School of Sociology spearheads gender research

Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate the long history of feminist research within the School of Sociology and Social Policy.

Twenty-five years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, progress towards equal power and equal rights for women remains elusive. No country has achieved gender equality, and the COVID-19 crisis threatens to erode the limited gains that have been made.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Since its first gathering in 1911, International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March has become a focal point to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. It also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality, an issue that has been central to ongoing research and study within the School of Sociology and Social Policy.

Playing a significant role in driving research around gender and women’s studies, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies brings together over 170 academic staff from across the arts and humanities, social sciences, medicine and healthcare studies.

Meet some of the academic staff and postgraduate researchers in the School of Sociology and Social Policy who are delivering groundbreaking research in this area.

Rethinking gendered inequalities

Associate Professor in Social Inequalities Kim Allen’s current work – funded by the Economic and Social Research Council – looks at gendered inequalities in young women’s earliest experiences of work (including work while studying) and how these might shape later outcomes in the labour market.

Although young women now outperform men in education, and outnumber them in higher education, by the time they hit their 30s, working women still encounter inequalities in the labour market, including a  growing gender pay gap and occupational segregation.

Dr Kim Allen

Moreover, many of the gains made in women's employment over the last 50 years have been stalled and even reversed by recent economic disruption, including austerity, the pandemic and cost of living crisis.

Dr Allen’s research, in collaboration with the Young Women’s Trust, aims to impact academic disciplines across the Social Sciences and produce benefits for policymakers, industry, education and third sector organisations working to challenge inequalities and promote positive change in the lives of young women.  

Image: Adobe Stock

Sex change in twentieth-century Argentina

Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, Dr Patricio Simonetto’s research engages with questions about how sexuality intersects with health, science, and social movements in Latin America. He explores questions around how sexuality reshaped notions of whiteness in Latin America, how the medical portrayal of LGTBQ+ and sex workers' bodies shaped notions of sex and sexuality, how LGTBQ+ movements produce social theory, and how queer and trans people create scientific knowledge and technologies. 

His most recent monograph, A Body of One's Own. A Trans History of Argentina (University of Texas Press, 2024) examines how trans bodies were understood, policed, and shaped in a country that banned medically assisted gender affirmation practices and punished trans lives.

Gender, technology and the body

Karen Throsby, Professor of Gender Studies and Head of the School of Sociology and Social Policy, emphasizes the importance of feminist scholars on her approach to leading the School:

I have been fortunate to be part of a community of feminist scholars from the outset of my academic career. Many of these are not only brilliant and inspiring scholars but have also modelled inclusive and compassionate ways of being and working in higher education.

Professor Karen Throsby

Professor Throsby’s research focuses on the intersecting fields of gender, technology and the body, which she has explored across a range of sites including the new reproductive technologies, the surgical management of weight, and extreme endurance sport. Her most recent book, Sugar Rush: Science, Politics and the Social Life of Sugar, explores the unseen ways in which the contemporary attack on sugar compounds gender and other intersecting inequalities.