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The presentation of the self and professional identity: countering the accountant’s stereotype

Lee D. Parker (School of Accounting, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia) (Adam Smith School of Business, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, UK)
Samantha Warren (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 16 October 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore the intersection of professional values and career roles in accountants’ presentations of their professional identity, in the face of enduring stereotyping of the accounting role.


This study presents a qualitative investigation of accountants’ construction of their professional identities and imagery using a Goffmanian dramaturgical perspective. Viewing professional identity construction as a presentational matter of impression management, the investigation employs a reflexive photo-interviewing methodology.


Accountants use a variety of workplace dramatisation, idealisation and mystification strategies inside and outside the workplace to counter the traditional accounting stereotype. They also attempt to develop a professional identity that is a subset of their overall life values.

Research limitations/implications

Their professional orientation is found to embrace role reconstruction and revised image mystification while not necessarily aiming for upward professional mobility. This has implications for understanding the career trajectories of contemporary accountants with associated implications for continuing professional development and education.


The paper focusses on professional role, identity, values and image at the individual accountant level, while most prior research has focussed upon these issues at the macro association-wide level. In offering the first use of reflexive photo-interviewing method in the accounting research literature, it brings the prospect of having elicited different and possibly more reflective observations, reflections and understandings from actors not otherwise possible from more conventional methods.



The authors acknowledge the invaluable support of a CPA Australia South Australian Division research grant and facilitation of accountant participants’ recruitment for this project. The paper has also benefited from comments and critiques offered through its presentations at RMIT University, the 2012 Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting conference, Cardiff, the 2013 Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting conference, Kobe, Japan and the 2013 American Accounting Association Annual Meeting, Anaheim, Los Angeles, as well as from Professors John Mckernan and Jane Broadbent.


Parker, L.D. and Warren, S. (2017), "The presentation of the self and professional identity: countering the accountant’s stereotype", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 30 No. 8, pp. 1895-1924.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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