Professional Identity Formation and the Body in Professional Services Firms

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: The York Management School


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Description The fellowship produced research findings in four complementary areas: 1. Professional Services Firms. The research is positioned in a context where despite large numbers of women enter training within professional services firms, far fewer remain and progress their careers therein. The theoretical contribution of this research is threefold: Firstly, the research contributes to understanding the significance of professional identity formation and embodied identity within PSFs. It found that the professional services firm plays an enduring role of in defining professional body image, socialisation processes contribute to the definition of the professional body, the client has a role in defining professionalism, certain types of embodied identities are legitimated, and the body is important in defining gendered perceptions of the self. Secondly, through the application of Bourdieu's (1977; 1984; 1986) theories of practice and capital, the research extends understanding of the social reproduction of physical and social capital in PSFs. Thirdly, the research builds on previous research in law and accounting to bridge these areas through its inter-disciplinary and international approach. A number of outputs relate to these theoretical contributions. 2. Research Methodologies in Business & Management The research enhanced understanding of methodological approaches in Business & Management on reflexivity, autoethnography, and research ethics, which produced a number of publications and will benefit other researchers in future research. 3. Challenges and Innovations in Services. The collective work of the AIM services cohort addresses challenges and innovations in services. Under my leadership as Lead Fellow, the cohort has a book forthcoming (eds. Haynes & Grugulis) which will address, synthesise and problematise these challenges, drawing from our individual and collective AIM projects. My personal contribution is a chapter on gender and diversity challenges in professional service firms, and editorials on knowledge and skills in the service sector. The book will be of interest to researchers, students and practitioners. 4. Gender and diversity in relation to Social Responsibility As the fellowship progressed the research extended to explore the underlying theoretical and practical linkages between gender and diversity and a wider social responsibility agenda. This was in conjunction with engagement with practitioners and policy-makers, particularly informed by my membership of three significant Committees: the ICAEW's Sustainability Committee, the Equality and Human Rights Commission's Equality and Diversity in Business Schools project, and the UN Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) newly-formed Steering Committee on Gender. Possibilities for collaborative approaches to CSR were explored in an award winning paper (Murray, Haynes & Hudson 2010).
Exploitation Route 1. The research can support Professional Services Firms in their development and implementation of policies and practice to support gender diversity and career structures. 2. It supports growing awareness and engagement with corporate social responsibility issues and their links to gender and diversity in the business field. 1. The research informs further theoretical development of professional identity and gendered embodiment in the Professional Services sector. 2. It informs the Business School curriculum on gender issues in professions at local, national and international level through the direct engagement of the grant holder in advisory committees on such issues.
Sectors Financial Services, and Management Consultancy