Intra-professional hierarchies: The gendering of accounting specialisms in UK accountancy

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33 Citations (Scopus)


Concomitant with the trend towards specialisation in UK accountancy and the rise of relatively separate formal spheres of professional work along formal specialisms such as tax, audit and management consultancy, women entered the profession in unprecedented numbers, but not evenly distributed across those specialisms. This paper aims to draw on the sociology of accountancy and feminist studies of the professions to show that specialisms have emerged through and, in turn, have been shaped and recreated by gender as well as other processes. – The paper's research approach combines the sociology of professions with critical gender studies. It draws on interviews, brochures, web pages, and results from a questionnaire survey to investigate professional identities within UK accountancy. – Accountants' self-articulated notions of professionalism in the different specialisms are gendered and ordered hierarchically. Gender is an encompassing conceptual frame for ordering discursive attributes of the different specialisms. Working long and unpredictable hours was central to accountants' understandings of their professional life. Socialising with clients was seen as functional in bringing new opportunities to the firm. Socialising with peers also was deemed important, especially in solving internal frictions and in controlling new entrants' behaviour in firms. The more “public” the ideology of a specialism, the more masculine it was perceived to be. – This study challenges the uniform representations of professional identities offered by previous studies. It suggests that gender offers a discursive and ideological frame of reference for accountancy whose relevance extends beyond the working practices of men and women to the very constitution of the profession. It does so with reference to an original mix of qualitative and quantitative data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1212-1245
Number of pages34
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 21 2013


  • Accounting profession
  • Accounting specialisms
  • Gender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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