Gender Leadership Conference

Academy for Gender, Work and Leadership

The Academy (formerly the Academy for Women, Diversity and Leadership) is a dynamic research hub focused on exploring relationships between gender, work and leadership and their impact on individuals, organisations and society.

Academy discussion group

Our Research

The Academy aims to connect scholars working in these areas both at Lancaster and beyond, to develop networks at national and international level, to showcase and stimulate ground-breaking and impactful research and to promote knowledge-sharing amongst scholars and practitioners through events seminars and workshops.

With a range of projects across multiple areas, exploring themes including Leaderful Women and gender diversity in the police, our academics are identifying solutions to key issues across the world.

Current Activity

Research Areas


Leadership and entrepreneurial capacity building for women in Ghana

Women are central to local communities and national economies in African countries, and are more likely than men to engage in entrepreneurial activity to supplement household income. Despite their increased participation in the economy, they continue to face persistent disadvantages due to the social and structural inequalities that exclude them from decision-making bodies at all levels. 

Women face a double hurdle in influencing decisions that affect basic human rights including access to food, water and education though difficulty in gaining access to decision-making roles and for those actually in decision-making roles the ability to influence. In this pilot project, funded by Lancaster University Global Challenges Research Futures Kick-starter Fund, we wish to understand the constraints which women face and identify possible solutions to address these. 

Dr Valerie Stead, Dr Robyn Remke, Professor Claire Leitch, Dr Cynthia Forson, Deputy-Provost, Lancaster University (LU) Ghana

Ghana project

Leaderful Women Project

What challenges do women encounter as leaders, what strategies do they adopt to address these challenges and what can be done to help support a more inclusive work culture for women in leadership roles?

This research project, led by Dr Valerie Stead at Lancaster and including Dr Farooq Mughal (Lancaster), is working with Professor Carole Elliott (Roehampton Business School), and Dr Sue Congram at the leadership development consultancy Leaderful Women & Engendering Balance Ltd to analyse data from a leadership development programme for women in senior leadership roles at Barclays UK (a global financial company). The project is funded by Leaderful Women and Engendering Balance Ltd.

Leaderful Women

Gender, entrepreneurship and networks

This project explores the role gender plays in shaping how women acquire understanding of the field of entrepreneurship through their membership of formal networks (funded by the British Academy).

Entrepreneurship policy in both developed and emerging economies has increasingly focused on stimulating and supporting entrepreneurial activity by women through a number of initiatives, including the establishment of women-only entrepreneurial networks to provide support, role models and access to resources. However, recent research has demonstrated that women continue to be underrepresented in entrepreneurship and that a persistent gender bias continues to exist in entrepreneurship discourse and practice. 

Examining the perceptions and experiences of network managers and members of formally established women-only networks, we have found that there is a disconnect between the intent and the impact of public policy initiatives which aim to empower and encourage women into entrepreneurship but instead continue to perpetuate and reproduce the embedded masculinity of the entrepreneurship domain.

Professor Claire Leitch, Prof Richard Harrison (University of Edinburgh), Prof Maura McAdam (Dublin City University).

Group Work

ESRC Seminar Series

Dr Valerie Stead, Lancaster University Management School with Professor Carole Elliott and Professor Sharon Mavin from Roehampton University and Dr Jannine Williams from Bradford School of Management have been awarded funding by the European Social Research Council to host a three year programme of seminars to examine gendered media misrepresentations of women leaders and professionals.

The media is a powerful player in the promotion or otherwise of gender equality worldwide and media representations of women have great impact on how women are viewed and view themselves.

This innovative seminar series explores, examines and challenges how media shapes and influences the way in which women are constructed as professionals and leaders. Unique in bringing together leading international researchers from multiple disciplines, journalists, lobbyists and those committed to the progress of women professionals and leaders, this series aims to;

  • raise awareness and understanding of gendered stereotypes of women and their effects
  • challenge the gendered construction of women leaders in the media
  • identify future research agendas for academics and practitioners in management and business

Dr Valerie Stead, Professor Carole Elliott and Professor Sharon Mavin (Roehampton University)  and Dr Jannine Williams (University of Bradford)


Women in European business schools

An abundance of academic research in gender and organisations has identified a number of institutional and cultural factors contributing to the under-representation of women in the upper levels of organisational hierarchies in both academia and industry. However, little is known about the role of leadership in facilitating greater gender diversity in business schools.

This study explores the regional and institutional differences among European business schools related to gender diversity policies and practices, how business school senior leaders (rectors, deans, human resource directors, etc.) recognize and respond to social and organisational barriers towards greater gender diversity, and the role and effectiveness of the gender equality policies adopted by European business schools. (Funded by European Foundation for Management Development, EFMD with Lynn Roseberry, Copenhagen Business School, Johan Klæsson, Jönköping International Business School, Thomas Holgersson, Jönköping International Business School).

Dr Robyn Remke

Woman thinking

Gender diversity in the police

Recognising the lack of women applying for and obtaining promotions within two police constabularies, this project asks what are the normalized gender diversity practices within these organisations and how might those practices relate to the lack of female managers.

This project, funded by a constabulary in the North West, explores the ways in occupational roles within the constabulary become gendered and how those processes can be changed to encourage more diversity within the senior management groups.

Dr Robyn Remke

Police Car

Job sharing and the pipeline of female leaders

This research explores the potential for job sharing to be considered by employers and employees as a route to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions.

Initially a practice-based study (The Benefits of Job Sharing: A Practice Based Case Study. Watton, E. and Stables, S. 29/09/16 in P.M. Flynn, K. Haynes and M. Kilgour (eds) Gender Equality as a Challenge for Business and Management Education. Greenleaf Publishing), it highlighted the successful hybrid job share for myself and my co-author as two women leaders working in a senior management role within higher education. 

As a job share a number of benefits from an employee, employer and leadership development perspective were discovered. In particular, the job share created opportunities for the authors to overcome some of the barriers women leaders can face, such as achieving a better work–life balance and having increased levels of confidence. We are now extending this research by comparing our experience with other people who are performing senior leadership roles through a job share.

Emma Watton and Sarah Stables, Enterprise and Business Development Lead, University of Cumbria. 

Women at conference

Aspiring leaders – perceptions of gender equality in managerial pipelines in the UK

National initiatives such as the Davies Review aim to increase the number of women at board level in a variety of organisations.  However, gender equality has yet to be experienced within managerial pipelines feeding into these top jobs. Hence this research is focused on aspiring leaders within these pipelines. 

The project focuses on UK Financial Services companies which have signed the “Women in Finance Charter”, thereby pledging their commitment to achieve gender balance at all levels across financial service firms.  In an effort to address one of the missing pieces in the “gender puzzle” this research is focused on aspiring leaders’ self-perceptions and how these are influenced by both informal everyday practices and formal employer evaluations.

Dr Elaine Dunn

Group discussion

Alleviating poverty through entrepreneurship

The Arab Spring across Syria has meant that neighbouring countries have been faced with the influx of millions of refugees, leaving 70% of Syrian refugees living below the poverty line in these countries. Women are the sole providers for one in four Syrian refugee families, and are struggling to provide food, shelter and hope for the future of their children. 

However, against all odds, some Syrian women have maximised their extremely limited resources and innovatively responded to these harsh conditions by setting up home-based micro-enterprises based on traditional and typically feminised indigenous skills, such as cooking, tailoring and craftwork; leaving the notion of entrepreneurship as arguably the only vehicle for economic survival.

The aim of this project is to bring to life the resilience and voices of these women and understand how the women utilise entrepreneurship as a means of survival in their context of crisis. This project began in 2015 and is funded by Lancaster University Global Research Futures Kick-Starter Fund 2017, as well as Lancaster University Management School Pump-Prime Scheme 2017-2018.

Dr Sophie Alkhaled and Prof. Sarah Jack


Shared Parental Leave Project

This project explores the experiences of a range of fathers who have utilised Shared Parental Leave (SPL).

SPL was introduced in 2015 by the then coalition government as a new work-place policy which aims to give parents greater flexibility in terms of how they decide to share the caring responsibilities for their new-born baby in the first year of his/her life (or the first year, post adoption). The policy means that eligible working parents can now decide how best to shared 50 weeks of leave between them. The project has been funded by British Academy/Leverhulme and the ESRC.



Our research highlights that men wanted to embrace a more hands-on father role, with the decision to take SPL informed by a variety of factors (family-orientated, work-based and financial). Despite the passion and enthusiasm of these early adopters of SPL policy, the fathers encountered a range of barriers in pursuing father-friendly workplace policy (from the workplace perspective, confusion surrounding what the policy is/how it could be taken; and from a cultural perspective, scepticism in terms of whether men possess the skills to competently care for a baby/whether this is an “appropriate” role for men to adopt).

A video case book has been created which outlines some of the benefits of SPL and the main findings of the study, available via the Working Families website (a project partner of the study):


Dr Ben Kerrane and Dr Emma Bannister (The University of Manchester Alliance Manchester Business School)


Father and child

To learn more about the Academy and the research it produces, please get in touch with Valerie Stead.