The gender profile of the insolvency profession: occupational segregation?

Would you like to study the question of gender balance in the insolvency profession? That topic is the subject of a call from the QUT School of Accounting for students at a Masters or PhD level interested in researching the issue.

As QUT explains, given the advances in representation by women in the accountancy profession generally, is it nevertheless inevitable that there remain ‘gendered occupational niches’?

This project would investigate the nature of professional work undertaken by insolvency practitioners and profile the profession to examine whether there are any isolating influences or barriers to entry for one gender or the other. It aims to identify the key determinants to effective performance of the role of insolvency practitioner and whether any systemic biases have become barriers to entry.

There has been useful commentary on the role of women in the UK insolvency profession.  The industry body, R3, recently published Women in insolvency and promoting the insolvency profession as a career of choice,[1] which raises the full range of issues about the nature of insolvency work and about its culture.

Academic focus on insolvency and gender is more limited but a recent article[2] offers insights from a gender essentialism perspective. This refers to the claim that men and women act differently and pursue different life options because of intrinsic or essential differences between their genders. Horizontal segregation in the UK insolvency profession is said to pervade at different levels of practice supported by various elements of gender essentialism. Physical essentialism is said to explain why insolvency practice has been traditionally gendered male; even though accounts of female approaches to the difficult issues often confronted – terminating a workforce – can suggest otherwise.  The insolvency subfields of corporate and personal insolvency are often seen by some as masculine and feminine respectively. Gender essentialist assumptions are said to also impact the allocation of roles and work tasks, from a mining company appointment to a family business, or technical support roles. Insolvency networks for women can perversely reinforce the perpetuation of occupational segregation. Issues of insolvency and related policy may suffer in the same way, such as the gender categorization of mental health and debt and like issues in personal bankruptcy reform.

The article is very useful for anyone interested in this issue, including those from legal and other comparable professions.  There appears to be little insolvency focused gender commentary or statistics in Australia

The whole issue should nevertheless be seen from a broad perspective, for example in recognizing the advances towards gender equality in professional recruitment over the last decade, as well as other bases of diversity, and the relative progress in other professions – law, medicine, engineering – concerning gender based issues. 

Anyone interested in pursuing this research should contact Professor Ellie Chapple at QUT Business School.


Michael Murray QUT Law



[1] R3 Journal, June 2014

[2] Gender essentialism and occupational segregation in insolvency practice, Yvonne Joyce, Stephen P. Walker, Accounting Organizations and Society Vol 40, January 2015, pp 41-60.


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