Is it Shameful to be an Accountant? GenMe Perception(s) of Accountants' Ethics

Research paper by Ariela Caglio, Mara Cameran

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 23 Jan '17Published in: Abacus


The function that accountants fulfil in the economic system is dependent on their ability to maintain the perception of high ethical standards. Building on the idea that birth cohorts, otherwise known as generations, are a useful proxy for the socio-cultural environment of different time periods, we focus on the so-called ‘GenMe’, that is, students and young workers born in the 1980s and 1990s. In particular, combining the accounting and business ethics literature, the purpose of our paper is to contribute to an increased awareness of the GenMe perceptions of accountants, with special attention given to ethical aspects. We believe that the perceptions of this age group are particularly crucial for the future of the accounting profession as it is these young people who will either become professional accountants or the accountants' future clients. Using an extensive database of 1,794 questionnaires, results show that the impression of the accountant as a corrupt professional is not dominant among GenMe and seem to suggest the existence of a multifaceted perception of accountants' ethics. Specifically, the factors that contribute to influencing GenMe perceptions of accountants' ethics are level of education, having attended an accounting course at high school level, gender, and belonging to the accounting profession. Finally, our study indicates that there is room for improving public perceptions of accountants' ethics through university courses in ethics, continuing education programs, and focused communication strategies by accounting firms and professional bodies.