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Body Beautiful? Gender, Identity and the Body in Professional Services Firms


Professor of Accounting, Newcastle University Business School, Newcastle University, 5 Barrack Road, Newcastle, NE1 4SE, UK; e-mail:


This article explores the professional identity formation of professionals and its relationship with their embodied physical image, with a particular focus on women in accounting and law. It examines the role of the professional services firm in defining a professional body image, socialization processes that contribute to the definition of the professional body, the role of the client in defining professionalism, the legitimation of certain types of embodied identities and the importance of the body in defining gendered perceptions of the self. The article draws on Bourdieu's concepts of capital to explore how physical capital is implicated in processes of socialization, subordination and control. By examining the development of professional embodiment of women in accounting and law, and drawing on interviews with contemporary practitioners, the article argues that notions of physical capital remain highly gendered in professional services firms, with implications for equality and diversity in the professions.