Conflicting Accounts of Inclusiveness in Accounting Firm Recruitment Website Photographs

Academic Abstract: This study offers a contribution to diversity and inclusion research and the professional practices of accounting firms by critically interpreting representations of gender and ethnic diversity in recruitment photographs using a critical visual methodology. We analyze photographs from the recruitment websites of public accounting firms for depictions of gender and ethnic inclusiveness using a Barthesian approach. We first analyze and interpret the denotative and connotative content of 1493 photographs. We then connotatively interpret the text and photographs in two particularly salient recruitment documents using critical semiotics. We find women (non-white individuals) make up approximately half (one quarter) of the people depicted, roughly matching trends in the population. However, women and non-white individuals are frequently depicted in subordinate roles. We conclude that while women and non-white individuals are denotatively ‘present’ in recruitment photographs, they are constructed connotatively as ‘other’ in public accounting, consistent with hegemony. We argue women and non-white individuals are generally constructed as outsiders, in spite of their numerical presence in the photographs. Further, we argue firms should be aware of various possible connotative interpretations of their photographs, as these interpretations may conflict with the accounts with respect to diversity and inclusion conveyed in photographs’ denotative content.

Keywords: Diversity, Inclusiveness, Photographs, Accounting, Recruitment

Related Links

Merridee Bujaki, Sylvain Durocher, François Brouard, Leighann Neilson

“Photographs May Undermine Efforts by Accounting Firms to Portray Diversity and Inclusion” published in The Accounting Resources Centre (ARC) of the European Accounting Review