Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to our blog! This blog is intended as a starting point for conversations and big ideas and we are excited to have a place to share more in-depth information and where we can facilitate discussions between our Centre members.

If you would like to write a guest blog please contact the Centre Heads Kate Cook k.cook@mmu.ac.uk or Sally Jones sjones@mmu.ac.uk


Joint ECSB and ISBE Confreat on Gender and Entrepreneurship, Aarhus University, Denmark

Confreat Photo

Confreat attendees

Dr Sally Jones was recently involved in organising a ‘confreat’ for early career scholars at Aarhus University in Denmark.  The event was a collaboration between the Gender and Enterprise special interest groups of the European Council for Small Business (ECSB) and the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE).

The idea for the confreat format emerged from a desire to provide a unique space where the rigour of an academic conference is combined with the supportive and encouraging aspects of a retreat environment. The experience is designed to sharpen paper-writing skills and help develop both academic and professional skills and networks.

The confreat was supported by internationally recognised gender and entrepreneurship scholars Prof. Susan Marlow, Prof. Ulla Hytti and Prof. Helle Neergaard, who gave presentations on the publishing process and provided individual feedback to delegates on their papers.


Call for Papers: Talking Bodies, 10-13 April, 2019

This is the fourth biennial, international, interdisciplinary TALKING BODIES conference, and 20-minute papers/presentations/performances are invited on topics related to its themes. Scholars, specialists, researchers, and postgraduate students from a wide range of disciplines and experiences (art, performance, art history, social history, history of science, medical humanities, literary criticism, theology, feminism, political theory, medicine, jurisprudence, and more) are invited to submit proposals. 

Questions to be considered might include (but are absolutely not limited to):

Where do gender and ideology intersect on the site of ‘the body’?

How do visual artists represent the complexities of the embodied self? Or, how can writers, performers, or musicians do so?
How does the idea of the ‘taboo’ impact on self-perception? How do writers and artists articulate that taboo?
How is sexual identity articulated by and in the body?
What happens when the ‘talking body’ conflicts with the ‘talking mind’?
How do (consensual or non-consensual) body modifications silence the body, or ‘allow’ it to ‘talk’?
What relationships do erotica, porn and the ‘obscene’ have with the embodied self? How does representation of the body facilitate political activism?
Is language ever sufficient in talking about bodies?

In addition to the conference presentations, there will be a small marketplace with book and craft stalls; our legendary feminist pub quiz; a vegetarian conference banquet; a ‘chill out’ quiet zone, and much, much more!

Abstract Deadline: 1st November 2018 (250 words max.)

For further details visit: https://www1.chester.ac.uk/institute-gender-studies/talking-bodies-2019-conference/call-papers


Single and no kids? Who is work-life balance for?

Colleagues often assume that people who live alone can work longer hours, as if they didn’t have a life outside, writes Sylvia member Dr Krystal Wilkinson

Work-life balance has been a hot topic for organisations and HR practitioners for many years – linked to range of individual and organisational benefits. The shift from the terms ‘family-friendly’ and ‘work-family balance’ to the more inclusive ‘work-life balance’ around 2000 indicated a shift in rhetoric that all employees, regardless of domestic situation, deserved a suitable balance between the demands of work and home in order to be happy, healthy and productive. But do all employees actually feel that their organisation’s work-life balance policies and provisions cater for them? And what happens when they don’t? Our recent publication on work-life balance for managers and professionals who live alone and don’t have children explores these issues.

In the article, we explore a paradox that was evident in our data from 36 in-depth interviews with managers and professionals aged 24-44 from a range of sectors and occupations in the UK. Whilst most of the participants suggested that they had considerable personal work-life balance challenges, and also that their organisations’ work-life balance policies did not cater for these needs, there was little evidence of perceived unfairness, and associated ‘family-friendly backlash’ – whereby individuals react to perceived unfairness by voicing complaints and/or engaging in counterproductive work behaviour. Rather, individuals largely accepted the seemingly ‘unfair’ allocation of work-life balance support – rationalising the policy provisions due to both national context (legislative provisions) and the balance of other organisational ‘benefits’.

So what work-life balance challenges were reported by these individuals? We found four distinct themes:

  • Individuals who lived alone without children felt that their organisations and colleagues assumed they could work longer hours, as they did not have as many demands on their time outside of work as parents do. On the contrary, they spoke of specific types of time demand – often as a result of their solo‐living status. These included having sole responsibility for the household and the need to invest time and energy in friendships and developing intimate relationships (which was hard when long hours and mobility demands were common).
  • Concerns about the perceived legitimacy of their WLB needs
  • Lack of support (financial and emotional) in the non-work domain
  • Heightened work-based vulnerability

More detail on these challenges is provided in another article.

When asked about the work-life balance policies, provisions, and cultures in their organisations, participants reported either a prioritisation of the needs of working parents, or limited personal awareness/understanding of the specifics of policies – but with an assumption of the prioritisation of family needs: “I think the work–life stuff is mainly designed for people with kids. That’s what it’s targeted around, it’s not really relevant [to me]”. This is not surprising, as research has found that the ‘life’ element of organisational provisions is often very narrowly defined.

Three reactions were identified in relation to the discrepancy between policy provision and personal need. Firstly, several participants did not pick up on the discrepancy between policy provisions and their own needs, and so did not perceive unfair treatment – even when they had explicitly cited examples of differential treatment, around for example requests for flexible working.

Secondly, many participants rationalised differential treatment. For some, the view was that whilst they might have personal work-life balance challenges, working parents surely had it harder. For others, it was that their own lack of work-life balance was offset by other rewards in the organisation, such as career development opportunities and progression, which were less likely to be given to working parents in receipt of flexible working.

Finally, for a small number, a sense of unfairness was articulated in the interview, but this was not something they had voiced in their organisations. Their silence was often attributed to concerns about the perceived legitimacy of their non-work needs, and criticisms tempered by reference to largely family-focused legislative provisions. They did not consider their organisation to be acting unfairly – it was just how things were nationally.

At this point, you may be thinking ‘so what?’ If many of these employees don’t perceive any unfairness, and none engage in backlash behaviour, then why should organisations be concerned by these findings? We argue there is a danger in such thinking. Organisations often invest considerably in their work-life balance provisions due to the recognised benefits to both employees and the company. If the provisions are missing the needs of large – and indeed growing (research indicates an ongoing increase in solo-living within the working age population) – sections of the workforce, then these benefits will not be maximised.  Where individuals do feel a sense of unfairness, but remain silent, there might be considerable consequences for employee engagement. Furthermore, there are implications for us-and-them cultures between those that use and those that do not use work-life balance provisions, which research has shown can lead to those that do use policies feeling this negatively affects their career prospects.

We urge HR practitioners and senior managers to examine existing work-life balance policies and provisions to scrutinise the extent to which they cater for those with work-life balance requirements beyond care responsibilities and how widely work-life balance issues are framed. Greater communication of changes to policies in line with the 2014 extension of the right to request flexible working would be one step in this direction. In encouraging wider understanding, legitimacy and use of work-life balance and flexible working arrangements, such provisions might become more normalised within the culture of organisations.

This article was originally published on the LSE Business Review website.

Round table on Gender Capital, Leadership and Start-ups

Indian visitors group photo

Round table attendees

Dr Shoba Arun (Department of Sociology) hosted a round table event as a part of her MetroPolis Chancellor’s Fellowship at Manchester Metropolitan University on the 14th of June 2018, bringing together academics, local business women and policy makers. The round table discussion looked at how to promote diversity in entrepreneurship, and enhance gender sensitisation of start-up policies, to create effective impact on policy and practice, both in the UK and India.

Participants were from MMU’s Department of Sociology (Shoba Arun) and Business School (Prof Julia Rouse and Dr Sally Jones), the University of Essex (Prof Thankom Arun and Shovita Adikari), Chandragupt Institute for Management Patna (CIMP), India (Dr Rajeev Verma), MIDS, India  (Professor Anandhi S) and women founders and entrepreneurs from Manchester (Debbie Edwards, CEO, FDisruptors  and Susanna Lawson, Director, One File Ltd).

Professor Julia Rouse welcomed the audience and started by questioning the definition and nature of entrepreneurship. In general, the language employed by policymakers on entrepreneurship is vague and exclusionary, often seen as a marketing tool and, in developing contexts, can force women into small scale businesses that are not always viable or sustainable. This is due to the nature of social support provided to such enterprises, as the policies do not consider the life-course of women, which can be non-linear and varied compared to men. For example, maternity or caring responsibilities for both young and old often fall on  women, which affects women’s experiences of work.  Dr Rajeev Verma from CIMP, India spoke about how the definition of entrepreneurs often disadvantages women in partake, and the general start up initiative in India. In order to provide a level playing field for women in Bihar, the start up policy should take into account gender specific roles and contexts within which women operate businesses in India.

The highlight of the event was a skype conversation with key policy makers from Bihar, Dr Siddarth (Principal Secretary, Department of Industries, Patna) and Dr Vijayalakshmi , Managing Director,  Women Development Corporation Bihar and Chair Person, Gender resource Centre) discussing experiences of gender and entrepreneurship in India. This considered definitions of women’s businesses,the  nature of part-time entrepreneurship, gender specific support such as maternity pay, and leave, and caring responsibilities that is provided to women in formal sectors but excludes the informal and self-employment sectors.

Further discussion considered the following:

  • Certain types of entrepreneurship are privileged in policy e.g. STEM, e-commerce, technology, etc. which tend to be male dominated (both in the UK and start-ups in Bihar).
  • Age and culture is an important issue for women led businesses as recent migrants such as Gurkha women are entering into self-employment to support migrant families, and operate within limits and constructs faced by Gurkhas in the UK
  • The nature of careers advice given to girls at school is still gendered and limiting
  • The digital field is gendered/classed/raced in the availability to use digital to grow a business and to enter into the markets of digital tech itself
  • Finally, realisation is that policy is too slow, there is a need recognise and use our own citizenship to effect change and challenge the status quo on an individual level

Dr Sally Jones who chaired the session on ‘Engaging with policy’ highlighted the importance of how context matters in the gender sensitisation of entrepreneurship which can shape policies in encouraging more women within small business globally.

It is expected that Dr Arun’s Fellowship will lead to changes to the way in which policies such as Start-ups are designed and implemented, and encourage future collaboration with MMU and institutions in India.



Dr Kate Cook to Appear in BBC Suffragette Documentary

On Friday 8th June at 7.30pm Sylvia Co-Head, Dr Kate Cook, will appear in a new documentary about Emmeline Pankhurst, on BBC One North West  In this documentary, actress Sally Lindsay takes a rare look at the personal loves, losses and political passions that transformed this working mother from Manchester into a militant activist campaigning for votes for women.

Emmeline Pankhurst - The Making of a Militant

Best Paper Award

Me presenting

Dr Sally Jones presenting her paper at the conference.

Dr Sally Jones, co-head of The Sylvia, was recently awarded the best paper prize at an international conference on entrepreneurship education.  The paper, “Gendered Language, Gendered Choices?” was presented as a plenary  during the 6th annual  European Council for Small Business (ECSB) Entrepreneurship Education conference at Saxion University in the Netherlands.

The paper explores whether gendered language influences students perceptions of entrepreneurship courses, and how this informs their choice of elective course.

Kanter Award nomination for Sylvia member


We’re really pleased to announce that Dr Krystal Wilkinson has been nominated for the prestigious Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research.

The Kanter Award is given to the authors who publish the best work-family research article during a calendar year. No external nominations are accepted for the award. Instead, every article published in a large number of scientific journals is scrutinized by a large committee of esteemed scholars who generate a list of award candidates.

Krystal’s paper was chosen from 2500 research papers, along with only 14 others short-listed.

The paper ““Exploring the work–life challenges and dilemmas faced by managers and professionals who live alone” is available via this link: