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    Reinforced or disrupted ideal worker norms in the pandemic? Analyzing the gendered impact of the pandemic on professional specialisms in a Professional Services Firm in Kuwait

    Al-Asfahani, Lilas, Hebson, Gail and Bresnen, Michael ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3295-8235 (2022) Reinforced or disrupted ideal worker norms in the pandemic? Analyzing the gendered impact of the pandemic on professional specialisms in a Professional Services Firm in Kuwait. Gender, Work and Organization. ISSN 0968-6673

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    Abstract

    This paper uses a critical case study of a subsidiary of a multinational Professional Services Firm (PSF) in Kuwait to explore whether new organizational routines and ways of working in the pandemic created opportunities for gendered ideal worker norms to be challenged or modified. We revisited research findings from an in-depth case study conducted in the pre-Covid context where differentiated patterns of gendered ideal norms across Consulting, Audit and Tax professional specialisms were identified. We reveal how tenacious these ideal norms are by showing how early possibilities of rethinking ways of being “ideal” in the pandemic were superseded by a return to pre-Covid ways of working. The primacy of the client-ethos and being available remained intact, although the paper reveals the importance of situating changes in localized contexts and recognizing the uneven nature of change across professional specialisms and within organizational contexts. Specifically, shifts to more flexible working for the Audit specialism may have created opportunities for women to progress; but male dominance of the Tax specialism in Kuwait was entrenched further by a rigid return to normal. Significantly, the globalized nature of PSF professional identities appeared constant in the context of change, but their impact on gender equality in PSFs may still be shaped by the particular cultural and institutional context.

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