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Professional Identity Formation and the Body in Professional Services Firms

  • Start date: 01 September 2008
  • End date: 31 March 2010

This research programme will address the changing nature of professional identity within accounting and law firms, due to socio-cultural changes in which more women are entering professions. It will investigate the relationship between professional identity formation and visual identity, represented by the physical body, and the extent to which professional identities are gendered, or embodied in specific cultural forms, which may provide opportunities for, or inhibit, the recruitment, retention or career development of skilled professionals and practitioners.

These issues are of major importance to professional services firms if they are to retain their competitiveness, productivity, professional integrity, reputation and skilled workforce, while also having wider organisational and societal implications in terms of culture and management practice.

The work is comparative in three areas: between accounting and law; in an international context between the UK and the USA; and within concepts of gender between men and women. Drawing from surveys and interviews with practitioners, the study will contribute to knowledge by synthesising a meta-theoretical understanding of professional identity and its relationship to visual identity and the body, within and across the disciplines of accounting, law and management.