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Previous PhD Students

Mona Hamade

Mona HamadeCambridge Overseas Trust Scholar

Women and Emiratisation in the UAE Workforce

Supervisor: Professor Jude Browne (UCCGS)

“The Centre for Gender Studies as a whole has been such an amazing support system during my time at the University of Cambridge. It has provided me with extensive academic and professional networks that have proven instrumental for my post graduate career. I successfully defended my thesis on October 2015. Following on from graduation, I have been granted a book contract – turning my thesis into a book looking at youth employment in the Middle East. In addition to that, I am currently working on a UN Women Project as a Regional Project Manager producing economic and gender profiles for the Arab Gulf States. I am looking forward to establishing new academic programmes in the UK and Qatar focusing on women and employment in the Middle East and North Africa.”


 My research explores the recent ‘Emiratisation’ initiatives aimed at increasing female citizens' economic activity within the UAE labour market. In my work I attempt to develop classic Rentier State Theory to better understand the changes in UAE labour market dynamics under state led nationalization strategies. In particular, I focus on how women are increasingly being seen as a vital human capital resource and as active agents of social change. Their participation in the workforce, job sector preference and a more cohesive nationalization policy are critical factors in the success of the United Arab Emirates’ future economic diversification. My fieldwork involves qualitative research on university graduates, bank employees and policy makers across the UAE. In 2011, I was invited to the American University of Sharjah as a visiting scholar whilst conducting my fieldwork in the UAE and I also invited to speak on my research at the Cambridge in Sharjah Symposium entitled Perspectives on Middle Eastern Studies (jointly organised by the University of Cambridge and the American University of Sharjah) in March of this year.

Charmaine Koskinen

Charmaine Koskinen

Human Trafficking Prevention: 2012 Olympics

Supervisor: Professor Jude Browne (UCCGS)

 “I successfully defended my thesis last year and am currently employed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City conducting African Ethnographic research. My experience at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies taught me the process of enquiry and carrying out quality research. I was intellectually challenged and encouraged to search beyond the obvious answers. Overall, the experience undertaking a PhD in Multi-Disciplinary Gender Studies prepared me for a research position in one of the top institutions in the world.”


My research focuses on the politics of human trafficking prevention. In particular, I examine the policies implemented in the UK to counter the anticipated increase in human trafficking associated with the Olympics 2012. The study utilises a theoretical framework of political myths and ideologies, combined with historical accounts of ‘white slavery’, in order to understand the British Government’s approach to human trafficking prevention. This framework enables me to examine the ideologies that both informed various prevention models and were used to justify anti-prostitution policies which led to an attempt to regulate sex workers. I argue that the debates and inconsistencies in the Government’s approach to human trafficking prevention can be understood in terms of clashing ideological positions on sex-work. In order to carry out this research, I was permitted to observe the Human Trafficking Network and London 2012 over a three year period. This is the Government body tasked with managing the response to expected increases in human trafficking during the Olympics. In addition, during a four month period based in London, I conducted interviews with: members of the Human Trafficking Network, the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre, MPs, governmental and non-governmental agencies, anti-trafficking groups, sex workers, sex workers outreach services, and local and international academics. In my conclusions, I hope to offer policy recommendations for human trafficking prevention programmes.

Helen Mussell

Ms Helen MussellCambridge Political Economy Society Trust Scholar

Care and Business: Can there be a Connection?

Supervisor: Professor Tony Lawson (Faculty of Economics)

 “The experiences to be gained from undertaking a PhD can never be fully known at the outset. It is always a leap into the dark in some respects, so the opportunity to reflect is invaluable. Academically speaking the doctorate programme in Gender Studies has been transformational. Having written and submitted my thesis within a three-year timeframe, defending it in early February 2016, I have progressed from reading papers in leading journals with awe, to successfully publishing in them. This would simply not have been possible without the inspiration and support of a core network of individuals I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by during my time at Cambridge. Teamed together with the generous financial support received from my sponsors - Cambridge Political Economy Society Trust - enabling international research trips and conference presentations - I consider my PhD to not only have been a professionally worthwhile adventure, but also one of great personal development. My future plans are to continue to publish, writing on core issues of gender in philosophy, economics, corporate governance and business ethics. And following the recommendations of my examiners, I am also developing the thesis into a monograph for publication, so hope to be able to contribute in some small way to the crucial feminist and gender studies canon. Finally, I wish to thank all of those insightful and inspirational individuals who have helped me over these past years. Everyone's support and encouragement has been so very much appreciated.” 

Peer reviewed publications:

Mussell, Helen. 2016. "The Truth of the Matter" in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, (Vol.31, Issue 3, pp. 537-553)

Mussell, Helen. 2016. "The Nature of Social Responsibility: Exploring Emancipatory Ends" in Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour (forthcoming Autumn 2016)


 The thesis engages in social scientific ontological analysis to investigate the nature of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The research is theoretical and philosophical in nature, and the thesis is structured over three main sections with a final conclusion drawing together the findings. Each section focuses on a separate question, which in turn contribute to answering the overarching research question addressed in the conclusion. The first part is concerned with identification. The focus is to determine why CSR is met with such strong scepticism, to identify the tension. These initial stages of the social ontological analysis indicate that crucial historical conceptual developments have taken place. These developments appear to point towards apparent dichotomous economic thinking. The analysis starts to suggest that a relational ontology originally underpinned CSR, and that this has been increasingly replaced by a more atomistic one. The second stage employs a tripartite theoretical framework to offer explanation for the conceptual developments identified in the first section. Feminist economic theory (revealing a psycho-sexual gender bias in economic thinking), feminist philosophy (specifically history of thought) and feminist care ethics (a body of ethical theory originating in moral developmental psychology), are shown to best explicate the ontological reorientation that CSR has undergone. The deep rooted scepticism directed towards CSR is identified as being a question of a corporate organisations capacity to care, claims to which are frequently used in organisational literature concerning CSR. The third section builds on the earlier parts to formulate a programme to facilitate a move towards a caring relational orientation in business. The focus in this part is on considering implications of the preceding stages. A two part programme is outlined including revisions to academic practice and proposals for business praxis and corporate governance. Suggested measures for the latter include theorising radical relational engagement (RRE) with feminist collective epistemological theory. The argument is made that through the innovation of the inherently relational feminist standpoint theory (FST) with realist ontology, then the need for the inclusion of the social point of view within business can start to be met. The thesis concludes by engaging with various contemporary developments within business education and legal studies which complement the project of facilitating a caring relational orientation in business.

Halliki Voolma

Ms Halliki VoolmaGates Trust Scholar

Domestic Violence in the context of Human Rights: Women with insecure immigration status exposed to domestic violence in England 

 Supervisor: Professor Jude Browne (UCCGS)

 “The PhD in Multi-disciplinary Gender Studies as a Gates Cambridge scholar was the culmination of almost six years of research on the nexus between domestic violence, migration and human rights, which I had already begun for my Bachelors dissertation, also supervised by Dr Jude Browne. The experience of undertaking the PhD was both very challenging and very rewarding. My supervisor supported my decision to do an internship with the UN Women peace and security team in NYC at the end of my first year, which was a fantastic way to gain insight into the workings of the UN where I had wanted to work since I was a young teenager, and also conduct research interviews with international experts for my PhD research. Independent fieldwork in Sweden and England in the second and third years of the PhD was challenging because of the unique access and ethical issues that are associated with researching violence against women, but also inspiring because I was able to speak to brave women who shared their stories with me, and professional stakeholders who were doing important work to advance women’s and migrants’ rights. Writing the 80,000 word thesis was the biggest task I had ever embarked upon, so it was terrifying in its own right, but it was also great to get down on paper so many of the thoughts that had been developing in my mind during my three degrees at Cambridge. I successfully defended my PhD in September 2015 and had a wonderful viva experience for which I am grateful to my examiners Prof Loraine Gelsthorpe and Dr Monica Burman, and to Dr Jude Browne for helping me prepare throughout the years for this final, unique, test. I am currently working on a social innovation project 'Action-Metre’ in Estonia, my home country where I had not lived since I was ten. Action-Metre is a web platform designed for running social campaigns on different social and public health issues, with the focus on individuals committing to micro- ctions in their everyday lives which have a positive societal impact. I have also been working on publications from my PhD thesis, presenting my research at several international conferences, and volunteering with the Estonian Refugee Council. Going forward I want to continue working on gender and migration issues, contributing both to research and to international policy development.”


 Violence against women, including domestic violence, is a pervasive global problem of epidemic proportions, rooted in gendered power relations, which intersect with other axes of inequality. Since the 1990s, EU member states have begun to address domestic violence as an issue warranting significant political and legal recognition, but key gaps remain in national and international responses. This thesis addresses the problem of domestic violence against women with insecure immigration status in England and Sweden, from a human rights perspective. This is the first comparative and multi-scale qualitative study of this issue in the EU. The study examines survivors’ experiences, stakeholders’ perspectives, law, policy, politics and service provision with the aim of providing a nuanced account of the nexus of domestic violence, immigration status and human rights in these two countries. The empirical component consists of data from in-depth interviews with 31 survivors from 14 different non-EU countries residing in England or Sweden, and 57 professional stakeholders including specialist support service providers, politicians and experts from EU and international organisations. The thematic analysis of interview data is couched within an innovative human rights theoretical framework. The data highlights the importance of an expansionist model of human rights whereby different categories of rights are addressed as indivisible and where presence in a territory, as opposed to immigration status, is the basis for recognition as a rights-bearing subject. Survivors’ narratives of the dynamics of domestic violence in the context of insecure immigration status demonstrate the need for a broad definition of domestic violence, foregrounding the pattern of abuse as opposed to individual incidents and recognising migrant-specific dynamics. The interview data also reveals the complexity of survivors’ pathways out of abusive relationships, linked to legal and policy barriers such as the threat of deportation built into the spousal visa probationary period in both countries. Addressing the issue of domestic violence in the context of insecure immigration status reveals the international dimensions and international relevance of domestic violence and suggests not only that the personal is political, but that the domestic is international.

Monica Wirz

Ms Monica WirzEgon Zehnder International Scholar

Gendering Executive Selection

Supervisor: Professor Jude Browne (UCCGS)

"The University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies has been designed with multidisciplinary research in mind. From the structure of the MPhil programme to the high calibre and diverse background of the visiting academics, the UCCGS provides a stimulating and nourishing environment for gender researchers to thrive. Students and researchers enjoy the wider culture and tradition of one of the most respectable universities in the world, whilst benefitting from the thorough critique of the status quo that gender theorists require. I found this combination presented the ideal conditions for me to develop my work. Through the insightful and supportive supervision of Dr Jude Browne, the different stages of my doctoral research have evolved at a steady pace and in an intellectually challenging manner, at a level that was conducive to learning rather than stressful. Similarly, Dr Browne’s practical approach was instrumental in helping me refine my topic of research and navigate the institutional environment at Cambridge, including the identification of funding and fieldwork sources which so often make PhD proposals unfeasible.  All in all, the UCCGS has established a world-class reputation which - in light of my own academic and personal experience - is very much well-deserved."


Despite substantial legal and cultural advances since the 1970's, women are still a significant minority in top corporate executive posts. The underlying reasons for the relentless dearth of women in high-status positions can be partly attributed to the inability of mainstream analytical frameworks and workplace practices to address ingrained background assumptions about 'femininity’ and 'leadership’. My doctoral thesis has addressed this paradox by critically assessing conventional epistemologies and methodologies relating to gender in corporate boards and in senior executive positions. Empirically and methodologically, the gender analysis of the policies and daily practices of executive search firms was accomplished through participant-observation and institutional ethnography. This close observation was crucial in bringing to the fore biases and patterns of inequality that often evade scrutiny. The starting premise of this research was that leadership positions in corporations are key sites of knowledge production with a global impact on wider societal issues. As such, these must be critically interrogated as part of any attempt to achieve gender equality and to theorise social change. The outcome of this research was a close analysis of the practices within executive recruitment/selection. In delivering a more subtle understanding of the processes undermining women's prospects as leaders, it has provided clear avenues for institutions to review their policies and for individual women to achieve their potential as change agents.