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Academy for Gender, Work and Leadership

A dynamic research hub focused on exploring relationships between gender, work and leadership and their impact on individuals, organisations and society.

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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.

Gender Matters

Businesses put gender equality and inclusivity high on their agenda. Media coverage of gender issues at work has never been greater, and we are seeing increased legislation to recognise the importance of gender equality including pay gap reporting and shared parental leave policy. Yet despite this attention, women continue to be under-represented in positions of power in organisations.

The Gender Matters project created in 2018 aims to shed light on this resilient problem by drawing on a range of international and national sources to identify the scope and range of gender challenges facing UK organisations.

Visit Gender Matters
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Current Activity

International Women's Day 2021

Gender equality is a global concern and one of the UN sustainable development goals, yet women continue to be under-represented in positions of power in organisations in the UK and globally.

In this special International Women's Day 2021 research event, The Academy for Gender, Work and Leadership teamed up with the Centre for Family Business on the theme of 'Achieving Gender Equality at Work in a Global Context; challenges and pathways.' Facilitated by Professor Ellie Hamilton, short presentations from Professor Valerie Stead, Dr Sophie Alkhaled and Dr Giovanna Campopiano each took a different perspective ranging from the broad organisational context to entrepreneurship and family business.

You can watch the presentations below.

Gender and feminism reading list

Research by LUMS gender scholars features heavily in a curated reading list by the journal Management Learning in conjunction with Talking About Organizations Podcast.

Professor Valerie Stead is author/co-author for three of the eight articles, and Dr Marina Yusupova, who has recently joined the Department of Entrepreneurship and Strategy as Senior Post Doctoral Research Associate, is co-author of one of the articles, which are all selected from the journal as top reads on the topic of ‘Gender and Feminism’ in management and organization studies.

See the full list

Research Areas

Gender equality in Business and Management Schools

Despite years of progressive policy efforts to promote gender equality in Higher Education, women remain under-represented in all disciplines and at all levels of academia, especially at the professorial level, in senior leadership roles, including deans, university vice-chancellors and presidents and in gate-keeping positions, such as editorial boards and research funding bodies. The TARGETED-MPI project - Transparent And Resilient Gender Equality Through Integrated Monitoring Planning and Implementation aims to address this problem by understanding and addressing gender inequality in Business &Management Schools through the implementation and monitoring of Gender Equality Plans. TARGETED-MPI is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, and includes five project partners: Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece (PI); Lancaster University, United Kingdom; Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden; Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium; and, American University of Beirut, Lebanon.

This project is interested in understanding how gender inequality is culturally constructed. Through innovative and unique diagnostic tools the project will illuminate the taken-for-granted and underlying attitudes, values, and assumptions that prevent gender equality efforts within Business and Management Schools. Collaborative conversations with project partners and iterative analysis of gender equality theory and organisational practice will facilitate the creation and implementation of Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) specific to each partner university. The GEPs include specific tasks and practices that address issues of discrimination such as slowed career progression, gender pay gap, and lack of women in leadership positions. The GEPs move beyond generalized discussions on gender discrimination to focus on the needs and constraints of the specific partner School. With this knowledge, the GEPs can then create tasks to address the named barriers. The partnering of structurally and geographically diverse B&M Schools adds depth and richness to our understanding of gender equality within Business and Management Schools and requires the TARGETED-MPI team to think beyond one-size-fits-all responses and solutions to the generic outcomes of gender inequality.

The GEPs will set key benchmarks for improvement and rely on outside monitoring to make sure the partner Schools meet their expected deadlines. While acknowledging and preserving the need for context and organisation specific gender equality plans, the project hopes to conclude with ‘best practices’ that can inspire other B&M Schools in their own gender equality efforts.

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Discover more about the TARGETED-MPI project

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

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

Group Work

Gender dynamics in family business

A team of researchers at the Centre for Family Business, in collaboration with the associates of the Academy for Gender, Work, and Leadership, delve into the complexity of gender dynamics in families in business. This undertaking is important due to the increasing interest in understanding the role of women in family business and addressing the critique that their contribution has been under investigated.

While some prior work argues that women have been marginalised in the context of family businesses through complex forces of patriarchy or paternalism, others point to alternative gender practices and discourses and find evidence of resistance and challenge to these forces. In examining the role of women and the barriers they may face in the complex entrepreneurial context of the family business, this stream of research raises questions about the nature of gendered identities and power relations in the family business. Family businesses represent the dominant form of business across the globe, and the importance of women in their emergence and continuity cannot be underestimated. Current work is revealing the diverse pathways that women engage into to start, develop and ensure the continuity of family businesses in diverse cultural contexts, discussing the role of gendered norms in a business family and challenging prior misconceptions about men’s and women’s role and participation.

Dr Giovanna Campopiano, Dr Allan Discua Cruz, Professor Ellie Hamilton, Professor Sarah Jack, Professor. Helene Ahl

Family business

Women entrepreneurs for a viable countryside

Rural entrepreneurship is seen as offering hope in the reversal of current economic decline. Professor Helene Ahl ‘s research with colleagues examines women’s rural entrepreneurship in Sweden, a sector that often gets missed by research and policy. Read about the project and listen to the women entrepreneurs talk about their rural businesses and the challenges they are facing in this short film.

As part of this project, the Embla research group, with the support of the Kamprad Foundation, has been studying women's entrepreneurship in rural areas over the past three years. Using register data, they have mapped the scope, industry, size, demographic data and disposable income for all women who run rural businesses in Sweden.


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

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 Professor Sarah Jack


Inclusive innovation

Innovation is central to organisations’ growth and its market positioning. The concept of innovation has been filled with positive tones for the potential solutions that can solve problems as well as lay ground for new technological and social breakthroughs. Yet, its darker sides are often less discussed.

This research examines the marginalising effects of practices in innovation-intensive organisations for women and minorities. The focus of the research is on inclusion in innovation, paying attention to women’ and minorities’ participation to innovation processes. This research aims at directing attention towards the gendering practices that women and men shape in association with creating innovation and its impact on an organisation’s creative efforts. The project also aims at informing organisations on the need for more inclusive practices at work that can stimulate and support their innovative capacity.

You can learn more about the project by following the Inclusive Innovation blog.

Man and Woman

Gender, university-industry collaboration, and sub-Saharan Africa

This research project explores the role of gender in shaping how women academics and researchers in sub-Saharan Africa participate in university-industry collaboration. It is part of the RECIRCULATE project, funded by UK Research & Innovation through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Universities in developing economies are now increasingly expected to become more responsive and play a direct role in knowledge-based economic and social development. In this context, relevant institutional bodies such as the Association of African Universities have been organising workshops and seminars for university leadership to promote partnerships between industry and universities. However, previous scholarship shows that women are not only underrepresented in higher education institutions in Africa, but they are also glaringly absent from the most senior ranks and leadership positions. In essence, women are likely to be excluded from the ongoing workshops and consequently, their exclusion may lead to the creation of gender-blind innovation systems that offer gender-biased, flawed innovations and products with different qualities of effectiveness for women and men in Africa.

Drawing on the perceptions and experiences of members of the Women Innovators Network for Africa (WINA) and other external individuals, this project explores the extent to which women academics and researchers are involved in university-industry collaboration in the sub-Saharan African context, and how gender affects their level and type of participation.

The research team comprises Afua Konadu Owusu-Kwarteng, Dr Lola Dada, Professor Sarah Jack, and Dr Cynthia Forson.

Two hands holding jigsaw puzzle pieces with writing on them. One says industry and the other academia.

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

Contact Valerie