Accountancy in academia [3]

A partial review of the literature – Part 3
Colourful Accounting
“How is the gregarious graduate to be tempted into the tentacles of the dull and the dreary?” This tricky, though perhaps not unsolvable question is posed in the paper –Beyond the boring grey: The construction of the colourful accountant, published in the journal Critical Perspectives on Accounting Volume 19, Issue 8, December 2008, Pages 1296-1320.
Dr. Ingrid Jeacle, (reader in accounting at the Management School, of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland,)

“… examines the recruitment literature of the ‘big four’ accounting firms and six of the professional institutes in an attempt to unravel the techniques deployed by the profession to camouflage the spectre of the stereotype.”

To begin with an example of such stereotyping, the author draws attention to the almost complete lack of TV dramas portraying accountants – “… if they do make a fleeting appearance, it is generally in the form of some humorous caricature, such as the now infamous Monty Python sketches, in which they are mercilessly ridiculed ” And, perhaps with a view towards counteracting such phenomena, accounting firms often make attempts to “cast aside the caricature and create an ambience of fun and frivolity” within their ‘recruitment discourse’. As in this example provided by the AICPA in their online ‘Did you know?‘ section:

“Did you know …
• Author John Grisham studied accounting at Mississippi State?
• Comedian Bob Newhart started out as an accountant?
• Walter Diemer, an accountant, created bubble gum?
• Gibby Haynes, of the Butthole Surfers, studied accounting in college?”

The paper concludes by pointing out that, in the effort to erase the old ‘beancounter’ image, perhaps the accounting profession might have unwittingly created a new problem –

“The image of the trendy and sociable trainee which the firms are so eager to flaunt may have unanticipated repercussions. Will there be a heavy future cost for camouflaging the considered and conscientious care of the counting house in favour of flaunting the fun and the frivolous?”

• A full copy of the paper is available to read online for free, courtesy of the Cardiff Business School.
• A longer version of this article is available at Really Magazine