Celebrating Excellence in Research and Impact Awards 2021

Professor Elisabeth Kelan

Elisabeth Kelan

Explain your research in two sentences

My research explores gender dynamics in organisations. I have studied programmers, Millennials, MBA students, boards, executives, senior leaders, and middle managers often using ethnographic methods. My current research looks at the future of work, artificial intelligence (AI) and gender by analysing the discourse of thought leaders and by conducting case studies on hiring, professional service work and data labelling.

Why is your research important and what difference will it make?

Researching gender in the workplace allows me to combine theoretical and practical perspectives. I enjoy theoretical conversations on the construction of gender as much as I like talking about potential change interventions in organisations. Academically I am best known for my contribution to the field of doing and undoing gender at work and for developing the notion of gender fatigue to describe that people often deny that gender inequalities exist in their immediate context in spite of evidence of the contrast. My current research on gender, the future of work and AI is an exciting and topical research field.

I research how technology and society are mutually shaping by looking for instance at how algorithmic bias emerges and how it can be mitigated.

I started developing impact early on in my career. I was invited to present the results of my PhD at the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society. I have since then fostered close relationships with many practitioners and organisations and often work on collaborative research with research users. My research on Millennials influenced how organisations provide feedback to employees and my research on middle managers is used to help to create inclusive organisations. In my experience generating impact can also lead to new research projects.

Please provide a summary of your research achievements

My current research on the future of work, digitalisation and gender is supported by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship. I recently won a British Academy/Leverhulme grant to analyse gender in how algorithms learn. I held a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship and was a Dahlem International Network Professor for Gender Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. I also won funding for two ESRC seminar series, the most recent one on Gendered Inclusion encompassed early career scholars and established academics. I led two ESRC collaborative doctoral studentships with private sector partners and a research consortium of eight private sector companies.

My research has been published in leading peer-reviewed academic journals such as Human Relations and the British Journal of Management and I have published three monographs. I am among the top 2% most cited scholars in the world identified by PLOS Biology.

My articles appear in specialist publications such as the International Journal of Management Reviews, Harvard Business Review Online and People Management. I sit on several editorial boards and was an associate editor for Gender, Work and Organization. I regularly provide comment for the media and have been featured in the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg Business Week among others.

I have won various academic and practitioner awards and I am part of the United Nations Global Compact Target Gender Equality Global Coalition and contributed to formulating the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a United Nations initiative. I have advised over 40 supranational and private sector organisations including the International Labour Organization. I am active in mentoring academic and professional services colleagues.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

My first academic job was in the Lehman Brothers Centre for Women in Business. When Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, our research and jobs were under threat. Luckily I had been offered a lectureship at about the same time, which enabled me to continue some of the research.