alternative working arrangements.Certainly, this negativeperception is probably not the intention of the Big Firms when theyinitiate these types ofworking arrangements. I believe that using qualitativeresearch interviews helps to bringsome light on the individual career experience that ismissing from this literature. I aim at33gaining a deeper understanding of whythese alternative work arrangements didnot helpadvance women careers.Using the theory on gender, women’slabor, identity conflict, and work-familybalance helps me to describe the broaderpicture of women’s career experiences, andtoreflect on the retrospective narrative accountsof the four CA mothers’ experiences ofworking alternative arrangements in the BigFirm in order to explore how mother CAsexperience the intersection between theirprofessional identity, their identity as mothers,and between their work and non-workdomains, in particular in the accountingprofession.34CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGYResearch DesignI employ narrative inquiry research in order to explore thecareer experiences ofmothers working alternative arrangements inthe Big Firms. I wish to understand the indepth experience of a few women with children ratherthan to grasp at a surface level theexperiences of many women with childrenat various organizations! places.Narrative ways of knowing are expressedin the stories people tell to givemeanings to their own experience (Hatch, 2003). Ourstories reveal our intentions, andthe meaning we make of our experiences (Clandinin &Connelly, 2000). Practice storiesmay offer valuable tools for research and are consideredlegitimate approaches toscholarly investigations. For example, using narrativesto better understanding a range ofhuman experiences has been effectively demonstratedby anthropologists,psychotherapists, and educators alike (Behar, 1996; Clandinin& Connelly, 2000;Fenwick, 2003).Narrative modes of knowing are an attempt to understandlived experience incontext, and meaning as it is constructed through socialdiscourse (Bruner, 1986, as citedin Arvay, 2002). Gee (1999) notes “narratives are importantsense-making devices.People often encode into narratives the problems thatconcern them and their attempt tomake sense or resolve these problems” (p.134). Thereare multiple definitions of the term“narrative”, however for the purpose of this study Idraw on the definition offered byKohier Riessman (1993): “narrative refersto talk organized around consequential events.A teller in a conversation takes the listenerinto past time or “world” and recapitulateswhat happened then to make a point, oftena moral one”(p.3)35Narrative inquiry is located in a social constructionistepistemology. From a socialconstructionist perspective, reality is sociallyconstructed and known only through theperception of individuals who are situated in particularcontext. As Spence (1982) notes,narratives are not records of facts or someobjective reality that involves what actuallyhappened. Rather, they represent a meaning-makingsystem that makes sense of themysterious ways of people’s perceptionsand experiences. Narrative inquiry also focuseson the power relations that occurred in thesocial world. Meanings depend on thoseinvolved in telling and listening to stories,and on the power relations that are presentorbelieved to exist in these interactions (Arvay,2002).Through a joint effort, narrators recount stories oftheir life events, researchersinterpret the structure and content of thesestories, and researchers offer meaning to theexperiences (Cladinin & Connely, 2000). Usinga narrative approach helps me to revealsome of the main themes, tensions, and generalunderstanding of the mother CAs’worlds. My objective is to jointly constructthe experience of alternative workingarrangements from participants’ current perspectivesas they tell their story during theresearch interview (Burr, 1995). This approachis a unique contribution to the accountingliterature, which is silent about the actualexperiences of working alternativearrangements in a culture that admires total commitmentto the goals of the organization.I believe that other mothers CAs who work inthe Big Firms and have the samechallenges, human resources managers inthose firms who work with these women, uppermanagement in those firms who supervise these women,and other individuals, and inparticular, professional women in a variety of organizationswill benefit from learningabout the actual experience of professional mothers. Thisresearch provides in-depth36reflections on women’s experience. I believethat such reflections provide betterinformation than can be concluded from readingthe result of a survey or a questionnairewhich reports on the level of satisfactionfrom working such arrangements, and/ortheperceptions issues surrounding such arrangements.This approach allows this study to reflect on the experienceof working mothersengaged in these alternative arrangements.SamplingThe study is based on semi-structured reflective interviewswith four womenChartered Accountants (CA) with children,all at the management level. I chose tointerview only four women becauseI want to get the rich rn-depth information about theexperience of these mothers by conductingmultiple interviews with each woman ratherthan conducting fewer interviews with moreparticipants with my limited time andresources. I believe that a sample of fourwomen will provide sufficient amount ofinformation, especially given that there may be only16 mothers in the greater Vancouverregion who are working alternative arrangementsin the Big Finns.This study concerns only professional mothers whowork or worked alternativearrangements in the Big accounting firms. I chose tofocus on several Big Finns becauseas argued earlier the organizational culture in these firmsis similar, I believe that I willprobably not be able to convince the managementin any one Big Firm to give me accessto interview their employees on sensitive issues suchas life-work balance, and there arefew women who work such arrangements in each ofthe Big Firms. According to one ofthe Human Resources Partner in one of the Big Firms,there are only 16 women whowork such arrangement in all the Big Finns in Vancouver,and as of January, 2005 hold37management positions. Hence, choosing one particularfirm may jeopardize my intentionto ensure anonymity due to the relatively small numberof women who work sucharrangements in each firm.Research participants were invited to reflect on theirown career experiences inthe Big Firms while working alternative arrangements.The selection criteria for participation in this researchstudy includes beingfemale; having CA designation; having children; havingthe experience of workingalternative arrangement in one of the Big Firms,or having done so within the last 3 years;living in Vancouver, and having the ability and willingnessto articulate her experiencesin an interview setting. I have selected bothwomen who have worked and women whoare currently working alternative arrangements.I believe that including both experiencesare important in order to provide in-depth reflectionof these women’s challenges.Further, the participants are working professional womenwith young children, facingintense time pressures and conflicting demands. Thus,getting them to spare time for aninterview presented a major challenge. It wasmore practical to seek their viewsretrospectively, when the pressures are under somecontrol.To find participants for the study, I contacted a Women CA’s organizationbymail introducing myself and my research (Appendix A).This group of women meetsregularly once a month for 2-3 hours to create net-working,to enjoy a lecture together, orto participate in another group exercise (i.e. yoga). Usually, this groupsends e-mailmessages to all the women CA’s in the Vancouver areaupdating about their eventschedule. I have asked and received their permissionto distribute an advertisement poster(Appendix D) in their monthly meetings of the Women CA Group.One woman who38contacted me after this meeting indicated that she didnot fulfill the research criteria, butoffered to send my recruiting material to few womenthat she knows who work in the BigFirms. Through the efforts of this woman I recruitedtwo participants for the study. I alsocontacted the CA Institution of BC by mail (Appendix B)asking their permission toattach my advertisement poster (Appendix D) to their monthlymembers’ package. I havesupplemented these letters with a poster as well. Unfortunately,the CA Institution of BCrefused to attach my recruitment material since theyare trying to send to their membersonly information which relates to the profession andno advertisements. However, I leftmy e-mail address and phone number with the women incharge in the Institute and askedher to forward my recruitment materials to potential suitable individuals.I received twoe-mails from interested women willing to participate in mystudy; one was not beensuitable based on my criteria, the other one was interviewed.My sampling approach also included snow ball sampling, wherebyone of theinterviewed women has spoken about my study with another women CAwho works inher Firm. This woman has agreed to take part in the research. Snowball samplinghasbeen a convenient method for finding participants since participants for sucha study arenot easily accessible.Initially I planned to approach each one of the human resources managersof allthe Big Firms (four firms) asking them to post a recruitmentposter for mothers usingalternative work arrangements to contact me if they are willingto participate in the study.I approached the human resources partner of my former firm,who is my close colleague;however she informed me that the general partner wouldnot allow her to post such aposter without reviewing my research proposal first and consulting with thenational39office in Toronto. Thus, I decided it is more difficultto go through getting the approval ofthe entire Big Firms’ general partners, even if they wouldconsider allowing this study. Inaddition, after reviewing the UBC Ethical Reviewweb-site I understood that if I neededto get the approval of the Big Firms, I would alsoneed to apply for institutional ethicsapproval. Since I was interested in interviewing a limitednumber of women, I havechosen to recruit without involving the Big Firms’ management.For logistical and budgetary reasons, the participantswere limited to respondentsfrom Vancouver. My small budget wasspent on transcribing the interviews. I did not paya stipend for the participants.Data CollectionA pilot test with one woman comprised the initialstep in the data collection. Afew female CAs with children are known to me, andI approached one of them in order tofind one woman who could participate in an informalinterview. The pilot study allowedme to be familiarize myself with the interview questionsand the interview procedures,getting a better idea about how to open up the topicand invite women to tell me theirstories in the interview, to test the equipment, and uncoverunanticipated problems. Theinterview procedure and planned questions were usedfor the study. I consider this ofgreat importance to the overall success of the finalinterviews because I was able to testout my interviewing techniques in an un-threatening situationfor both the intervieweeand myself. Prior knowledge of the interviewee helped meto ask for specific clarificationof meaning, and for specific feedback regarding herfeelings concerning the format of theinterview. Data from the pilot study has not been included inmy study.40After the volunteers contacted me I phonedor e-mailed them in order toassesstheir suitability to participate andto begin to developing rapport. I then checkedtheiravailability and commitment of time.Once their suitability for participation wasestablished, the research objectives andprocess were provided to the participants.I thenscheduled the time and place for the interview.Riessman (1993) conceptualizes that narrativeresearch involves five levels ofrepresentation: attending, telling, transcribing,analyzing and reading. The first stageofthe narrative process starts with the everydaylived experience of the researchparticipants. All of us experience oursocial world directly; on a daily basis withoutcritically stoping to think on ourexperiences. According to Riessman (1993)weeventually attend to the experience; wereflect on certain things and search fortheirmeanings. This process of making phenomenameaningful is the first stage of therepresentation in narrative research. Thesecond stage entails telling our story aboutwhatwe experience. I have initiated this stageby inviting the participants to answermyinterview questions. The next twolevels are about my role in transcribingand analyzingthe stories. The process of transcribingwas problematic because I had to makemultipledecisions concerning how to translatethe spoken language into a written text.Transforming the speech into a writtentext involves selection and reduction (Riessman,1993). What is included or omitted dependson the researcher’s assumption (Away,2002). In narratives, language is not transparent. Theway the narrator tells the story andthe language he or she uses is essentialto understanding the overall meaning(Riessman,1993). The analysis stage is an even deeperphase, when I had to re-construct meaning,41choose what to narrate, and finally howto represent the storied accountsof participants ina new way as a thesis.EthicsFor the data collection for my study, I receivedethics approval for my researchproposal through UBC’s ethical review process. Eachpotential candidate was given aninformation letter detailing their involvementin the study and was provided with namesand telephone numbers of my supervisorand the university research services department.In addition, I received signed consentforms from all the participants at the beginningofthe interviews. (See letter for initial contact in AppendixC). An example of the consentletter has also been included in AppendixE. The consent form incorporated theinformation that participants needed to makean informed decision about taking part inthe study, including the purpose of the research,the research procedures, and theparticipant’s right to withdraw from the studyat any time. I also mentioned that theinterview would be audiotaped, and that all thenotes and the audiotapes would bedestroyed upon the study completion. Ialso ensured anonymity by askingeachparticipant to choose a pseudonym. Most of the womenhave said they are not concernedabout anonymity. However, I decided to choose pseudonymnames for them and they allagreed. The taped interviews and transcripts werelabeled with codes and kept in myoffice downtown in a locked drawerto which only I had access. Although verbatimquotes are included in the research to conceptualizethe findings, all identifyinginformation has been removed in transcriptionto protect the privacy of the participants.Finally, some discussion is required regardingmy relationship to the participantsas a researcher in this study. My position as botha gradate student and a mother CA that42is familiar with the reality of working alternativearrangements in the Big Firms makesme both an “insider” and an “outsider”.As an insider, my sympathies lay with theparticipants. However, I was also an outsideras I am a graduate student of a largeuniversity; a researcher, no longer anemployee of the Big Firms. Some of theparticipants might have seen me as an insiderbecause I had similar experiences workingalternative arrangements at the Big Firms.Therefore, they are likely to speak openlyabout certain aspects of their experiences. At the sametime, some participants mightperceive me as an outsider on the basis of characteristicssuch as age, education, orability; and thus withhold some parts of their experiencesduring the interview. I beganeach interview by disclosing my identity, my background,and my worldview. I thencontinued to explain why I was doing this research.If there were no further questions, Ithen started the interview. During the interview,I tried to reduce status differences asmuch as possible, while remaining aware thatthe researcher has greater power in theresearcher-participant relationship. I believe thatmy experience as an insider and myfamiliarity with the topic helped me to interpretthe findings with greater insight.My position as a white, middle class, married womanwith children certainlyinfluences how I see, hear and understandthe world. At times, it was clear that myexperiences were different from those of some of myparticipants. I was always mindfulthat this research is not about my ownexperiences. I attended to the power relationsinmy relationships with the participants and inmy construction of the research narratives.The narratives I wrote reflect my subjective interpretations,which arise from my ownposition. However, I have done my best to stay as closeas possible to the participants’43original voices. I am aware thatthe final narrative is my interpretation of theirstoryingefforts.The InterviewsI collected my data in face-to-face semi-structured guidedreflective interviewslasting approximately 90 minutes. In orderto enable the women to speak freely andnot totake the company time, two of the interviewswere conducted outside of the women’swork place at my office as per the women’spreference. Two women who are currentlyworking in the Big Firms requested that I meet themin their office for the interviews,since it was more convenient for them and they werenot concerned about anonymity.Isaid as little as I could and listened and learnedas much as possible. I looked beyond andaround evasive replies, and listened betweenthe lines. This helped me identify what hasbeen left unsaid and to assess the significanceof pauses and silences (Hugo &Thompson, 1995).The interview of each woman was audio recordedby using a Panasonic MiniCassette Recorder, with its Stereo Microphone. Eachparticipant was asked to narrate herwork-life experience of either working or having workedalternative arrangements in theBig Firms. The interviews includedtwo parts. In the first part, I started the interview witha few background questions to helpthe participants open up. In the second part, I invitedeach participant to tell her story startingwith an open-ended question: “The principalquestion that I want to ask you is, can you tellme about your experience of workingalternative arrangements in the BigFirm at the time you raised children?” All theparticipants found this question too open-ended and wereuncertain how to begin. Thus, Iasked more specific questions about this experience, usingthe interview guide, (see,44Appendix F). Because of my explicit interestin enabling participants to provide theirpersonal experiences, the questionswere worded to maximize the opportunityfor theinterview respondents to offer personal anddeeply situated stories. I encouraged detail,elaboration, and reflection without being judgmental.All participants were interviewedindividually. I attempted to build rapportwith the participants by openly sharinginformation about the research, by introducing myself,and by using interviewing skillssuch as active listening, reflecting, and summarizing.For each interview, I had a copy ofmy questions with a following space for fieldnotes. During the interview or immediatelyafterwards, I wrote down any of the participants’words or phrases that stood out from theinterview.I considered Anderson and Jack’s (1991) suggestionthat the analysis phase startswhen we listen to the interviewee. Thus, Ilooked for the women’s own interpretationsoftheir own experience, and to their own selfreflection. I also adapted Jack and Anderson’ssuggestions regarding three ways of listeningto sharpen my awareness of the thoughtsbehind each mother’s story: (1) listen to theinterview’s moral language; meaninglooking for the interviewee self-concepts and culturalnorms; (2) attend to the metastatements; meaning the places in the interviewwhere the interviewee stops, pauses,looks back and comments on her own thoughts;and (3) observe the logic of the narrative;meaning looking for the internal contradictionsand internal consistency in the woman’sstories.During the interviews I took notes of certain themesthat were emergingthroughout the conversation. I decided notto conduct second interviews since the women45are extremely busy and forthe purpose of my research the received informationiscohesive.I preserved the master copy of the tape,and made sure that the master copycouldnot be edited or interfered with.On each cassette I wrote the interviewee’sname, date ofthe interview, reference number,and have carefully storedthe cassettes in a cool place, asdry and as dust free as possible and securedin my office.Initially, I planned to transcribe thefour audiotape interviews in orderto immersemyself in the narrative data, as well as tobegin the analysis of the study (Riessman,1993). After transcribing oneof the interviews I decided, due to timelimitation, toengage another graduate studentto transcribe the interviews for me,who is a colleaguewhom I knew very well. Imet her in order to provide the feedbackbased on myexperience in transcribing one of the interviewsand instructed her to transcribe verbatimand to include all pauses, laughter,silences and other impressionsthat she heard in thetapes. I asked her to reproducethe speech act as closely as possibleand in addition todestroy any electronic and hard copies aftersending me all the records. Shehas alsoagreed to keep all information and identitiesconfidential.Data PresentationIn the first stage I prepared, with the helpof my colleague, verbatim transcripts ofthe 90 minute conversation includingall the material accumulatedin the four interviews.I instructed my colleague to accuratelytranscribe the meaning and the style,in order topreserve the original speech into the writtentext and did not correct grammar or wordorder, or making the comments readablemore like a written text (Hugo& Thompson,1995).46In the second stage, I took the raw interview materialand read it over and over inorder to pull out key junctions in the story and writethe story chronologically based onthe women experience. I cut some of the interview textto make it readable as narrativesand not as interviews. As Hatch (2003) notes, the productsof narrative analysis arepresented as stories. Thus, I have written four single narratives (stories)of theparticipants’ experience of working alternative arrangementsin the Big Firm. I haveorganized each story around the main themes found in the researchquestions (i.e. abilityto balance family and work commitment, promotion progress, relationshipwithcolleagues and superiors, overall satisfaction from their career, andtheir suggestions/orcomments to the practice) (see the result section). I also have includeddirect quotes fromsome of the specific interviewee’s comments that I believeare necessary to bring themother’s voice verbatim.I have given each of the four interviewers’ pseudonyms.In order to check thevalidity of the narrative I gave each participant a copy of her constructednarrative byeither e-mail or in person. I asked each participant to read herstory and express anyconcern she might have regarding the accuracy, bias and completenessof myrepresentations of her experiences. One participant called meand asked me to change fewsmall things. The other participants approved the written text.Data AnalysisThe essential issue for narrative inquiry is the interpretation ofmeaning.According to Riessman (1993), there are three windowsto interpretation; the firstwindow into interpretation is the structure of the story. Stories oftenconform to classicplots including romance, comedy, tragedy, or satire. Attendingto choices of words and47their expression, emphasis, word repetition,silence, pauses, and contradictions furtherreflect meaning through structure. The secondwindow into interpretation is content.Mishler (1986) notes that content is “expressed throughthemes and their relation to eachother” (p.87). The third window into representationis interpersonal factors. Thisrepresents the relationship between the storytellerand the researcher. Riessman (1993)claims that “meaning is interactionally accomplished”(p.20) and that “role relationshipsbetween speakers allow the expressionof social and personal relation throughtalk”(p.21). Narrators interpret the tellingof their stories when they decide which eventsanddetails should be included, and researchersinterpret the stories themselves. My goalis tocapture in the process of analysis thenarrators’ evaluation of their stories and thesignificant meaning these storieshad for them.The analysis has been done in two stages. FirstI studied each narrativeindividually, and then in the second phaseI looked at all stories as a whole. In the firstphase, I read each story to get a senseof how the woman told her story. Then, I readeachstory over and over and searched for concepts and themesfound in the research questions(i.e. ability to balance family andwork commitment, promotion progress, relationshipwith colleagues and superiors, and overall satisfactionfrom their career) and in theliterature (i.e. gender constraints, identity conflicts, work-familybalance, and the benefitsand costs of working alternative arrangements)to help me analyze systematically (Rubin& Rubin, 2005). I identified the major themes(codes). I also read each individualnarrative to identify any tensions between individualnarratives and the overall messageconveyed by the narrator relating to the actual experienceof alternative work48arrangements in the Big Firms. Then, I examined eachof the narratives in light of eachrespective research question.In the second phase, I read across all the participants’narratives highlightingcommonalities and major disparities, searching for possiblerelationships in the data, andthen confirming or disconfirming their existence basedon a careful reading and rereadingof the stories (Polkinghome, 1995). Then I re-read acrossall stories to get answers to myresearch questions and to consider how the answersto my research questions are similarand/or different.In analyzing the data I considered two resources, Clandininand Connelly’s (2000)three dimensional narrative inquiry space, and Chase’s(1995) notion regarding the goalof narrative analysis.Clandinin and Connelly (2000) three dimensionalnarrative inquiry space looks atnarrative inquiry as a way of understanding the experienceof “stories lived and told”(p.20). They discuss three dimensions that narrativeresearchers need to ground theirresearch upon: time, place, and the personal/social.Stories are told in unique contexts,never to be repeated. The time in which the storyis interpreted and told, thecircumstances surrounding its telling, the people involved,and even the socio-politicalclimate, all shape its inimitability.I have considered each of these three dimensions whenlistening and analyzing my colleagues’ accounts of working alternativearrangements atthe Big Firms. Another contribution from Clandinin andConnelly is their emphasis onback and forth, inward and upward views. While listeningto and analyzing the stories ofmy colleagues, I have considered my own experience andmy own story from an entirelydifferent time and place.49Chase (1995) notes that the task of narrative analysisis to discover howparticipants embed general social processesin their personal narrative, and hownarratives embody the relationship betweena particular life story and the social world inwhich the narrator lives. I considered theseaspects of narrative in my data analysis, andthe ways in which social and cultural context shapeor restrict the narrative of motherCAs working alternative arrangements.In qualitative research, the goal is not statistical validity and reliabilityof thefindings, rather the goal is trustworthiness. Ensuring the trustworthinessof researchincrease the confidence that the findings are worthy ofattention. There is no one agreedset of criteria to establish trustworthiness in qualitativestudy. To judge thetrustworthiness as opposed to “the truth” of the interpretations,I used the followingstrategies:Reflexivity: to ensure reflexivity I acknowledged my involvementas an activeparticipant throughout the research process. I am awareof my influence on thedevelopment of the research. As I carried out the datacollection and the analysis I wasthinking about my own experiences, my own values, andmy own biases. These thoughtsbrought into my awareness areas of potential bias thatmay have threatened the credibilityof this study. I also documented my background, my interest in thetopic beinginvestigated, and my learning or change in thinking that has comeabout through theengagement with the participants in this study. The narrativespresented in this study arebased on my thoughtful interpretation of the content, context, and interpersonalfactors ofthe participants’ narratives, with constant acknowledgementof the personal nature of mywork.50Transferability: the findings of qualitative researchprojects should betransferable. To ensure transferability I provided thickdescription of my participants’experiences to enable the reader to make comparisonbetween different settings (Curtin&Fossey, 2007).Member-checking: I asked each participantto read her story and express anyconcern she might have regarding theaccuracy, bias and completeness of myrepresentations of her experiences. By doing thismember-checking I tried to ensure theauthenticity of my findings, so that the readers can havegreater trust that the findings arerepresentative of my participants’ experiences.I used also two of the four aspects of trustworthinessapplicable to quantitativestudies suggested by Lincoln and Guba(as cited in Morse & Field, 1995): truth value,and applicability.Truth value recognizes that there are multiple realities.In this study, I focused onreporting as clearly as possible the viewsof the participants and the topic of inquiry. Itried to establish confidence in the truthof the findings for the study by attending to thecontent, context, and interpersonal factorsof the narratives. This approach should allowfor a relatively accurate representationof the participants collective reality.Applicability is used to determine whetherthe findings are relevant to othersetting or contexts or within other groups. Althoughthe findings of this study maycontribute to the overall understanding of the rolealternative arrangements play in thecareer experiences of mother CAs, theyare only meant to represent the stories of thoseindividuals who participated in this study and are thereforenot intended to be applicableto other settings.51Limitations and Delimitationsof the StudyFirst, the sample size in this narrative study issmall (n4), and participants aredrawn from a small pool (Riessman, 1993).Second, the findings for this qualitativestudyare context-bound and cannotbe generalized beyond the experiences ofthe participatingwomen. However, it should be noted thatgeneralizability is not the goal of this particularqualitative research. The objective is toilluminate participants’ experiences. Third,thesample does not include men’s workingalternative arrangements, nor women withoutchildren working under such arrangements.Fourth, the study refers to all mothersin onecategory “women with children” with no considerationof their children’s ages. Although,I am aware that women with children indifferent ages have different challenges,(suchas: finding child care services in the early years, dealingwith the short schedule ofschools, and driving childrento after-school programs), because I am interestedin thewomen’s career experiences (and less emphasis isgiven to their family experiences), Ihave not made distinction basedon the ages of the children, nor the women ages, racial,and identity. Further, the studyis only about the experiences of women with childrenandnot about the experiences of their colleagues or theirsupervisors. In addition, thisresearch does not consider women CAs with childrenliving in other cultures, countries,or even outside British Columbia, whowork alternative arrangements in other accountingfirms. My sample is limitedto four women who have worked in the Big Firmsin theVancouver area.Finally, I am aware of my own limitations asan insider with her own livedexperience of working such arrangements attemptingto represent objectively the52experiences of other women who experience similararrangements. Thus, I have tried tobe sensitive and not assume that I know what someonemeans without inquiringthoroughly in order to fully understand what the womenreally meant. Further, due to thenature of this study when listening to theretrospective accounts of each mother, it isimportant to remember that these women havetold me only about a few topics of theirexperiences. Thus, I remind myself throughoutthe research that the collected stories arenot the full story.53CHAPTER FOUR: WORKING ALTERNATWEARRANGEMENTSThe objective of this chapter is to present the retrospectivenarrative accounts offour women who are both CAsand mothers. The accounts deal withtheir experiences ofalternative working arrangements in theBig Finns. Each narrative account representsanabridged version of the original interviewand is an attempt to answer my researchquestions:1. What are the experiences of women with childrenwho use alternative workingarrangements in the Big Firms in terms of:• their ability to balance family and work commitments,• their promotion progress,• their career satisfaction, and• their relationship with colleagues and superiors?2. What can we learn from these stories that will helpthe Big Firms improve theexperience of women with childrenwho choose alternative workarrangements?To enable the reader to gain insight into these women’sexperiences, I have triedto stay as true to their voicesas possible. At the same time, I realize that these narrativesare a joint construction of the women’s lived experiencesand their participation with mein an interactive conversation. The narrativesreflect my interpretation as muchas theirssince I have written the final narrativeaccounts.The chapter begins with an introduction to the narrativesand is followed by theindividual women’s stories.54Introduction to the NarrativesI start with some demographics. Each of the four womenCAs participating in mystudy has either two or three children. Eachone is married and in a stable relationship.All but one woman is in a dual-incomefamily. Sarah’s husband is unemployedand ondisability pension. The women’s rangeof ages is from 33 to 43 years old. Oneis Asianand three are Caucasian. All women are Canadian citizens.Three of the women havebeen born and raised in Vancouver. Onewoman immigrated to Canada from Europewhen she was ten years old. All participantshave worked full time with the sameFirmfor an average of more than tenyears before switching to alternative arrangements.Twoparticipants work for one of the Big Firms, and theother two work for another Big Firm,so two firms are represented in these data. (Thereare currently only four Big Firms inVancouver.)The narratives are chronological accounts of the participants’experiencesworking in the Big Firm from the beginningof their careers to the present. They focusonparticular decisions to participate in alternative workarrangements while raising theirchildren. I have chosen to presentthe narratives in third person in order to reflect mysubjective interpretation of the participants’ storiesand my role in their construction.To ensure confidentiality and anonymity, I have usedpseudonyms for theparticipants and all third parties mentioned inthe interviews. The names of all individualsare thus fictional. I use the term “BigFirm” to apply to all four Big Firms when theparticipants discuss Big Firms in general. When theydiscuss the specific Big Firm forwhich they work, I use the term “Firm A”or “Firm B” to avoid identifying any of theFirms by name.55Story #1: RachelRachel is married and has two small boys aged6 and 3. She joined Firm A duringher third year at the university. After fourteen years ofemployment, she left Firm A lastyear.Although Rachel did not originally plan to becomean accountant, a summerworking as a co-op student with Firm A inspired herto enter the CA program. Aftergraduating, she started as an articling student in theaudit group. During this time, shealso joined the CA program. After a couple of years, she received her CAdesignation andwas promoted to senior accountant.As soon as she had qualified as a CA, she moved into the tax groupto become atax specialist. Over the next few years, she climbedup the ladder from senior accountantto supervising senior. In her sixth year with Firm A, she was promotedto manager. Twoyears later, she was promoted to senior manager. For the nextsix years, she worked as asenior manager in the corporate tax group. Her major responsibilities includedmanagingclient accounts and overseeing the work of her staff.Rachel began participating in alternative work arrangements sixyears ago whenher first son was born. By then she had already worked withFirm A for eight years andwas a senior manager. She planned the timing of her family carefully, waitinguntilbecoming a senior manager to have her first child. After a six-monthmaternity leave, shereturned to work part time, opting to work four days a week.She hired a nanny to watchher son two days a week and arranged for her fatherto look after him the other two days.When her second son was born three years later, she hired a full-time,live-in nanny.56Rachel says that she had a “different mindset”as soon as coming back frommaternity leave. She had immediately spokenwith her partners telling them she is notinterested in a partnership path. She had expressedher willing to do more tax compliancework (which fits well into her four-day schedule),but she does not want to participate incomplicated tax planning, re-organizations,mergers and acquisitions, or any otherprojects with strict deadlines.So I quite consciously changed the type ofwork that I did and the clients that Ihad and actually even the number ofclients that I had to make it fit into myschedule. So in that sense, probably muchless stressful than while I was full time.Rachel explains that she switched to alternativeworking arrangements becauseshe wanted to have quality time with herchildren. When asked how well sucharrangements have worked for her at FirmA, she answered, “Good, but not easy.” Sheremembered that when she has first chosensuch a path, few women had applied thisoption. She believed the arrangementscan work only if the Firm’s partners directly“buyinto it”:If you have buy in from them, and they, and they aresupportive of you, um, theywill help you make it work. Um, andI was fortunate enough to work with a fewpartners that, you know, werehappy, were happy to make me happy, and youknow, they would accommodate me, to you know, ifI wanted to work a four-daywork week they, you know, they, they wouldallow, allow it to happen andsupported that. Urn, and actually one of the partnersthat I reported to, she’s apartner on the four-day work week as well.57For such an arrangement to work, Rachel believesthat expectations must beclearly laid down upfront. Ground rules shouldbe set so if something goes wrong it ispossible to go back and say, “This was ourunderstanding. This is what we thought wouldmake it work.” In addition, expectationsmust be set up with clients as wellas withsuperiors. Rachel adds that she is fortunatebecause she has worked in a groupthat iscohesive and plays few politics:the fact that we had a group thatactually got along so well. A lot of us werefriends together. Um, but no,I don’t.. .not that I know of anyway.. .1 didn’tfeelany animosity, that anyone felt resentful about the....urn I think that the otherteam members were very. . .understoodthe limitations of uh, the time limitationsof, uh, a part-time work schedule, but uh everyone workedaround that and were,and were, actually were quite urn cooperative in helping,in helping me makethings work, so if there were certain things I couldn’tdeal with someone wouldbe happy to actually pick it up for me... yep.So it was, it was a really niceenvironment that I worked in.In fact, Rachel repeatedly mentions how supportiveher colleagues are and saysthey are the main reason she has stayeda long time period with Firm A. However, shealso admits that when she works withother partners or other staff members of othergroups that are unfamiliar with her reduced workload, shefeels some constraints:they find it hard to understand, because they are like,“Why can’t you get thisdone by the certain day?” I don’t work that certainday, so, you know, people thataren’t familiar with that arrangementand haven’t bought into it that’s thedifficulty. Urn, but it didn’t happen all that often actually.58What works most effectively, Rachelsays, is her flexibility. She is willing tocome in on her day off if she needsto meet with a client or help others to achieve adeadline; however, she is not paid for the extra time sheputs in. Being flexible has beenparticularly difficult in the beginning, she says, whenshe had a nanny only two days aweek:Uh, the same way worked both ways too,because if, uh. Monday was my dayoff and I had to take my child toa field trip on a Wednesday, you know, I felt freeto take the Wednesday off that week instead.So, you know, the date that Iworked was quite flexible. Mind you thatonly works though if you actually have,urn, childcare support for 5 days. So back when I wasworking 4 days and I onlyhad my nanny 2 days a week, urn, it was quite fixed onthe day that I took off.. . itwas much less flexible, and I found thatthat didn’t work as well just because Ididn’t have the flexibility of taking whicheverday I wanted.Rachel also tries to make sure she is doingeverything that other full-timemanagers do, such as coaching and training hersubordinates in order to share themanagement group’s responsibilities:I tried to make that all fit in. Urn, what that requiredwas that you had to beincredibly efficient in the 4 days that you are there. ButI made very sure that Iwas not out of the loop in being a participating,active member of Firm A justbecause I was on a 4-day work week. I didn’tkind of sidestep and not assume,like I still was on lots of committees and sat on lotsof groups and such like thatso I made sure I did all that.59Rachel emphasizes that although she tries to accommodateFirm A’s needs, shealso sets limits. She explains to everyonethat she is a four-day-a-week person andasksthem to accommodate that. She further explains:• . .just because you’re on a part-time schedule doesn’tmean that there’s noovertime expectations because if you area full-time person, there is an over-timeexpectation. So I think the, the trick is toactually find that balance where you canwork some overtime but not so muchthat its almost no point in working parttime. But, uh, you know, you havethat flexibility with the finn that, that,youknow, you’re able to accommodate themif the needs of the client arise.She adds that she is lucky because shehas family support. For example, her fathercan help her, and her husband has fairly flexible workhours, so he can pick the childrenup or drive them to a lesson if necessary. Shealso says she does not feel overwhelmedbyher workload because she is good at delegating:I have no trouble delegating pretty much, as muchas I can to junior staff. So Itried to make sure that I didn’t actually do verymuch work. I was reviewingwork. So, urn, the actual, you know,putting together files or doing returns,youknow, I tried to make sure I didn’t actually do anyof that so I would just fullyleverage down, to people that, uh were lower levelsthan I, and its much moreefficient for them at lower charge-uprates than doing all the work too. So reallymy function was review files, review new things andso that’s how I kind ofmaintained a load that fit. Urn, I guess the other thingthat I was quite fortunatewith is that when I cameback from maternity leave, while on maternity leaveyouallocate your clients out because someone has to lookafter them. And so when I60came back, I took back most of, thebulk of the clients that I would have Iguess,but probably in both times that I cameback, not 100%, so my client load justgradually, and in a natural way, shrunk,so that I was always ata comfortablelevel of clients. But I never felt likeI had way too many clients for the timethat Ihad.From our conversation, it is clear that for Rachelwork comes second to herfamily. She mentions again and againthat “she lives for the hours outside of herwork”. Ifthere are any family commitments, shemakes sure she deals with them first. Thenshefulfills her work commitments. On theother hand, she emphasizes that it is importantforher to do a good job at work and to makethe hours during work count.When asked if she is happy with theway her career has gone at Firm A, Rachelreplies that she is very comfortable withher decision not to progress to the partnershiplevel. Furthermore, she proudlyadmits that she has been able to find a veryhappybalance working with the people she lovesin a Firm that is very accommodating:they had told me, actually, off the bat,you know what? If you don’t want tomake partner, that’s fine, we’re happyto keep you no matter what you wantto doand if you want to make senior principal one day we’llhelp you do that. And ifyou’re, if you don’t even want to dothat and if you just want to be seniormanager for the rest of your life.Regarding compensation, she saysher pay raises and bonuses are not as highasthose of colleagues who are on the trackof partnership. Her compensation, shesays,reflect her very even, non-stressful workload. Sincepay has never motivated her,however, she doesn’t care. She also doesn’tmind not doing things that are “sexy” and61exciting. She is happy to provide serviceto her clients and look after their files yearinand year out without any big changes happening.She claims that this is her personality:So, somebody else who really needed different stimulationall the time would notbe happy with the load of clients thatI would have because they were quitestable. Nothing was, you know, there were nocrazy things happening in them.Rachel believes that since so many womendecide to go back to Firm A aftermaternity leave, there is a strong perceptionthat they are working alternativearrangements even if they are not:cause everyone, almost everyone that cameback from that leave did it right?So, um, so in that sense, yes, it can be challenging for everyonewho wants toprogress and hit the highest level at in public practice.Thus, women who choose to come backto full time after their maternity leaveshould assure everybody that they are full timeso people will not treat them like womenon alternative arrangements. Rachel believes thatthe number of women choosing sucharrangements is growing and that Firm A is reallycommitted to making it work and topromoting the women:honestly, at the rate I think the public accountingfirms are going, they wouldbend over backwards to make a womana partner, I mean if she’s on alternativework arrangements, they would reallybend over backwards to make herapartner. There’s just that immense pressure. I thinkwe still don’t even have anaudit partner that’s female in our Vancouveroffice, which is just a ridiculousshame. I honestly think that they really want to makethat happen (laughter), youknow, and they were trying very hard to do that.Urn, the, the issues are that at62least from some of the women that I talked to they’renot interested in makingpartner because they look around atthe partners, what their lifestyle and they’relike, “I don’t want your life. I don’t want to live theway you do, and I don’t wantto work the hours that you do, and I’m happy to makeless money.”Rachel mentions that meeting other women and sharingtheir experiences togetheralso makes the arrangement working better. She tellsabout a session for women in themanagement positions that have taken placein Firm was very clear that the women in auditwith alternate workarrangements were not very happy. Uh, it did notwork very well at all. Ub, itcould be the nature of the work. I found that womenin alternative arrangementsof tax, urn, maybe because the work was not sounder a certain tight deadline asaudit it worked better, but, urn, I’d say I can’trecall one woman in audit that saidit worked great.To summarize, Rachel believes that if there are more womenrole models workingin such arrangements who are ableto manage both family and professional livessuccessfully, then more women will be interested inpursuing the partner path. Anexample might be women who work fewer hours andmake less money, but still functionas partners.Even though it has been a year since she left the firm,Rachel says she still missesit. She still sees her co-workers regularlyand keeps contacts with some of her old clients.Rachel has left Firm A because she does not wantto practice Tax for the rest of hercareer. She is currently working in the industryas an Accounting/Finance Manager.63Significant Points: Rachel has been workingwith Firm A for fourteen years.During the last six years, she has been workingas a senior manager in the corporate taxgroup. Like the other participants,she has planned the timing of starting a familycarefully, waiting until becoming a senior manager.Similar to the other participants, sheswitched to alternative working arrangements aftergiving birth to her first child andreturning from maternity leave. Rachel admits thatshe had a “different mindset” as soonas she comes back from maternity leave.She is one of the participants who was notinterested in progressing to higher levelsat the Firm and she is one of three participantswhose husbands are also accountants.However, she is the only participant who is notmotivated by her payments. Thus, shedoes not care that her pay raises and bonuses arenot as high as those of her colleagues.She repeatedly mentions how supportive her colleaguesand partners are. She alsonotes that tax accounting is more suitableto these arrangements than audit. She claimsthat the alternative arrangements work well for her, althoughshe acknowledges that it isnot easy. In order to maintain flexibility and to cope withher responsibilities at work andat home, Rachel has a nanny and family support that helpsher at home and she worksovertime and on days off. Thus, she is able to work over time when necessaryand toaccommodate all of Firm’s A needs. In order to be moreefficient and have more controlover her time at work, she tends to delegate muchof her work to junior staff.Story #2: SarahSarah is married and has two small childrenaged 5 and 1 Y2. She originallyplanned to major in kinesiology, but felt she was notreally interested in the medical field,so she decided to enter an accounting program. She enjoyedher learning experience and64received high marks. Because shewas one of the top students in her class, she soughtajob in one of the Big Firms after graduationand was hired by Firm A. She has workedthere for fifteen years.Currently, Sarah is a manager in theprivate business group in the assurance sideof Firm A. She is responsible for preparing financialstatements, notice to readers, reviewengagements and tax filings. Essentially,she works for one partner. She is responsible formeeting her clients’ deadlines andperforming the work up to the standards set by theFirm.Sarah had worked full time for Firm A for 10 yearsand was a manager when herfirst child was born. She took a full year of maternityleave; when she returned to work,she opted for alternative working arrangements. After twoand a half years, her secondchild was born, and she took a 10 V2 month leave of absence.(She cut her maternity leaveshort to help out with tax season.) For the last six months,she has again opted for analternative work schedule.Because the nature of her job is such that most clientssend the work to her, itdoes not matter whether Sarah is at home orat her desk in the office. Therefore, heralternative work arrangements entail working primarilyfrom home, with occasional tripsto the office to meet a partner or client or to finalize a job.Unfortunately, thearrangements have been difficult to maintain.As deadlines approach, she often has to godowntown to the office—almost on a daily basis.Sarah has started these arrangements initiallybecause she cannot afford a fulltime daycare program for her daughter. Since she is the mainprovider in the household,she cannot reduce her workload because she needsthe full-time salary. Her husband is65currently unemployed and they have a small incomefrom his disability pension. Workingfrom home gives her flexibility, saves hercommuting time, and enables her to spendquality time with her daughter. She is also able totake advantage of the childcare helpoffered by her parents-in-law, who live one block awayfrom her.Once her daughter started pre-school, Sarah has begungoing to the office moreoften since it is easier for her to meet deadlines there.After her second child was born,however, Sarah again decided to opt for alternativeworking arrangements:• . . since I went back early, he was only about ten anda half months old. I thinkthat was too early to put him in daycare, so an alternativework arrangementprovided me with way of stretching out my time to beat home. This allowed meto have family come over and take care of my kids while Iworked downstairs.So if anything arose, just on the day-to-day basis, I couldjust pop upstairs andtake care of it as opposed to there being a drastic adjustment for everyone,as thebaby wasn’t used to being cared for by other people.When asking Sarah how well these alternative arrangements areworking for her,she says she does not feel they are working either personallyor professionally. Althoughshe appreciates the flexibility, working at home createsa great deal of stress in herhousehold. She also finds she actually has very littletime to spend with her children:if something is going on with the kids that will needmy immediate attention, Iam able to step in because I do have support from family membersto watch mykids. But then when there isn’t something urgent going on,unfortunately I haveno other choice but to put work first because I haveto get those hours in. Andoften that means working all hours. You know if I have,if I have something going66on with the family in the morning with the kids,then that means I’m working till7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. This leaves mevery little time to deal with mykids and to do all the household chores momsdo, like laundry etc..well, a lot of times things simplydon’t get done. It’s actually very; it’sincredibly hard to juggle it. I feel likeI have no time, not one second for myself.If I’m working at home fora few days. . . you know, it sounds awful, but I meanthere’s no make-up happening, um,I don’t do my hair, I look like hell. Andthatallows me to get that load of laundryso, right? So basically I don’t have onesecond for myself for any kind of enjoyment [laughs],I don’t have time to workout. During busy season, Saturday and Sundaywould go by and I’d realize that Ihad not taken one step out of the house becauseI’m just dealing with getting thekids ready in the morning, then my husband takesthem over to my in-laws to getthem out of my hair, and then I’m working allday, and you know, multitasking.Here and there, turn on the dishwasher, throw ina load of laundry, and it’s quitechaotic sometimes.Sarah also believes working at home is hurtingher career and does not feel asvalued as employees who are working in the officefull time. As an example, shementions her conversation with another partnerin the group:the head partner of our group, whoI hardly ever see, he saw me a couple ofdays in a row. He kind of said to me, “Oh,oh you’re here again.” And I said tohim, “Well actually, I’ve been here every day for thepast three weeks.” So,there’s a bit of a perception that somehow I’mnot working as hard as everyone.When you say “working from home,” somehow that’sjust the perception is that67it’s not as hard or committed, not workingas hard as everyone else is in thegroup, right?She explains that the majority of the staffin the Big Firms are students who workfull time and take courses and exams duringthe weekends in order to qualify as CAs.They are young, single, have no families,and are able to be there 24/7. Sarah cannotdothis any’s just the ability to be called uponat a minute’s notice. For example, evenifthey’re out at a client, the managercan phone and say “get back in the officeandissue something for me.” Whereas, inmy situation, now the partner that I workfor knows that if he wants somethingdone right away, which was normally thecase with me, he might have towait one, two days or three before I actuallyphysically come in the office todo that.Furthermore, Sarah does not feelas highly regarded by her colleagues as sheusedto:they kind of look upon what I’mdoing as easier, or I’m not working as hardasthey are. Because even though I’mvery much full time, when I do run intootherstaff or partners or other secretaries, oneof the questions is always, “Oh, are youworking full-time”? And so they just assumethat I’m just sitting at home doingnothing. I go, “Yeah, I’m working morethan full time.” They just don’t see medoing that.Sarah strongly believes that there is alwaysgoing to be someone downtowndemanding her attention to do something. In her mind,this is just the nature of this type68of work with this kind of firm. No one is going to wait two or threedays until she showsup at work again to get something done. Her responsehas to be much more immediate:.1 think the nature of Firm A is that when the client calls andwants something,the partner will say, “Yes. I’ll get it to you tomorrow.” You givethe client thatperception that their request is that urgent and that immediate,when often there isno urgency in their request. Then, you know, ifyou fell short of that then theclient might not be happy.Sarah also considers the alternative work arrangements are keepingher careerfrom progressing at Firm A. Management has told her that she cannotget a promotion aslong as she is not in the office full time because it is impossible tomanage other peoplefrom home. Therefore, if she wants to move up, she has to work in the office.In regard tocompensation, Sarah hits the ceiling a few years ago. She cannot increaseher earningpotential unless she moves into a higher position.When I asked her whether or not she would stay with Firm A, shesaid “No”:there’s very little satisfaction coming out of. I havea flex work arrangement,however there’s so many other factors that are pulling me out of thatfirm. Andit’s financial, its maybe I’ve been there too long. You know I’ve been therea longtime, you know most people are changing jobs every five years,urn, so there, Ihave a lot of other factors; maybe a desire to learn new things. You know I’mkind of regurgitating the same old stuff. So, my choice to leave wouldn’tbe onthe flex work alone. . . it would be on other issuesas well.Sarah explains that her biggest frustration at Firm A is her status. Because shefeels undervalued, she wants to make a change. She would liketo find a position with a69different company that is more challengingand hopefully also pays better. The situationin the Big Firms is hopeless in her mind,and she does not see it changing for the betterinthe near you know what, I almost think it’s quite hopeless.To be honest, the thing is,there needs to be not only a changingof the guards, but many generations ofachanging of the guards. Right now, especiallyin Firm A, it’s very male oriented,even for women who do choose to make worktheir only priority. Uh there’s notmany being promoted to partner level. Thereis a lot of effort being spent ongiving out communiqués to the FirmA’s staff about having a diverse workforceand a balanced life, but I really feel it’sso much lip service, because the reality is,if you’re not putting in those hours and performingat that level, you’re not goingto get promoted. Those things just don’t happen, and there’sa lot of, I guess, theyjust kind of wait till you’re frustrated enough that you leave FirmA. So I don’t, Icannot see them, in the near future, it changing.Significant points: Sarah has been working with FinnA for fifteen years. In thelast five years she has been working as a manager inthe private business group of theassurance practice. She first opted for alternative workingarrangements when returningfrom her first maternity leave. Now, aftergiving birth to her second child, she againchose to work alternative arrangements. She is theonly participant who is working fulltime from home. The alternative arrangement allowsher to work from home, withoccasional trips to the office. Unfortunately,her arrangement has been difficult tomaintain. According to Sarah, these arrangements arenot well suited to support either thepersonal or professional satisfaction of women.70Sarah has made these arrangements initially becauseshe is unable to afford a full-time daycare program for her daughter.She is the main provider in the household,so shecannot reduce her workload and needsthe full-time salary. She is the only participantwho is not married to a professional.Working from home gives her flexibility;however,working at home also creates a greatdeal of stress. She finds it incredibly hardto jugglehousehold work and her job’s requirements.Further, she also finds that she actually hasvery little time to spend with her children.She is under the impression that workingalternative arrangements is actually hurtingher career and her family. She does not feelas valued as other employees who are workingin the office full time.She is the only participant who cannot get a promotionas long as she is not in theoffice full time. Further, in regard to hercompensation, Sarah hit the pay ceiling a fewyears ago. She cannot increase her earning potentialunless she moves into a higherposition. Thus, she is planning to leave FirmA in the near future.Story #3: LianaLiana joined Firm B eighteen years ago and is now a partnerin the tax group. Sheis married and has three boys aged 10,8 and 5.When Liana was in her third year at the Faculty of Commerce,her accountingprofessor introduced her to a few individuals atFirm B. As a result of this contact, shedecided to take a summer job there. She enjoyed the workand subsequently decided topursue the CA route. When she graduatedfrom the university in 1988, she startedworking full time with Firm B as a CA student. Sheworked in the audit practice for threeyears while performing general audit services. Throughoutthis time, she always spent themonth of April doing the T-l pool (taxwork), which is pretty typical in a CA firm.71After she had qualified, a manager in thetax group with whom she had workedduring the T-1 pooi asked her to join the group.Since she had enjoyed the work, sheaccepted the offer and moved into the tax practice.For the next four years, she actedas aCanadian tax generalist doing corporatetax return preparations, review of tax returns,andtax provision work. Around the mid‘90s, she was assigned the task of providingexpatriate tax services for a large multinationalcompany. The assignment changed hercareer path. Lots of expansion was goingon around the world, she explained, and theexpatriate tax area was growing rapidly.She slowly dropped her corporate taxinvolvement and started working exclusivelyin this area.Currently, Liana’s career progressionis focused on growing her practice andmaking it as profitable as possible. As ayoung partner, she is the head of cross-borderpersonal tax at Firm B. This means shedelivers all kinds of services relating to themovement of individuals across borders,such as tax return preparation and advisingindividuals on the implications of movingout of one country into another. She alsoadvises corporations on the implicationsof moving their employees globally and alsodoes a significant amount of work in executive compensation.She helps clients tounderstand what the alternatives are to theircompensation plans, identifies theirobjectives, and chooses the best plans for them.Liana started to work alternative arrangements 10years ago after her first childwas born. She continues to do so today even thoughher children are now older. Herarrangement is a reduced work week of four days, or 80%of full time. Liana had all ofher children while working at Firm B before she becamea partner. The decision aboutwhen to have children was made:72• . .um out of sheer coincidence. They’reall born in the month of May, [laughs]which is perfect timing for somebody whodoes personal income tax, so, urn, theway it worked is I, in all three cases; Istarted my maternity leave at some point inthe month of May. (April 30th is the deadlineof submission of individual taxreturns.) And then I always came back inJanuary. So I took 8 months, and in fact,for all three of my children, the law was still the6 months.She says she has switched to a reduced work week soshe can have Fridays off.This gives her one whole day in whichshe can spend quality time with her childrenwithout having to run errands or doother mundane activities. She admits, however, thatthe one day off per week has becomea day of running errands as well. Since her childrenhave grown older and are at school, the nature ofthe day has changed. Now, in additionto running errands, Fridays are for personal relaxationand enjoyment.Liana employs someone to clean the houseeach week, as well as a full-timenanny who works from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday throughThursday. On an averageday, Liana leaves the house at 7:00 a.m. and returnsat 5:30 p.m. She sometimes does notsee her children in the morning because they do notalways get up by 7:00 a.m. Evenwhen they do, she does not have any significantcontact with them. It is the nanny whobrings the children to and from school.Liana says her husband is also a huge support. Hisschedule is flexible, so if sheneeds to stay late for a conference call or meeting,he can make arrangements to be athome by 5:30 pm. In addition, her nanny is alsoflexible and can stay late if necessary.Such back-up plans are a necessity:73• . . you know, it sounds like a luxury, but it becomesa necessity, and it does make,it does make it easier for me to not panic becauseI know, urn before I had mythird child, urn, I took the other two children, wentout to a daycare in a familyhome. And, you know, their rules were,you know, you have to pick up by 5:00pm. And, you know, if something came up andI was on the phone or in ameeting, I used to panic because, you know,you didn’t have the opportunity tophone and to say, you know, I’m sorryI’m running late. I’ll be there at 5:20 p.m.I didn’t have that luxury, and, you know, if I couldn’treach my husband or, youknow, I’m sitting, literally, in a meeting witha client, I can’t very well excusemyself. You know, to make a phone call. So I didfind myself getting all tied upin the stress of those kinds of moments which,you know, for people that aren’tracing the clock to relieve a nanny.Liana says that the challenge for her has always beento maintain her chargeablehours (80% of a full-time person) in a 4-day work week.She acknowledges that she hasmore flexibility since she is on reduced schedule,but on an ongoing basis, theexpectations and demands are pretty heavy.She says it is very difficult for her to balanceprofessional and family life. Before havingtheir first child, both she and her husband hadmade the decision that family is going tobe a priority, i.e., that they do not want to beabsentee parents or have nannies raise their children. FromMonday to Thursday, sheworks a solid day in the office and occasionally takeswork home with her. But she has apersonal expectation that she will be at homefor dinner almost every night:I have no desire to be the kind of person who routinely works until7:00 p.m.or 8:00 p.m. because I don’t want to just, sort of, justkiss my kids goodnight after74they’re already asleep. And so the challenge,I find, is being able to get out thedoor every day at 5:00 p.m. is the hardpart. And, to have, to get all the thingsdone in the day that need to be done in orderto do your job well. And I thinkthat’s the challenge, you know, that the women at alllevels face, that are trying tomake that commitment to themselves.You know, to spend the time, you know, athome.She says that because she leaves the office almostevery day at 5:00 p.m., sheoccasionally ends up taking work home. This startsto wear on her because she feels likeshe has no downtime. The evening hours arespent on family responsibilities such ashomework, making lunches for the next day,and reading the mail and e-mail. If she thenhas to pull out a briefcase and start working,she starts feeling stressed. It doesn’t matterwhether it is a busy season or not,the pressure is always there because there is alwaysmore that can be done.Liana says she strives to remain flexible with herschedule to meet the demands ofher job. For example, she works every Friday in Marchand April because that is a busyseason. During this period, she works more than 100%.In addition, she occasionally goesto the office on Fridays to handle internal administrativework or to meet with a client.She believes that if women wantto have a successful career in a public practice firm,they must be willing to take the necessarysteps to make it work:I’m talking about things like having theright daycare or childcare provider, itjust wouldn’t work. I don’t know how you did it orif you did it in public practice,but it just wouldn’t work in our group for somebodyto say “Well, I’m not goingto have a nanny” uh, or “any kind of childcare, andI’ll drop my kids off at school75at 9:00 a.m., be in the office at 9:30 a.m. andthen leave at 4:30 p.m. It wouldn’twork. You couldn’t do your job effectivelyand it would be disruptive toeverybody and it’s not just about reducing salaryto compensate for the number ofhours you worked, it’s just physicallynot possible because you would fillthosefive hours with administration. Youwould never do any client work.Liana says there are many definitions ofwork-life balance; however, she iscertain that Firm B cannot service the volumeof work it needs to in the 9:00 a.m. to5:00p.m. hour definition. This is why CAswho are also mothers need to acknowledgethatwork/life balance does not mean, “Iwork from then to then. Do not contact meoutside ofthose hours.” She adds, “When you decide todo a professional job, you have to take theresponsibilities and make back-up planarrangements if you have to stay late.Not all thetime, but sometimes you need tobe ready to commit.”Liana says that Firm B has an implicit expectationthat everyone contributes alittle bit more, works more hours, createsmore chargeable hours. It also expects itsemployees to continually learn, educate themselves,and help to develop the business andnetwork. Liana says that finding thetime to do all of these things is pretty tough whenatthe same time she is also responsible for managingthe practice in its entirety—fromrecruiting staff to dealing with HR issues.She is also responsible for bottom-linefinancial results and performance.Such administrative duties have to be taken care of somewherealong the line,though, and she finds it difficult todo it all:and so that’s what I struggle with is trying to keep itcontained, and when I dokeep it contained, then I feel like I’m not doing agood job at work. A lot of it is, I76think, an internal struggle with myself. You know,wanting to do well, on bothsides right? You know I want to be a good parentand be at home with mychildren and be involved in their lives, and I alsowant to do well in my work.And I don’t want to feel like I’m doing a partial jobbecause I’m trying to spendtime with my family, so that’s the challenge.Because of this, Liana says that her career isa struggle and that she sometimesasks herself, “Is this really what I want outof life?”.like anything in life, we have ups and downs and whenthings are going great, Isort of say to myself, “why did I have those thoughts?”I am well paid and I’vegot this great network of people that I connect witheveryday and, you know,there’s a lot of other perks that come along withthe job, urn, you know, and I’menjoying a nice life style and, youknow, all of those things are really positive andreally good and exactly the things you described. There’sgreat opportunity forlearning and, you know, I’m not a person who wantsto just kind of sit back andsort of do nothing but prepare meals and do domestic chores.Liana says there is a belief that a woman who returnsfrom maternity leave andchooses alternative arrangements cannot work on morechallenging, high-profile clientsbecause they require multiple deadlines. Womenwho choose alternative workarrangements are assumed to be unable orunwilling to devote large amounts of time toworking for Firm B; hence, they are not assignedto such clients. On the other hand,Liana also says that if a woman takes a full year offto raise a newborn child, she is a yearbehind in her career progress compared toan equivalent person who does not take a yearoff. She knows that many women thinkthis is unfair, but she does not understand why77because a one-year break in service would put anyonebehind. Nevertheless, Lianabelieves Firm B should still try to finda way to ensure that women have the same clientopportunities when they return from maternity leave,or when they choose flexible workarrangements and/or a reduced work load, as they didbefore.During our discussion, she starts wondering whethera solution might be to createa two-tier compensation structure that would recognizewomen—with or withoutchildren—who just want to be a technician, that is,a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. person whocomes into the office, does her client work, and thengoes home. During the busy season,however, this person would still need to agree to worklonger hours. On the other hand, afemale senior manager who chooses to worka 7-hour day can not be under the samemodel as regular senior managers, and she cannot expect to earn a salary of $130,000.00a year. If she wanted to be on a reduced path then,the firm will pay her, say, $80,000.00a year (an average salary in the Big Firms) and reduceher responsibilities. Liana says thatthis is just a thought, however, and acknowledges thatFirm B’s business model is notdesigned to support this kind of employee. It expectspeople to do business developmentand learning and development activities andto be a coach and get coached, so thetechnician idea will probably not work.Liana says that her career promotion actually seemedto speed up after she hadchildren. She says she is lucky because there is sucha huge business need for herexpertise. She also has a close group of colleagues at FirmB who help her. When shereduces her workload, everyone in her group pitchesin to make the arrangement work—including her superiors. This is why she now goes out of herway today to support otherwomen at Firm B and is involved at the national levelin the “success for women at the78Firm program.” The program seeks to identifywhy Firm B is experiencing a largeattrition of women and to develop solutionsthat will reduce the loss:• . . So, urn, what we started with, in last September, Iheld two focus groupmeetings and each meeting had about,urn, I think about twelve or fifteen womenattend. I enlisted the assistance of our human resourcegroup to help pick asomewhat random group of women, butI say somewhat because we made surethat we had representation from all the3 lines of service: tax, audit and advisoryto make sure that we had all staff levels covered rightfrom senior manager, rightfrom partner really, down to associate. Andto make sure that we hadrepresentation of women with children, womenwithout children, you know,women who wanted to have children, youknow, tried to make sure we had abalanced representation, so we kindof hand- picked the group, but urn, that wasthe only reason for hand-picking wasto make sure that we had a good cross-section. Urn, each one of those sessions ran for about3 hours and the objectivewas to do a, I kind of had a 3-point objective. Thefirst one was to identify whatissues were facing women; the secondstep was to brainstorm some ideas aroundresolution to those issues. And then the thirdone was to begin to identifyindividuals and, um, next steps to starting toget more information or to find outhow we might be able to implement some of these identifiedresolutions.Liana says that she has run the group twice, and good informationhas come outboth times. She has asked human resources at Firm B tocheck with other officesregarding what they and other public companies are doingto solve this problem. One of79the most important issues identified so far is childcare;as a result, HR is looking intoservice providers that can supplement childcare forits employees.Firm B also has decided to engage an outside consultant whoadvises clients onmatters relating to the retention of women. Theconsultant has interviewed about ten totwelve participants and validates the findings thatLiana’s focus group has gathered. Theconsultant has given Liana a report that she has passedon to Firm B’s regional leader.She explains that this is only the beginning and thatshe is committed to taking the issueto the national level. Liana says that coming up with an issue—andin some cases thesolution—is the easy part. The challenge is to implement itand make change happen. Sheadmits that this is a long, slow process.Liana says that change needs to come from bothsides. On the one hand, womenneed to commit to finding solutions that accommodate Firm B’s needs;on the other hand,Firm B needs to find ways to alleviate the women’s stress. Liana saysthat educationplays a critical role in this process. For example, the (mostly male)partners need torealize that times have changed. Many of them have experiencedcareers with stay-at-home wives taking care of all domestic chores and raising the children.This has allowedthem to progress in their careers while putting in the necessary timeto do so. Today,when both spouses have full-time jobs and also children, the stresseson women in theworkplace are tremendous. Therefore, Liana believes,the partners need to walk in thewomen’s shoes for a little while to understand the challenges they face.Because changeis sometimes hard, nothing will happen without more educationand training:• .well, you know, the good news is that, youknow, these older partners willsoon be retiring and the younger, fresher blood, the ones who, themselves,have80young children and wives that work, you know, willsoon be taking over theleadership roles and that and they all lookedat me and said “no, it’s the youngones with the wives who are the problems. The olderguys who have the stay-at-home wives and don’t have those issues are theones who seem to be mostunderstanding and maybe because they’reso relaxed right now because of theirretirement. But, there are the young ones that wantto prove themselves, and theyjust will push you...This is why, she says, it is so important to havea “women’s network” that bringswomen together to talk and share solutions. By learningfrom the experiences of others,each woman can take away at least one thingthat will make her life better. Creating amentoring program can also help if women in leadershipinstruct other women on how tobe assertive enough to say “No.”Liana sees herself staying with Firm B for the long haul. Currently inher middleforties, she will probably stay with Firm B until herretirement:yeah, I do find it quite a challenge. And, you know,there are times when I askmyself, you know, is this really what I want outof life? And, you know, I remindmyself that the grass does always seem greener onthe other side. You know, Ilook at my friends, who are stay-at-home moms, or whojust have very minor jobresponsibilities, so, you know, they work from 10:00a.m. to 2:00 p.m. orsomething so that they can take their kids to schooland pick them up after schooland I sort of think, gee you know, life would be somuch easier, but I’m not sureit would be rewarding, you know, if think if I weredoing. Not, not sure I wouldbe prepared to be a fulltime stay-at-home morn I guess is my point.Urn so, but,81but it is challenging, because no matter how much wetalk about work/lifebalance and no matter how much support is givenand provided through work,um, the reality is when you are in a client-servicerole, you don’t have control ofyour time.Significant points: Liana has been working with FirmB for eighteen years. Lianais the only participant who has been ableto advance herself beyond the rank of seniormanager, while working alternative arrangements. Sheis currently the head of cross-boarder personal tax at Firm B. She has been workinga reduced schedule (80% of a full-time person) for the last ten years. In fact, she has beenpromoted to a partner rank whileworking alternative arrangements. She admits that it isvery difficult for her to balanceprofessional and family life. Thus, she occasionally endsup taking work to her home.She is the only participant whose practice is ina very specific field, and thus is veryvaluable to Firm B’s profitability. According to her, thisis the main reason why she hasbeen promoted to partner.Liana is one of three whose husbands are also accountants. Becausethehousehold’s income is composed of the salaries of twoprofessionals, she can afford tostay on alternative arrangements for the last tenyears. Further, she has taken moresupport than the other participants in order to be able to progress in theFirm. She has afull-time nanny, a house cleaner, and her husband helps her withpick-ups and drop-offsof children. She believes that if a woman decides tobe a professional, she has to take theresponsibilities and make back-up plans arrangements if she isto stay late at work.82Out of my four participants, Liana is themost dedicated to the Firm. She is alsothe only participant who tries to find ways to helpother professional women in the Firmto balance professional life and familylife.Story #4: MeganMegan is married and has two childrenaged 12 and 9. She joined Firm B twentyyears ago after a previous career in another field.At that time, she knew she wanted tochange fields and was contemplating law, educationor accounting. Her decision topursue accounting was influenced by her neighbor,who was studying in the sameprogram, and because she could do the coursesat night.Megan joined Firm B in the second year ofher program. She is currently workingas a senior manager in the Audit and Assurance Group(AAG), where she specializes inprivate companies. She mainly does audit, accountingand tax compliance (corporate andpersonal) work while providing her clients witha full range of services—includingfinance, succession planning, and taxation. If shecannot provide her clients with aservice herself, she facilitates it for them.Megan was already a senior manager with FirmB twelve years ago when she hadher first child. She started to work alternative arrangementsafter returning to the officefrom maternity leave, and she continues to do so today.For 2 to 3 years she has worked60% due to some difficult family issues. Currently, sheworks 80% with Fridays off.During the summers, she also takes up to8 weeks of paid vacation plus unpaid leave.This year, she plans to take 4 weeks of vacation and 2weeks of unpaid leave.When Megan began workingan alternative arrangement, she was one of the firstsenior managers to do so. At that time, there was nopolicy regarding flexible work83arrangements and no human resources department.The partner for whom she workedasked her what she would like to do when she cameback, and she replied that she wouldlike to work at 80%. The partner agreed,and he and the other partners with whom sheworked were very supportive. They knew thatshe had daycare pick-ups at a certain timeand that she would need to come in earlyand leave early in order to accommodate them.Megan emphasizes that the flexible work arrangementpolicy in her Firm is notjust for women with children but for anybodyat any time, male or female, married or not,with or without children. She explains thatthe purpose of the policy is to giveindividuals the flexibility to pursue the lifestyleof their choice—whether it meansearning a master’s degree, taking time offto travel, or just working four days a week(even if you do not have children).Megan’s support system consists of herhusband and her mother. She does nothave a nanny, but she does have someonecoming in to clean the house once a month.She said she doesn’t care if her house isn’tas clean as it used to be:I’m not nearly as fussy as I was beforeI had children. Urn. Fridays I have off. Itypically pick up the house, pickup the junk, go through the mail, pay the bills. Iusually start the laundry on Fridaysand finish it on Sundays, and I grocery shopon the weekends. Typically during the week it works;feed the children, take themto their activity, that’s it. There’s not enough timeto do anything else because Iget up at 5:30 a.m. There’s just enough time Mondayto Thursday other than makesure they’re fed.Megan and her husband share childcare duties.For example, he wakes thechildren up in the mornings, feeds and dressesthem, and drops them off at school. In84turn, she picks the children up after schooland prepares dinner. This year her husbandalso picks the children up twice a weekfrom after school activities... Duringthe skiseason, Megan tries to leave by 4:00 p.m.twice a week to take the children to themountain. To compensate for thisschedule, she comes to the office earlierand worksover her lunch break.Megan says that she is quite satisfied with theway she is able to keep herwork/life balance. She usually comesto the office at 7:30 a.m. and works until4:30-5:00p.m. She adds that she is very well organized andefficient. During the time she is in theoffice, she focuses on work; when she isat home, she focuses on family:I don’t take work home. I used totry, but it doesn’t work. I’m too tired, and haveput in a productive day. So I cut my day off that’s whereI try to do that balance.If something happens where a childhas an injury or a sickness, my husband andItry to work on who the right personis at that moment in time. Typically if it’s aserious injury, it’s me because I havea health background and I go to the ER,which we’ve been to a lot the last couple of years serious health things Ijust leave work. If it’s a minor thing, my husbandor my mother pick up. ..that’show I do it.Although she tries hard to balanceher responsibilities, Megan does feel someresentment from her children because she works.Her daughter has said a few times thatshe would have preferred if her mother isa stay-at-home mom. She admitted that if itwere possible she would have marrieda millionaire and done volunteer work in thehealth sector!85In general, Megan works with only one partner, whois supportive of her work/lifechoices. Her colleagues are also supporting her choicesand recognize that she has setspecific boundaries. They tend not to pushtoo hard because they know she will eitherpush back or crash or burn. Megan feels thather subordinates are supportive of her workarrangements as well. She tries to be a role model forother women and to support herstaff in general. She is sensitive to the reality that sinceshe is working 80% her staff maythink she does not want to be disturbed on her dayoff in reality, however, she wantsthem to call. She tells them when she is goingto be home, gives them her home phonenumber, and tells them to feel free to call her. However,typically, she does not receivecalls from her staff on her day off.Although she does not have highprofile clients and does not work on publiccompanies, Megan says she is still challenged technicallyby her work. She is involvedwith learning and training activities, teachesa tax and accounting course to entry-levelstudents in Firm B, and keeps up with her own learningand technical training. On thedownside, she acknowledges that the boundariesshe has set have limited her career path:.the fact that maybe I’m not as committed. . .he relies on meheavily and trustsme implicitly for what I do for him. But because I don’t wantto do those bigaudits and get more involved in that type of thing I’m kindof in a box and I’vecreated that box myself because I’ve set my boundariesand when you do that youlimit your, your career path.Megan feels these limitations in particular because sheworks in the AAG:In the AAG, the women that tend to getfurther ahead work full time.People know, senior people know, partners knowthat for that woman. . .really her86career comes before her children. People hereknow that my children come beforethe firm. So inherently within that you reacha glass ceiling and sometimes thatcan be difficult. I mean I’m not willing to go outtwo or three nights a week toduty or go to client functions or work overtime.I want to be home, I don’t want tobe here at night. So if you’re not willing to do thatyou’re limited and that in allfairness that’s the same for most men. In that theexpectations are very, very high.As far as achieving balance within and succeedingin AAG. . .1 don’t think youcan have balance and make partner in AAG...In contrast, if she worked for the tax group, she believesthe circumstances might is different, in tax if you’re in the rightplace at the right time as awoman. . .there is nobody else thatcan do that specialty in tax.. .they have nochoice but to promote you.. .whether you work overtime or’ve got thetechnical expertise something happen.Another downside to her special work arrangementsis that she does not feelrespected by some of the partners as other senior managersare. These partners, shebelieves, consider her as less committed to Firm B’s business developmentthan othersenior managers. She does not know whether thisis due to her working alternativearrangements or only because she is not willingto work nights and weekends on a regularbasis.For all of these reasons—even though she is a senior manager—Meganhas beentold she is not on the track of becoming an associatepartner:87The next level for me would be associate partnerand in order to do that, I wouldhave to do certain things. . .and it doesn’t looklike I will get there because I’mprobably not going to do those certainthings. . .if I chose to take on a leadershiprole.. .if I chose to do a lot of business and development...It’ s my choice.. .It wouldbe acknowledged. It’s a choice—it’s my choice...It’s not fair to people who doit...To want to get that extra compensation.. .andI don’t do’s my choice—if Ido it and I don’t get compensated, I would be reallyupset.. .but it’s my choice.All in all, however, Megan believes that she has foundclose to the ideal solutionfor her:yes because I can come in the morning when Iwant and I can leave when Iwant. No one’s standing over me witha stopwatch. I work 80%, I know if I had amajor crisis in my life I could go to 100% or I couldgo down to 60%. I know thatthe people I work with support me in that. The partnerthat I work the most with isa very significant individual in Firm B nationally,as well as locally. He has a lotof clout, and if be wants something to happen for me it wouldhappen, or on theother hand if he does not want it to happen itwon’t happen. But it’s in his bestinterest for me to stay because he relies on meso heavily. I am permitted to takeextra time off in the summer. The partner who now runsthe group knows thatMegan takes extra time off in the summer. Otherstaff through our HR policiescan also do the same. He let’s me take time off when someemployees would not.I think it’s as ideal as it can get given what I’m doing and I havedifferent clientsin different industries and see what’s out theretoo. There aren’t too manyemployers that offer what I have, and it’s the reason,well it’s one of the reasons88why I haven’t left. I’ve worked in other places andknow what other places arelike.Megan believes that in order to successfully achieve work/lifebalance in the BigFirm, women who work alternative arrangementsmust first have the right clients,meaning clients with fewer deadlines. Second,they must have partners who arecommitted to supporting their work/life balance goals.Third, they must set boundariesand stick to them. They should be very firm; they alsomust decide for themselves what ismost important in their lives. Money? Family? Respectfrom clients? Megan explains thatpeople are caught up in their career progression, inthe status. They feel pulled, but theydon’t know who they are.She also says it is important that women who want to work alternativearrangements find a mentor who helps them planningtheir career path. In addition, shesays that women need to be flexible in order to accommodate FirmB’s needs. (Forexample, during busy season she does work longerhours.) Megan also says that Firm Bis now trying to help women get ahead by promotingthose who can become partners aswell as role models to other women. She cautions, however,that promotions need to bebased on merit:.and what I don’t want to see happen is, is that there’sa real push to get morewomen partners.. .I’m adamant—I don’t want tosee a woman make partnerbecause they want to make a woman a partner—I want theright person to makepartner for the right reason—I don’t care who theyare or what color they are. Idon’t want women to become a partner because there’s a hugepush on visibleminorities. ..It’s got to be the right person...buton the converse men have a89perception about what that right person is, which isusually a man. Most clientsare men, and they have the right synergy becausethey are the same. There is theissue it’s self-fulfilling in promoting in their own selfimage. It’s difficult to breakthat whole cycle...She says there is still a great deal of competition amongthe Big Four Firms andthat each wants to be number one. They all want tohave the highest number of publiccompanies, the largest profits, and the best people.As a result, there is a huge push togrow. In order to do so, all managers (whethermen or women) are responsible forbringing in new work. That takes time and commitment.Megan acknowledges that thepartners’ hard work is highly compensated. However,she would rather make less moneyand not work so hard. She thinks she has theability to become associate partner, but thepersonal sacrifice will be too great for her. Althoughshe is paid reasonably well, sheknows that other senior managers who are more involvedin business and developmentand who put in longer hours than she does make moremoney, especially when it comesto bonuses.But again, she is fine with this because she knowsthat if she puts in the sameeffort as they, then she will be similarly rewarded.In summary, she is happy with herarrangements, she likes her clients and the people withwhom she works, and at least fornow, she is staying in the Big Firm for the long run.Significant points: Megan has been working atFirm B for twenty years. She iscurrently working as a senior manager in the Auditand Assurance Group (AAG). Twelveyears ago, Megan had her first child at a time in whichshe was already a senior managerat Firm B. Since her return from maternity leave, she hasbeen working alternative90arrangements. Megan was the first in her Firm to choosean alternative arrangement.Currently, she works 80% with Fridays off.Out of the four participants, Megan is theonly participant who takes time off during the summer.Megan’s husband, similar to thecase of two other participants, is an accountant.Megan does not have a nanny, but she does havesomeone coming in to clean thehouse once a month. She uses her husbandand her mother as her support system. Shealso uses day cares. She is the only participant whoadmits that she feels someresentment from her children becauseshe works. She is one of the two participants whoclaim to be satisfied with their status at the Firm andare not interested to progressfurther. She further says that if she workedfor the tax group, she believes thecircumstances might be different since it is easierto find balance in the tax group.Overall, she is quite satisfied with the way she isable to keep her work/life balance.91CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSIONThe purpose of this chapter is to weave togetherthe threads of previous chaptersand to discuss the themes that have emergedfrom the narratives. Importantly, this chapteralso invites scholars into the conversationwith my narrators and allows the women’svoices to add insight to the literature onworking alternative arrangements in the BigFirms. The themes explored in these pages will notbe new to the reader; rather, my intentis to frame them primarily within the contextof the research questions that have guidedmy study. Many themes have emergedfrom the data, which have been organized,according to the research questions,in the following order:1. The actual experience of working alternative arrangements,including theirbenefits and disadvantages, and how the natureof work changes after their adoption.2. Balancing work and family commitments3. Relationships with partners at the firms4. Relationships with colleagues5. Career satisfaction and career progression6. Suggestions for the practiceThe Actual Experience of Working AlternativeArrangementsThe discourse that encompasses this study is the experiencesof workingalternative arrangements in an environment that requiresfull commitment. In thefollowing pages, I discuss my informants’ experienceand highlight some of the commonthemes mentioned by all four women.92General OverviewBy generously sharing their personal narratives, my informantshave helped me tobegin answering what is the meaning of being a CAwith children while workingalternative arrangements in the Big Firms. It shouldbe noted that all four women in thisstudy are in management positions. One of the participants,Liana, is a partner the otherthree participants are accounts managers. Sarah worksfor Firm A, while Liana andMegan work for Firm B. Rachel left Firm A almosta year and a half ago. On average, allfour participants have worked full time with the sameFirm for more than ten years beforeswitching to alternative arrangements. They all havechosen to reduce their workloadafter the birth of their children in order to have a morebalanced and flexible life.Megan says she has chosen such arrangements to maintain her healthand improveher own and her family’s well-being. Lianaand Rachel have wanted to reduce theirworkload so they get quality time with their children.Sarah wants to save commutingtime and avoid sending her young children to daycare.Three of the participants say theyknow of other women in their Firm who are workingsuch arrangements when theychoose to do so. Because of the Firm’s prior experience,they have found that theirdecision has been well received.Megan is the only informant who is the first woman in her Firm to chooseanalternative arrangement; hence, at that time (12 yearsago) there were no policies orexamples to follow. Since then, it has become more commonfor women to selectalternative working arrangements during a few yearsafter the birth of their children(Child, 1992; Hooks, 1996; Hooks & Cheramy, 1994). Almer& Kaplan (2002), Collins(1993), Hooks (1990), and Kinard, Little, & Little (1998)state that the last two decadeshave witnessed a rather dramatic change in the abilityof women in the accounting93profession to continue developing their careers whilemaintaining their traditional roles asmothers. All the participants except Sarah have chosena reduced work week of 80%, or 4days a week. Sarah has chosen to work full time fromhome with occasional trips to theoffice to meet with a partner or client.These forms of alternative arrangements (workingpart time, working acompressed work week, telecommuting, and flexibilityin the timing of work) arediscussed in the literature (Cohen & Single, 2001; Rogier& Padgett, 2004). It is clearfrom the narratives that Sarah, who works full time fromhome, has the most struggles.Not only does she not have a break (i.e., oneday off during the week to run errands orjust relax), but she also finds it hard to get all of her office workdone and have time toalso spend with her family. Unlike the others, Sarahseems to be trying to do both jobsfull-time: full-time homemaker and full-time accountant. Hooks(1998) refers to thisstruggle when she explains that technology has providedflexibility and the ability towork from home instead of the office; however,it has also blurred work and personaltime. Sarah’s narrative reflects her struggleto deal with two full-time jobs.Only one participant in my study, Megan, says that the flexiblework arrangementpolicy in her Firm is not just for women with children, but for anyoneat any time, maleor female, married or not, with or without children. The purposeof the policy is to giveall employees the flexibility to pursue the lifestyle of theirchoice even if they do not havechildren. This can range from getting a master’s degree and takingtime off for travel toworking four days a week. The other three participants have discussedworkingalternative arrangements as a woman’s issue.94Such arrangements have been touted in the literatureas beneficial for womengiven their family, home and work responsibilities(Huws, 2000). Charron and Lowe(2005) find that men in the public accountingsetting perceive the adoption of alternativearrangements as more costly than womendo. Hence, most men consider them tobe awomen’s issue. Almer and Kaplan (2002)also find that women are more likely to workalternative schedules.The Benefits of Working Alternative ArrangementsThe main intent of alternative arrangements isto help employees reduce the work-family conflict by giving them more control over theirwork schedule. Part-time work isconsidered an “employee-oriented” form of temporalflexibility (Barker, 1993), offeringthe “best of both worlds” by enabling employeesto pursue careers while spending moretime with their families. All the participants inmy study have agreed that the mainbenefit of such arrangements is the flexibilitythey offer.Both Liana and Megan say they have switchedto a four-day schedule so they canhave one day for quality time with their children. Rachelemploys a full-time nanny, soshe is able to use the one day off to run errands. Thisleaves the weekend for quality timewith her family. Sarah says she wants theflexibility to work from home so she is with herchildren whenever they needed her. Lianasays that the nature of her day off has changedover time as her children have grown older.Now she uses the free day for personalrelaxation and enjoyment.The above examples indicate that one of the main benefitsof alternativearrangements is the ability to keep working in the BigFirms while enjoying a morebalanced family life. Almer and Kaplan (2002) explainthat employees who choose95alternative arrangements have lower levelsof burnout, stressors, emotional exhaustionand depersonalization. My participants have not specificallydiscussed whether or notthey experience the emotions mentionedabove; however, none of the womenhasreturned to regular employment even though theirchildren are grown up. For example,Megan has been working an alternative arrangementfor the last twelve years, Liana hasdone so for 10 years, and Rachel and Sarah have doneso for 5-6 years. This finding isdifferent from Child (1992), Hooks (1996), and Hooksand Cheramy (1994), who findthat women use alternative working arrangements onlyduring the first few years after thebirth of their children. However, it does correspond withAlmer and Kaplan (2002), whoshow that CPAs working under alternative arrangementshave lower turnover rates.Sarah is the only one for whom the alternative arrangementsare not working;therefore, she plans to leave Firm A. Rachelleft Firm A a year and a half ago because shedid not want to practice Tax for the rest of her career.Megan and Liana are basicallyhappy with their arrangements and say they will staywith their Firm for the long run.Overall, it seems that the main benefit of working alternativearrangements, whichis to have some flexibility while maintaining your careerin the profession, has beenachieved by all the informants. Even Sarahwho claims that she is not happy with thearrangements admits that she likes her work from homeand controlling her schedule. Allwomen have continued to work alternative arrangementsfor many years and have notreturned to full time employment after their childrengrew up.An important lesson derived from the experiencesof the four women is that thesocio-economic conditionsof the participating women are an important factor in theirsuccessful working arrangements. Of thefour participants, Sarah has the most difficult96time managing family-work life.She has a 100% work load from homeand finds itdifficult to manage her duties both at homeand for the firm. She is the onlyone of thefour women that actually wantsto progress in the firm, and she is clearabout herfeelings, as being unappreciated by her superiors andcolleagues. Thus, it seems thatalternative arrangements are well suitedfor those cases in which womenchoose to reduceworkload and progression in the firm, but may notbe suited for cases in which theemployee wishes to maintain the samepace of progression as in regular arrangements.Further, it seems that fellow employeesand colleagues find it easier to acceptanarrangement that comes to supportfamily life (at the expense of work time),but find itmore difficult to accept cases wherethe arrangement simply transfers the placeofemployment from the office to home.The Disadvantages of Working Alternative ArrangementAll the participants have agreed that the main disadvantageof working alternativearrangements is the decreasing opportunityfor promotion and increased compensation.MacDermid, Lee, Buck,and Williams (2001) report that most people on alternativearrangements are satisfied, although they feel that theysacrifice some upward mobility intheir careers, especially in the short run.My informants say that they have taken thisdrawback into consideration when they made theirdecision.Liana says that women who take a year out to raisea newborn child are behind intheir career progress compared to someone who doesnot. She adds that this is the mainreason why women are held backupon their return, and she feels this is justified becauseanyone—whether a man or a woman—should be behindin their career if they take a yearoff. Liana also says that women who returnfrom maternity leave and choose to work97flexible arrangements do not havethe same client opportunities as before because thepartners believe they cannot devote the amount oftime it takes to handle large,demanding clients. This point is alsodocumented in previous studies (Cohen & Single,2001; Charron & Lowe, 2005). Thus, my findingssupport that gender differences in theformal labor market stemming from thepresence of children at home.There are still divisions of parental duties betweenmothers and fathers in thehome, with mothers continuing to be the primarilyresponsible for the care of thechildren. This issue is problematic since,as my study has indicated, womendisproportionately share the responsibility of rearingchildren in the family and in society.Women are those who give birth and are predominantlythose who take maternity leavefrom work. Thus, although most people will suffera drawback in their careeradvancement after taking a year off, it is predominantlywomen who take parental leaves.In my study I deliberately have sought women whoare working alternative arrangements,and not men. I am not aware of any research which indicatesthat men, in the accountingprofession, are seeking alterative arrangements for thepurpose of raising children. Mystudy confirms that women change their work practicesafter their return from maternityleave. Although, all my participants claim that they havetaken these drawbacks in theircareer into consideration when changing their workpractices, it is not clear whether theyhave really wanted to change their careerpath or because the Firm has “pushed” them todo so. Many women are moving into part-time work and non-supervisoryroles followingbirth. This transition usually comes duringa critical period in most women’s career paths.According to the narratives, it seems that the changeto alternative arrangement is acombination of women’s preference to be at home moreand a realization that this is the98only arrangement that allows them to survivein the public accounting practice at the BigFirms. This should be a major concern forsociety since it shows how women aredisadvantaged to participate and develop their careersin the labor market. In the sameway, this is of concern to businesses thatemploy women and invest in training themformany years. If women are obligatedto take different roles upon their return frommaternity leave because the employer feelsthat they will not be able to do their previousjob and raise family at the same time, the business islikely to discriminate between menand women even at earlier stages of the career.Further, by law women are entitledto get their previous job upon their returnfrom authorized maternity leave. If women areput in an inferior position upon returnfrom maternity leave, a legal issue arises. From thenarratives, it seems that sometimeswomen feel that they need to take a slightly differentjob in order to be able to cope withboth family and work. However, it shouldbe noted that if women want to do theirprevious job and are able to get only less challengingwork, then they face discriminationbecause they are mothers.The narrators’ stories indicate that all four women,except for Liana, havechanged their career path after returning from maternityleave. It should be noted,however, that Liana, as a partner in herFirm, is the most senior ranking of the fourwomen. This is probably why her experienceis different. Higgins, Duxbury, and Johnson(2000) argue that part-time employees located in higher-leveljobs experience greatercontrol over their work activities; however, they have muchless certainty over thetemporal boundary between work and non-work. Hochschild(2001) notes that theInternet has extended working hours at home, which hasmade the border between99families and work even more permeable.Liana’s experience corresponds with thisobservation.It should to be noted that Liana’s situation is very uniquesince she has specificexpertise in specific tax niche that is newto her Firm. She was lucky and was promotedquickly because there was sucha huge business need for her expertise. However,theother women in my study did not havesuch opportunities. It seems that one’s rankin theorganization prior to taking maternity leaveand working alternative arrangements isasignificant factor in her ability to achievea balanced life with career advancement.Threeout of my four participants have waited deliberatelyto start a family after reaching thesenior manager position in their organization.Sarah is the only one who was only amanager when she started herfamily, and has struggled more than the others. Theimplications for young women CAs who want tostart a family and have a balanced lifeand career advancement in the Firm areto plan carefully the timing of starting afamily.My research suggests that by achievinga higher rank in the organization prior tohaving afamily, women have better chancesto succeed in balancing career and family life. Inmyopinion, there are a few reasons for that. First, asa senior manager it is easier to delegatethe actual work to others. This is harder to achieve whenthe woman is only a manager.Second, senior managers have more experience andare less overwhelmed with theFirm’s requirements. Third, bythe time of achieving a higher rank in the organization,other staff know the woman’s abilities better and are morelikely to accommodate herneeds.An additional implication for young women CAs isthat having a certain niche ofexpertise affects the women’s ability tobe promoted and succeed at the Big Firms while100working alternative arrangements. As noted in Liana’snarrative, she is the onlyparticipant who is practicing a very specific field ofexpertise, and thus is very valuable toFirm B’s future success and this is the main reason whyshe has been promoted topartner.Anderson-Gough, Grey, and Robson (2005) find thatalternative arrangements are“unambiguous failures”(p.487) because they fail to change the norms and theacceptablecode of conduct in the Big Firms. Cohen and Single(2001) argue that the Big Firms donot support women who work alternative arrangements,which is the main reason whythey are unsuccessful. It seems that women are the oneswho are trying to accommodatetheir Firms’ need by finding a vast number of individualstrategies (e.g., having childrenlater, having family support, hiring a nanny, usingdaycares) to help them manage theirwork and family responsibilities. Although the womenfelt supported for the most part bytheir Firms, the main message I have received from myparticipants is that they needed tomold themselves in order to find their balance. The Firmsallow them to work alternativearrangements, and support their career choices. However,the Firms do not change theirstandards or their criteria for achieving advancement.Thus, only Liana is able to advanceher career, partly because she has unique expertise. Further,she has a stressful anddemanding schedule that allows very little time forpersonal care and activities. TheFirms do not try to find solutions or to helpthese women to resolve their challenges.Balancing Work and Family CommitmentsAll the women’s narratives contain elements of struggle betweenthe workdemands at the Big Firms and their desire to achieve work/life balance.According to myliterature review on women’s labor, having a professionalcareer and a balanced life is101hard to achieve for women everywhere, regardlessof the industry (Bierma, 2001).Current career development concepts continueto reflect male woridviews. These basicassumptions include a separation of work and familyroles in people’s lives;a reverencefor individualism and autonomy;the centrality of work; a linear, progressive,and rationalcareer development process; anda devaluing of care work and the structure ofopportunity (Cook, Heppner, & O’Brien,2002).Rachel, Liana, Megan and Sarah all admittedthat it is challenging for them towork even flexible arrangements while simultaneouslyraising children and working inthe Big Firms. Some have struggled morethan the others—especially Sarah. She istheonly woman who is not married to a professional andis, therefore, the primarybreadwinner in her family. She admits that she needsto keep working full time in orderto pay the bills. As I have noted in Chapterfour, Sarah’s circumstances are quite uniquesince her husband is not working and he ison (earning) disability pension. The otherthree participants come from double-income familiesconsisting of two professionalswhere the husband is the primary breadwinner.Rachel, who is married to a professional CA with hisown consulting finn, saysshe does not have to worry about moneyand can choose to work part time as she wants.She can also hire as much help as she needs. Megan is alsomarried to a CA who works inthe industry. Although she says that she needs to work,she has reduced her work load to60% for a couple of years and now works at 80%. She also takesthe summers off. Lianais married to a CA who owns his own business. Becauseshe and her spouse both havehigh salaries, she can afford to work alternative arrangements;she has also hired a fulltime nanny to help her. It shows that social issues are embeddedin my study. All except102Sarah are married to accountants; twoof them are married to high-ranking accountantsintheir respective firms. Indeed, theyown their own businesses and have the flexibilityofbeing able to set their own hours. Sarahis married to a non-professional and sheis boththe primary breadwinner and the primarycare giver in her household. Thus, threeout ofthe four participants, do not basicallyneed to work full-time, since they are privilegedtobe in a social status which does not requirethem to provide for their families. In contrast,Sarah, who is not as privileged as the others,has to work full time in order to paythefamily’s bills. Although, Sarah’s situationis unique, it is clear that being in a highersocial class helps the other three womensucceed in the workplace. For example, twoofthem are able to hire full-time nannies torelieve themselves from most of the households’chores such as child care, laundry, and cooking.Hence, they are more flexible incommitting to the Firms’ needs.Since both Liana and Rachel have nanniesat home (and Liana also has ahousecleaner), their narrative does not mentiona struggle to maintain their household andwork. On the contrary, Liana says that sinceher nanny does all the shopping for her,shehas quality time during the weekend to spendwith her family. Rachel says that sheusesher day off to run errands so she can spendquality time with her family on the weekends.(Although both Rachel and Liana havea nanny to help with their children, it should benoted that they see themselves as the main caregiversof their children.)This issue is noted in the literature. Hochschild(2000) finds that in order todecrease their domestic work and adapt to the normsof the labor market, women aredelegating the unpaid work of raising childrento the “care industry,” which has steppedinto the traditional mother’s role. BothRachel and Liana say that hiring a nanny is103essential for them to comply with the Firm’sneeds when necessary. In fact, Rachel,whose nanny is part time, says that it is not sufficientbecause it does not give her therequired flexibility.Another factor that influences women’s abilityto succeed in the workplace is theamount of support they receive from their closefamily. Three of the women (Rachel,Liana and Megan) say that their spousesor other family members take over partof theload when necessary. Rachel says that her husband isable and willing to come homeearly if she needs to stay late. Liana says thather husband is also flexible, and whenevershe needs to stay late at work, he can make arrangementsto be at home by 5:30 p.m.Megan mentions that her husband takes careof the children in the morning so she canleave the house early; he also picks up or dropsoff the children when needed.On the other hand, Sarah does not mention her husbandat all, and she relies onfamily members for support with childcare responsibilities.For example, her in-laws takecare of the baby everyday while she is working downstairs.Because she has numerousdistractions during the day, such as breastfeeding, greetingher daughter after school,cooking, cleaning and laundry, she endsup working until 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. everyevening. As a result, she says she always feelsstressed and is frequently impatient withher children. She feels like she never has any time—noteven a second—for herself.In contrast to the others, Megan chooses to use the daycare system.As a result,she comes to work early and leaves earlyso she can pick up her children at a specifictime every afternoon. She says that the partnerwith whom she works is very supportivein regard to this. As a result, the daycare system workswell for her. Megan adds that sheis very effective in the hours that she spendsin the office. In contrast, Liana believes that104daycare doesn’t work because most facilitiesset strict arrival and departure times thatdonot allow late pick-ups. She thinks that aprofessional woman who does not hire anannycannot do her job effectively. However,Megan has been able to succeed at Firm Bfortwelve years without the help of a nanny.During the week, Megansays she does not have time to do anything at homebesides making sure her children are fed.She adds that she does not care anymore if herhouse is as clean as it used to be. Sheuses her day off to clean the house, do laundry,andrun errands; she shops for grocerieson the weekend. Sarah and Megan both spokeaboutcooking, cleaning and laundry; neithermentioned their husbands helping them around thehouse.All the participants acknowledge that the Big Firmshave high standards;therefore, the women say they definitely need outsidesupport to help them take care oftheir family duties. Thus, it is evident that the women’s economicstatus plays a strongrole in their ability to successfully balancetheir personal lives with their professionallives in the Big Firms. It is also evident that flexible workingarrangements are notsufficient. My findings suggest that women accountants inthe Big Firms are not createdequal. It is significant to note though that Sarah, who is inmost need of alternativearrangements, derives the least benefit from it. Giventhat these women work alternativearrangements, it is rather surprising that they are notasked by a superior about theireveryday challenges, and how the arrangement is supporting theirwork-life balance. It isclear that Sarah has difficulties in managing herresponsibility, but it seems that she needsthe payment. One possible solution wouldbe that the firm provides her a 100% pay witha workload of 80%. The difference can be recovered ata later stage in her career, or upon105her departure from the Firm. Another solution for momsthat find it hard to run betweendaycare and work would be to providedaycares close to the Firm, similar to what iscommon in Universities. These daycares canbe suited for the long hours demanded bythe Firms — perhaps even with late afternooncare. Solutions to most difficulties canbefound if there is a true desire to help women achievingwork-life balance.Sarah is always stressed and feels she cannot find theneeded balance. This ismainly because she is working full-timefrom home, so she does not have the one day offthat all other participants have to maintain some flexibility. Further,it also looks like sheneeds to work during the weekend in order to fulfillher work commitments.Adhering to Traditional Gender RolesIt is evident from these narratives that women adhereto fairly traditional genderroles at home and do most, if not all, of the planning for thefamily. A few of thehusbands provide some help, but it seems this occurs primarilybecause of the women’srequests.A number of studies have shown that the vast majority of husbandsand wivesbelieve that when the wife is employed, husbands should increasetheir involvement inhousehold chores (Ferber, 1982). Yet these beliefsdo not translate well into action(Biemat &Wortman, 1991). Gershuny et al.(2005) find that women still have to dealwith the dual burden of working full time while also bearinga disproportionateresponsibility of housework and childcare. Theirstudy includes three national householdpanel surveys — the British Household Panel Survey, the GermanSocioeconomic Panel,and the U.S. Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Each of these surveyscarries, in variouswaves, questions about respondents’ amounts of household worktime. However, there is106no description of the nature of work that the couplesdo. A wife’s labor at home maydecrease due to fewer hours available todo housework, but this does not necessarilyleadto an increase in her husband’s level of involvement.Indeed, the spouses of the women inmy study are almost invisible. This is mainlybecause these women see themselves asthemain caregiver of the children and as the mainperson responsible to the well beingoftheir families.Furthermore, my participants’ narratives indicatethe division of domestic labor isfar from being equal, even where there aresome similarities in spouses’ employmentsuch as husband and wife being in the same profession,having similar educationalbackground and similar status at work. Twoof the husbands have their own businesses—they are not employees of a firm, and they may evenbe employers of others, they can settheir own hours and they can set their own workloads.This situation is different from thewives’ situation since the women in my studyneed to meet the demands of more senioremployees or partners in a firm. I cannotspeculate about the difference in salary betweenthe husbands and wives as I have not enquired aboutsalary levels. However, salary issuesaside, it seems that these women achievementsat work do not translate into sharing ofresponsibilities within the home.Employed wives still retain primary responsibilityfor the home. Thus, theyexperience “double-duty days” (Hoschschild,1989). Meaning, employed women workfull-time or part-time outside the house and than theycome home for another full timework; caring for their children andhouse work.107Male-dominated FirmsIn the literature review section, Idiscussed the characteristics of the Big Firms,especially the male-dominantculture. Bierma (2001) finds that women who wanttosucceed in a professional or managerial jobface strong pressures at work. Because mostcareers are still based on a male pattern, women whowant to climb further must conformto this culture. This requires putting in longhours at the office, building a reputation,andcompeting with fellow professionals.Jackson & Scharman (2002) and Whitmarsh,et al. (2007) explore the experienceof professional women in gender-neutral careerssuch as doctors, lawyers andaccountants. By gender-neutral careers theauthors mean careers not in a female-dominated area such as teachers, librarians,and nurses. They find that most womenprefer family-friendly careers that require less than30 hours of work per week. Such aschedule allows for flexible work schedulesand significant family time. These findingsare supported by the experience ofthe women in my study.Rather than following the traditional, male-dominatedroute, my informants havefound different ways to cope with their responsibilitiesat work and at home. Perhaps themost significant finding is that their mindset has changed aftergiving birth to theirchildren. Rachel and Megan decided that theyno longer wanted to put in the long hoursthat becoming a partner requires. In thisrespect, refusing to follow the typical masculinemodel is a strategic decision for them. All but Liana arestill positioned in middlemanagement levels and find it hard to get ahead; however,Rachel and Megan are happywith their career choices.Liana is the only woman in my study who hasbeen able to advance beyond therank of senior manager. In fact, she was promotedto a partner rank while working108alternative arrangements. She modestlysays that her promotion is due to herdemandedexpertise. But it is clear fromher narrative that she is strongly committedto the Firmeven though she works part time. She iswilling to put long hours in the office, cometothe office on her days off, andwork full time during the busy tax season. She is alsowilling to take work home from timeto time. As the head of her department, shehasmany responsibilities. For example, sheis in charge of business development,marketing,and human resources. She appearsto cope well with such responsibilities. Furthermore,she has more support than the other participants—ahouse cleaner as well as a nanny.Again, it looks like social class, includingeconomic status, makes a difference inthesuccess of working alternative arrangementand in the advancement in the Firms.Change in the Nature of Work after Movinginto Alternative ArrangementsAfter coming back from maternityleave and opting to work alternativearrangements, Rachel told her partnerthat she was willing to do tax compliancework, butshe was no longer willing to dotax planning, re-organizations, mergersand acquisitions,or any other projects with heavy deadlines.She decided to change her type of workandclient base because it allowed herto fit the work into her schedule. She says that this typeof work suits her personality and that she doesnot need a constantly stimulating workenvironment to be happy. So, her values havechanged. She no longer aspires to advancein the firm.In contrast, the type of work Sarah has not changedand also those of Liana andMegan. Sarah’s client base after returningto work from maternity leave is the same asshe had before. When she started workingfrom home, she thought it wouldn’t matterwhether she did the work there or at the office. Now,however, she admits this practice is109not a very effective way of completingwork on time and says she feels muchlessefficient than before. Not surprising, sinceshe now has two full-time jobs. Megansaysthat she has always worked with the same groupof clients and that she has notexperienced much of a change after returning from maternityleave. Although she doesnot have high profile clients and does not workon public companies, she says she ischallenged technically at her work. She isextremely busy with learning and trainingactivities, she teaches an accounting and tax courseto entry-level students in Firm B, andshe keeps up with her own learning and training. Overall,she claims that she is satisfiedwith her arrangement and her levelof advancement that she has achieved at work.Each of the women has developed difficult techniquesto contain their workload.For example, Rachel delegates almost allof her work to junior staff while concentratingher time on meeting with clients and overseeing herstaff. In addition she continuesworking with clients she has already known well andconsciously takes on low profileassignments. She admits that sheis willing to do less interesting assignments than whatshe has done before in order to create for herselfa less stressful environment. She addsthat she has never felt like she had too manyclients for the available time. Megan hasalso chosen to work with low key clientswho have no pressing deadlines. Liana is theonly participant who mentions that,in order to leave by 5:00 p.m. every day—while stillkeeping up with the Firm’s high expectations—shetakes work home with her.Flexibility versus Setting LimitsRachel and Liana emphasize thateven though they work part time, the Firm hasan expectation that they will occasionallyput in extra hours. In reality, a full-time workerusually puts in much more time than the mandatory7.5 hours a day. As a result, all the110women stress the importance of flexibility,of being willing to respond to the Firms’needs. Because Rachel and Liana have ananny, they are able to work late if there isadeadline, and they work 100% during thebusy season.On the other hand, Rachel says that although she triesto accommodate the Firm’sneeds, she has also had to set limits. Megan emphasizesthat she tries to be as flexible aspossible with her Firm, but she has set limits, too. Lianasays that it is important forpeople in a professional position to haveback-up plans in place for their families in orderto accommodate unforeseen circumstances.In contrast, Sarah says her schedule is notvery flexible because she works from home.The partner for whom she works knows thatifhe wants something done right away hewill have to wait one, two, or three days beforeshe comes to the office to carry outthe required task. However, she also comes to theoffice whenever she has deadlines.It should be noted that the literature on alternative arrangementsin the accountingfield is silent about the importance of being flexible; however,it seems to be a crucialfactor. Hence, this represents an importanttopic of future research. Flexibility in the BigFirms means both the willingness to workextra hours when necessary and/or thewillingness to work different hours whennecessary. It seems that my participants areregularly asked to be “flexible”; and it doesnot bother them. On the contrary, thesewomen understand the importance of being flexibleand are trying to accommodate theFirms’ needs wherever it is possible. Both Lianaand Rachel hire a nanny mainly in orderto be available whenever needed. This desireto be flexible towards the needs of the Firmis somewhat vexing. After all, women engage in alternativework arrangements to createa better work/life balance and spend more time with their children.It is not clear why111these arrangements entail the requirementto be flexible toward the needs of theFirms. Infact, the constraint of beingflexible to the firm when called upon, defeatsthe purpose ofworking alternative arrangements, whichis also available for unexpected events infamilylife. It is somewhat surprisingthat these women are requested to be availablethe firmwhen unforeseen events in the firm arise,at a time in which these firms themselvesacknowledge (by allowing them to workalternative arrangements) that their focushasshifted towards their family. Further, onewould expect that caring for a young childissubject to many irregularities (child beingsick, falls at daycare, etc.). Hence, wemayexpect that working alternative arrangementsmeans no flexibility towards the firm’sneeds at all. According to the women, theyare able to keep their boundaries. Further,they still prefer to be part-time persons sincethe expectations are lower than beinga full-time person. As long as they areon alternative arrangements, they are required from timeto time to put more hours in, however theystill have the flexibility to have their daysoffmost of the time and they are not expectedto work as hard as other full-time employees.The Importance of the Area of WorkAs discussed in my introduction, the accounting professionoffers severaldifferent areas of specialization, includingaudit and assurance, tax, and advisoryservices. My informants have clearlystated that the type of accounting practice inwhicha woman works greatly affects her ability to be successfulwith alternative arrangements.Megan and Sarah work in the assurance andaudit practice, and Liana works in taxpractice. Until leaving the Firm, Rachelalso worked in tax practice.Sarah says that women specialized in auditingare not very happy with alternatework arrangements due to the stressful and time-consumingnature of the work. She adds112that it is much easier for women workingin a tax practice because it does not involvesuch tight deadlines. Liana, also, observesthat many more women in the tax group workalternative arrangements than do thosein the audit and assurance or advisory group.Megan concurs, saying that women in auditand assurance who work alternativearrangements and put their children aheadof the Firm will soon reach a glass ceilingincareer progression. She believes it is easierfor women in the tax group to be promoted,especially if they have the technical expertise.We have seen how it works in the specificcase of Liana, who is the onlyinformant among the four women thathas developed expertise in a specific fieldwithinher practice. Since it is in a valuableniche, she is particularly important to FirmB’sfuture success and has subsequently beenpromoted to partner. The above suggeststhatonce again, women must accommodatethemselves to the firm, if they wish to pursueadvancement in the profession.Work versus FamilyIt is important to note that all the participants in my studyadmit that their workcomes second to their family. Rachel saysthat she lives for the hours outside ofwork.Liana says that before having her firstchild she has made the decision that family isgoing to be a priority and that she would notbe an absentee parent. Megan says thateverybody in the office knows that her childrencome before the Firm. As mentionedearlier, all the women in my study seethemselves as the main caregiver in theirhousehold. Sarah does not say what her priorityis; it seems that she struggles to surviveand has to priorities between both workand family. Thus, this study shows that in manyinstances, if women have the option to prioritizebetween work and family, they choose113family before career. For Liana this isa predetermined preference even before she had ababy, for Megan and Rachel it seemsthat the priority was set after the birth of their firstchild. Of course, I deliberately sought women who chosealternative work arrangements.Therefore, my sample might be biasedtoward prioritizing family. I’m aware that otherwomen might have other priorities.Possibly, those who choose alternativeworkarrangements place a higher priorityon family than other women CAs.Age of ChildrenAlthough I have not paid attentionto this factor in my selection criteria whenchoosing informants, it has becomeclear that the age of children definitely influenceswomen’s career experience. For example,because Sarah has a young infant, herflexibility is limited because she wants to keep himat home and not send him to daycare.Liana, whose children are 10, 8 and5, has more free time to spend on herself since herchildren are all at school and thereforeless independent and out of the home for part ormost of the day.Although this issue is significant, previous studiesfail to address it. The findingssuggest that when their children are young, womenoften feel frustrated, overwhelmedand worn out in their attempt to balance work andfamily life. However, this becomesmuch easier once the children are older and less dependent.Thus, it is important for otherprofessional women struggling with youngchildren to be aware that this stage will passand the success of working alternative arrangements willimprove.Relationships with Partners at the FirmsAll the participants emphasize how important it isto have the support of thepartners for whom they work in order to successfullybalance their career and home lives.114Interestingly, all of them feel they have received suchsupport from their partners. Forexample, Rachel says that she is fortunateenough to work with partners who are happytoaccommodate her needs. In fact, she actually reportsto a female partner who is alsoworking an alternative schedule. Becauseof these strong and positive relationships,leaving the Firm has been difficult.Sarah and Megan work almost exclusively forone partner. Megan is the only onewho says that the partner for whom she works has limitedher career path—even thoughhe is an “extraordinary person” who has helped her agreat deal throughout her career.She explains that the partner has done so because heknows she does not want to handlebig audits and take on more responsibility.Cohen & Single (2001) find that partners at theFirms treat women on alternativearrangements unethically and do not support themin their career choices. Almost all thewomen in my study—except for Liana, who isa partner—feel that the other partners atthe Firm, who do not know them so well, are less supportingof their efforts. Forexample, Rachel says that some of the other partnersfind it hard to understand why shecannot finalize an assignment by a certain day. Sarahsays that since she is working fromhome, other partners think she is not committedlike other managers; thus, they treat herwith less respect. Megan says she feels thatthe partners with whom she does not workdirectly do not respect her as much as other senior managersbecause they do not believeshe is committed to Firm B’s business developmentas they are. Liana is the only onewho says that she has received support fromall of her superiors—even when she was asenior manager.115In summary, the women have developed close, supportiverelationships with thepartner(s) with whom they have worked formany years. The partners know theircircumstances, value the women as professionals,and support their decision to find abalance between work and home. Further, they makeaccommodations for the women inorder to keep them in the Firm, from onehand. From the other hand, they also ask themto be flexible. However, other partners who are notso close to the women do notunderstand their contributions and choicesand are consequently less respectful orsupportive. It seems that the male-dominated characteristicof the Finns may becontributing to the relative consensus amongthe participants that most partners are notvery respective of women working alternativearrangement. In fact, Rachel commentsthat her support comes from a female partner,suggests that if there were more womenpartners with families, then there might be a better understandingof the struggles thatthese women face. As much of the organizational environmentdepends on how partnersperceive a situation, it seems that increased understandingand tolerance will be achievedonly with more women partners in the Big Firms, somethingthat will also reduce themale dominance in the firm.Relationships with ColleaguesThree out of the four participants have experienced nonegative attitudes fromtheir colleagues. By “colleague,”I mean other professionals who are at the same rankasthe participant. Rachel says she is very fortunate she had workedin a cohesive group thatplays few politics. She says she has made many friendsin her group, and they understandthe limitations of working alternative arrangements anddo their best to help her. In turn,she tries to be an active member of the group and takes an activerole in its management.116Liana also says that she has a closegroup of colleagues who have supportedherthroughout her career in the Firm. Onthe other hand, Sarah says her colleagues treat heras though she is less valuable. She feels they considerher work as being easier and do notbelieve she is working as hard at homeas they are in the office.Since I have not interviewed my informants’colleagues, the above observationsare based solely on the opinions of the informants.Hooks (1990) find that employeeswho work full time in the office believethat those who work alternative schedules areless committed to the firm and thus lesslikely to advance further in the organization.Hooks also finds that resentmentexists between employees on alternative arrangementsand their colleagues. These observations are partly supportedby Sarah’s perception.Megan is the only one who does not really know howher colleagues feel about herworking arrangements.Career Satisfaction and Career ProgressionIn general, all the participants in thestudy except Sarah say that they are happywith their career. Rachel says she feels comfortableabout not progressing to thepartnership level and is satisfied to remain a senior managerforever. Megan also acceptsher lack ofprogress further in her Firm sinceshe is unwilling to put in the kind of hoursnecessary to move to the next level. Liana isthe only one who says that her progressionseemed to speed up when she had children.On the other hand, Sarah is frustrated withher career because her employer hasmade it clear that she cannot progress further as longas she is working from home. Consequently,she has hit the ceiling in regard tocompensation.117Rachel says that working alternative arrangementsat Firm A is a goodexperience, although not easy. She says the only thingthat has made her leave the Firm isthe realization that she does not wantto do the same tax work for the rest of her life. Sheacknowledges that her salary and bonuses have notbeen as large as those of colleagueson the road to partnership and that they have reflectedher very even, unexcitingworkload. However, since pay has nevermotivated her anyway, she does not care.Megan says that, overall, the alternative arrangementsare working well for her.However, she admits that she prefers to be a stay-at-homemom and to volunteer in thehealth sector if she could afford to doso. Megan also says that she is satisfied with hercareer. She has convenient and flexible working arrangements,good relationships withher superiors and colleagues, a variety of clients, and cantake the summer off. On theother hand, her compensation is not as highas that of senior managers who are moreinvolved in Firm B. She says she is fine with this, however—aswell as with her limitedprogress further with Firm B—because shedoes not want to sacrifice her family for ahigh-powered career.Even Liana admits that her career is a struggle and that she sometimeswonders ifit is really what she wants to do in her life.She acknowledges that she faces an internaldilemma because she wants to do wellon both sides. In general, however, she is satisfiedwith her career. Sarah is the only one of the four whofinds her working arrangements—and their consequences—so frustrating that she wantsto leave the Firm altogether.However, she also says she had other reasonsfor her wishes to leave the Firm. She hasbeen there for a long time and feels like itis time now to make a change and learn newthings in a different environment.118My narrators’ progression in the workplace slowed downafter they bore children,with the exception of Liana. Most of themhad a change in mindset, and all of themwanted to work less. They enjoy working inorder to keep up their profession, to havetheir own money, and to help support theirfamilies, but they are less motivated toachieve the kind of success valued by the Big Firms.It seems that the participants are lessmotivated for career progression becausethey have decided not to place a high valueonwhat the firm prioritizes. They have toaccept slower advancement because of that,asthey set a high priority on being withfamily and caring for their children. But if thefirmis more receptive to accept their constraints, probablythey will be more motivated forcareer advancement. An interpretation of the narrativeis that alternative arrangementslack an important component; they lack a true understandingof how the workenvironment should adapt and change its priorities withregard to these women (withoutinterfering with their career).Suggestions for the practiceAll the participants emphasize that the Big Firms arebeginning to push hard topromote more women into management positions andto make alternative arrangementswork better. At some point in their interview, all the informantsexcept Sarah makesuggestions that may help other professional womenwith children be more successful.Some of the suggestions revolve aroundsteps the women themselves can take to makethe arrangement work; others revolve aroundchanges that the Big Firms can make,especially in regard to culture.119Setting Limits and MentoringBoth Megan and Rachel say that womenwho opt for alternative workingarrangements must clearly state their expectations fromday one to both clients andsuperiors. In addition, Rachel suggeststhat the women talk with each other andsharetheir experiences. The more there are womenrole models successfully working undersuch arrangements, the more it will helpother women who are just starting the process.Liana also mentions that it is importantto have a “women’s network” that can offeradvice and share ideas and solutions.Another suggestion is to create an advancedformalmentoring program in which womenin leadership positions can teach other womenhowto be assertive enough to say “No.” Mentoring wouldalso give women the opportunity totalk about their experiences and receive guidance forthe challenges they face. Meganalso mentions the importance of mentoring.If there are women in the Big Firms who aresuccessfully balancing their career and family life thentheir help and advice to otherwomen seeking to do so will be invaluable.Planning Ahead to Ensure FlexibilityMegan, Liana and Rachel also believethat women need to take whatever steps arenecessary to be as flexible as possible—whether thismeans hiring a nanny, getting familysupport, or sending children to daycare. The importantissue is for women to be availablein a crunch even if they are working alternative arrangements.Liana emphasizes that toget ahead today in the client services industry,the clients’ and Firms’ needs must comebefore women’s personal needs. Meganexplains that men are promoted because they arewilling to adhere to these demands. She adds thatwomen need to be very firm and knowexactly what they want in their life.If they want money and career progression, they can120achieve it provided they are willingto work hard and put the Firm first. On the otherhand, ifthey want a more balanced life, they will needto make compromises and learn tobe happy with their achievements and sacrifices.Sarah is the only one who says thatthe situation in the Big Firms is hopeless; as aresult, she has no advice to give to otherwomen. Due to the nature of the work at the BigFirms, she believes it is not possible for women tomove ahead if they don’t follow themale-dominated model described above. Althoughcompanies today are spending muchtime talking about a diversified workforceand making it possible for women withchildren to lead a balanced life, she believesthis is pretty much lip service. She says theenvironment is still very male-dominated andthat even women who do make work theirtop priority are not always promoted to the partner level.It is important to consider thesocial-economic gap among the women in the study.Sarah faces the most difficultiesbecause she cannot afford to hire a nanny. Thus, the arrangementsdo not seem to workfor women who cannot hire outside help.For alternative arrangements to work, it is alsoimportant to find ways to aid on this front.For example, women on arrangements wouldbe able to reduce work load and still maintain 100% pay(to be repaid later on in aperson’s career). This will allow reducing the hardshipfor women who also struggle withfinancial difficulties.Liana suggests that the Big Firms provide more childcareservices, which willgreatly reduce women’s stress. This certainly helps somewomen but more needs to bedone in order to help in cases where the child needsparental attention, such in the case ofSarah who still breastfeeds children. If the firm provideschildcare, and also arranges forsome within workplace care for babies, then it will helpmoms to return quickly to work121after giving birth, and allow for minimalcareer interruptions. With such arrangements,mothers can visit their children during the day and feelmore comfortable about returningto work.Another option that Liana suggests for improvingthe career path for women is todevelop a different model of partnershipfor women that do not require the devotion ofmany hours to the firm as a regular partner. Underthis scenario, women (and also men)can choose the option of becoming a “technician” whocomes to the office at 9:00 a.m.,carry out her work, and go home by 5:00p.m. (except for busy season, which requireslonger hours). This person is not involved in businessdevelopment or learning anddevelopment. While this idea is certainlyworth thinking about, I am afraid that it maysend adverse messages if it is only an option grantedfor women. In general, in mostcases, an option that is offered only to women (and notto men) implies inferiority ofwomen assuming they cannot succeed withthe workload expected of men partners.Liana acknowledges that the latter idea is just a thought and thatthe Big Firms’business model is not presently designedto support such an option. Instead, Firms expectpeople to do numerous non-billable activities, such asconstantly developing newbusiness, participating in learning and development activities,coaching others, andreceiving coaching in return. Liana also acknowledgesthat her idea is probably notworking because a technician feels like a sub-standardsenior manager, so it is not clearhow she can be comparable to other partners. She isalso expected to be paid lesscompared to regular partners.122Changing the Culture through Training and EducationLiana says that additional training and education areneeded in order to make thecultural changes necessary to support women in management.She recommends thatpartners in the Big Firms undergo a process of educationthat enables them to “walk inthe shoes” of the women for a little while. Thereis no guarantee, however, that sucheducation may work. Fenwick (2001) argues thatworkplace education is a tool of culturecontrol and that it does not address issues of genderinequity and organizational culture.She also finds that gender equality policieshave not been successful in changing themale-dominated organizational culture, which still favors uninterruptedcareer paths, longhours, and aggressiveness. It seems that in orderto change the current practice, educationon gender inequalities in the workplace and gender difficulties haveto be introduced inpost secondary education, and perhaps at a fundamentallevel in secondary education. Ibelieve that ifpeople are introduced to these difficulties earlier inlife then there will be ahigher probability of awareness and emergence of cultural changes.Future research will be necessary to evaluate how successfulworkplace educationmay change gender inequities and how well it helps Firms adapt tothe changes in today’sworkplace, where more and more women are becomingactive participants (Fenwick,2001; Bierema, 2003).In the following sections I discuss how the various themes intersect ina uniqueway for each of my participants.Sarah: Sarah’s narrative contains mainly elements of struggle withwork lifebalance, since she is located in a lower social economic class thanthe other participants.She is the only participant who is not married to a professional accountant.Further, herhusband is on disability pension so she is the breadwinnerof her household. As the main123provider of her household she cannot affordto reduce her working hours, thus shestillworks full time. Thus, Sarah’s narrative reflects herstruggle to deal with two full-timejobs.Further, her ability to balance work andfamily needs, which is the mainadvantage of working alternative arrangements, sufferssince she is required to be asproductive as the other full time employees. Becauseher household has only one salary,she cannot afford to take outside help suchas nanny, house cleaner, or daycares to helpher with her kids and the household chores.She basically needs to rely on familysupportto help her with the cooking and with her children.Thus, her life is pretty hectic trying todo both jobs. Also, since she works from homeshe is not as flexible as the otherparticipants. In addition, Sarah’s children are youngerin age than the rest of myparticipants. Her youngest is still nursing. Thus,as a nursing mom with a young baby athome she has more constraints that the otherparticipants whose children are lessdependent. According to her, she wishes to keep nursingher son and considers it as themain motivation to choose the alternativearrangement (working from home). Hernarrative reflects the struggle to work fulltime from home when the woman has a youngbaby who needs care during all day. The above constraintsinfluence her careerexperience at the Firm. Her career progression hasstopped because she works mainlyfrom home and she is not in the office tosupervise her staff. She further experiences abad attitude from her colleagues and from some partners becausethey think that she isnot working hard since she is not coming to theoffice. Overall, it looks like thealternative arrangement does not serve Sarahvery well.124Liana: Liana is at the most senior rankof the participants. Her experience isdifferent from the other participantssince she is the oniy participant who has aspecificniche of expertise which is valuableto her Firm. Thus, her career progressionhas notstopped due to working alternative arrangements.On the contrary, her career progressionseems to have speeded up since her expertiseis in high demand. She was promoted to apartner rank after she had her third child andwhile working alternative arrangements.Sheadmits that her situation is unique and thatusually it is hard for women who workalternative arrangements to be promoted toa higher level. Her career status as a partneratthe Firm and as the head of her departmentallows her some flexibility to have morecontrol over the nature of her work.It is clear from her story that she is very passionateabout her work. She likes her clients,her staff, and her colleagues and she doesnotsacrifice any upward mobility while workingalternative arrangements. Asa partner shehas good relationships with otherpartners and with her colleagues andit looks like she isvery content with her achievementsat work.Her narrative further illustrates that if the womanis located in a higher social andeconomic class then she can succeedin her career progression even when workingalternative arrangements. Since she is marriedto a professional accountant as well, sheengages a live-in nanny to help her with theentire domestics’ duties around the house.Thus, Liana has somebody taking care ofthe children when she is at work, who preparesthe food for the house, cleans the house,and runs her errands for her. With sucha helpshe can concentrate on her job withoutmany distractions. Thus, her narrative illustratesthat overall she is satisfied with her careerprogression at the Firm. Further, her narrativedoes not entail any struggles to maintain herhousehold. However, the elements of125struggle for her are to keep doing a goodjob at the office without having to worktoomany extra hours. Although, she worksalternative arrangements she triestoaccommodate the Firms’ needs in anypossible way. She is willing to work extrahoursfrom home, come to work on her daysoff, and travel on behalf of the Firms. Sheis theonly participant who is willing to accommodateher Firm’s needs to such an extent. Thisis the main reason for her success... She acknowledgesthat her life is hard and stressful attimes since she has high expectations fromherself and since she has manyresponsibilities at work. It is clear that sheplaces the Firms’ values above everythingelse. She emphasizes how important it isto be flexible with the Firm at all times and itseems that she is willing to do almost everythingin order to satisfy the Firm’s needs.Liana has the oldest children of the participantsand it is clear from her narrativethat working alternative arrangements whilehaving older children is much easier thanwith younger children. She started working alternativearrangements when her childrenwere born and now when the youngest is tenand independent she feels that it was worthwhile waiting until now. This is an important lessonto other women. Women usuallytend to postpone their return to the workforcetill their children reach the age of 6 since itis too hard to work when the children areyoung. However, sometimes it is too late to goback after so many years. Liana’s experience illustratesthat although it might be hard inthe first years, the experience changes whenthe children mature.Liana is very keen on promotinggender issues at her Firm. She acknowledges thatwomen are disadvantaged at the Firmafter they bear children and she tries to find waysto increase the awareness of the Firm regardinggender inequalities. Many womenaccording to Liana want the Firm to accommodate theirneeds and they do not want to try126to understand that the Firm has its owncorporate goals. She admits that the currentsituation in the Big Firms, with very fewwomen in management positions istroublesome. She has some initial suggestionsto improve the practice; however, it seemsthat a change in the mind set of the management teamis required first.Rachel: Rachel’s experience speaks to howhaving a child led her to develop adifferent mind set. According to her, upon her return fromher first maternity leave, hermind set was changed and she did not wantto work as hard as before. Thus, her narrativereflects her decision to change her careerpath in order to have a balanced life. Dueto thisdecision, she does not mind having less interestingassignments as well as less prestigiousclients. She also does not care that her careerprogression is not as great as others. Shemakes sure she performs all of her jobs requirements,but does not ask for anyadvancement. Overall, she is satisfiedwith her experience at the Firm. She appreciatesthe Firm allowing her to work reduced schedule andin return she tries to accommodatethe Firm as much as she can.Being in a high social and economic status she alsomakes sure she takes as muchhelp as she needs in order to alleviate thedaily stress. She has a nanny to help her withthe child care and the house chores. She also uses herfamily help for support. Sheacknowledges that working alternative arrangementseven when the woman decides thatshe has no interest in career progression istough when she has young children and needsto get all the support for her survival. This is an importantlesson to women who want tokeep their profession. Whether or not the womanworks alternative arrangement, it isimportant to have as much help as needed(if she can afford it) in order to keep abalanced life.127Megan: Megan also had a change in the mindset after coming from maternityleave. It is clear that she prefers low profileclients and an unexciting workload overcareer advancement. Further, it is clearthat she is not willing to compromise her valuesfor the Firm. She does not want to workharder and to take more responsibilities inherFirm. She also does not wantto move ahead in the Firm. She is extremely busywithlearning and training activities, she teachesan accounting and tax course to entry-levelstudents in Firm B, and she keeps up with herown learning and training. Overall, sheclaims that she is satisfied with her arrangementand the level of advancement she hasachieved at work. Her career path reflects herchoice to forgo further career advancement.She claims that she is fine with the consequences. Shedoes not expect high raises orpromotions. She is happy that she can workin her profession while raising her children.Although Megan is also part of a dual earningfamily, she does not employ ananny but uses childcares instead. Her narrative illustrateshow important it is to takeoutside help in order to alleviate the daily stress. Accordingto Megan, she is so busyduring the week and she does not have timeto do anything beside the necessaryassignment of feeding the children. Her narrative suggeststhat she is able to do all thehousehold chores during her day off and duringthe weekend. It is clear from hernarrative that the women who employ a nannyhave more balanced life style.Megan is the only participant who uses daycare.She claims that the childcaresystem worked very well for her. She is ableto share the pick ups and drops off with herhusband. So basically she can finish her workloadbefore the picks up times. However, itis clear that because she has certain pickups time she is less flexible to accommodate theFirms’ needs.128In ConclusionBy sharing their stories with me, and allowing meto pass them on through thisproject, Rachel, Sarah, Liana and Megan have offeredvery valuable—and candid—observations about how challenging it isfor women to balance work and family life.Inthe process, they have helped to connect theoryto practical realities and experiences. Mystudy affirms that women are still the main caregiversof their families and as such theyare faced with challenges to balance theircareer and keep up their traditional roleasmothers. My study confirms that womenare still the ones who need to adapt to thetraditional organizational culture. Further, mystudy also suggests that even womenprofessionals are being marginalized in theirworkplace because of their career choices.The study challenges the current status of mother CAswho are working alternativearrangements. It shows how gender division is embeddedin the organizational culture ofthe Big Firms and how hard it is to shift relations andexpectations even when you aresituated in managerial positions in organizations.Moreover, my study also illustrateshow privileged women uses various strategiesin order to survive in the workplace andhow these women in particular shift the careof their children to less privileged womenwho work as nannies. In conclusion, my studyis a study of women’s adaptation, notorganizational transformation. The underlying structureof the Big Firms has notchanged. Attitudinal acceptanceof working mothers and cultural change in the workplaceis required in order to help these womenovercome their challenges.129CHAPTER SIX: REFLECTIONS ANDIMPLICATIONSReflectionsSocial constructionism locates individuals,their concerns and actions, within theirsocial, economic, and cultural contexts.My participants’ narratives illustrate how theirperception of their career is sociallyconstructed and influenced by the corporatecontextin which they work and to whichthey have been socialized. Gergen (2001) proposesthatwho we are and how we behave are negotiatedand defined within social relationships.My participants spent most of their careersin the Big Firms and their actions areinfluenced by the unique organizationalculture of the Big Firms, as well as by theirotheridentities as mothers and wives. These women’scareers are shaped by the discourse thatprioritizes the Big Firms’ needs over theirown needs. They are all trained since the veryearly stages of their careers to work longhours and to have little time for family, friends,and other priorities outside the workplace.Thus, when they become mothers, and whenthey have other responsibilities outsideof the Big Firms they choose to work alternativearrangements. It seems that the change to alternativearrangements is a combination ofthe women’s preference to be more at homeand a realization that this is the onlyarrangement that allows them to survivein the public accounting practice at the BigFirms. For these women being ableto work less than a 60-hour work week is a privilege.Three out of the four women acknowledge that theircontribution is limitedbecause of their priorities. They accept the fact that they are marginalizedin theirworkplace because of their career choice. Although threeout of the four women claimthat they are content to be on alternative arrangementsin their profession, my findingssuggest that they were not able to advance their career inthe last seven or eight years.130Only one woman out of the four (Liana)was able to get promotion while workingthesearrangements. The basic fact is that thesecompanies tend not to promote women whoarenot fully committed to the organization; andone of the key attributes of being considered“fully committed” is at least full-time workload.Liana was able to progress in her Firmmainly because of her technical expertise.My participants accept this notion becausetheir perception and belief system about whatis right or wrong is much dependent ontheBig Firms’ organizational beliefs, whichhave been part of these women’s identitiespriorto them starting a family. Further, all theparticipants have worked in the Big Firmsatleast 7 years before starting these alternativearrangements and they are all in managerialpositions. One could say that for them to accept thisfull-commitment attitude is naturalas they have been part of the organization for such along period. They are part of theorganization and they share at least some, if not all, ofthe Firms’ values. This is probablywhy they do not engage in actions to changethe situation. They simply accept that onecannot expect to be promoted or be assigned high-profileclients when part of the week isdevoted to family. They argue that they changed theirmindset and that they do not wantto progress in the Firm. However, it looks like this istheir defense mechanism to adapt totheir surroundings. They realize that they will not bepromoted and they prefer to presentit as their choice. In general, the women are tryingto accommodate their Firms’ needs byfinding a vast number of individual strategies(e.g., having family support, hiring ananny, using daycares) to help them managetheir work and family responsibilities. Theybasically mold themselves in order to find theirbalance. The Big Firms do not changetheir culture or their criteria for achieving advancement.131However, it is not just the Big Firms that are promotingthis view of the‘committed worker’. It is the capitalist model. Employeesare expected to work longhours in order to achieve success. Since, the dominantview is that women are morenaturally suited to care for family; women’s role in thesociety is still primarily ascaregivers. This gender division of domestic andpaid labour is very powerful. Myparticipants still see themselves as the main caregivers although they tryto source out thecare for their own children. These womens’ desire towork and take care of their childrenhowever, due to this view of the “committed worker”they cannot advance in their firms.Another constraint on the ability of these women to bemore proactive inchanging the situation is the fact that the accounting professionis taught in the businessschool, whose most dominant role is to teach studentsthe actions that need to be taken inorder to achieve maximization of firm value (or in otherwords, to maximize profits).Obviously, if the Big Firms’ focus is on profits, theycannot afford to be too flexible withtheir demands. The Big Firms operate in a competitivemarket and if clients do not get afull commitment from their auditor (because the accountant works alternativearrangements), they may lose that client. All these women understandthis rationale of thebusiness world and they do not think that their circumstancesshould affect the Big Firmspractices. They socially construct the situationin ways that assume they are the ones whoneed to adapt and if a price is to be paid, it is they who will pay it. Thus,these womenbasically have three options (1) to leave the Firm and find another positionelsewhere, (2)to stay at the same position and to not seek further career advancement,or (3) to seekcareer advancement and to juggle and find ways to accommodate the Firm.132Indeed, two of the women chose the secondoption. They decided to have theirfamily as their primary focus. For themparticipation in the labor market shouldaccommodate family life and theydo not seek further career advancement. The othertwowomen, who chose not to forgo careeradvancement, have different circumstancesdue totheir economic status as well as to theirposition in the Firm. Liana, due to herposition aspartner in the Firm, has more flexibility andmore control over her schedule than all theother women. She is able to achieve hergoal to advance in the Firm while workingalternative arrangements. Further, sinceshe has a higher economic status she can affordto take outside help to assist her to achieve her goalsas well as to accommodate theFirm’s needs as necessary. Sara on the otherhand, wishes to progress in the Firm becauseshe needs the additional pay. She experiences variouswork-home conflicts as she jugglesfull-time employment from home at a timewhen she is taking care of her children. Herarrangements lead to a stressful and demandingschedule that allows very little time forpersonal care and activities. Thus, for Sara the arrangementsare not working and sheconsiders quitting the Firm.Regardless of the women’s career choices theFirms’ attitude is the same. The BigFirms offer the women alternative arrangements,but as my study demonstrates, they donot support or engage in changing the dominantculture of the Big Firms. These Firmsexpect the women to be more flexible andto adapt to the Firm’s needs. It is somewhatsurprising that these women are requestedto be more flexible and adapt, while at thesame time the firms themselves acknowledge(by allowing them to work alternativearrangements) that their focus has shifted towards theirfamily. After all, women engagein alternative work arrangements to createa better workllife balance and spend more time133with their children. It is not clear why these arrangementsentail the requirement to beflexible toward the needs of the Firms.Educational ImplicationsThere are multiple educational implicationsfor this study. First, the findings caneducate women understand the complexitiesof trying to balance professional life withmotherhood. In particular, women who arecontemplating on working alternativearrangements can get a sense of what toexpect based on past women’s experiences.Second, the findings can teach women CAs that theyare participating in their ownexploitation by allowing management of the Big Firmsto marginalize them in theorganization. Perhaps if women refused to work thesealternative arrangements that denythem career advancement, the Big Firms wouldpay more attention on providing bettersolutions for working moms. I hope that my findingswill also educate women how tobest advocate for themselves, and how to createa supportive atmosphere around them.My study suggests that women should be mindful ofthe challenges that they will face asthey mature in the Firms. They should be proactivein engaging in conversation withother mother CAs in the organization. If theyare subordinated to a male partner, theyshould request to have also a relation witha women partner. In this way, they will be ableto raise family concerns in a more supportiveatmosphere as a woman partner canpossibly relate to the challenges that theyface more than a man. Also, it is my strongbelief that upon initiating alternative working arrangementsat the firm it is important thatwomen request a session explaining the optionsthat are available by the firm. Thisshould help women CAs prepare themselvesto the challenges of the future when theystart a family. Women should demand from the firmthat there will be an open door134policy to deal with family-work conflicts. Itmay even be worthwhile to demand thatthehusbands of the women CAs would be present in theorientation sessions, so that theyunderstand better the conflicts and difficultiesthat women CAs face.Further, the findings can educate upper managementand human resourcesmanagers about the experiences of these women.Maybe if the partners of the Big Firmslearn more about the difficulties that womenface when balancing family and career,theywill be more supportive of the alternativearrangements working schedules. Thismayhelp address women’s concerns and improvetheir working conditions in the future.Recommendations for PracticeSince all the Big Firms have policies in placeto allow mothers and fathers tobalance work and family, it puts them in aposition to initiate changes that would enhancethe ability of both parents to equally be involvedin the care of their children and thrive inthe accounting profession. As I mentioned earlier,the required change involvesorganizational culture and changes in largersocietal orientation. All the Big Firms havepolicies in place allowing mothers and employeesin general to balance work and family.Further, these firms chose to mention on their web-sitethe importance of these policies tothe success of their firms. The Big Firms cannot affordto lose any qualified accountants,and according to my participants there isa sense that the Big Firms have not tried hardenough to demonstrate to women withyoung children that they can have successfulcareers. Currently, they have a willing group ofwomen who will accommodate their livesso the Big Firms are not really pressed tochange.The participants in this study make several suggestionsto improve the practice:(1) establish childcare centers in the Big Firms’ premises.These daycares should be135suited for the long hours demandedby the Firms — perhaps even late afternoon andevening care. Of course, the Big Firms needto ensure that the care givers who will workat these daycares will be compensated fairly,which is not always the case in childcarework, (2) Establish support groups and mentoringprograms for women with childrenwho work alternative arrangements, (3)The Firms should offer women workingalternative arrangements with challenging assignments(clients). In general, womenworking alternative arrangements have no problem tendingto the needs of high profileclients with complex accounting difficulties; however,they simply cannot commit thetime needed after regular office hours, asprobable “emergencies” may arise after daycarehours. A possible remedy would be to havea system in place of backup managers (orother colleagues at similar rank) that are familiar enoughwith high profile clients, orperhaps two people might share the workon a client’s account, thus if one person was notavailable to handle an emergency, the othercould step in with full knowledge of theaccount.These initial steps can help in providing social solutions.Other suggestionsinclude reducing overtime requirements, extending thesummer vacation, job-sharing andpairing female partners on flexible schedules with other partnerswho can step in on theirbehalf (if they are unavailable), and an understanding that out-of-towntravel should bekept to a minimum. In addition, the Big Firms shouldensure that assignments for womenworking alternative arrangements are variedand interesting.The most important recommendation for the practiceis attitudinal changes in theworkplace. The Big Firms should realize that workis important but family life is thepriority. This should be the overriding premise aroundthe office. The Firms should136educate their employees that people canhave other priorities in life than work andthisdoes not prevent a person from having a successfulcareer. The Big Firms shouldrecognize that if they want to offer flexiblework arrangements for parents withyoungchildren, the policies should be flexible and accommodatethe individual woman’s needsand not jeopardize her opportunities forcareer advancement. It seems that the Firmsshould educate their members to understandbetter the constraints these women face. Theorganization could help these women overcome theirchallenges instead of demandingthey adapt to the Firm’s demands. It is myhope that this research will encourage careercounselors, mentors, feminists, andmanagements in the Big Firms to include frank andfactual discussions about the embeddedchallenges in balancing home and work demandsand to take action to address them. It is myhope that people at the top position of the BigFirms will understand the needs of womenwith children for better work alternativearrangements. These kinds of changes in mindset arenot likely to take place unless therewill be a concurrent ‘re-education’of the dominant culture and a shift in orientationabout who is responsible for children and the home front— so this issue needs to link toan ongoing social movement that is focusedon gender equality.Further, working conditions might bereconsidered for all employees. Theseexpectations are not only unreasonable for peoplewith children, but for anyone whohopes to have a life outside of the workplace. If workingconditions enabled a betterwork/life balance for all, it would not beso difficult for employees to raise children. Theywould not need to precisely time the birth of childrenaround their career stage.I hope that my participants’ stories will convince theBig Firms that benefits mayaccrue to the firm if it engages in more flexible practicestowards working moms.137Certainly, the movement of corporate socialresponsibility is gaining support bothwithcustomers and investors. If the Big Firms wouldshow a more socially responsiblepractice by understanding the needs oftheir working moms, it could enhance theirreputation in some sectors. For example, non-for-profitand for-profit organizations witha social conscience may tend to sign-upas clients with firms that present a morereasonable attitude towards workingmoms. This can serve for the Big Firmsas anotherdimension to differentiate themselves andattract certain clients.Implications for Other Women CAsWhile a change in corporate culture maybe ultimately more desirable, myparticipants have recommendations forother women who wish to make the alternativearrangements work within the existing corporateenvironment. The women in my studyemphasize the importance ofbeing flexiblewith the Big Firm, and the importance ofhaving back-up pians in place for their familiesin order to accommodate unforeseencircumstances. Since flexibility seems tobe a crucial factor in determining the success orfailure of women working alternative arrangements,it is important to transfer thismessage to other women who are aboutto start this route. It should be noted, that myparticipants are continuing to comply with the requirementthat they are the ones toadjust, not the firm. The stories of this studycan be useful to other women CAs as theydemonstrate how mothers rely upon a vast numberof individual strategies (e.g., havingfamily support, hiring a nanny, using daycares)to help them manage their work andfamily responsibilities. Open communicationwith other mothers can provide a range ofpersonal strategies to consider as there is no single rightway for balancing work and138family-life. Moreover, connecting with others in similarsituations allows the woman torealize that the struggles and feelings of inadequacyare not due to her personal flaws.The implications for young women CAs who wantto start a family and have abalanced life and career advancement inthe Firm are to plan carefully the timing ofstarting a family. It is clear from my research thatif the woman achieves a higher rank inthe organization prior to having a family, then shewill have a better chance to succeed inbalancing her career and family life. Inmy opinion, there are a few reasons for that. First,as a senior manager it is easier to delegate the many worktasks to others. This is harderto achieve when the woman is in the less senior positionof manager. Second, seniormanagers have more experience and are less overwhelmedby the Firm’s requirements.Third, by the time that the woman achieves a higher rankin the organization, peopleknow her abilities better and are more likely toaccommodate her needs. An additionalimplication for young women CAs is that having a certainniche of expertise affects thewomen’s ability to be promoted and succeed in the BigFirms while working alternativearrangements. As noted by my participants, the satisfactionand progression at workingalternative arrangements in the tax group is usually higherthan working alternativearrangements in the audit and assurance group.Recommendations for Future ResearchThis study provides some perspective about the livesof mother CAs who workalternative arrangements in the Big Firms. However,the possibilities for futureexploration and discovery are vast. After completingmy research, I am more aware ofthe rich opportunities for expansion of the current studyto other, more diversifiedpopulations: (1) Future research may explore mothers’alternative career arrangements139patterns across careers instead of within thesame career. Interesting areas of explorationinclude mothers who work alternative arrangements inthe corporate world, who havebroken through the glass ceiling. Further,I recommend an inquiry that is more diversifiedculturally than my own project. Though I present diversityin terms of age, rank withinthe Big Firms, area of work, and economicstatus, my participants comprise a relativelyprivileged group. All women work in the Big Firms,all the participants, except one,come from dual-earning families, and all of themare in the management group. All theparticipants, except one, are Caucasian; andonly one of the participants is an immigrant.I am curious how the findings may shift, for instance,if I had interviewed mother CAsworking alternative arrangementswho (a) work in small and middle sized accountingfirms, (b) are of different professional ranks(other than the management group), (c) comefrom non-western families and cultures, or(d) come from different socioeconomicclasses. It seems reasonable that the narrativesmay change somewhat if the participantsare exposed to different upbringing and cultural values.Another related possibility is toconduct a research analysis witha larger group of participants and to explore whethercultural differences affect the level of satisfaction andthe variety of experiences. Forexample, is there a greater satisfaction in the experienceof mother CAs from westerncultures (because, for example, it is more acceptablethat the male partner tends to thechildren), or is there a larger variety of experiences inmother CAs in western-cultures,because mother CAs in the western culture tend to be more diverse.(2) Future studies may focus on men, and in particular, learn theobstacles thatthey face in combining work and family. For example,it is interesting to research140whether men in the Big Firms actuallytake advantage of the flexible workarrangementspolicy offered by the Firms.(3) I personally am interested in comparing the challengesof mother CAs whowork alternative arrangements in differentsegments of the practice (i.e. tax practiceversus the audit practice). Thoughmy research investigates this issueto a certain degree,it does not specifically ask the question of whetherthe segment of practice affectswomen’s ability to achieve work/lifebalance in the Big Firms. Further, itdoes not answerthe question of whether women whowork alternative arrangements in thetax group havebetter career progression than women in the audit,assurance and advisory services.Further, in this study I have not interviewedthe partners and! or the colleagues of myparticipants. Future research can explore the differentattitude that various partners at theBig Firm have towards women who chose towork alternative arrangements and how thisattitude affects the women’s overall success.(4) I would like to further explore if having an unusualniche of expertise affectsthe women’s ability to be promoted and succeed inthe Big Firms while workingalternative arrangements.Final ThoughtsIn closing, I finish this narrative inquiry of theexperiences of mother CAs whoadopted alternative work arrangements inthe Big Firms by returning to my own story. Inthe introduction, I have shared somemoments from my life that triggered mycommitments to this project—and now,as I write these last sentences, I complete the fullcircle.141This research has prompted me to talk withcolleagues, family, and friends aboutwork-life balance, and life in general.It has introduced me to writers and thinkerswhosewords express my own experiences. Inessence, this narrative inquiry has takenme on ajourney of coming to better know myself,my priorities and my practice. Importantly,ithas also allowed me to connect with fourvery talented women who have chosena similarroute in life as I have done. Beyond thefew hours I have spent in person with eachwoman, I have spent many more hourslistening to, and reflecting upon their words,thinking about their challenges and careerchoices, and relating their lives to my own.My narrators have shown me the importanceof making choices that suit life andcareer objectives without comparing yourselfto the community around you. I havelearned that one can be content with his/herachievements even if she is not in the routetopartnership. Further, they have shown that competition[and other matters like the genderdivision of labour] is socially constructed. Formany years I have tried to be a full timemother and a manager in the Big Firms. SinceI did not have enough outside help, I foundit hard to keep up with the Firm’s requirements.I have left the Firm after eight years witha feeling of regret that I have lost a good workplace.However, after joining theCompanies for which I am currently working,I have learned that a workplace canaccommodate the mother’s needs in the sameway that I was trying to accommodate theFirm’s needs in the past. My discussionswith my informants help me understand howlucky I am that I have found a different workplace whichhelps me to achieve my goals ofbeing a good mother and at the same timebe a successful professional. My informantshave also opened my eyes to realize thatI should take more outside help with childcareinorder to be able to focus on my career. Thus, perhapsthe most significant lesson of all is142that I now have a more complete understanding of theways other women combine careerin the Big Firms with motherhood while workingalternative arrangements.The stories of this research have much to teach us aboutthe movements for socialchange. The participants in this study as well as I, believethat today’s society is muchmore receptive to women combining career and familythan it has been in the past.Indeed, these narratives remind the reader that there areincreased promotional andleadership opportunities for women in CA Firms; howeverthese opportunities aretempered by the challenges of glass ceilings and mommytracks. It is my hope that byreading my thesis the Big Firms will understand thatthey are the ones who need toaccommodate the women and that the burden of accommodationshould not be the soleresponsibility of employees.Indeed, as this study suggested, even working alternativearrangements in the BigFirms is challenging for all CAs who are mothers;however, it is possible if the Firms willbe ready to engage in cultural change. I hopethat my research will convince other womenCAs not only to adapt to the reality in the Big Firmsbut also to note that a change in theculture of advancement in the Firm is needed. WomenCAs need to make sure they raisetheir concerns and their challenges. They should alsoillustrate that they can continue tomake contributions to their Firms even whenthey are working alternative arrangements.143REFERENCES:Agar, M., & Hobbs, J. R. (1982). Interpretingdiscourse: Coherence and the analysis ofethnographic interviews. 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Canada V6T 1Z4Tel: 604-822-5374Fax 604-822-4244http://www.edst.educ.ubc.caMarch 1, 2006To the Women CA GroupAttn: Lucy Guan70 Colony Farm RoadPort Coquitlam, BC V3C 5X9I am a Chartered Accountant (CA)and I hold membership in the Institute of CharteredAccountants of BC. Currently, I am pursuinga Master of Arts degree in AdultEducation at UBC. I am currently lookingfor participants in my research thesis which isbeing conducted under the supervision of Dr.Wendy Poole in the Department ofEducational Studies at the University of BC.(Dr. Poole can be reached at 604- 822-5462).I would like your permission to distribute the research recruitmentadvertisement attachedin your monthly meeting. I also would appreciate if therecruitment advertisement couldbe sent by e-mail to all members on your distribution list.I would appreciate it if you willgive me permission to distribute or post my recruitmentadvertisement at least once.The purpose of my research is to ask womenCAs with children to provide retrospectiveaccounts of their current experience of working alternativearrangements in the BigAccounting Firms or their past experience working sucharrangements in the recent past(0-3 years ago). Working alternative arrangements refersto working a reduced workloadby working part-time, working compressed work-week, telecommuting,or flexibility inthe timing of work. My goal is to find the strengths and weaknessof these arrangementsand their impact on the career progression of the womenCAs who used thosearrangements in the Big Accounting Firms in Vancouver.I am hoping to makecontribution to the Big Firms’ practices for improving theexperience of women CAswith children that work such arrangements. To date,we know little about the challengesof mothers CAs, who work alternative arrangementsin the Big Firms. We therefore donot know whether these arrangements succeedor fail to balance their life in a social andcultural context that values total commitmentto the Firm and to its clientThe study employs a narrative inquiry methodology in orderto produce thick descriptionsof the career experiences of working mothers whowork such arrangement in the Big155Firms. Narrative inquiry is considereda legitimate approach to scholarly investigatorswho wish to better understand a rangeof human experiences.The study has been approved bythe University of British Columbia BehavioralResearchEthics Board. It will involve aninterview of approximately 90 minutes, and30 minutesto 1 hour to review the result and providefeedback to the researcher. Thetotal timecommitment asked for each participantwill be about 2-2.5 hours. The studywill beconducted in the participant’shome, or any other location outsideof the workplace toensure confidentiality. The studywill be done in Vancouver, BC.If you know anyone who might beinterested in participating in this research,pleasecontact this person and ask him tocontact me directly.Thank youLimor Rubin, CA156Appendix B. Letter of Introduction(For advertising)THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA___________Department of Educational StudiesU BCMailing address:_______2125 Main MallVancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z4Tel: 604-822-5374Fax 604 822-4244httix//www.edst.educ.ubc.caMarch 1, 2006To the Institute of Chartered Accountantsof BCAttn: Stela Leung500-505 Burrard Street, Box 22Vancouver, BC V7X 1M4I am a Chartered Accountant (CA) andI hold membership in the Institute of CharteredAccountants of BC. Currently, I am pursuinga Master of Arts degree in AdultEducation at UBC. I am currently lookingfor participants in my research thesis which isbeing conducted under the supervision of Dr. WendyPoole in the Department ofEducational Studies at the University of BC. (Dr. Poolecan be reached at 604- 822-5462).I would like your permission to distribute the researchrecruitment advertisement attachedin your monthly members’ package.I also would appreciate if the recruitmentadvertisement could be posted in your electronic newsletter and sent to all members viae-mail. I would appreciate it if you will giveme permission to distribute or post myrecruitment advertisement at least once.The purpose of my research is to ask women CAs withchildren to provide retrospectiveaccounts of their current experience of working alternativearrangements in the BigAccounting Firms or their past experience workingsuch arrangements in the recent past(0-3 years ago). Working alternative arrangementsrefers to working a reduced workloadby working part-time, working compressed work-week,telecommuting, or flexibility inthe timing of work. My goal is to find thestrengths and weakness of these arrangementsand their impact on the career progressionof the women CAs who used thosearrangements in the Big Accounting Firms in Vancouver.I am hoping to makecontribution to the Big Firms’ practices for improvingthe experience of women CAswith children that work such arrangements.To date, we know little about the challengesof mothers CAs, who work alternative arrangementsin the Big Firms. We therefore donot know whether these arrangements succeedor fail to balance their life in a social andcultural context that values total commitmentto the Firm and to its client157The study employs a narrative inquirymethodology in order to produce thick descriptionsof the career experiences of working motherswho work such arrangement in the BigFirms. Narrative inquiry is considereda legitimate approach to scholarly investigatorswho wish to better understand a range ofhuman experiences. The study has beenapproved by the University of British ColumbiaBehavioral Research Ethics Board. Thestudy will involve an in-depth interviewof approximately 90 minutes, and 30minutes to1 hour to review the result and providefeedback to the researcher. The total timecommitment asked for each participant willbe about 2-2.5 hours. The study will beconducted in the participant’s home, or anyother location outside of the workplacetoensure confidentiality. The study will bedone in Vancouver, BC.If you know anyone who might be interestedin participating in this research, pleasecontact this person and ask him to contactme directly.Thank youLimor Rubin, CA158Appendix C. Letter of Initial ContactTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA___________Department of Educational StudiesIiBCMailing address:_______2 125 Main MallVancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z4Tel 604 822 5374Fax: 604-822-4244http://www.edst.educ.ubc.caDear Research Participant:Thank you very much for answering my recruitmentadvertisement. It was a pleasure totalk with you over the phone and to learnmore about you.As discussed, please find attached the consentform that I described in our phoneconversation. Please review the form and let me knowby either phone or mail if youhave any questions, comments, or concerns.I will contact you in approximately tendays to get your response whether or notyou wantto participate in my study.I appreciate your willingness to share your experience.Thank youLimor Rubin159_______Appendix D. Recruitment AddDepartment of Educational StudiestwMailing address:2125 Main MallVancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z4Tel: 604-822-5374Fax: 604-822-4244http://www.edst.educ.ubc.caHave You Been Working anALTERNATIVE ARRANGEMENTSin the BIG Accounting Firms?You are invited to participate ina research study being conducted as part ofa Master of Art program, underthe supervision of Dr. Wendy Poole in theDepartment of Educational Studiesat the University of British Columbia.The study is entitled “The careerexperiences of women with childrenwhoare working alternative arrangementsin the big accounting firms” and itexamines the career experiences of MotherCAs who work/workedalternative arrangements in the BigFirmsAlternative arrangements refersto working a reduced workload by workingpart-time, working a compressedwork-week, telecommuting, and flexibilityin the timing of work.In order to participate you mustbe a CA, you must be working, or haverecently worked, in alternativearrangements in one of the four bigaccounting firms in Vancouver area,and you must be a mother of one ormore children.Your participation would involve one interviewthat would take about 60-90minutes and about half an hour to reviewthe result of the interview. Asecond interview of no more than60 minutes may be needed forclarifications and elaboration.If you are interested in participatingor for more information please contactLimor Rubin160Appendix E. Consent FormTHE UNWERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIADepartment of Educational StudiesMailing address:2125 Main MallVancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z4Tel: 604-822-5374Fax: 604-822-4244http://www.edst.educ.ubc.caInformed Consent FormTitle of StudyThe Career Experiences of Women withChildren in Alternative Working Arrangementsin the Big Accounting Firms.Principal Investigator: The principalinvestigator of this study is Dr. Wendy Poole,Associate professor in the Department of EducationalStudies at the University of BritishColumbia (UBC). Dr. Poole can be reachedat 604- 822- 5462.Co-Investigator: The co-investigator of this study isMrs. Limor Rubin, a Master’sstudent in the Department of Educational Studies atUBC. Mrs. Rubin is conducting thisresearch as part of her graduating thesisfor the Master of Arts degree in AdultEducation.The information gathered from this research willbe made available to the academiccommunity and the general public.Purpose: The purpose of this research isto learn more about the career experiences ofwomen with children who use alternativeworking arrangement in the Big Firms.Study Procedures: You will be asked to participate ina 1- hour audio taped interview, inwhich you will be invited to talk about your experiencein working alternative workarrangements in the Big Firms. The interview will takeplace in your home, or at anotherlocation of your choosing outside of the workplacewhere safety, confidentiality, andanonymity will be assured. You may be askedto participate in a second interview for thepurpose of clarification and elaboration.Approximately 2-4 weeks after the interview, you willreceive a copy of the results ofyour interview by mail, by e-mail, or inperson. The result will be in the form of a storywritten by the researcher. You will be invitedto provide feedback regarding the accuracyof the story by telephone, e-mail, or in person. Thissecond meeting or telephoneconversation should take approximately30 minutes to 1 hour. The total time required forparticipation, including the interview, reading the researcher’snarrative, and the finalconversation, will be approximately 2-2.5 hours.161I will contact you upon completion ofthe study to provide you with the revisedversion ofyour story and a summary of the researchfindings.Benefits of Participation: By participatingin this study you will have the opportunitytoshare your experiences of working alternativearrangements in the Big Firms whileraising children. My goal is to listen toyour story and try to convey your experiencestodiverse audiences, including theacademic community, human resources managers,towomen CAs, to CAs organizations, to theupper management in the Big Firms, towomen in other organizations.Risks of Participation: There areno known physical risks to participating in this study,and there are no financial costs associatedwith participation.Confidentiality: Your identity in thisresearch will be kept strictly confidential.Duringthe study, original audio tapes and interviewtranscripts will be kept in a locked filingcabinet in the co-investigator’s office,working copies of the research documentswill beidentified only by code number andkept in a locked filing cabinet in the co-investigator’soffice, and all computer files willbe protected by password.The audio tape(s) of the interview willnot be available to any persons other thanthe coinvestigator and the UBC supervisorycommittee. This data will be stored in a lockedcabinet in the researcher’s office for5 years after the final thesis defense. At this time theaudiotapes will be demagnetized and thetranscripts will be shredded.You will not be identified by name in thethesis or in any reports of the completed studynor will the firm that employed you beidentified. You will be asked to create apseudonym in order to ensure anonymity.The text of any quotations that identify youbyyour pseudonym will be confirmed with you before usein any publication.Contact for information about the study:If you have any questions or desire furtherinformation with respect to thisstudy, you may contact my supervisor, Dr. Wendy Poole,at 604-822- 5462.Contact for concerns about the rights of research participants:If you have anyconcerns about your treatment or rightsas a research participant, you may contact theResearch Subject Information Line in the UBC Officeof Research Services at 604-822-8598.Consent: Your participation in this study is entirelyvoluntary and you may refuse toparticipate or withdraw from the studyat any time. Should you have any questionsaboutthe research procedures, you may ask at anytime.Your signature below indicates that you have receiveda copy of this consent form foryour own records.Your signature indicates that you consent to participatein this study.162Participant SignatureDatePrinted Name of ParticipantPseudonym Requested163Appendix F. Interview GuideGetting to know the participants:1. Tell me how you chose your career inaccountancy?2. How long have you worked in the BigFirms?3. What type of work do you do? What is yourjob description? What are yourresponsibilities in the organization?4. What type of education and trainingdo you have? What kind of values have thesetraining instilled in you?5. What is your family status (married, separated,number of children, age of children,etc)?6. How long have you worked in alternativearrangements? Have you done this morethan once? What is the nature of these arrangements?7. Do you know what the policy of yourfirm is regarding working alternativearrangements? Do you know about other accountingfirms discourses that encouragethese working arrangements?8. What are the reasons for switching tosuch arrangements?Orienting Statement:The principal question: Can you tell me your story aboutyour career experience ofworking alternative working arrangementin the Big Firm while raising family?Possible Prompts if reuuired toexpand participants’ narrative Accounts:1. How is/was the experience of workingalternative work arrangements in the BigFirms while raising children?2. Have you experienced any changes inyour relationships with colleagues, superiors,or subordinates as a result of your new work arrangement?If so, describe thosechanges. How did you feel about it?3. Do you feel that the type of clients you worked withis affected by your workarrangement? If so, can you give examples?4. What constraints have you encountered inthe firm because ofthe alternative workarrangements? Are there any perception issuesaround working AWA?5. Is there a difference in expectation between regularemployees and those workingalternative arrangements?6 How do you prioritize between familyand professional life?7. Would you say that the working arrangementyou have is an ideal solution to yourneeds of combining family and career? Why or whynot?8 What would make it easier to manage professionallife while raising children?9. Do you believe that the alternative workarrangement has an effect on youradvancement in the firm?10. What advice would you give to another womanwho thinking about usingalternative working arrangements?11. In your opinion, what are the main advantages/disadvantagesof working flexibleworking arrangements?12. Could you see yourself in this firm in ten ortwenty years time? Why or why not?Appendix G. UBC Research Ethics BoardCertificate of Approval.164UBCThe University of BritishColumbiaOffice of Research Servicesand Administration441Behavioural Research EthicsBoardCertificate ofApprovalPoole, W LEducational StudiesB06-0272INSTITUTION(S) WHERE RESEARCH WILLBE CARRIED OUT-UBC Campus,CO-INVESTIGATORS:Limor, Rubin, EducationalStudiesSPONSORING AGENCIESThe CareerEperieneøsof Women with Childrenwho are Working AlternativeArrangementsin the Big AccountingFirmsAPPROVAL DATETERM (YEARS) DOCUMENTSINCLUDED IN THIS APPROVAL:PR220061 April 24, 2006,Advertisement / Contactletter / Consentform / Mar. 23,2006, Questionnaires-CRTIFtCRTLON:The application for ethicalreview of the above-namedproject has beenreviewed andthe procedures were foundto be acceptable on ethicalgrounds for researchinvolvinghuman subjects.Approved on beh?ilfoftheBehaviolkalResearch Ethics Boardby one ofthe following:Dr. Peter Suedfeld, Chair,Dr. Susan Rowley, AssociateChairDr. Jim Rupert, AssociateChairDr. Arminee Kazanjian,Associate ChairThis Certificate ofApproval is valid forthe above term providedthere is no changeinthe experimental proceduresPrige 1 ol IThe University of British ColumbiaOffice of Research ServicesBehavioural Research Ethics BoardSuite 102. 6I0 Agronomy Road. Vancouver B.C. V6T1Z3CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL-MINIMAL RISK RENEWALPRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: DEPARTMENT:USC BREB NUMBER:Aiendv I... Poole lJBCiEducation/EducationalStudies HO6SO272NSTITUT1ON(S) WHERE RESEARCH WILL BECARRIED OUT:nStttutiOnSfteUSC PointGrey Sitethor tocations where the research wit be conducted:lieCO4NVESTIGATOR(S):Limor Ruhin ShtarrperSPONSORING AGENCIES:N/APROJECT TITLE:fihe Career Experiences of Women with Children whoare Working Alternative Arrangements in the Bigcounting Firms—________________EXPIRY DATE OF THIS APPROVAL:May 18, 2008PPROVAL DATE: May 18, 2007-—.- —__________IThe Annual Renewal for Study hsve been reviewed and the procedures werefound to be acceptable on ethicalrounds for research involving human subjects.Approval is issued on behalf of the BehaviouralResearch Ethics Boardand signed electronically by one of the following:Dr. Peter Suedfeid. ChairDr. Jim Ruperl, Associate ChairDr. Arminee Kazanjian. Associate ChsirDr. Ia. Judith Lynam. Associale ChairDr. Laurie Ford. Associate Chair_________________________________iP2h:20118166


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