Factors influencing career progression of women in the top four audit firms in Kenya
Muthui, Christine Kahema
MetadataShow full item record
Audit firms are associated with intense work load, long hours, a stressful environment and cut throat competition among associates. Is it possible for a woman to succeed in this environment and rise to the level of Partnership? The purpose of the study was to examine the low representation of women at Partnership level in the Top 4 Audit firms in Kenya. The objectives of the study were to examine the factors that contribute to the career progression of women; assess the factors that impede their advancement; and review the effectiveness of strategies set up by audit firms to address the challenges of career progression for the women. The research focused on audit firms because unlike other corporates where it is observed that women take up support functions at top levels such as Legal and Marketing Director roles thus having a seat in the board room, the structure of audit firms is such that the highest level of management comprises of Partners, who are the main drivers of the firms’ streams of revenue. The study used structured interview guides to collect data from current female and male partners and managers in the audit firms, the HR Managers in these firms and former female associates. The qualitative data was content analyzed and categorized based on patterns and themes which served to identify the most important factors. The key findings were that both supporting and impeding factors to women’s career advancement could be categorized into organizational, cultural and personal based factors. Supporting factors included education, training and development, secondment opportunities, mentorship, gender balance, individual’s internal locus of control and social and interpersonal skills. The impediments included unfavorable work life balance, male dominance, unrealistic key performance indicators, lack of mentorship programs, lack of clear progression plan due to the pyramid structure of the organization, the political nature of the workplace, stress and workload, gender conflict, lack of networking and cut throat competition. Of importance, was that most respondents viewed success as having a balanced work life, community involvement, a fulfilling career, and would opt out of partnership if it conflicted with these goals, thus resulting in scarcity of females at the top. Lastly, the study identified that audit firms had strategies in place to address the disparity in promotion between women and men. The most notable strategies included the Women in Leadership Programmes set up by these firms. However, these were largely ineffective. The study recommends that audit firms should provide mentorship for its female managers, promote female-friendly work environment to achieve a better work-life balance and have gender-specific career paths for their high achieving female managers.