The accountant stereotype

Did you know that accountants have a bad rep? Nerdy, boring, geeky, anti-social… Ah, you are surprised by this? I know, I know, I don’t understand it either.

No, seriously. This is such an entrenched stereotype, there are research papers on this topic dating back to 1971. (Said research paper was the 5th result this evening from my Google search for “accountant stereotype”: it is just as relevant now, 43 years later, as it was then.)

Yeah, just add dynamic to the list of adjectives that best describe us!

Here is a little excerpt from said research paper:

The popular stereotype of a Certified Public Accountant is often in conflict with the image desired and held by the accounting profession. The typical stereotype depicts accountants as cold, aloof, and impersonal. In contrast, CPAs consider themselves skilled in the interpersonal abilities necessary to maintain successful client relationships. Although the discrepancy between public stereotypes and the account profession’s self-image seem substantial, valid empirical support for either position is inconclusive.

Basically, as that last sentence indicates, we fail at being the topic of a research paper.

My Google search led me to some interesting gems, presumably from some fellow flamboyant accountants, valiantly attempting to dispel this stereotype:

  • Hip-hop accountant : the description of this video reads “Accountants are stereotypical nerds, with no life and no fun. This accountant and his fellow team members have lives and have fun.” Now the world knows that dancing in khaki pants is considered fun and life-affirming in the accountant industry.
  • I Heart Accountants campaign : the firm in question is one of the competitors of my honored employer, located in a different continent. I’m safe, I think. After all, I am merely drawing attention to its existence, I thankfully played no role in its creation, or its role in the public’s perception of accountants or that specific firm. Highlights include “we posted jokes, got together, and sent people out on the streets“. Racy!!

Real-life story

I have had a few mentors during my career so far, and especially, I am always on the lookout for successful female accountants to serve me as a role model, since, unfortunately, the profession remains a bit of an old boys’ club. A key figure during my university and graduate degree was my tax teacher. She was truly flamboyant, to a degree I can only hope to one day become. Funny, vibrant, happily married, mother-of-four, very successful, and smart. A bundle of unpredictable, fearless and eccentric energy.

One day, in class, as she was explaining the tax implications between spouses, she randomly confided to the room that she was excited to be attending the wedding of two of her former students that weekend. Both of the CPAs! Imagine!

Sotto voice, I muttered “Sounds like a great wedding. Oye.”

Teacher turned on me, and demanded to know what I meant by that. So I sputtered, “well, you know… accountants… boring… two of them together… exponentially boring… no?” (Notice the mathematical accuracy of my claim. Nerdy, even under pressure!)

Turns out, Teacher did not agree. She was married to a CPA, and they were NOT boring. They had MANY interests and hobbies.

“Oh yeah? Like what?” (The classroom, at this point, was silent, in anticipation of the dénouement.)

And Teacher, waving her arms expressively with each answer: “Music, and the outdoors, and… and… renovations!”

 

There you go. I heart accountants. There’s just no fighting it.

 

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