(Dis)engaging with sustainability:
evidence from an Australian
Maria Cadiz Dyball
Accounting and Corporate Governance, Macquarie University,
Andy F. Wang
Faculty of Law and Business, Australian Catholic University,
North Sydney, Australia, and
Applied Finance and Actuarial Studies, Macquarie University,
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore how the lack of staff engagement with a university’s
strategy on sustainability could be an enabling lever for organisational change. It examines the
attitudes and views of employees of a business faculty at an Australian metropolitan university as it
attempts to adopt a holistic approach to sustainability.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper opted for a case study using data from an on-line
survey, semi-directed interviews with key management personnel and archival material. Responses
were analysed using Piderit’s (2000) notion of ambivalence.
Findings – The paper provides empirical insights into why staff lacked engagement with the
university’s strategy on sustainability. It suggests that staff were ambivalent, displaying dissonance in
their personal beliefs on sustainability, the university’s strategy and the extent of their intentions to
support the university. Staff were willing to offer ideas on how the university could, in the future,
change towards sustainability. These ideas allow the possibility for the university to learn to adjust the
scope of the implementation of its sustainability strategy.
Research limitations/implications – The research results may lack generalisability. Therefore,
researchers are encouraged to further examine staff attitudes on sustainability in higher education
using Piderit’s notion of ambivalence. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions could allow
a better understanding of harmony and dissonance in cognition of and intention for university
sustainability strategies and initiatives by academic, professional and sessional staff.
Practical implications – The paper includes implications for staff engagement with sustainability
in higher education.
Originality/value – This paper fulfils an identified need to study how staff engagement with
sustainability in higher education can be enabled for organisational learning.
Keywords Sustainability, Organizational change, Staff engagement, University business faculty
Paper type Research paper
Accounting in new public
management (NPM) and shifting
Evidence from the Greek Show Caves
Technological Education Institution of Western Macedonia,
Department of Accounting and Finance,
China Europe International Business School, Shanghai, China, and
Essex Business School, University of Essex, Essex, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine how accounting is implicated in the creation and
maintenance of organizational boundaries. The analysis focuses on organizations subjected to
conflicting objectives as a result of new public management (NPM) reforms.
Design/methodology/approach – The analysis is based on case studies of four cultural
organizations (Show Caves) in Greece. Data are collected from semi-structured interviews, informal
discussions and document analysis. The paper draws on Bourdieu’s concepts of “field”, “capital” and
“habitus” and Llewellyn’s analysis of organizational boundary maintenance.
Findings – The study observes that NPM reforms contributed to shifting organizational boundaries –
from cultural/archaeological to economic/financial and this resulted in conflicting organizational
objectives. This subsequently created conflicts between key actors (municipal politicians, professional
managers and anthropologists). These actors, depending on the positions (and habitus) they occupy,
and the capital (political, cultural and symbolic) they hold, are able to bargain for resources (economic
capital). The conflicting objectives (archaeological/cultural/historical, political and commercial) that
emerged and the tensions that arose between the key players shaped the identities and boundaries of
the Show Caves.
Originality/value – The study makes an original contribution by revealing the complexity and
struggle between actors and the role of accounting in managing the boundaries. For example, the study
explains how financial threshold and accountability structures function within these cultural
organizations that are subjected to conflicting objectives in the context of NPM reforms.
Keywords Greece, Bourdieu, New public management (NPM), Boundary maintenance, Show Caves
Paper type Research paper
Gender on board: deconstructing
the “legitimate” female director
École Nationale d’administration publique, Quebec, Canada
Faculté des sciences de l’administration, Université Laval,
Quebec, Canada, and
Queens School of Business, Queens University, Kingston, Canada
Purpose – Drawing on Bourdieu’s (2001) concept of symbolic violence in his work on Masculine
Domination, the purpose of this paper is to examine how perceptions of legitimacy surrounding the presence
of female directors are constructed in the boardroom, and the role of symbolic violence in the process.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors carried out the investigation through a series of
۳۲ interviews, mostly with board members in government-owned, commercially focussed companies in
Québec. The study was conducted in the aftermath of the adoption of a legislative measure aiming to
institute parity in the boardroom of government-owned companies.
Findings – The analysis suggests that perceptions of legitimacy are predicated on two main discourses,
as conveyed through board members when interpreting the presence of female directors. In the first
discursive representation, feminine gender is naturalized and mobilized by participants to support
(quite oftentimes in a rather apparent positive way) the distinctive contributions that femininity can make,
or cannot make, to the functioning of boards. In the second discourse (degenderizing), the question of
gender disappears from the sense-making process. Women’s presence is then justified and normalized,
not because of their feminine qualities, but rather and uniquely for their competencies.
Research limitations/implications – While, from a first level of analysis, the main discourses the
authors unveiled may be considered as potentially enhancing women’s role and legitimacy within
boards, from a deeper perspective such discourses may also be viewed as channels for symbolic
violence to operate discreetly, promoting certain forms of misrecognition that continue to marginalize
certain individuals or groups of people. For example, the degenderizing discourse misrecognizes that a
focus on individual competency contests overlooks the social conditions under which the contesters
developed their competencies.
Practical implications – Provides awareness and a basis for directors to understand and how
symbolic power covertly operates in apparently rationalized structures of corporate governance and
Social implications – Implications in terms of policy making to promote board diversity are
discussed. This is particularly relevant since many countries around the world are considering
affirmative-action-type regulation to accelerate an otherwise dawdling trend in the nomination of
women on boards.
Originality/value – The research is the first to empirically address the notion of gendering in the
boardroom, focussing on the construction of meanings surrounding the “legitimate” female director.
The study is also one of few giving access to a field where a critical mass is attained, allowing
the authors to investigate perceptions regarding the extent to which the order of things is altered in the
boardroom once formal parity is established. Finally, the study sensitizes the authors further to
the pertinence of investigating how symbolic power covertly operates in today’s society, including
within apparently rationalized structures of corporate governance.
Keywords Corporate governance, Gender, Legitimacy, Public sector, Boards of directors,
Paper type Research paper
Reflections on interdisciplinary
accounting research: the state
of the art of intellectual capital
Department of Accounting & Corporate Governance,
Faculty of Business & Economics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to offer reflections and critique not only on the current state of
the art for intellectual capital research (ICR) from an interdisciplinary accounting research (IAR)
perspective, but also its future directions.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper offers a critical reflection based on the author’s
observations as an IC researcher, reviewer and editor. The author also supports the arguments with
some evidence from the research about IC research.
Findings – The author argues that most ICR is falling short of achieving “the most advanced level of
knowledge and technology” of the art because it inherits flaws from prior research, thus threatening its
legitimacy and impact.
Research limitations/implications – The author argues that researchers need to go back to the
methodological drawing board when designing IAR so future research can achieve its full potential. To do so
researchers also need their research to be transformational to engender change, and to be transdisciplinary,
which encompasses research beyond the current boundaries of accounting and management.
Originality/value – The author identifies and introduces three research shortcuts that prevent ICR
projects from being state of the art being copycat, Furphy and technophobic research which provide
insights into why not all ICR research is not “state of the art”.
Keywords Reliability, Technology, Knowledge, Validity, Interdisciplinary accounting research,
State of the art
Paper type General review
The present and future
of accounting history
Garry D. Carnegie
School of Accounting, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to outline some personal reflections, based on recent
published accounting history research and methodological contributions, on the state of the art and
future directions in interdisciplinary research on accounting’s past.
Design/methodology/approach – An essay focusing on recent developments in the accounting
history specialisation and outlining some possible future research developments.
Findings – The paper points to the growing literature in the accounting history specialisation; the
conduct of historical accounting research across an array of institutions, including business, social and
religious institutions; the diversity of theoretical perspectives which have been applied during the
past 15-20 years, essentially on the premise of accounting as social practice, and the prospects of
theoretically-informed investigations continuing to offer the greatest potential insight into both
accounting’s present and future. Reflections rendered on possible future directions of historical
accounting research may provide some motivation for future research or at least stimulate some
discussion and debate on the subject.
Research limitations/implications – The analysis and critique represents the author’s perspectives
as a longstanding academic in the field.
Originality/value – The paper may assist in generating some new ideas, topics and approaches for
future historical accounting research in any given country or region and may even stimulate
“comparative international accounting history” (CIAH) studies in different locations around the globe.
Keywords Accounting history, Interdisciplinary research, Methodologies, Theoretical perspectives,
Paper type Research paper