'The Lives of Others' – Gender and the Audit Profession in the Context of German Reunification

Room G13 University House
Wednesday 2 December 2015 (14:00-16:00)

Karen Hanson - k.hanson@bham.ac.uk. 

This event is part of the Department of Accounting external seminar series.

Speaker: Lisa Evans (University of Stirling)


German reunification in 1989-90 had a fundamental impact on social, political and economic contexts in both parts of Germany, but in particular on the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) with its heritage of state-socialism. Two different employment patterns and family models met: a strongly gendered division of labour in West Germany versus a weakly gendered division in East Germany. Auditing was horizontally gendered in both parts of Germany, but in opposite ways: in West Germany, it was male dominated; in East Germany it was a predominantly female domain. The large-scale privatisation of state-owned property created a new market for the services of West German audit firms which opened branch offices in East Germany. These brought with them mainly senior personnel from West Germany, but hired also locally. As a result, in East Germany members of a downgraded, feminised occupation became instantly members of a high-status, male-dominated profession. We present findings from an oral history project comparing and contrasting the lived experiences of female and male East and West German auditors and accountants during the time of reunification and its aftermath. We address calls for research on the gendered division of accounting labour in different spacial and temporal settings, for further work on the impact of ideology and value systems, and for further work employing oral history. We find that while the immediate aftermath of reunification opened up career opportunities in auditing for women, this appears to have gradually reversed in the following years. Changes affected also institutional arrangements that had faciliated the integration of mothers into the labour market, as well as work-life balance, family planning and marital relationships. Drawing on literature from gender studies we tentatively theorize that the participation (or not) of women in the accounting labour market prior to and during reunification appears to have been driven, in both parts of Germany, by male priorities, and that a reversal of labour and family policies and attitudes was the result of the increasing predominance of West German culture and traditions relating to work and family. We find also, however, as noted by Walker (2008), that a more nuanced analysis of patriarchy may require questioning the notion of female powerlessness.


Lisa is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh (MA Joint Honours in English Language and German) and obtained a PhD in Accounting from the University of Reading. Previous academic positions were held as lecturer at Napier University, Edinburgh (1993-1999) and as lecturer (1999-2003) and senior lecturer (2003-2006) at the University of Edinburgh. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant and member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. She has held visiting positions in Germany and France and is currently visiting professor at NHH Bergen (Norwegian School of Economics) . She is a member of the Research Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and of the editorial advisory boards of Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, Accounting History Review, Accounting History and Accounting in Europe. Lisa has served one year as co-editor and three years as editor of Accounting in Europe, and two terms (2004-2010) as a member of the European Accounting Association's Financial Reporting Standards Committee, whose SME working group she chaired.

Lisa's research interest lies in two areas: international accounting and audit regulation, and interdisciplinary accounting research. Lisa aims to make contributions which are relevant and useful at both an academic and a practical level to current regulatory issues, such as the development and implementation of international accounting standards. Her interest in interdisciplinary accounting research focuses in particular on accounting history, the accounting/audit profession, and on the interfaces between accounting and law and accounting and language.

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