The rarity of females in leadership positions has been an important subject of study in economics research. The existing research on gender inequality has established that important variations exist across time and place and that these differences are partly attributable to the cultural differences regarding gender roles. The accounting research has also established that women are rarely promoted to the top of the Big Four audit firms (KPMG, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young). However, a majority of research in accountancy has focused on Anglo-Saxon contexts (the US, the UK and Australia) or country case studies without explicitly considering the role that cultural variations may play. Because the Big Four are present in more than 140 countries, we argue that the accountancy research that attempts to explain gender disparities at the top of these organizations would benefit from considering cultural factors. Such research, however, faces a key methodological challenge—specifically, the measurement of the cultural dimensions that relate to gender. To address this challenge, we propose an emerging approach that uses the gender distinctions in language to measure cultural attitudes toward gender roles. The idea that language may capture gender roles and even influence their formation and persistence has been the focus of emerging research in linguistics and economics. We find that half of the countries where the Big Four are present exhibit a sex-based grammatical system for their most-spoken language, while the other half of the countries do not exhibit this system. Our findings suggest that the use of language as a measure of culture is a novel approach in accounting research.
JENY, A. and SANTACREU VASUT, E. (2017). New Avenues of Research to Explain the Rarity of Females at the Top of the Accountancy Profession. Palgrave Communications, 3, pp. 1-10.