This study explored the narratives of previously disadvantaged chartered accountants (CAs) within the unique South African setting in order to identify the impact of context, whiteness, microaggression and structural inequalities on their professional identity construction and negotiation. Although research has been done on how individuals negotiate their identity at work, limited research has been conducted on how professional identity is constructed, especially among professionals from disadvantaged backgrounds (Pratt, Rockmann, & Kuafmann, 2006). This study explores the individual’s story and the significance of multiple contexts such as culture, resources, education and economic class influencing the construction and negotiation of professional identity on macro, meso and micro levels and how context influences their identity work (Yin, 2009).
The narrative case study approach allowed for a degree of flexibility in capturing each participant’s journey of becoming a professional as well as the identity work in which they engaged. It helped to understand each unique story in context and provided rich insights into the professional journeys of black CAs. Although South Africa has been making an effort to change and provide opportunities for previously disadvantaged chartered accountants, they are still faced with various barriers to becoming a professional. This study highlights implications for organisations as well as structural and contextual factors that impact negatively on professional identity development. It also expands on current theoretical knowledge of professional identity and it introduces new understanding and insights on the impact of context on professional identity construction. This research suggests possible interventions that will assist organisations to better understand many factors that play a regulatory role on professional identity construction and negation. The research can contribute to identify and implement strategies to remove barriers that will make the accountancy profession more accessible and ensure more opportunities and support for people coming from a disadvantaged background. This study used a multiple case study approach to explore and understand the narratives of four black CAs registered with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). The participants were interviewed on three different occasions using semi-structured in-depth interviews in order to gain a deep understanding of their life story and experiences. This study was conducted from a critical realist approach using narrative and a form of thematic analysis to analyse and understand the data. The end goal of critical realism is to dissect social issues and make recommendations for social change.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2019.