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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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


In recent years it has become common for women in the four large public accounting firms (hence forward to be called, Big Firms) to use alternative working arrangements during the first few years after the birth of their children. Though these arrangements provide women with flexibility for managing their life, they have not led to advancement in the status of women in the Big Firms. The main purpose of this study is to develop and improve our understanding of the experience of mothers who work alternative arrangements in the Big Firms. Using qualitative interviews, four women CA’s in management positions reflect on their own experiences and career progress. The study incorporates these women’s experiences in order to understand why, despite of the alternative arrangements offered by the Big Firms, women with children rarely progress in the Big Firms. Through social constructionism and feminist perspectives, the study attempts to understand the inner-workings of these arrangements and their effect on the careers of women with children in the Big Firms. Several important findings emerge from this study. First, women’s ambition to progress at work tends to decrease after their return from maternity leave. Second, though working arrangements allow some flexibility for moms in balancing work-family life, it is rarely sufficient. Women need to use several individual strategies to help them manage their responsibilities. Third, the study raises critical questions about the expectation that women should be responsible for accommodating the Big Firm’s structural and cultural norms, which somewhat defeats the purpose of providing alternative work arrangements. Forth, by allowing women to work alternative arrangements the Big Firms give impression that it is accommodating the needs of working mothers, but in reality it is still women who do most of the accommodating. Further, coming from a higher social class and higher position helps women succeed in their workplace as higher household income allow more flexibility in managing every day responsibilities. Recommendations for mother CAs and accounting practice are evaluated and suggested.

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