Lisa Cullen

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Business and Law

First Supervisor

Theo Christopher


Research into career progression within professional, business and management disciplines is widespread. The present study goes beyond prior research that has tended to focus on barriers to career progression and examined both internal and external factors that may influence career progression. This research was motivated by gaps in prior literature and is significant for several reasons. Firstly, there is a lack of female accounting professionals occupying more senior positions within the state public sector. Secondly, there is a lack of research into career anchors in Australia. Thirdly, no research has examined the influence of internal factors (career anchors) on career progression of men and women in Australia in a single study. Finally, recent publications by government departments have expressed concerns for attracting and retaining accounting professionals within their ranks.

Career anchor theory was the main theory adopted for this research where career perceptions are conceptualised by the eight career anchors described by Schein (1993). These are technical functional competence (TFC), managerial competence (MC), entrepreneurial creativity (ENT), autonomy (AUT), pure challenge (PC), security (SEC), lifestyle (LS), and service or dedication to a cause (SVC).

The primary research questions addressed in this study were, “Are the career perceptions of qualified accountants working in the state public sector related to their current level of career progression? And, to what extent do career intentions and work-related barriers moderate this relationship and are there gender and state variances present?”

Data was sourced with the assistance of CPA Australia from responses to a questionnaire distributed to CPA members working in the Western Australian (WA) and New South Wales (NSW) state public sectors. The sample comprised a total of 404 useable responses, attaining a response rate of 32%. Interviews were also conducted with 20 participants in WA. A total of 22 hypotheses were examined using various statistics including ordinary least squares (OLS) multiple regression and moderated regression.

An analysis of findings demonstrated that all eight career anchors were present, with the LS career anchor being the most prominent overall. However, female respondents in NSW ranked PC higher than the LS career anchor, indicating that balancing work and home life is secondary to these individuals who value a challenge.

Regression analysis also found possessing a MC career anchor to be beneficial to the career progression of men but not women. In addition, regression analysis found that the LS career anchor was negatively associated with career progression, but this only affected women, not men. This provides empirical support that despite women having similar talents, motives and values as their male counterparts, such as possessing a strong desire to climb the corporate ladder, this may not lead to career progression. Also, having a desire to balance work and home negatively influences the career progression of female accounting professionals but not males.

LCSH Subject Headings

Career development - Australia.

Government accountants - Australia.

Accountants – Australia - Attitudes.

Women government executives - Australia.